Tuesday, September 22, 2009

It Was A Long Weekend in Chicago

Bear Meat arrived safely in Anchorage Saturday night, having first travelled from Kansas City to Houston to enjoy some Texas hospitality. Dr. Tim called from Alaska Saturday night to report that the cat strutted out of her kennel upon arriving at his house, stretched out on the carpet, rolled onto her back, and enjoyed some attention. It was a home-coming for both animal and owner that left Tim very happy. Bear Meat wasn’t gone a day before her place in the house was replaced by Reeses, the guinea pig, who came to our house from a home schooling family that needed to find her a good home. We didn’t have enough animals.  This all happened while I was in Chicago, standing next to my father’s hospital bed, listening to…

“I want to stand up! I need to get out of this damned place. Can I at least sit in a chair?”

"No, dad, you can’t. You aren’t strong enough to sit in a chair. Besides that, you keep pulling out your Foley, so your hands are restricted."

“Oh, isn’t that sweet,” he spat. “Playing games with a 74-year-old man, that’s the way to do it.” He looked me directly in the eyes. “If I want to teach someone how to be a prick, I’ll send them to you, Arby.”

He looked around his hospital room. “Where am I?”

"You’re in Loyola Hospital, Dad."

“Help! Help! Help! For God’s sake will somebody help me?!”

"What do you need, dad?"

“I’m falling! Catch me! I’m falling!”

I leaned over him in his bed and firmly but gently placed my hands on his shoulders. "Dad, listen to me! You are not falling. I have you. I’m holding you. You are lying on your back in a bed. You are not going to get hurt."

“Okay,” he said, looking around the room. His eyes returned to mine. “Now you’re f$&*ing with me. Are you having fun?”

Almost all of Saturday’s visit went this way. When I arrived in his room early in the morning he recognized me. He started crying, gave me a hug, and talked about the drive from Kansas. By noon he was gone, cycling in and out of consciousness, confusion, nastiness, and vivid replays of events from his life. He barked directions to imaginary coworkers in the warehouse he worked in during the 90’s. He sold tickets to passengers at the ticket counter for Trans World Airlines at O’Hare Airport, a job he worked in the 60’s. He saw people sitting at a table in the cafeteria at Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke’s Hospital in Chicago, describing their clothing down to the smallest detail before offering to buy me a cup of coffee while telling me how much he loved me. At one point he saw me writing on a pad of paper.

“I hope you’re writing a script for a f$&*ing play, because I can’t believe you’re going through all this shit for two pairs of pliers and a telephone!”

Interspersed through the day were moments of sheer panic where he thought he was falling, rolling, or spinning, and he desperately cried for help. I held him, calmed him, and reassured him until he closed his eyes for a few moments. Then he’d raise his head.

“No! No! No! No! No!” he cried.

"No what, dad?"

“Honk! Honk!” Silence. “Where are we? This is my last f$&*ing day travelling like this.”

He looked to me. “Can I buy you a cup of coffee? Then we can go to the kiddie kicking place.”

On Sunday, dad was completely lucid. He told jokes, sang songs, and watched football. He felt badly that 90% of the time he thought I was one of my brothers. Dad was able to explain that on the previous day he was experiencing scenes in his mind that he knew were not real, but he could not escape from them. He could hear what was being said in the room around him, but he was trapped in his mind. He said that it was like being trapped in a maze. He thought he was in New Jersey, Germany, or Green Bay. His lucidness continued into Monday, when I had to say good-bye and get on the road for Kansas. It was hard to say good bye. I cried. This morning my mom told me that last night dad returned to the irrational, vile, mean persona that takes control when his mind slips. He punched a nurse on the cheek. It was a long night.

I made it through the weekend due to Grace on loan from God. Early Saturday morning, I said a prayer, asking God to loan me His strength, His Grace, and His patience, because I do not possess those qualities in sufficient amounts to handle a situation like this on my own. I thanked Him at night before bed, and I asked again in the morning. God answered my prayers.  His infinite Love carried me through my visit, and returned me safely to my family last night.  I didn't think Captain Chaos would ever let go once she jumped into my arms.

Dad is suffering from a condition called Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus. He experiences a build-up of pressure from fluid in his brain. That pressure triggers symptoms such as chronic incontinence, lack of balance, inability to walk, and wild swings in his mental state that mimic dementia and Alzheimer’s but wax and wane as the pressure in his brain builds and releases. He will have surgery today to check and/or repair the shunt in his head that should be relieving the pressure, but isn’t. His heart is functioning well for the moment, as the diuretics remove the water that his heart cannot remove.

We wait and watch, enjoying Dr. Jekyll when he is with us and helping him with all the love that we can muster when Mr. Hyde emerges.

7 comments:

Teacher Mommy said...

Oh Arby. I am so sorry. You have had more tragedy lately than seems fair. I will be praying that God's grace and love will continue to hold and sustain you.

TobyBo said...

You all are in my prayers. I am so glad you have Captain Chaos to be your greeting committee. I know Miss Dog Lover can be one of God's greatest gifts to me when times are tough.

Kathleen said...

I'm so sorry to hear this about your father but thankful for you that it was your father, the father YOU know, to whom you were able to say good-bye when you left.

And...I know that Reeses must have totally made your arrival back home splendid.

Khourt said...

This is such a tough post to read. Im so sorry for all you are going through, but with God you can do it. I will continue to pray for you all.

Bleu said...

I am sitting here now with tears in my eyes and a heart full of ache. It's so difficult to watch our parents age and suffer the indignities that sometimes accompany it.

I hope the shunt is able to be repaired and that all will be well. My best wishes for your continuing strength.

CrossView said...

Oh, Arby! I'm so sorry. It's got to be hard to be the mature, strong one with your own dad. I'm so glad the Heavenly Father was there to carry you through....

The_Kid said...

Sorry to hear your father is going through this Arby. I'll keep a good thought for him.

God, please help this man.