Monday, July 30, 2007

A Turn for the Worse

Last night at about 10:00 pm, I got a call from the Floyd Medical Center in Rome. Dad was there; he had collapsed at WalMart and had been brought in; he didn't remember his last name, nor could he remember mine (thankfully, his wallet was still with him, although at first the hospital mistakenly told me his wallet was missing, which caused some concerns that he had been robbed while unconscious and that thieves might now have his wallet, his address, and his keys); he knew that Kim was his daughter, but thought she lived far away.

We'll never know what happened for sure, but here's my theory: after Kim, Cole, Christy, and Dad had lunch and went over to his house on Sunday afternoon to do a little housecleaning, Dad decided to drive to WalMart for some cat food (he doesn't need any, but he's in a cat-food-hoarding mindset for some reason). We know that he made his purchase at WalMart at 4:41 pm, because I have his receipt with a timestamp on it.

At that point, he walked back out to his car and put his purchases in his trunk. Then, I suspect, Dad couldn't remember where home was. My reason for thinking this? Because for some reason, he did something he never does: he walked back into the store he had just visited, and he stayed at WalMart for another three hours. Dad doesn't stay with the family on Christmas Day for three hours, so the fact that he spent three hours wandering around WalMart at a time much later than his usual bed-time is quite telling.

I suspect that, while he seemed relatively normal to passersby, he was inwardly getting more and more anxious about not knowing what to do, who to call, or how to get home. I think that triggered an anxiety attack, probably exacerbated by the fact that Dad had eaten a peanut butter chocolate chip cookie--and he's a diabetic. His blood sugar had soared to near 500; due to anxiety as well as other factors, his blood pressure was 240 over 150. Dad got light-headed and fell to the floor, at which point someone with whom he once worked recognized him, called for medical help, and rode with him to the hospital. I owe this man an immense debt of gratitude; Dad was in need, and someone reached out to help him without asking for a thing for himself.

When Dad got to the hospital, he was not lucid. That was when the medical staff found his ID and called me; I called Kim, then headed up to Rome, arriving there at about midnight. They had to restrain Dad because he was combative and wanted to go home. It took a while to get him to settle down and rest so that the medications could begin to work. At about 4:30 a.m., I got back home and slept; I suspect that I rested better than Dad. I got up at 7:30, exercised briefly, ate a bite of breakfast, then headed off to Rome once again.

Today started off well, with Dad eating a tiny bit of breakfast; he seemed more normal, and kept talking about how he felt better... but I could see the faraway eyes that told me he was still unsure of his surroundings and his circumstances. Soon, he began to get agitated, struggling against his restraints. The doctor advised Haldol, which turned out to be disastrous; within five minutes, Dad was furious, lashing about so intensely that he dislodged his IV and nearly pulled out his catheter. It me, Kim, and three nurses and interns to hold him down until they could administer Atavan and gradually settle him down.

Dad was frantic and frightened, and for my entire life, I will be haunted by that anguished, tear-stained face as he looked into my eyes and pleaded, "Just let me go to my room to die. Just let me go to my room. I want to die in my room." Dad no longer talks about his house; his world has been reduced to the bedroom where he spends most of his time. I have never felt more cruel nor loathed myself more than at that moment, and that vision still torments me whenever I close my eyes to rest.

The hospital tells us that Dad cannot live alone any longer. They recommended a nursing home that specializes in Alzheimer's patients, but none in Rome have any openings; he would have to be moved to Cartersville or Marietta, where he would be a pathetic stranger in an uncaring strange land.

This afternoon, Cole told me that he and Christy would like to move into the house with Dad and try taking care of him so that he can live in his house for a while longer. "I've known that house more than any other house in my whole life," Cole said. I have told him to think it over; it's a tremendous burden and responsibility, one that will place even more stress on a young man, his wife, and their young son. He called an hour later and said he still wants to do it, as does Christy. I outlined the problems: he'd have to take Dad everywhere, since he can't drive. They'd have to cook. Their lives might be disrupted by Dad's odd schedule.

Cole said they had thought of all of that, and they still want to do it. I told them to sleep on it, and we'll talk tomorrow.

But for tonight, there's a distant hope that Dad will get to return for a time to the house I feared he would be forced to leave forever...

1 comment:

Janice said...

I read this and my heart is just breaking for you, and for your dad. Hope Cole and Christy are indeed able to help take care of him. And I hope that his Alzheimer's stabilizes enough for him to have quality of life. I will be thinking of you through this difficult time. Hang in there.