Sunday, December 21, 2008

Safe in NJ

Hi, everybody. First of all, thank you all so much for the comments, e-mails, prayers and support. Gary and I both really appreciate it!

We had a remarkably smooth trip to Newark. We and our luggage both made our very tight connection, and we were in first class on the first leg and in bulkhead seats on the second, so we had something approximating leg room.

We spent several hours today at the house, mostly visiting with Gary's mom, who's hurting tremendously -- as you'd expect after a marriage of fifty-nine years -- but also thinking practically and sensibly about the future. She already has ideas for how she'll get around now that Adrian can no longer drive her, for instance. (She hasn't been able to drive for several years.) Even in these early days, she's looking forward as well as back, and I think that bodes well.

The viewing and funeral are tomorrow. My sister will attend the funeral and then drive me and Gary to Philly, where we'll borrow my sister's car to visit my mother on Tuesday while my sister's at work. Tuesday night we'll train back to Newark, probably after having dinner with my sister and her husband.

I asked Gary's mom if it would be okay if I left for a day or two to visit my mom, and she said, "Of course." I was very moved when Gary asked her if it would be okay if he came, too.

The only unpleasant moment today was when the family dog, a Scottie, bit me. But the bite barely broke skin and I cleaned it well, so I'm not worried. Gary's brother and his wife (who live with Gary's mom and own the dog) were mortified, but it really wasn't a big deal, and it made sense from the dog's point of view. She's upset by household crisis, she doesn't know me well -- although she'd been wagging her tail a moment earlier as I rubbed her belly -- and I was near her precious stash of "babies," toys she piles up and guards.

My father and Fran, meanwhile, seem to be holding their own back in Reno. I'm calling Dad twice a day to check in. Yesterday he sounded great; today he sounded, and said he was, very tired. On the one hand, that's understandable given what he's been through, but it's also what happens when his oxygen cannula slips out without his noticing it. So I'm constantly nagging him: "Are your nose prongs in? Is anything blocking the flow in the hose? Are you getting air?" I'm relieved that a home health nurse will be visiting tomorrow.

Tomorrow, if I have time, I also have to call the Reno VA to speak to the patient representative about how Dad was sent back to Reno. I didn't get a chance to post about that -- that particular crisis was preempted by the one with Gary's father -- but the short version is that rather than flying Dad back, or sending him back via ambulance with a nurse or tech, the VA put him in a van containing just him, a non-medically-trained driver, and one (count 'em, one) oxygen cylinder. Said van proceeded to head through a snowstorm in the Sierra.

The trip takes five hours in good weather; Dad finally made it back in eight, after the van stopped to chain up, and then stopped again when a chain broke, eventually continuing with the broken chain making a racket right under Dad's seat (he made earplugs out of tissues).

An oxygen cannister lasts about four hours.

Dad's O2 sat when he arrived in Reno was 78. It's amazing he was conscious, let alone cheerful and coherent.

Twenty minutes out of Palo Alto, the driver had looked around, said, "How long does one of those last?" and radioed someone to deliver another cannister. Dad called me while they were waiting by the side of the road for the delivery. But either the delivery never showed or they decided they didn't need it.

Furthermore, there was no food or water in the van -- they stopped at one point and Dad bought some frozen yogurt -- and the driver didn't have enough cash for the $30 chain-up fee: Dad had to give him money. Dad also arrived in Reno without meds or discharge instructions, which had somehow never gotten to him in Palo Alto. And frankly, it seems to me that the driver shouldn't even have continued if there was snow over the pass: he should have turned around and taken Dad back to Palo Alto.

The ER admitting clerk at the Reno VA, when she heard this story, handed me the patient-rep phone number and said, "You'll want to be talking to him." The ER nurse agreed, and added, "If it were my father, I'd be furious." Because the two hospitals also hadn't coordinated well enough to get home oxygen set up in Dad's apartment -- even though I was supposed to pick him up and take him home that evening -- he wound up spending the night in the Reno VA.

So Dad arrived in the van at 10 PM and was sent up to a bed at 12. Gary and I got to bed around 1 AM, and were awakened at 6 by his mother calling with the bad news. It's been a surreal couple of days. Right now, just being in a comfortable hotel and being able to watch TV feels like being on vacation, although we certainly won't feel that way tomorrow.


  1. Good grief, Susan! Where were the brains of those folk in Palo Alto? I'm glad your Dad arrived home safe despite the risks the trip imposed. Guess God's looking out for him. Also very glad to hear that you and Gary arrived safe and that his Mom is being practical and looking forward. Hope your visit with your Mom is really good and that all things go well on all fronts. May the rest of your trip be safe and may your time with family be a comfort to you all.

    Hugs to you both!

  2. Oh Dear, just caught up on your last two posts - what a chapter of accidents! It's easy for me to say, but do try and take good care of yourself and Gary. It's so easy to run oneself ragged trying to be in several places at once.

    I will drink to your health on Christmas Day (just in case I don't get time to post here again before then), and will be thinking of you and your family.

    Best wishes from Liverpool

  3. Ah, Susan! I'm glad you have some time with your mom. Small blessings out of really crappy circumstances.

    My prayers continue to go up for you, Gary and both your families.

  4. Continued prayers for all of you. And prayers for the idiots who "planned" your Dad's return from Palo Alto. If time and energy permits, I'd start with the patient rep and go from there. That was insane. I hope the service brings comfort to Gary's Mom, and hope you travel safe to see your Mom. And sounds like the Scottie needs some periodic time-outs to adjust.


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