Friday, February 20, 2009

Revolving Door

I deleted yesterday's post because my sister wasn't comfortable having our family financial situation on the internet; in retrospect, she's right. I want to thank everyone who commented, though, particularly on said financial situation. I appreciate the advice, and will look into it!

Meanwhile, my faithful reader Jean posted a comment about how nice it was to read about a long trip that didn't include an oxygen disaster.

Um, well . . . .

I wrote that post in the early evening yesterday, after Dad and I had eaten dinner -- such as it was -- and gotten settled in the hotel room. About eight, though, he started complaining of having trouble breathing. His portable concentrator was displaying an alarm signal saying that he was breathing faster than it could deliver oxygen. His BP was fine when I checked it, but when I bumped the portable up to 5 liters a minute (more O2 than he's ever needed, even when he was in the ICU after his heart attack), it displayed the same alarm signal.

So I became alarmed and called 911, over Dad's furious protests that he felt fine now, that I should listen to him instead of looking at the machine, and that he didn't want any of us to have to spend the money on an ambulance or ER bill. "If you have to drag me to the hospital, why can't you take me?" I told him that the paramedics have tools and equipment I don't.

So I called 911, and the paramedics showed up in about thirty seconds and decided to take Dad to the hospital "just in case." Once he was in the ER, he did splendidly (at one point he was even 100% on room air, which is unheard of), but they kept him anyway, since he was having his echo at 8:00 a.m. Everyone's told me that I did the right thing, but I still wonder if I overreacted.

The echo wound up happening around 11:00. In the meantime, I'd gone back to the hotel room and managed to sleep fitfully from about 11:30 to 5:30, and Dad had slept fitfully in a busy, noisy ER room. All the medical folks were great, but I have to say, Stanford's ER is really crowded and singularly dingy; it felt like a high-school lockerroom. And to get into the waiting room, you have to go through a metal detector while a security guard searches your belongings much more thoroughly than I've ever been searched at an airport. My knitting/nail scissors, which have sailed through lo these many plane flights, were taken and held for me until I left the ER.

The echo-tech brought the machine to Dad in the ER, which was convenient, and I gather the results were pretty good; the valvuloplasty is still working, although this raises the question of why he's been so tired. He was discharged around 1:00, and we left for home.

It was a long trip. There was a lot of traffic -- several accidents plus a high volume of people heading into the mountains for the weekend -- and since neither Dad nor I had gotten enough sleep, neither of us was at our best. Small annoyances became magnified, and we both snapped a lot. My car cabin is noisy, and so's the portable concentrator, so Dad was having more trouble hearing than usual. I'd say something, and he'd say, "What?" and I'd raise my voice to repeat it, and then he'd get angry at me for yelling at him. We both ate in the car (Power Bars for me, Ensure for him), but he couldn't manage the pull-tabs on the Ensure, so I had to brace each can between my knees and tug at it with one hand while clutching the steering wheel with the other. Most of the time this worked fine, but one can gave me trouble; I finally got it open, but part of it spilled in the process, and I wound up sitting in a puddle of strawberry Ensure for the last part of the trip.


Also, Dad always coughs and chokes when he eats. All kinds of medical folks have tried to address this problem, but he's not interested in a pureed diet and wants to eat what he wants to eat, so those of us who love him have just gotten used to several minutes of strangling noises whenever he eats. In the car, though, this meant that he'd take a sip of Ensure or a bite of the ice-cream sandwich I bought him at a rest stop (he loves ice-cream sandwiches!), choke for five miles, take another bite, choke for the next five miles, and so on.

Halfway through the trip, my sister called me to say that my mother was going back to the hospital: her potassium level was very high, and her doctor decided this was best dealt with in a hospital, not the nursing home. I called the hospital when I got home, but she'd just gotten to the ER and her nurse didn't know what was happening with her yet, so I'll call again when I finish this post.

Anyway, needless to say, Dad and I were both exhausted by the time I got him home. The good news is that his own portable concentrator arrived while we were gone, although we were both too tired to try to unpack it.

The other good news is that I get to sleep in my own bed tonight. Thanks be to God!

Later: I just called the hospital; Mom's being discharged back to the nursing home. Yay!


  1. Susan, I'm sorry I've been so busy the last two posts. I did read them but I have a backlog of comments to deal with. I'm glad your dad's concentrator arrived and that your mom was allowed to go back to the nursing home. Weren't there any scenic overlooks in those mountains you could have stopped at while you and Alan ate?


  2. No apologies necessary, Lee! As for the scenic overlooks: we were racing to get over the mountains before dark, so we didn't want to stop.

  3. Anonymous7:00 AM

    Tickled pink to be promoted to "faithful reader" status - but sorry to hear that oxygen can still sometimes be a struggle.

    You mentioned in a more recent post that you were still feeling foolish about calling 911 over this adventure, but as I re-read it I still think you did exactly the right thing,



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