Monday, March 02, 2009

Tsunamis and Trains

This past week has felt as if we were hit by a train and dragged on along the track. I've commented to friends that we feel as if we were engulfed by a Tsunami and as we gulped and gasped for air, realizing we hadn't actually drowned, another wave covered us.

Papa very suddenly became significantly debilitated. The ability of his legs to support his body comes and goes. One evening he attempted to get out of bed but his legs did not cooperate. It was 3 a.m. I was ‘sleeping’ in the room across the hall. His door was closed. My door was open a crack and when turning to find a more comfortable position I noticed the light on in his room but I heard no sounds. We’ve been down this road before so I just waited for either a sound that would summon me or his light to go off. I did not have to wait long for the summons. The scene that greeted me was the beginning of yet another major wave to crash over our lives.

He was slumped on the floor beside his bed, half kneeling and attempting to pull himself up. Trying to assist this process I quickly discovered my complete inability to succeed, so quickly ran to the main floor and pounded the floor with my foot to alert Stan, who was sleeping in the basement. He came and we wrestled with Papa for several minutes to get him off the floor. Absolutely not happening. We tried getting him to lie on the floor but even that did not work. What to do?

I called Home Care for advice. No answer. (I found out the following day something had malfunctioned in their phone system because I should have been able to connect to a nurse). I called Health Link and she quickly put me through to EMS. They graciously came and assisted us in getting Papa back into bed but it was a struggle even for two of them and Stan working together. During the process it was very evident that he was in significant pain, somewhere.

EMS finally left by 4:30 a.m. and encouraged us not to hesitate calling again, even in 5 minutes, should we need their further assistance. They also suggested we put some chairs around Papa’s bed to prevent him from getting out.

We put 2 chairs on the side nearest where he was lying and one on the far side of his bed. Where there’s a will there’s a guessed it, he found the open end of the bed and attempted yet again to ‘escape’. This time I came upon the scene before he managed to get his body off the bed; his legs were dangling over the end. Try as I might, I could not get him back into bed so I quickly summoned Stan yet again and we managed to get him back up, in and covered, encouraging him to sleep more. It was now 5:30 a.m.

Stan and I then sat on my bed for a few minutes looking and feeling a bit shell shocked. “We haven’t been down this road before,” he said. Indeed, it was all new, strange, and quite uncomfortable.

It was now time for Stan to prepare for work. I suggested he call in sick, but he had no way of contacting management before the store opened and he felt he needed to go. He is a man of integrity, a trait he learned from Papa.

I called Home Care as soon as I knew our nurse would be there to communicate the events of the previous night. She had been to our home two days earlier for an assessment and had asked us to get Papa’s doctor to designate him as palliative in order to put more aides into place for us. That had been accomplished and was a very necessary link to speed along our ability to give better care in our home. This nurse connected with the palliative care department of Home Care and they came later that day for another major assessment of our situation and to transition from one department to the other within Home Care. They strongly urged us to place Papa into a Hospice.

We have been very resistant to placing him anywhere although many friends and family have encouraged us to do so over the years he has been with us. Comments like, “This is so hard on you.” and “Wouldn’t it be better for him to be in a home with other people like himself?” were not uncommon. We felt it to be ‘the right and God honouring thing to do to care for him in our home until his death’. Indeed, I felt called of God to fulfill this commitment and determined to do so as best I could with His help. We also had lots of good help from Home Care and friends.

The Home Care nurses were very wise in determining that I had come to the end of my ability to continue doing this act of mercy. During the middle of the week I had received a report of xrays taken a few weeks earlier which indicated osteoarthritis was chewing me up and ready to spit me out, out of commission. Care for Papa had become suddenly very physical and I simply could no longer wrestle with him through the many duties of the day. Sleeping had also become difficult for me because of pain so I was and am, exhausted. The nurses knew this.

We agreed to place Papa into a Hospice and were told it could take 2 or 3 days till a bed was found. This was Friday afternoon. Meanwhile they would be a phone call away if we needed anything and would check in during the weekend.

Saturday morning the palliative nurse called to say there was a bed for us if we wanted it, at Agape Hospice, which had been our first choice because of closer proximity to our home. We agreed and the nurse arranged for a non emergent ambulance transfer early Saturday afternoon.

I scuttled around the house gathering things to take along and reeling from the speed with which this was all happening. It was just shy of nauseating. Then too there was the emotional stuff to process. This was not ending as we had hoped and prayed for. I still had to tell Papa that we were taking him somewhere that could care for him better. That was extremely hard and I sort of wimped out by calling Stan and asking him to tell Papa over the phone, which he graciously did. There is no way of knowing how much was comprehended. I continued to assure him that we would still be there and he would be cared for much better. I also spent a few minutes in private releasing my pent up emotions through God’s provision of tears. Our daughter, Melanie, agreed to accompany Papa in the ambulance.

As I write this, he has been in the Hospice now for 2+ days and it has not gone very well. He has been extremely pain distressed while they experiment with finding something that will give relief. The one thing that was an experience near to heaven for him was a long hot bath in a tub that he did not have to climb into and out of. I was tempted to ask if I too could have a long hot soak for stress relief.

The Hospice staff are wonderful and doing all they can to assist Papa and family through this next phase of life/death. Meanwhile, we are still helping provide 24 hour bedside companionship with the help of our former home care aides, who have become even dearer friends, and other friends too. Last night was the first night in many months that Stan and I were able to sleep well.

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