Sunday, February 3, 2008


Yesterday I went to visit my father at the VA Hospital with my husband and two of my children. My middle son, JA, did not want to come. I am not sure why. it is either because a) he does not really like seeing Grandpa sick, or b) he did not want to shave. Whichever it was, I am sad he did not go with us.
We walked into Dad's room to find him sleeping in the chair by his bed. It did not look like he was sleeping at first. Panic rippled through my body as I walked over to him. He was pale, cold and still. At last I saw his chest lift. Thank goodness.
I tried to awaken him to no avail. Rubbing his hands, his cheeks, his chest, trying to get a response proved fruitless for quite a long time. One at a time an eye would open, then close. His mouth contorted into snarls as though to say, "Leave me alone, Karin."
His doctor came by to let us know what they were planning for him. He also told us that he had altered his pain medication, which may have explained him sleeping like a rock. Literally.
Dad has an infection in his spine. It has settled in between the eighth and ninth vertebrae, where he has a fracture. Somehow they missed the fracture last year when he was in the hospital, along with the two broken ribs he has. But they did find the infection last week in a CT scan, and admitted him immediately.
The doctor told us he is planning on taking a biopsy next Wednesday or Thursday, along with a bone chip, to see what they are actually up against. Waiting is an awful thing, but they cannot proceed until some of his medications are out of his system.
Dad was oblivious to this entire exchange, as he was still sleeping, head tucked down, looking like a child in his chair.
I did get him awake enough to talk and to see that we were all there to see him.
A nurse came in to check his blood sugar level so they would know how much insulin to give him at dinnertime. Dad's blood sugar was 30. No wonder he was so sound asleep. No wonder he wasn't responding. He was slipping away right in front of us. In came his food tray.
I cut up his dinner and he started to eat. And eat, and eat. The more he ate, the more awake he bacame. He loves the food at the VA, thank goodness. He ate all of his dinner. Another nurse came in and gave him an enormous syringe full of dextrose and a cup of applesauce. My husband went and got him a soda, and Dad drank it all.
Slowly he began to be his old self again. The color came back to his cheeks, his hands warmed and his nails were no longer blue.
I sat there feeling very helpless. I had not recognized what was happening, assuming that it was his new medication and not his body causing his sleepiness. I will not make that mistake again.
Dealing with aging parents is a whole new world for me. I think of them as being relatively young still, even though they are in their seventies. This past year has been a bit of a rollercoaster ride with each of them. I do not want to lose them and, even though I know it is inevitable, I try not to think about it.
Unfortunately, things keep happening to bring that fact right to the front of my brain, where it hangs like a dark shadow over me causing me to shrink away. Not only will I lose them, I will lose myself, the child I am. The child I was.
Small. On the outside of me that word no longer applies, but inside, it will always have a place. I will always be humbled back to it by circumstance. Small. Unable. Helpless. Child.


For Love of Home said...

Karin, My heart goes out to you, I cared for my Dad a few years back and it was maddening what you have to do to make sure the Doctors and Nurses are doing their job. i pray that he will pull through this, and with you by his side I know he will. I believe with all my heart that you give them the will to live, my Dad did and I thank God every day! I do not want to be that helpless child, however I know I will again.

Utah Grammie said...

Trust your instincts. If your "gut" is telling you something, believe it. I know from my experiences that the doctors and nurses work FOR you - you have hired them to take care and if you ever have doubts - ask and find the answers. I know this is hard- my Daddy was always big & strong in my eyes, even as he aged. It's so scary to think we may have to say good-bye - but love and care will carry on. You take all the time you need to enjoy, remember and love your parents.
You are strong and faithful - you will get through this. My prayers and thoughts are with you and you family.

The Feathered Nest said...

Karin, I'm so sorry about your father! No matter how old we are, or how old they are, they are still our mom and dad and we love them. I'll be praying for your dad, mom and for you. We are all at the same place in our lives with our parents getting older. Call me when you can, xxoo, Dawn

Kim said...

It is very hard seeing loved parents become so dependent on us. I will pray for you all. KIM

Nan - said...

This is so heartbreaking, and scary, too. Shouldn't a nurse have checked before he was this far gone?

You are such a good writer, and expressed this situation so well, Karin.

日月神教-向左使 said...