My oh my, so much has happened since Sunday! Some good, some bad, but all important.
Sunday night, after I placed my first “Dad post”, they were able to determine that he did not have Tuberculosis. Great news! This meant that he no longer needed to be in isolation. The doors were opened and all of us with the exception of Steve and Amy were able to go in without masks. We were supposed to get the results of 3 tests, but they considered 2 to be enough because for the second one they did a test that involved a complete wash of his lungs.
Unfortunately, while we got great news Sunday night, we also met the night nurse who I will just refer to as “Nurse X”. Up until our encounter with Nurse X, we had all been impressed by the care and attention that my father was receiving from the nursing staff in the ICU. They were all personable, knowledgeable and really bent over backwards to answer any questions or concerns that we had. As soon as Nurse X arrived, the mood shifted. She seemed almost annoyed to be there and was humorless at best. For example: My sister talked to her for a bit in the hallway and told her a little about my Dad. She mentioned the polio to him when telling her how he is a little resistant to the periodic process of suctioning his lungs because he had hated it so much as a child. Nurse X very snottily replied “Well, if he had it as a kid, it’s not like he remembers that!” He was 8 and spent 6 months in hospitals and nursing homes. Ummm… yeah, he probably remembers at least some of it, lady. (Not that she bothered to ask how old he was. This nurse should really drive down to Children’s Hospital and apply for a job. Watch out Sammy, I am sending her your way!) When Nurse X came to re-fill the bag attached to my Dad’s feeding tube with Jevity (like Ensure), my Mom cracked a joke and asked what flavor he would be having for dinner today. Nurse X rolled her eyes and said “He won’t taste it! It has to go over his taste buds in order for him to taste it!” No kidding lady? Really? He wouldn’t taste it entering through his nose? Wow, I had no idea. Anyway, I am not saying that you have to have a sense of humor, or even a good personality to be a nurse. I am saying that the above, in combination with a general bad attitude from Nurse X made us all feel very uneasy when we left that night. We all said it, and as it turns out, we were all warranted in feeling that way.
I am sure that I had mentioned that my Dad was going to be coming off of the ventilator on Monday morning. This was perfect, because I really wanted, needed actually, to see him off of it before I went home, and my plane reservation was for later Monday afternoon. My Mom called the hospital before we left that morning to see how my Dad was doing. I was sitting on the couch when she gasped, her eyes got as big as saucers and she uttered “WHAT DO YOU MEAN, HE PULLED IT OUT?!?”
Yes… at about 4 am, my Dad, to be specific, the sedated version of my Dad, completely removed his own ventilator!!! Now, you might be thinking “How the H-E- double hockey sticks does that happen Carrie? You aren’t supposed to be able to remove those!” Why, you would be correct! Ventilators actually have a balloon at the bottom of them that is inflated when someone is intubated. This should prevent anything like this from happening. Because my Dad was supposed to be coming off of the ventilator that morning, they decided to try to let him stay off. He couldn’t do it, because unfortunately, when you pull that up, complete with an inflated balloon, it can scratch up the windpipe and cause it to swell. His airway went from 6 cm to 2 cm. This is called Strider (though I am not all that sure that I am spelling it correctly.) They had to re-intubate him and put him on steroids to bring the swelling down. We were told that it would now be Wednesday at the earliest before they could try to take him off of the ventilator again. He was so miserable on it that it was just heartbreaking!!! My Mom was livid!
At this point, I called my supervisor and then United Airlines to change my flight to Friday afternoon. My boss was very understanding. United wasn’t. (As a customer service speaker once said with reference to United Airlines: “I’m really not trying to badmouth them. I’m just saying, let’s boycott them!) The person that I am most grateful to though, is Carla Stenger, who very graciously volunteered to cover a Relay Kickoff for me. She didn’t have to work that night, but did so that I could stay in Detroit. Gift suggestions for Carla are welcomed and encouraged because I owe her big time!!!
Back to Nurse X. You might be thinking that because my Dad pulled out his ventilator, that he actually extubated himself. Well, not really. I think that I put it in the first post, but my Dad was actually strapped down, wrists at his sides. This is because when you are slightly sedated, your natural tendency is to pull at IV’s, etc. that are making you uncomfortable. This is a universal truth and is the reason that the hospital had him strapped. Also, my Mom tightened the straps before we left because he had tried to pull at his cathetorearlier, so we know how he was left. So… if his wrists were strapped at his sides, how would he pull the ventilator out? The nurses unstrapped my Dads arms momentarily every time they came to turn him. All signs point to, Nurse X did not strapping him back down when she came in to turn him. Keep in mind that even if he had managed to loosen his straps a little bit, he would not have been able to bring his hands all the way up to his mouth and make a pulling motion. Bothof his arms would have to have been completely free to have the full range of motion to be able to do this. Because of this, my Dad would have to spend two more days on a breathing machine, which brings a whole new set of concerns with it.
When we got to the hospital, my Dad did not remember pulling the vent out. I was in the room when someone on the hospital staff walked in and asked “Did you hear what happened?” My Mom said “Yes.” My Dad turned to me and mouthed around the ventilator “What happened?” Needless to say, it was not fun to tell him that he would have to be on the ventilator for two more days. They had him sedated prettily heavily, so I think that we all had to tell him at some point and he looked crushed every time.
The next two days were upsetting because he was so agitated and uncomfortable. It was really hard for us because he still couldn’t write or communicate well and would get upset when we couldn’t understand what he needed. The worst part was that this was all preventable! I think that the cherry on top was when Monday night, Nurse X came to work (they very wisely reassinged her to another patient.) Unfortunately she decided to stop in our room anyway for a little CYA operation. I don’t think that my Mom noticed but I positioned myself between her and Nurse X out of fear that this would not be pretty. Nurse X in a tone suggestive of The funniest thing happened, said “Did you hear what happened last night? I told him, Mr. Walsh! Don’t do that again!” She had on what I call a plasti-smile. We didn’t smile. She left. I hope that we don’t see her again, or that the hospital gets wise and lets her go because the rest of the staff there really deserve a better and capable colleague.
I know that this is running long, so I will try to wrap it up. They were able to remove the ventilator on Wednesday which was great. My Dad could finally talk asked things such as “How long have I been here?” When he found out that he had been in the ICU alone for 6 days, he responded “Good God!” and shook his head in disbelief. The nurse that day made another mistake and removed his feeding tube as she was removing the ventilator. Long story short, they decided after removing the tube to give me Dad a swallowing test before he was allowed to eat or drink anything and after a day and a half without food or water, they had to put him back on the feeding tube because he failed the test.
Thursday night , he was moved out of the ICU and Friday morning was given a more in depth swallowing test which he also failed. This may also be attributed to being on the ventilator for too long (Thanks Nurse X!), paralysis from polio, or a combination of both. Monday, they will again, administer another swallowing test so please pray that he passes it because I don’t know what the consequences will be if he doesn’t. If there is permanent damage done from the incident on Monday morning, I really hate to think of what would happen!
I cried from the time I found out that my Dad was back in the hospital until I arrived in Detroit last Saturday. I stopped crying at that point because I didn’t feel quite as helpless. I also wanted to concentrate on my Mom. I was her self-appointed gatekeeper. Imagine that! On Thursday night, I had a bit of a breakdown because yes, my Dad was off of the ventilator, but I was going to be leaving my Mom with him still in the hospital. We were frustrated at his being moved to an area with less care and he was still showing a few signs of mental confusion. (Less so now, thank goodness!) It really killed me to be leaving her in that position. It would be so hard to leave the hospital and come home to an empty house and it really bothers me that this is the situation. Anyway, I had a little breakdown which ended with my Mom and I going to Big Boys to get a grilled cheese, salad and fries. Nothing seems to calm me down quite like greasy food and a heart to heart talk with my Mom.
Friday, United Airlines called to say that they were switching me to a direct flight on Northwest that would get me home an hour and a half earlier. I don’t get it, or how they were able to do this without charging me that pesky fee that they required when I switched my flight to Friday, but I was in no mood to argue because there are few things that I hate more than flying and this took out a layover. It also turned out to be a good thing because I was so tired when I got home that I started to fall asleep during dinner out with Mick. I had left my car back at his work, but we just went back to get my luggage and left the car there because I didn’t trust myself to drive the mile and half back home. I went to bed at 8:30 and wound up sleeping until 8:00 this morning. I can’t imagine how tired the rest of my family must be.
To top it all off, today is my Dad’s 67th birthday! I can’t believe that not only does he have to spend it in the hospital, but that he has to spend it with a feeding tube on. He has had lots of visitors and gifts which is good. If we can just get him to pass that swallowing test on Monday, there will be a great meal in his future!
Speaking of visitors… a special thank you to Jackie, who came to visit my Dad in the ICU on Thursday night. You truly made his day and he was still talking about it on Friday and showing off his frog balloon that you got him. Jackie is one of those special people that lights up a room when she walks into it, and the ICU was no exception. (And if any place would be an exception, it would be the ICU!) Thanks also to her new boyfriend Brian who came despite the fact that he had never met any of us. I don’t know you yet Brian, but I have come to some very favorable conclusions about your character! Sorry that my Dad was teasing you mercilessly. He has been a Jackie fan since we ran high school cross country together.
Finally, thank you to everyone for your endless prayers and thoughts. Please keep them coming.
Lots of Love, Carrie
(Whew! That word count was over 2200! No more of those, I promise!)
P.S. No, baby McCulloch didn’t come while I was home, but I will keep everyone posted!