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Monday, July 17, 2017

When Your Parents Are Ill

A Sobering Post:

These past few months have been surreal. Starting in January, my mother had a knee replaced. We thought she would be the one in need of therapy and assistance. Turns out, my dad turned the tables on us.

In February, he underwent surgery to remove cancerous spots from behind his ear that had grown into about 50 lymph nodes and a fairly good sized lump. They removed it all and then planned six weeks of radiation.

He returned from the hospital weaker than we anticipated. I think that surprised us all. But, he regained his strength enough to drive himself to most of the radiation appointments. He was weak but done with radiation toward the end of May, and we were hoping he would be able to rest and regain his strength.

Not so fast.

During his recovery, he visited his dermatologist who found three more cancerous spots on his skin and removed them. I might note that last time he had this done, he didn't recover well. I think it was due to the "local" anesthesia used, but of course the doctor heavily refutes that notion. A year ago, he had a lot of trouble recovering from skin cancer removal to the point of congestive heart failure and coughing weakness. This time, however, hours after the procedure, he began to shake.

A few weeks ago, I got a message from my brother asking me urgently to go take my dad to the Emergency Room. He was running a high fever and didn't want my mom to call 911. My mom no longer drives. So, that wasn't an option either.

I headed down to my parents house, which is about 45 minutes away, late at night with my 17-year old son accompanying me - thankfully! We were in the ER till 3:30ish. They admitted him saying his white blood cell count was dangerously low. No doubt from the radiation, though none of the attending physicians seemed to bat an eye when I would mention his cancer treatments. They did, however, treat him for low white blood cells and ecoli infection as a UTI.

They kept him for a few days, and I drove down to help him get back home. But, he wasn't there for long before a friend of theirs was taking him back to the ER. They sent him home.

The next Saturday, he began to become confused, scary confused. So, a friend took him to urgent care where they discovered yet another infection and prescribed yet another antibiotic.

By Sunday night, he was so confused that when it was bedtime, he got up to sit at the table thinking it was time for dinner. My mom got worried and called a friend to take her to a different hospital ER.

This hospital seemed to have gotten to the bottom of it. His white blood count is now within normal range, but now his sodium is so low. They think that is the cause for all of his confusion. After a few days stay in the hospital, they released him to a rehab facility.

We visited yesterday, and he is just not my dad right now! He is weak and very confused. He keeps describing it as Ground Hogs Day like everything he is doing throughout the day he has done before. It would be fascinating or even humorous if it weren't my dad who was suffering.

Apparently, if they can get the sodium levels moderated, his clarity of thought will come back  - That is what we hope!

Meanwhile, this is surreal! I know how to care for a baby, toddler or even a child but I don't know how to care for a man who taught me to drive, how to do taxes, and other valuable lessons of life - A man whose quiet wisdom I relied upon through delicate growing up years. It is a strange sensation to be helping your strong, wise dad into a wheel chair or to explain to him why he needs to eat. I am so hopeful this is temporary, but I have now, on two separate occasions, witnessed both parents break down in hospitals thinking they were about to lose their spouse. The two have been married for 64 years, and until this bout of confusion and weakness from cancer surgery, my dad has been able to drive and function independently. My prayer is thaht he will be able to do so again.

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