Monday, October 31, 2011


     Rehabilitation.....what exactly does that mean. Richard is learning to walk with a walker. He can walk well but having the walker really gives him the stability that he has needed for a long time. They are trying to encourage him to take long strides (instead of the small shuffle steps he takes due to the Parkinson's disease) He needs constant reminding. They are working with him on dressing, toileting, and bathing. It is apparent he will need help with all of this. The biggest thing is they have told him he will NEVER be able to drive again. This is hard on most men and will be hard for Richard too; if he ever can remember that we have told him that. He is a independent man and will not want this taken away from him.  
     Therapy is intense. They work for 3 hours every morning. Then he has a rest period and then lunch. And then they are back for 3 hours in the afternoon. He is worn out. But, not sleeping good at night.I remind them that he uses sleeping pills at home. They will check with the doctor.
     The memory remains the biggest obstacle. You can tell him what is going on and in 30 minutes he still does not remember.
     Discharge planning is in place. We will leave for home on Wednesday morning, September 28. How is this going to change our lives. Time will tell. Everything is in place. And we will return to the hospital on October 4 for an overnight stay to have his right carotid cleaned out.

Friday, October 28, 2011

And the hard work begins

     All of this happened on Friday son and his girlfriend go home with me. Richard is on the ventilator in the ICU. His heart rate is still slow but it is stabilized. I will leave him to rest And hope that I will be able to rest also.
     Saturday morning my cousin from Lawrence arrives. We go to the hospital! Richard is awake and aware that he has a tube in his throat to breathe for him. He is very restless. It is more than I can take. We do not know how much damage from the stroke that he has suffered. He has a catheter in his bladder and it is driving him crazy. He is fidgeting and trying to pull out the tubes. They sedate him with Diprovan. The same drug that killed Michael Jackson. They call it the 'milk of amesia'. But it works to keep him calmer. They try to wean him off the ventilator but it does not work. He is too sedated. He quits breathing. The machine is turned back on. The doctors come and go. He has one on one care. I am very scared. Family comes and goes. Justin stays with me.
     Tomorrow morning (Sunday) they will again try to take him off the ventilator. Justin, Calvin and I go home. He is resting!
     Sunday morning we go back to the hospital. He has passed the weaning test and the tube comes out of his throat. He is very confused. He does not know where he is. He does not know the date, the year, or who is the President of the United States. But his speech is clear and he is moving all extremities with equal strength. They want to do an MRI but he is too restless. So they do another CAT scan. He has had a stroke in the occipital lobe. Looks like it will affect vision and memory. Praise the Lord. It could have been so much worse.
     Calvin goes back to Lawrence. Justin is going to stay. Darian and Harley come to the hospital to see their Papa. It scares Harley to see him like this. I will take them home tonight so that we can get them back on their schedule and normalacy will return to our lives. (Who am I kidding? It will never be normal again).
     Monday morning is here. I cannot believe it has only been 2 days since my life was normal and I was at home wishing I did not need to start looking for a job again. (That's another story! But, be careful what you wish for. I go back to the hospital and the plan today is to move him to a regular room upstairs and start planning for the future. He still is confused and it looks like the short term memory is gone. Whatever we tell him we have to tell him again over and over. He now knows who the president is. Justin was glad he didn't have to break the news that Barack Obama was President. Richard is a die-hard Republican.
     The move upstairs is hard on the confusion. Thinks he has moved to a different hospital. We have to keep telling him where he is. During the night he gets up and wonders around in his room so they move him to a room closer to the nurses and into a bed that alarms when he gets up. Oh boy! This is disturbing to me.
Today he is seen by all the rehab specialities to see if he qualifies to move into the intense rehab unit or if he goes to the skilled nursing unit. He also goes for a cardiac stress test. We are happy to hear that he will go into the rehab unit and receive intense therapy for most of the day. They move him downstairs to another new room. This is now his 4th room in as many days. And he cannot keep it all straight in his head. He does not remember Friday night at all. Maybe that is a good thing. His cardiologist decides we need to check his carotid arteries so he is scheduled for carotid angiograms tomorrow. I am stressed. Too much for him and too much for me.
     Wednesday he starts therapy. He is worn out. But the day is not over. At 4 p.m. they take him to the cath lab for the angiogram. I have to go home to meet the school bus. We return to the hospital. He is still in the cath lab recovering but no doctor to tell me what they found. Hopefully I can talk to him tomorrow. Richard remains upbeat but confused. He does whatever they tell him. They are feeding him a pureed diet. He has aspiration pneumonia. What more can happen?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

My life has forever changed

     On September 16, 2011 we as a family sat down to supper. I had made beef stir-fry. A meal that my husband and the grand kids 'used' to really like. Not long into the meal, my husband, Richard, put his head into his hands and complained that he 'felt dizzy'. I sat across the table from him. I told him he needed to raise his head and open his eyes. It is true that you feel an increase in your dizziness with your eyes closed. When he raised his head up, I could see that he was having trouble opening his left eye. I told him to open his eye.......both of the kids watched on......then I said, "Richard, smile at me!" He did! His smile was crooked...his mouth was drooping on the left side. I knew at this time that he was having a stroke. The kids laughed as the smile on their Papa's face was pretty funny looking. I got up and walked to his end of the table. I tried not to scare the kids. My heart was beating in my throat. I gave him my hands and told him to squeeze. He could! In fact, I thought he might break my fingers :) The kids continued to eat!. I gave him a sip of water as he still had some of the stir-fry in his mouth. The water dribbled out of the left side of his mouth. I asked if he thought we should go to the hospital. His reply was 'no I am not going to the hospital' Good, the speech was clear. But this caused two forks to bang to the table. The grandson stood and said, "Granny, what is going on" In a matter of fact way (well it sounded that way to me) I said "I think Papa is having a stroke." The grandson and I tried to stand him up so that we could take him to his recliner in the living room. He could not bear weight. I said "Richard, I think we need to go to the hospital!" His reply was "nonone eyye same caner goop" Yep, it was time to call 911!
     So I instructed the grandson to stand on one side and the grand-daughter (who by now was beginning to cry) to stand on the other side and granny grabbed the portable phone. I went into the nearby laundry room so as not to scare them any further and placed the call.
     911 operator "What is your emergency?" Me: "My name is Paula and my address is ***** and my husband is having a stroke. 911 operator: "And what makes you think this, mam?" I then told her that I am an RN and what his symptoms were and to please send us an ambulance STAT. I hung up the phone and returned to my husbands side. Very shortly after he slumped into his chair and his head lolled to the side. It was at this moment I again picked up the phone and called 911 again to see what was taking them so long. (Later, that night when I checked the phone I found that only 2 minutes had passed since I had called them the first time...not the hours that it seemed like) While telling the 911 operator the new developments the fire department arrived. My 11 year old grand-daughter had totally lost it by now and was loudly crying and running about. I had to grab hold of her and tell her she had to pull it together and to get a sack and go gather up all of Papa's medications.
     Three big, beautiful and life-saving firemen entered the house. They lifted Papa from his chair and placed him on the dining room floor. The kids went out front to await the arrival of the ambulance. And to comfort each other. I was giving all of Richard's medical history to the firemen as they begin to feel for a pulse and place oxygen on his face. His color was grey. His pulse was present, but slow.
     Then the ambulance arrived and into the house they came with all of their life saving paraphernalia. I have never been so happy to see anyone in my entire life! They set about with their work. One talked with me and took down his history. One checked his blood sugar and applied the electrodes to monitor his heart. Another began to start an IV. They then lifted him onto the gurney and rushed him to the front door. It was then that I remembered that he did not wish to be resuscitated should his heart stop beating so I told this to his life-savers and they were heading out the door. One stopped and turned to me and said in the kindest and most caring manner "Mam, when you called for us you asked us to save his life and that is what we plan to do" Good, good. They were on their way. In the car we followed. The kids and granny. We were all shaken and we were scared. My grand-daughter said, 'granny, I knew this day was coming. But I didn't know it would b e today!' Me either, Harley, me either. The day was beautiful. We had had an uneventful day. We did not know this is how it would end.
     About two blocks into the trip to the hospital, with us following closely behind, the ambulance flipped on the red lights and the sirens and they began to weave in and out of traffic as they flew down the streets to the hospital. Now I was SCARED! "Would he still be alive when we got to the hospital?"
     I had called our adopted daughter (who lives close by) and she was to meet me at the hospital. I had called my youngest son, who lives 60 miles away and he is on his way. And I had called my oldest brother and he would meet me at the hospital too. He had just lost his wife, Pam, in June. He would be a comfort to me. The 'adopted' daughter would take the kids. And I would hold on for Justin, the youngest son.
     Upon arriving at the hospital I entered by the ER. I was met by a gentleman nurse, who guided me through the admission process. I did not want to do this. I wanted to see my husband. "Would they make me do this if he had died on his way to the hospital", I wondered. I answered her questions the best way that I could. I kept looking at the nurse who stood at my side. Finally I had to have an answer to the question. "IS HE STILL ALIVE"  I asked. I was told that he would go back and see what was going on and then come back to get me. My 'adopted' daughters husband arrived to take the kids home. My brother arrived. Finally a nurse, who introduced herself as the ER supervisor came to tell me that the Doctor would like to talk to me in the QUIET ROOM. " This cannot be good" I told my brother as we followed her down the hallway.
     We settled into the Quiet Room and the nurse gave a bit of an update. Richard had stopped breathing in the ambulance and was intubated (a tube placed to help him breathe) His heart rate was very, very slow and they were giving him medication to help increase it which was also making his blood pressure too high so they would have to work with that. They were taking him for a CAT scan of his head to determine if he was having a 'bleeding' stroke. I asked the nurse if I could see him and she took me into the hall for a brief moment as he was one his way to XRay. He looked very sick!
     The Doctor came into the room and asked us what we were wanting to do. What? I don't know what to do? Don't ask me! Wait.....what are our options. He said if we were thinking about surgery we needed to act fast, get him to a bigger hospital quickly as there is a very tiny window of time for this type of surgery. If the CAT scan does not show an active bleed then we can administer TPA ( a really high powered blood thinner and clot buster). I know that Richard would not want brain surgery. But trying the TPA sounded like a good idea. TPA can only be administered if you are in a certain time window of when the stoke occurred and we were in time.
     So, after the CAT scan was completed and there was no active bleed he was back to the ER and the TPA was started. We waited for an ICU bed to free up so that he could be moved there. Our sons arrived along with other members of my family. I was so glad to have them all there to support me and to show Richard how much they cared for him. God is amazing and so is my family!
     Look for the next installment....COMING SOON