38,325 days… installment 2

As I stated in the last installment, my Grandparents’ marriage was not without tragedy.

In 1948, on a typical late fall afternoon, my Grandmother had just finished making dinner. A fresh pot of coffee was percolating in the kitchen and my Grandmother had just asked Charles to run into the living room and tell my Grandfather that dinner was ready. The distance from the kitchen to the living room was not even 15 feet but Grandpa’s game was to ignore her until she yelled then he would come into the kitchen with a big smirk on his face. Marion didn’t want to deal with the game. Charles did as he was told, and dutifully ran down the short corridor to call his dad. As he did, he accidentally tripped the power cord to the ancient coffeemaker. As if in slow motion, my Grandmother watched helplessly as the pot tipped and the scalding hot coffee poured down his back. He screamed, immediately went into shock and was dead moments later. My mother tells me that a team of doctors, with today’s technology, could not have saved him. My grandparents were completely crushed. My grandfather would retreat into himself, my grandmother would deal by completely, and I say this without exaggeration, smothering my mother, her only remaining child.

Not the grieving types, life went on. The UK in them sustained them. Grandpa was from Scotland, Grandma was from England, they were built of sturdy stock. My grandfather found work as an Oil Burner repairman and worked several side jobs. My grandmother busied herself immersing herself in her daughter’s life. She would find fault, in as matronly a manner as possible, with her friends, their parents, their houses, and their clothes. No one or nothing was good enough for her daughter. It wasn’t snobbery, although it looked an awful lot like it, it was merely overprotection. My mother somehow managed to maintain a small circle of friends, she simply coached them to look past the interrogations and disapproving looks and see the nice, battle-worn woman within. She managed to have a fairly normal childhood. At least for a while.

As it would turn out, tragedy would unfold again. After going upstairs during her 7th birthday party because she didn’t feel well, my mother would be found unconscious in her room. The diagnosis would be Viral Spinal Meningitis. In 1952, this disease had no cure. She would languish in a coma for a week until a young doctor approached Mel and Marion with a glimmer of hope. He told them of an experimental serum that had shown promise but was not approved by the government yet. With little to nothing to lose. they agreed to try it. It would save her life. It would take a year of recovery, including learning how to walk again, but my mother made a full recovery. I only wish the same could be said about Marion. The smothering would escalate to epic proportions.

to be continued…

The long ride home

The windshield wipers keep rhythm as I adjust my seat forward to make sure I stay awake for the drive home. The heater is on high and I’m still cold. The hot coffee in the holder next to me is calling my name but I’m fixated on the double yellow line, all senses working overtime to get home safe.

This is just one more in a series of post-hospital visit rides home. I’ve done so many that they have become a ritual. I review in my head the events of my stay, even those leading up to it, evaluate how productive it was and ponder the next step. This ride is unlike the others, I am not as optimistic about a positive outcome as usual. In fact, I have a very confident feeling that I will be back in the hospital soon. I’m not being negative, I’m just being honest with myself.

Like the yellow line in the road, the events of the past few days are a blur. Thursday morning I drove to a follow-up appointment for my ongoing pneumonia. To say that I felt like crap is a huge understatement. I arrived 20 minutes early and it took me 15 of them to muster the courage to walk a hundred yards to the front door of the medical building. The heat emanating from the vents in my truck was warming and sedating me, the thought of walking through the freezing rain that was hiding my Spring seemed a daunting task. I finally got out of my truck and made the walk. By the time I got to the front door, I was done, bent over and gasping for air. People were staring. I walked slowly to the elevator and tried to compose myself.

I checked in and waited patiently to be seen. I wouldn’t be seen for 20 minutes but it didn’t matter, I fell asleep in the waiting room. When my doctor came out to greet me, a mere ten minutes elapsed before an ambulance was called to move me to the nearest hospital. 2 hours later Dr. Quackadoodle MD decided that because my vitals were ok he would ignore all of my Dr.’s notes and send me home as healthy. Discouraged but not surprised, I have always been a medical enigma, I prepared myself to go home. Then a cute as hell nurse came in and said she was moving me to X-ray. I wasn’t sure what had changed but I went with it. Once my X-Ray was reviewed Dr. Quackadoodle MD decided that I would be admitted. Pneumonia in both lungs. DuhWhat do these people think, that I’m here for fun?

The next 4 days would consist of what has become a familiar pattern. I was told about my declining kidney function. No shit… read my chart. I would answer the same questions about my medical history over and over again. Once again read my fucking chart. I would talk to sub-par doctors who knew less about my condition than I did. My repeated requests for them to consult with my Transplant team would go largely unheeded. After several days of antibiotics, surprisingly good hospital food, too many naps and far too much television Monday rolled around. I asked my nurse on her morning rounds what progress I had made and to speak with the doctor on duty. I wanted to know what the plan was. Five minutes later, she relayed to me the doctor’s words…”Do you feel well enough to go home?” What kind of bullshit answer is that?! I wanted to discuss blood counts, creatine levels, a second chest X-Ray to see if there has been a change…not assess myself! No, I don’t feel that much better. Walking back to bed after taking a leak has me sucking wind, that is not progress. It was explained to me that my blood counts had improved and that pneumonia has no real treatment regimen except rest and antibiotics which can be accomplished at home. Good enough I guess, get me the discharge papers.

My takeaways of the visit flash in my mind like the lights of the passing cars.
I’ll probably be back in the hospital soon. Brace yourself.
I received some amazing care from the nursing staff. While I wasn’t thrilled with the doctors, the nurses and aides were great. Caring, nurturing, and professional as well as sounding boards for my lame Dad jokes, they made my stay easier.
I am grateful that my oldest daughter drove 50 miles and picked up my youngest daughter to come see me. Their support was much needed and appreciated.
I am a little perplexed that my youngest son didn’t even text me. Perhaps my years of trying not to worry them have succeeded with him, I’m not sure how I feel about that.
It was the first time my wife wasn’t bedside arguing with my doctors. She was working doubles all week and she’s now my ex-wife. Things have indeed changed.

I arrived home around 7:30 and hopped in the shower to wash the hospital off of me. The activity and steam winded me to the point that I had a coughing fit so violent I vomited in the shower. Hanging my head in the shower, as I hung my head in the ER so many days ago, the only words I heard were those of Dr. Quackadoodle, of the distinguished medical practice Dewey, Not listen, and Howe saying “Do you feel well enough to go home?” reverberating in my head.  Yea, sure. I really wish I had handled that better. I suppose I can address it the next time I’m there. The way I’m going how long can that possibly be?

I’m not feeling bad for myself, I’m just feeling bad. This won’t last, I will feel better at some point, I have to. My posts will be more positive, I promise. This is my process, put it to paper and then put it in the past. Soon, if it is meant to be, the good days will again outnumber the bad.