Our Trip to Duluth
Once again, I apologize for the length of this post. I could write a much more succinct rundown of these events, but I've been told to document these facts for future reference. This will all be explained in part 3.
Thursday: After Dad got loaded on the helicopter, I took Mom home and headed to the restaurant to talk to BS(Boss's son). Boss had left that afternoon on a 5-day vacation to Reno. There was nobody to replace me on Friday, but I was hoping he could figure a way to replace me on Saturday. The girl who works the evening shift said she'd work Saturday, so I was set to go after work on Friday.
Then I ran home, grabbed a suitcase for Mom(I didn't have time to try to find Mom's luggage in their garage attic), explained the situation to Z, and fed Shadow. I took Shadow and the suitcase over to my parent's house and gave Shadow her monthly heartworm meds. I explained to Mom that we would head for Duluth when I got off work at 1 p.m. on Friday. Mom kept insisting that she had to go to the bank to cash bonds for Dad's helicopter ride. ARRGHHH!!
I then ran back to town to pick up some pop for the trip and a box of wine for Mom. I hoped that the wine would settle Mom down for the night when we returned to the motel. The rest of the evening passed in a blur as I made motel reservations(not an easy thing to do in Duluth with less than 24 hrs notice on a weekend), packed, showered, and called SME, my cousin J, and a couple of close family friends who have been involved in this mess. Mom called me 4 times between 10:30 and midnight to tell me that Dad had called her from the hospital in Duluth. I later learned that she'd also called our close family friend, Sandy, twice during this time.
Friday: Mom called me twice during the night, looking for Dad. I got less than 4 hours of sleep before I went to work.
Mom called me twice at work telling me that Dad had called. Dad told Mom that we couldn't come to Duluth and that the ENTIRE hospital staff was picking on him. Dad called me immediately after each of Mom's calls. He was sobbing and insisting that we couldn't possibly come to Duluth...it was too dangerous. For some reason Dad didn't think it was safe for me to drive in downtown Duluth, even though I've been driving there since I was 19. He also insisted that something terrible would happen to Mom and I if we stayed in a downtown motel. He even threatened to cancel our reservations. I finally told Dad to put his oxygen mask back on and get some rest. "We're coming and that's FINAL! I know exactly where you are. I've been there with Z for his neurologist appointments. I even know which parking lot will fit our truck. If I don't bring Mom to see you, she'll take off walking to Duluth in the middle of the night."
During one of her calls Mom asked me if SME and M(my Dad's name) were alright...
Me: "It's SME and Doug, Mom."
Mom: "No it's not! It's SME and M! I have it written right here!"
While I was at work, Mom called our house 4 times. Twice looking for Dad and twice asking Z when I was coming to get her. She also called our friend Sandy. Sandy called me at work and asked if she should go stay with Mom until I got there. BLESS HER HEART!! Sandy later told me that she had no idea my Mom's dementia was that bad until she spent that morning with her.
Thankfully my replacement came to work early! I was able to go home and gather my thoughts while L loaded my luggage in the truck. I also called SME. She and Doug had said that SME would come down and help us if we needed her. I didn't know how long Dad would be in Duluth and I knew that it was too dangerous leaving Mom home alone. I asked SME to check on the fastest way to get here and be ready to come at a moment's notice.
Sandy had managed to calm my Mom down by the time I got to my parent's house. I told my Mom that I would take her to Duluth with ONE condition...."I'm in charge. I've handled all the arrangements. You just worry about taking care of Dad. I'll handle everything else for you." Mom immediately bristled at this(she and my Dad are HUGE control freaks). Sandy put her arm around Mom and said: "Let TSHS do this for you. It's the only thing that makes sense. You just worry about you and M. Let TSHS handle the details." Mom agreed and thanked me.
I told Mom to stay in the house with the dog while I loaded her luggage. Sandy helped me. When we turned around, there was Mom, putting her jacket and purse INTO SANDY'S CAR! Sandy later told me that she knew I was in trouble when Mom hadn't even followed the first request I'd asked of her. I got Mom in my truck, where she started looking for her purse, then I retrieved her purse and jacket from Sandy's car. I checked the house to make sure everything was turned off, locked up the house, and brought Shadow to the truck, while Sandy stayed with Mom. We dropped Shadow and her food dish off at our house and we were on our way.
We arrived at the hospital at 4:30. When we reached the Cardiac ICU, Mom ran to my Dad while I talked with the nurses. They were getting ready to move Dad down to the regular Cardiac Unit of the hospital, but they were waiting for us to arrive first. They had given Dad an ultrasound and a cat-scan(both tests could have been done at home), and they still weren't sure if Dad had had a heart attack or not. They were giving him IV heart meds and insulin, which seemed to be working. He had been eating solid food since Thursday night and his blood sugar was slowly coming down from the alarming 399 level. Dad always maintains his blood sugar between 110-120.
When I went to Dad's cubicle he was telling Mom the most bizarre stories of his stay in the ICU....
The EMTs abused him on his helicopter flight.
Thursday night the doctor said he could use the phone at 8:00 p.m. Dad noticed that the clock in his room was off by 3 minutes. ( I don't know how Dad supposedly knew this since he didn't have a watch.) The "dirty bastards" set the 2 ft diameter, battery-operated wall clock back half an hour so Dad would miss making his phone call. They then magically set the clock back to its original time, including the 3 minutes off. They did all this clock setting while Dad was sitting in a chair, 2 ft from the clock, and Dad didn't see them do it. At this point Dad apparently pitched a fit so they let him call home.
While Dad was being interviewed by the cardiologist on Thursday night, a large, rare moth(I can't remember what kind of moth Dad said it was) was fluttering by his divider curtains. Dad pointed the moth out to the doctor, who didn't see a moth. The moth eventually landed on Dad's big toe...right next to the doctor....who still didn't see a moth. The doctor wrote "delusional" on Dad's chart, which really set my Dad off. This was the beginning of the grand conspiracy against my Dad by the evil, "asshole/son-of-a-bitch" cardiologist, who wouldn't look my Dad in the eye or believe a word he said. Alrighty then...
All Thursday night, 10 "secretaries" (Dad kept calling the nurses secretaries or waittresses until Monday) loudly played cards at a table in the nurse's station. The game involved some sort of board on the table. The winner perched on the board and looked at everybody's cards when they won a hand. The "secretaries" also put bright lights with "wavery" beams on the table. These lights shone in Dad's eyes all night. The "secretaries" also burned some spaghetti sauce they were making during their card game. When Dad would push his call button the "secretaries" would say "Ignore it. It's just that crazy cracker from up-north." Keep in mind that Dad, supposedly, saw and heard all of this without his glasses or hearing aids, which were in my Mom's purse the entire time.
Dad got his dinner tray at 6:00 and we were told that they'd move him to the 6th floor after his dinner. At 6:30, Dad told us to go check into our motel and get something to eat. We told him that we'd see him in the morning and left for the motel. The nurse gave us his 6th floor room number and said that we could visit for as long as the hospital doors were unlocked, which was 7:30 a.m.-8:00 p.m. on weekends.
I left Mom in the motel room while I unloaded our luggage. By the time I returned to the room, Mom had unpacked EVERY item she had and spread her stuff onto both beds, both chairs, and the table. She then carefully re-packed everything. She wound up doing this EVERY time we returned to our motel room. SME said that this act must have been something that gave Mom comfort, as it was something she could control.
After Mom re-packed, we went out for a pizza. We returned to the room at 8:15. The message light on the phone was flashing. The front desk said that the hospital had called and gave me a number. I tried calling the number, but it was no longer in service. Within 15 minutes the phone rang. It was Dad, sobbing and raging about us "disappearing".
Dad: "Where the hell have you been? I've had hospital security and the police out looking for you!"
Me: "Umm, Dad..we checked into the motel and went out for dinner. It's only been 2 hrs since we left you."
Mom took the phone and calmed Dad down for the night.
Saturday: Mom tried to leave the room, in her nighty, twice during the night. The first time she was looking for Dad. The second time she said she was looking for the bathroom. She had already opened both security locks on the door. Since when does the bathroom have security locks? That was the end of me sleeping during our trip. Every time the sheets would rustle on Mom's bed, I was wide awake and ready to stop her from leaving the room.
By 7:15 a.m., Mom and I were dressed and had eaten our free continental breakfast in the motel's coffee room. Then Dad called:
Dad: "Where the HELL are you?"
Me: "We're just getting ready to come to the hospital."
Dad: "A lot of good that will do. Visiting hours are over in half an hour!"
Me: "They don't unlock the hospital doors until 7:30. We can stay until 8:00 p.m. Relax, we're on our way."
When we got to the hospital, Dad was confused, weepy, and belligerent. Mom sat on the edge of the bed and held his hand, which immediately calmed him down. He then demanded that I go to the window and look at the Duluth hillside.
Dad: "Do you see those helicopter rotors sticking up beside that white house?"
Dad: "There was a fiery helicopter crash there last night...right after a plane crashed into the hillside. I'll bet the helicopter was sent to rescue the plane, but the helicopter crashed too."
Me: "Dad, there's no crash site out there."
Dad: "Now YOU think I'm crazy too, just like that god damned doctor! Where the hell have you been? It's been all over the TV news this morning!"
Me: "You don't have a TV in this room, Dad."
Dad: "I read it in the paper too!"
Me: "Show me the paper. You were having one of your nightmares Dad. There wasn't a crash."
Mom told Dad that she believed him, which settled him down for awhile. I took Mom aside and told her that she wasn't doing Dad any favors by agreeing with his delusions. She disagreed...until this happened...
Shortly after Dad calmed down about the helicopter/airplane crash, he started chewing us out for "disappearing" the previous night:
Dad: "Where the HELL were you last night?"
Me: "We checked into the motel and went out for a pizza."
Dad: "I saw you two right over there at the nurse's station last night...then you disappeared. Hospital security searched the entire hospital and couldn't find you. Then we called 911 and the police couldn't find you either!"
Mom: "We didn't come back to the hospital last night after you were moved to this floor. This is the first time we've been on the 6th floor."
Dad later said that 911 wouldn't work on his phone and that the nurses couldn't call 911 either, so I don't know how the police were out looking for us. Dad was in a rage about the nurses not being able to call 911. What if there was a fire? I'm positive that the nurses only told Dad that they couldn't call 911 because they knew he was being delusional. Either that or it was all part of the same dream.
My Dad has been having horrible, realistic nightmares for the last several years. The doctors think the nightmares are caused by one of his meds, maybe even his insulin. The doctors thought that it was a nightmare that knocked my Dad's heart out of rhythm on Wednesday night. When the doctor made rounds on Saturday morning, I asked him why Dad was now believing that his nightmares were reality. The doctor thought it could be the residual anesthetic and pain meds that were still in my Dad's body from his surgery on Monday. It could also be from the new heart meds they were giving Dad. Time would tell.
Dad got his catheter removed. His blood sugar was only about 50 points too high all day. He was seen by a General Practioner and a Surgeon during doctor's rounds. They both said he was recovering well from his surgery. Even though Dad was in the Cardiac Unit, he was never seen by a cardiologist over the weekend.
By noon, Dad had regained his lucidity and was joking around with us. He still believed that all his dreams had been real though. Dad had been eating solid food for 2 days and now needed to defecate regularly...this was a good sign. The bad news was that the hospital was so understaffed that there were no nurses available to help him. "Shit duty" became the responsibility of Mom and I for the rest of Dad's stay. Dad SHOULD have been up and walking too, but the hospital rules required 2 nurses to take him for a walk. Mom and I weren't allowed to take him out of the room without the nurses, so no walking for Dad.
Sunday: Mom only tried to leave the motel room once during the night.
When we got to the hospital, Dad had us pull his curtain and whispered his desperate "plan" to us. We were supposed to immediately go to the newspaper and report the abuse he'd been enduring. THEN, we needed to call Geraldo! That's the ONLY way he was EVER going to get out of the hospital. WTF? Dad HATES Geraldo! Dad insisted that the nurses had kept him up ALL night by poking unneccesary IV needles into his arms and hands. He then grabbed his IV tree and shook it, saying: "There's NO reason for all this shit! They only keep me on IVs to torture me. That god damned sneaky bastard doctor is behind all this! Look at that; EIGHT IV bags; that's BULLSHIT!!"
In reality, there were only 4 IV bags, connected to 2 needles in his shoulder. At one point, Dad had had 6 IV bags going into 4 needles in his hands and forearms, 2 in each arm. Dad had been fighting the IVs from the start and had broken several needles that needed to be re-inserted. They also had trouble finding his veins, and had made several attempts that hadn't worked. Dad's forearms and hands were a mess, with 30-some needle holes. It was very painful. During the doctor's rounds, we found out that Dad had developed a mild case of pneumonia. This is why they had to start another IV bag for antibiotics.
Dad's breakfast tray arrived at this time. Dad occassionally has an uncontrollable tremor in his right arm. Sunday morning his arm was shaking too badly for him to eat by himself, so I had to help Dad eat his breakfast. In the middle of breakfast, Dad looked around and said: "Where's your mother? You gotta go find Mom! She promised me she wouldn't leave the room without you!" I made a quick check of all the rooms on the floor...no Mom! When I went around the corner to the elevators, Mom was getting off the elevator with a nurse, who was guiding her back to the Cardiac Unit. Mom didn't know what floor or room number Dad was in. She only knew he was in the Cardiac Unit.
Me: "Where were you? Dad's worried sick about you."
Mom: "I can go for a walk anytime I want! You're not in charge of ME!"
When we got back to Dad's room, the doctors arrived on their rounds. The GP was an Indian(dot not feather, as Zombieslayer would say), who was accompanied by a surgeon. They both checked Dad's progress and said that he should be able to be released on Monday. We then decided that Mom and I would stay until Monday and bring Dad home with us. That would save us another round trip to Duluth.
When Dad's lunch tray arrived at noon, he whispered:
"A-ha, this all makes sense now. This is a MUSLIM hospital!"
Me: "What makes you think that?"
Dad: "You saw that MUSLIM doctor this morning. That's why the nurses won't bring me coffee when I ask for it in the morning."
Me: "Muslims drink coffee, Dad."
Dad: "Then why won't the nurses bring me coffee?"
Me: "Because they don't have time. Your coffee comes on your breakfast tray at 8:00."
Dad: "What about this food? It's all MUSLIM food!"
Me: "Dad, that's ground pork and gravy you're eating. Muslims don't eat pork."
Dad: "I still say this is a MUSLIM hospital. Be careful what you say. They're all spying on us! If we say the wrong thing, we'll all just disappear."
At this point, I said I needed to go out to the truck for a cigarette. Periodic trips to the truck during the weekend was the only thing that kept me from totally losing my grip. I'd sit in the truck with a can of pop and a cigarette and either listen to my music or call home. Z was my rock at this time. He HATES talking on the phone, but he would talk to me as long as I needed. L can't hear well enough to talk on the phone, so Z would fill him in on what was going on after I hung up. When I called this time, I told Z to call SME and give her my cell number. I don't have a long-distance card installed in our Tracfone, so I couldn't call SME, but she could still call me. With Mom's dementia and Dad's delusions, I knew they wouldn't be able to keep track of their meals and meds when they got home. I needed to know what SME had found out about coming home to help. I couldn't have my phone turned on in the Cardiac Unit, but I told Z to tell SME to keep trying. I would have the phone turned on when I wasn't in the hospital. SME finally reached me after we checked into the motel for the night. I filled her in on Mom and Dad's conditions. SME's travel agent said there would be no problem getting her a spur-of-the-moment flight home. SME would now wait by the phone for my call for help. God, I LOVE my family!!
Stay tuned for Part 3: Home Sweet Home