Thanks for bearing with me through this whole sordid mess! It's taken me a long time to document my experiences as it is such an emotionally draining task. This process has also been a liberating one. It seems that once I've written my memories down, my mind is free to move on.
Monday: It's been a week since Dad had his surgery. It feels like a MONTH!
When we got to the hospital, Dad was once again delusional, but not as bad as the previous days. It seems that Dad's latest dreams involved watching TV news stories on the uncontrollable violence in America. I'm not sure who the "enemy" is, but I think it's a combination of terrorists and drug dealers. Dad declared that he was going to start carrying a gun at all times....
Mom: "We live in a safe town. There's no need for that."
Dad: "How about when we travel?"
Mom: "We don't travel anymore."
Dad: "We go to Bemidji sometimes."
Me: "Yeah Dad, that's a real dangerous town." Even Mom giggled about the dangers in Bemidji, so Dad decided to drop that topic.
Then Dad started lecturing me on how I should be watching more news:
Dad: "You could've been watching the news with me last night instead of watching that damned movie you like 6 TIMES with the nurses last night!"
Me: "What movie?"
Dad: "That one with the yellow brick road."
Me: "I wasn't at the hospital and I didn't watch The Wizard of Oz
At 10 am the GP and a Surgeon arrived at Dad's room for rounds. As far as they were concerned, Dad was cleared for release. Dad still needed to be released by a Cardiologist, but the GP didn't see any reason to keep him in the hospital. Dad's heart rhythm had remained normal and he was off oxygen. The GP said that the Cardiologist had made some notes about Dad having a stress test and an angiogram, but he couldn't have those tests until July, when he would be totally healed from the surgery. Both tests can be done at our home hospital.
Alrighty then, bring on the Cardiologist and let's get out of here!
The nurses assured us that the Cardiologist would be making rounds any time now...
By 1:30 pm I was getting restless. I knew that it would take another 2 hours for the nurses to process Dad for release after the Cardiologist signed off on him. They needed to disconnect his IVs, give us new prescriptions for his med changes, and give him the usual post-hospital instructions. On top of this, we still had a 3 hour drive ahead of us! I told my parents that if the Cardiologist hadn't arrived by 3 pm, I was gonna start raising a stink!
Dad: "That's my mouthpiece!" (Referring to me)
At 1:45 another Surgeon stopped in to check on Dad...
Surgeon: "I see you're all set to be released, so I guess my work here is done."
Me: "I know that you're the wrong department, but can you PLEASE help me find a Cardiologist? If the Cardiologist signed off on him right now, it would still be 8 pm before I'd get them settled in their house. We NEED to get out of here NOW! Can you just give me a phone number or something so I can talk to the Cardiologist?"
Surgeon: "Oh my! Haven't they been here yet? I WILL track someone down for you!"
Me: "Thank you soooo MUCH!"
Dad: "That's my mouthpiece!"
A short time later, I told my parents that SME was all ready to come down and help them out through Dad's recovery...
Me: "SME can help with the cooking, cleaning, and everyday chores so Mom can concentrate on helping you." (I didn't dare tell them that I didn't think they were capable of keeping Dad's meds straight. Dad also has to eat and take his insulin at certain times.)
Dad: "HAH, she's...a VEGETARIAN! We don't want her cooking for US!"
Me: "SME will cook whatever you want."
Parents: "No way! We'll be just fine!"
Me: "We'll see. Let's just keep it in mind."
At 4 pm, I went out to the truck to call home. When I came back, Dad was all dressed and handed me something...
Dad: "Throw this away."
Me: "I can't throw these needles away. They're still attached to the IV bags!"
Yup, Dad had pulled out his IVs and heart monitor and was ready to GO.
A Cardiologist's Assistant FINALLY arrived at 5 pm!
"OH! Ummm...I see you're all ready to go. I'm not sure the Cardiologist will agree with this. I'll have to go get him."
I waylaid the assistant in the hall: "We were told that there's no reason my Dad can't be released today. We don't have a motel room and it's too late for me to call into work to get off tomorrow. We're shorthanded at work and I don't know when I'll be able to come back and get my Dad. In addition, my Mom has undiagnosed dementia. She can't stay in Duluth by herself. My parents are so reliant on each other that I GUARANTEE YOU my Dad will go sour on you if my Mom isn't here to hold his hand!"
The Cardiologist arrived within 5 minutes.
Dr: "We would have liked to keep you here, but since you're determined to leave I guess I can release you."
Me: "I can check him into our hospital when we get home if you'd like."
Dr: "There's really no need for that."
Me: "Then why do you want him here?"
Dr: "We'd like to have a few days to go over his diet and exercise regimen with him."
Me: "OK, what's the diet and exercise?"
The Dr droned on and on.
Me: "The only difference between your instructions and how Dad's been living is that you want him to have less than 2 g of salt a day. He's been on a salt-free diet before. We can handle this."
Dr: "We'd also like him to have a stress test and an angiogram."
Me: "We were told that he couldn't have those tests until July."
Dr: "That's correct."
Me: "So you want him to stay here 'til July?"
Dr: "Well no...umm...but...."
Me: "Just sign the release so we can get out of here."
We FINALLY left the hospital at 7:15 pm! A list of Dad's meds had been faxed up to our clinic's pharmacy. We could pick them up after 10 am the next morning. In Dad's release papers I was relieved to find that the surgeon who had done Dad's surgery had restricted him from driving until the surgeon approved him to drive.
When I pulled up front to load Dad into the truck, I moved the passenger front seat all the way back. I had Mom sit in the back seat, behind me, so Dad would be able to fully recline his seat. The staples in Dad's abdomen prevented him from buckling his seatbelt.
We had barely left town when Dad reclined his seat and fell asleep. It had been a long, frustrating day for all of us. 15 minutes later, Dad jerked awake and reached for the DOOR HANDLE to pull himself upright! I was going 65mph and immediately slowed the truck and pulled onto the shoulder. Mom started screaming at Dad not to touch the door. By the time the truck had stopped, Dad had pulled himself up by the armrest and set his seat back up.
Dad: "Don't get excited. I only had 2 fingers on the door handle."
Me: "Dad, 2 fingers is enough to open the door and throw you out of the car when you're not wearing a seatbelt!"
I pulled back onto the highway and Dad pointed off in the distance...
Dad: "That's where they found those shells."
Me: "What shells?"
Dad: "The empty shells from that kid who got his head blown off. We saw it on the news this afternoon. It's way too dangerous out there anymore. We all need to start arming ourselves all the time."
Me: "Dad, we haven't watched TV in the hospital the entire time you've been there."
The rest of the trip home, we discussed the schedule for the next few days. In the morning my parents were supposed to make appointments with my Dad's GP and his surgeon. I told them that L would come to their house at 10 am to see if Dad's prescriptions were ready to pick up. Then L would deliver the meds to them and help them sort the meds if they needed help. I also told Mom that she could make a grocery list and I'd go to the store for them after I got off work. They hadn't cooked at home for a week, so I was certain that they'd need a few things. I also told them that I'd write down the times for Dad's doctor appointments when I got there. Then either L or I would take them to the clinic on that day. My parents were in total agreement with me about this schedule.
When we got to my parent's house, I opened the garage door and pulled my truck into the garage. I explained that I had told L to put their car in our garage when he picked it up from the hospital. It would be a shorter distance for Dad to walk to the house from inside their garage. It would also be handier for us to have their car at our house when we drove them wherever they needed to go.
Dad: "Is our car outside?"
Me: "Your car is in the garage. L's car is outside."
From the moment my Mom got out of the truck, she was huffy. I was helping Dad through the garage. Mom pushed me aside and said: "WE can do it." Dad agreed.
I unloaded the truck and put everything into the den, where Dad wouldn't trip over it. By this time, Mom had Dad settled in his recliner and was sitting at his feet holding his hand. I told my parents where everything was and went home to get their dog.
By this time I was exhausted and close to losing my composure. I ran into our house, told L and Z I'd be right back, grabbed Shadow, and drove back to my parent's house. They were overjoyed to see their dog. I tried to hug my parents good-night, but the 3 of them were all huddled together by Dad's chair.
Me: "I forgot to grab Shadow's food dish. L can bring it in the morning. Umm...good-night...I love you....see you tomorrow."
Mom: "Where's Dad's release papers?"
Me: "In the den, in the blue plastic bag they gave you."
L ran out to the truck as soon as I pulled into the driveway. We fell into each other's arms and L said: "I feel like I'm on an episode of Wife Swap
where they come running together at the end!" All I could do was sob onto L's shoulder. It was 11 pm and I was FINALLY home!
This is getting a bit long, so I'll cut it off for now. Stay tuned for Part 4. The worst is yet to come.