Friday, November 04, 2005

Halloween - 1,983 Days Out

Don is outside at the end of our sidewalk all bundled up in his Woolrich coat and wearing his Stetson cowboy hat, a canvas bag of Reese’s peanut butter cups tied to his wheelchair. He’s waiting for the ghosts, gremlins, pirates and princess’s to come begging for candy. He’s having the time of his life. Until recent years, he’d always worked nights and never got to experience this ritual of fall. Imagine that, being over fifty years old before handing out your first Halloween treats. He knows most of the kids from his ‘trolling for friends’ rides in his electric wheelchair during the summer months.

I’ve been trying to locate a garden’s doorbell that I once saw in a catalog and didn’t have the brains to order it right there and then. The part that rings has a belt clip so you could wear it and the part you press to ring would have been ideal to hook up to Don’s wheelchair. That way, I’d always be at his beck and call, as long as I didn’t get more than 500 feet away. It would come in handy for times like tonight, if Don needs his candy supply replenished or when we’re in the grocery store and his Starbuck debit card is over-drawn. It would have come in handy this morning when he was in the bathroom and he accidentally spilled his urinal on the floor. Again.

Last night I typed up all my notes from the book that I had kept in Don’s room in the first 101 days after his stroke. I asked him if he wanted to read them and he does. I’m thinking it might help him be less complacent about doing his arm and leg exercises when he sees it in black and white how hard-earned it was for him to be able to stand up and make transfers, etc. The notes don’t include improvements he’s made in speech and cognitive issues since the stroke because most of them didn’t even begin until he got into out-patient therapy, after his first 101 days.

Day 23: Hospital. The breakfast tray came up with all regular liquids. No one seems to get the thickened liquids order right! The cardiologist was in this morning and he’s going to wait a couple of days to do the jump start (cardio inversion) on Don’s heart. He’s known Don a long time and he said he’d try to pull a few strings with the social workers here and try to get Don back into the rehabilitation hospital, instead of having to go back to the sub-acute nursing home. He didn’t believe the ‘vegetable for life’ prognosis either. Don had a rough day. They did an echogram, blood work, and the physical therapist was here to do some bedside range of motion stuff. Hospital staff was in and out of his room all day and they seemed to wear Don out. One of those people was a rehabilitation specialist and he told me that Don “can’t make the grade” to go back to rehab. That was a royal let down but not a complete surprise. I asked him what exactly Don would have to be able to do to make the grade. He said: 1) He’d have to be able to follow two-step directions; 2) He’d have to be able to weight bear on one leg; and, 3) He’d have to have some place to go after rehab where he won’t be living alone. At least now I feel like we’ve got some marching orders.

Day 24: Nothing new.

Day 25: The cardio inversion worked! Don’s heart rhythm is back were it belongs but what a stressful procedure that turned out to be. First, his own cardiologist had emergency surgery so they gave us someone new. He told us it would only take ten minutes but it ended up being almost two hours. Earlier in the day they had Don hooked up the heart monitor and something was going on that caused nurses to come running in and about to call a Code Blue. This happened several times over the morning so I was anxious the procedure, afraid he’d die before they got to it. Then when they got the machine in the room that was suppose to do the inversion, it wasn’t acting predictable so they called a computer specialist in. He fiddled around and finally called an electrical maintenance man in and it was determined that a wall receptacle was causing all the trouble. They wouldn’t let me stay in the room during all this so I was eavesdropping outside the door the whole time. The next thing that happened was they had the maintenance man hold the machine’s plug in the wall while the doctor let a nurse hold the paddles used to jump start Don’s heart! “She always wanted to do it,” she had told the doctor. I’m still shocked that he actually allowed her to do it.

Jean Riva ©

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