Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Don't Pay The Ransom - I've Escaped!

If I have any readers left, please accept my apologies for my week long absence from this site. I'll try to steer clear of excuses, but let you know where in the world I have been.

The last few weeks have been an absolute blurr in our family. I am always two weeks behind when we return from our Philippine trips, but this time, the "catch up" curve and usual jet lag were complicated by coming back to some serious health issues involving my mother and father. I'm sure that both of my brothers join me in feeling much like the man in a hamster wheel. It's been frustrating, but thank God we are still moving!

There were sermons to prepare (two new series for Sunday morning's and evenings), Upward Basketball and Cheerleading Celebration to pull off, sick folks to visit, calls to return, and a number of tasks at home to deal with after two weeks away. However, all of that had to be put into perspective and worked around one of the toughest family crises we have ever faced.

While still in the Philippines, I got word that Dad had been admitted to St. Mary's Medical Center in Huntington, WV. The previous six weeks had seen Dad drastically loose the use of his legs. In a matter of weeks he had gone from getting around OK (although in quite a bit of pain) to walking with a cane, then a walker, and finally in a wheel chair. The regression was shocking to us. Dad had been scheduled to preach at Westmoreland Baptist on the first Sunday of my absence, and he had to be brought into the church in a wheel chair and preached in both Sunday services while seated in a chair.

MRI's had been done but Dad was delayed in being able to get into see Dr. Goetz, his primary care physician. When Bruce took him to see Dr. Goetz on March 27th, the good Doctor immediately admitted Dad into St. Mary's, and called in a neurosurgeon, Dr. Osborne. The diagnosis was spinal stenosis, and Dad was told that he would need surgery immediately to clean out five vertebrae, and then would face three to four weeks of Physical and Occupational Therapy. This in itself was worrisome to us, but a new concern arose, involving the care of our mother.

You see, Mom is suffering from Alzheimer's Disease and, while still functional, she requires constant care and supervision. Dad had been her primary caregiver and now he would be unable to look after her. With our brother, Carl, living in Atlanta, and Linda, Sandi, Bruce and I all working, this would prove to be a real challenge, and one that needed immediate attention.

Carl came home to help for a few days leading up to Dad's surgery, but his responsibilities as Director of the Georgia Dome in Atlanta would not allow him to stay an extended period of time. His schedule required him to drive back home on the day of Dad's surgery (Tuesday), so he was there early that morning, walked with Dad as far as he could go, and then headed back for Atlanta, checking back with us regularly by cell phone while on the road. He flew back to Huntington over the weekend before having to return on Sunday. He had the ACC Basketball Tournament coming up and had to be back on the job.

My plane arrived at Tri State Airport at 9:00 AM that morning - about 30 minutes after Dad was taken to Pre Op. I made my way to St. Mary's and spent the rest of the day there with Bruce and Mom, awaiting word on the outcome of Dad's surgery.

I cannot say enough about how Bruce stepped up and took care of Mom and Dad while Carl and I were unable to be here. Bruce drives for Rush Trucking and makes a run to Morristown, TN and back each day. He normally leaves the Toyota plant in Buffalo, WV around midnight and gets back around noon or 1:00 PM the next day. It is a tough schedule. Bruce took a week of vacation to look after Mom until I could get back and share the responsibilities.

Dad's surgery was successful, and after a few days he was transferred to Health South Rehabilitation Hospital to learn to walk again. That Saturday he went through his evaluation at Health South and Sunday was a day of rest. He began his physical therapy on Monday but by Tuesday evening he was feeling really rough. It turns out that he had no bowel activity after his surgery. He had been released from one hospital and sent to another with that dangerous situation unresolved. He was unable to do his therapy Wednesday through Friday as his condition deteriorated. They treated him with various laxatives, etc, but still nothing was happening. His stomach became distended and nausea grew severe. By Friday evening he was mostly non responsive and on Saturday morning he was returned to St. Mary's.

His intestines were "frozen", and according to the doctor, this was not unusual in an older patient following major surgery. An NG tube was placed in Dad's stomach (through his nose) and for three days he was hallucinatory and totally out of it. His potassium and electrolytes were all out of whack and they were treating him with everything he needed. Bruce and I were frightened and wondered if we were going to lose him. All the while, Mom was confused and couldn't remember where Dad was and what was going on. Her simple routine was disrupted and she was out of her familiar surroundings. It has been heartbreaking to watch and listen to her, and we have simply tried to comfort her and assure her that Dad would be home soon.

Well, finally the intestines began to work and Dad turned the corner. Eventually he was able to take some clear liquids. His first bite of Jello was so good he said it "Tasted like T Bone steak!".

Finally, after 10 days back at St. Mary's Dad was transferred back to Health South yesterday afternoon. His spirits are on the rise, and we are cautiously optimistic that he will now be able to begin his rehab this morning.

There are still plenty of challenges - especially with Mom. She stays the night with us Sunday through Wednesday, and with Bruce Thursday through Saturday (which is his "week end"). We have been able to find a couple of ladies who have been willing to sit with her in her home during the day (about three days per week) and Bruce and I share her day care on the other days. We are not sure where we go from here, and what we will do down the road when Dad finally does come home, and they will need in home care. But we do know that our God knows exactly what awaits us, and we know that He is in control.

As tough as things have been - we know that it could be much worse - and we are thankful for the many blessings we have. We are also thankful for the prayers of so many of our friends, and for the Savior who has promised his abiding presence with us.

If I am a little slow on posting to the blog, just understand that I haven't been kidnapped. Just a little preoccupied!

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