Thursday, April 12, 2012

Life's Stressors: Parents in Declining Health

On February 14, two days before my 48th birthday, at one o clock in the morning, my 78 year old father got out of bed feeling extremely short of breath and like an elephant was standing on his chest. He took two steps and fell to his knees. He crawled back over to the bed and pulled the covers off as briskly as possible, waking my mother. She called 911.
Two hours later, Dad was being prepped for surgery. He was in the O.R. for four hours, undergoing a triple bypass.
My father still feels very weak and he is still pretty angry. His arteries are clogged with plaque, and he has had to radically alter his lifestyle. He is used to doing things for himself, and doesn't like to ask for help. He is on oxygen 24 hours a day, and it curtails his freedom of movement. He is on eight different drugs: Aspirin, Plavix, Procardia, Coreg, colace because it isn't a good idea for people with weak hearts to have to strain for a poop, and Nexium to finally get his GERD under wraps. He also has hydrocodone for pain and diazepam to stop muscular spasms and assist with pain control, but he usually doesn't use these. He sees them as "sissy drugs." He comes from the school of thought that says a man should be able to suffer through the pain and ignore the anxiety. Nils, Dylan and I have been able to convince him to at least use them before bed so he can sleep better.
 The prognosis isn't great. The cardiologist says that there is a 75% chance that he will end up with congestive heart failure. The right side of his heart is badly damaged and the left side is no great shakes either. It is highly unlikely that a person his age will be given a heart transplant.
My older sister and her husband, my brother and his boyfriend, my husband, myself, my brother in law, my kids and my sister's kids help out as we are able to take the stress off my mother. She is a very strong, capable, stubborn woman, but she is seventy-six years old.
You'd think this would be enough for a while, but...
Here comes round 2!

Five days ago, my husband's mother was getting ready to make lunch. Feeling dizzy, she leaned against the sink. She had a mild heart attack two years ago, so she thought it best to sit down for a few minutes before asking her husband to drive her to the hospital. She turned to step away from the sink and ended up on the floor. Fortunately, my father-in-law found her fairly quickly.
My mother-in-law is currently paralyzed on her left side. She is able to speak but becomes distracted easily. She has no recall of the event.
My husband and his brother flew back to Norway today. They'll be gone until the 25th. I'm wondering if their parents will try to convince my brother-in-law to move back to help take care of my mother. He hasn't had a steady job in a while, but he was going to return to school and get his EMT license back. Besides, his children are here and they are very important to him.
I've complained before about my brother in law being a slacker, but he really seems to want to get it together. My husband and his oldest son want to help him pay for his EMT coursework. I don't think it would be healthy for him to end up becoming a caregiver for his parents. I'm afraid he'd start drinking again. He's a very sensitive guy and I think he'd miss his kids and his brother too much.
I've mentioned before that both my husband's and my parents are extremely stoic people. My older sister takes after my parents. My brother and I are wet blankets, crying at sad movies and the like. My brother-in-law's eyes get moist if we watch a sad movie, although he tries not to let his emotions show.
My husband, though very warm-hearted, is infinitely practical. If the story was a work of fiction, it doesn't affect him as much. If it's a depiction of a real event, he becomes very quiet. When he heard about the shootings in Norway, he was silent for almost a half hour before he finally said "bunch of fucking shit--what the hell good is this, to kill a bunch of people you don't even know to prove some crazy idea?" He rarely swears, and I could see that the news bothered him terribly.
I traded days with a few of my co-workers so I wouldn't have to go back to work till Friday. It's better that I have some downtime with a shake-up like this, so I won't end up having an emotional setback.
So, that's how the first half of 2012 has gone for me so far.