Category Archives: Health

Decisions made…

It was wonderful to see Dad again this week, and see how much he has improved. He is walking so much better, but still tiring on the stairs easily. He managed to walk around to the kiosk at a good pace to go and get lunch with me. His memory is coming back, but he still struggles in conversation, trying to find the right word. He does get frustrated with himself, but I guess that is to be expected. He’s still in the locked up section of rehab, so obviously he’s at risk of wandering and they still want to keep a close eye on him.

We both had burgers for lunch, and I know he really looks forward to that when I come in. Just before we went to lunch, the diabetes nurse had a good talk to us and organised for him to have a new blood testing kit, which was really good. He has since been checking his own sugar levels and recording them for the nurses to check. He’s also off the insulin now, so hopefully things will be okay on that front and we won’t need to add injectables to his NDSS card.

I stayed in Katoomba overnight at my friend Lisa’s house and we had an awesome night. She cooked me an awesome steak dinner with lots of steamed veggies and it was just divine. She had to go into Katoomba hospital herself for surgery on Thursday to have the rest of her teeth removed, so she wanted a good feed the night before too. We sat around talking and having a few beers and it was a really lovely night. The next morning she was up at 5am to have breakfast before she had to fast. I got up too, and got to watch the sunrise, which was absolutely beautiful.

Back at the hospital on Thursday, I took Lisa around to day surgery before going in to see Dad. It was his lunch time and they were bringing him his food, so I ducked back to the kiosk for a coffee and sandwich. When I got back to Dad, it was time for physiotherapy, so we went for a short walk outside the hospital. He says his feet really hurt him, but that’s because he spent so long in bed that everything needs to get working properly again. The physiotherapist went to help him as he stepped up gutters and the like, so obviously he’s still concerned about Dad’s ability to manage steps.

We had a family conference at 3pm. Allan and Julie were there, as was Dad and all the people involved in his treatment. The object of the meeting was to determine where Dad was going from here. He is not well enough to live independently so that means he cannot go back to living with Allan and Julie, as they are gone for 12 hours a day for work, and they are usually busy on the weekends, so are unable to provide the assistance that Dad will need. I suggested that if I had the space I could look after him, but the Social Worker immediately kyboshed that and said that he needs to go into a nursing home. He will have his own room and bathroom, but will have a dining room to go to for all his meals. Hopefully we can find him a place where he will still be able to do a bit of gardening, that’s what he’s talked about the most while he’s been in hospital. He was also told that he no longer able to drive, but he just said “point me to the nearest train station”. I would be very worried about him getting out and about on his own, He will have the ACAT assess him on Tuesday, then we will be able to look for a place for him, hopefully between Parramatta and Penrith (maybe hills district).

So, that is where we are at now. I’m not sure how Dad is taking all of this, but I’ll be able to talk to him about it when I see him again on Wednesday. I think he was more worried about me getting him a ticket in tonight’s 21 million lotto draw than all of what had just happened. I think he needs time to process all of what was said. He knows we’ll still visit him all the time, but I’m sure this was a huge let down as he was expecting to go home on Thursday. The Social Worker said to him that was never the plan, but again, I’m not too sure how much Dad took in. As I was leaving, he got me to come back to his room, just to ask me about the lotto ticket. I made sure we got him an autopick this morning. It would be nice if it came in for him, but I doubt it. It sure would be good to get him his own place with his own private nurse!

Making Progress….

Did the big trek again on Wednesday to see Dad at Katoomba Hospital. He is getting so much better, something they were saying we might not see. He was in physiotherapy when I got there and he was doing really well. He’s still quite weak, and you can see he has a bit of a struggle when it comes to steps, but he’s actually walking now instead of shuffling, albeit slow. He also appears to be losing weight still, which is a good thing. He doesn’t have the huge appetite he used to have, so that is really good. It’s still hard to get him away from sugar, especially soft drinks, as he hates those “diet” soft drinks. He doesn’t drink enough water though, so they are giving him small bottles of diet lemonade with each meal to try to encourage him to drink a bit more.

The food in rehab looks and smells lovely, and he has been enjoying it. I think he also likes going to the dining room to eat, it’s a bit social even if it’s a bit degrading putting a huge bib on to eat. I suppose that’s better than being grubby, or having to change after each meal. The portions are quite generous, and everything is balanced to keep his sugar levels under control, which they seem to have done.

The wound on his neck is much better, finally healing. It looks a bit rough, but that’s not surprising given how much he picked at it from the start. They couldn’t tie his hands down forever, but now that he has more of his faculties, he seems to be leaving it alone. He’s been enjoying watching the Commonwealth Games over the past week, so that has been keeping him occupied, along with the books I have taken to him. I don’t know how much he’s reading, but talking to him about the story line he knows what is going on in what he has read, which is awesome.

My dear friend Lisa came and visited while I was there, and Dad got a little teary on seeing her. I think he was just feeling a little overwhelmed, but that soon passed. They had a good catch-up, and she will be popping into the hospital when she can to keep him company. I am so blessed to have a friend like her (as I am with my other friends), she has been awesome. I will be staying at her place in Katoomba next Wednesday, so I’ll get to see Dad twice. She has her own surgery to deal with next Thursday, but at the same hospital that Dad is in. I can’t thank her enough for all she is doing for us.

It’s a long trip to do in one day, so I will be grateful for the stop over next week. I can’t believe how exhausting 3 hours travel each way is. It totally wiped me out. I spent yesterday doing almost nothing, just had no energy or motivation to do anything, but did manage to cook a nice dinner for us so the day wasn’t completely wasted. I’m not happy about only going once a week, but I really can’t manage more than that. Dad is happy that I come each week, I just wish I could do more. Next week will be 2 visits, so that’ll be good. I’m also going to cut his hair for him next week, so I must remember to take the clippers with me.

An Epic Adventure…

It was such a huge day on Wednesday, it has taken me until Friday evening to write about it! It started with leaving the house at 8:25am to catch the bus to Lidcombe, jump on a train to Parramatta and change there for Katoomba. After a nice little walk, I got to the hospital at 11:40am to see Dad. They have moved him there for rehabilitation, as it goes at a slower pace and he may be able to handle it much better.

He was asleep when I got there, but soon woke up when I put the coffee on his table. He was kicking the mat away that the nurses told me was alarmed so he couldn’t sneak around of a night. He tried going out the other side of the bed so the nurses put that rail up to slow him down. We sat and talked for a bit, and the Occupational Therapist, Tara, introduced herself and asked us a series of questions about Dad’s living arrangements and what he did with himself before the stroke happened. I say “us”, as Dad couldn’t answer all the questions by himself so I had to answer quite a few for him. Dad was also more interested in the medication trolley as it made its way around the room with the lovely nurses, he has the attention span of a gnat.

Tara finished with us, and Dad had some panadol, then it was time for lunch. He didn’t want the food the hospital was serving, so I made sure he was allowed to go and took him to the kiosk for lunch. We both had plain hamburgers, and they were quite yummy. Dad was happy to have a bite of real food – something to sink his teeth into. He’d been complaining of no bread, so I’m sure the bun helped. I know Allan and Julie have taken him some lovely food, but I don’t know if it’s been the minced food he’s been having in the hospital diet, or something he can chew on. I got him a Pepsi Max too, and encouraged him to drink up, as he needs the fluids and he’s not drinking water. They do threaten him with the drip though, so he’ll take a sip of water while they are watching. That’s no-where near enough

While we were having lunch, he wanted the newspaper so I got that for him. He’s been keeping up with current affairs and all the happenings in the world. I take that as a good sign. He’s able to discuss what is going on and give his point of view. When he discusses past events, however, he tends to get them somewhat confused. In both instances, he still struggles for words, but you can get the gist of what he is saying and help him with the blanks.

He has tape on his wound, as they told me it had become infected in a small part of the cut. I’m not surprised, the amount he has worried at it. He’s constantly picked at it, ever since they removed his restraints in intensive care. He opened it back up when I went for coffee for him during one of my visits to Nepean. I’m sure it will eventually heal, and now that he is in rehab, he may be more occupied by external factors and not pick at himself.

I didn’t want to leave him, as I felt I hadn’t been there very long, but it was nearly two hours, and I wanted to make sure I got back to Katoomba station for the train home. They only depart hourly, so I didn’t want miss it. It was a beautiful day and I enjoyed the walk back, and it’s not too far anyway, about 15 minutes. I had to change trains at Parramatta, and again at Lidcombe to get back to Bankstown for the bus back to Condell Park. MOTH came and met me at the bus stop, as he needed to get supplies for the household and thought he would pick me up whilst at the shops.

I was so relieved to finally be home though, and that was at about 4:50pm. I was totally exhaustipated…. and I had to cook dinner! It was a simple steak and chips, and everyone was happy with that – lucky for them, as there was going to be nothing else. It took me a long time and a valium to wind down, but I eventually fell asleep in my chair in front of the television. I can’t even remember what was on. All in all though, it was a really good day, as I really relaxed on the trains and read my book and I found this preferable to driving there and feeling stressed. It takes an hour each way longer, but for me, I think it’s worth it.

What a difference a week makes…

Dad was really good today. He was asleep when I got there, so I wandered back to the kiosk for a coffee and brought it back with me. He wasn’t in bed when I got back, so I was a little shocked, but then he came out of the bathroom so he was good. He was walking and getting around unaided, which was amazing, as he needed two nurses to get him up on to the frame on last Wednesday just to turn around. Now he is getting in and out of bed and to his chair by himself. Apparently, he does tend to wander off a bit so thankfully he’s in a locked ward.

He’s still confused to talk to, but you can have a conversation with him now and he can mostly follow it. He even asked me where the boy was when he first saw me so that was excellent (the boy didn’t come as he was up all night skyping!). We had a good chat today, in between watching “The Footy Show”. He’s starting to remember a lot of the recent past, which is good, but hopefully it won’t be upsetting him. He didn’t seem too cranky talking about it, and he’s prepared to take his time getting better, then sort out what needs to be sorted. Getting better is much more of a priority at the moment.

I received a text from my brother this morning, saying how much better Dad was and that he has been assessed for rehabilitation. The first person to assess him said no, he wasn’t a good candidate, but then another assessor came through and assessed, not knowing about the first person, and decided that it was worth trying rehab for him. Evidently, a place has opened at Katoomba hospital, but it is only on a trial basis. It’s a lot further away for me, but you need to take the place when it’s offered wherever you can. I’ll make arrangements to go up on the train and maybe stay with a friend overnight and return to Sydney the next day after seeing Dad again. Fingers crossed he comes good in rehab, or he won’t be able to stay there long and we’ll have to find a suitable facility for him.

Allan also said that Dad asked about Mum, as if expecting her to appear. Unfortunately, Julie had to explain to him that Mum had died a long time ago and he said she had been very ill. He was sad and disappointed at that, but the conversation just moved on. I’ve been waiting for this, and I’m kind of glad it wasn’t me in the hot seat. A big thanks again to my brother and his wife for everything they have done during this process. They have been by Dad’s side nearly daily and have kept everyone informed of what is happening as they know details. They have made this much less of an ordeal than it could have been and I am eternally grateful to them. They will let me know if/when the hospital moves Dad, then I can make plans about what I need to do to see him as often as I can.

Another visit…

Went out to see Dad again today, and it was lovely to take the boy with me finally. It seemed to take forever to get there as there was an accident on the M4 just past Wallgrove Road. Traffic crawled for about 3kms then we all took off, couldn’t see any evidence of the smash, hopefully it wasn’t too bad.

Dad didn’t know who we were when we got there, which was a bit sad as he remembered me last time. I was expecting him not to know who the boy was, but was really hopeful he would remember me. When the nurse told him I was his daughter, he just laughed, I think at himself for not knowing. I told him the boy was his grandson, and he laughed again, kind of surprised. I think as he doesn’t remember us, it must be a shock to him each time he is told who a relative is. His speech is still a bit slurry, and he rambles off about strange things so I have no idea what he’s talking about, but I do try to talk to him about me and my family and how we are all connected and different things we have shared together in the past. He seems happy enough when we do talk, but he really doesn’t remember much.

I fed him his lunch today (haven’t done that for 19 years!) and it was good to see him eat it all, even the yoghurt, which I thought he didn’t like. I thought when I saw him on Wednesday that he needed help with feeding, but then he was determined to try to do it for himself. When I walked in the nurse asked me if I would be feeding him. I jumped straight in there, even did the “open up for the Red Baron…” It made him have a good chuckle, so he seems to still have some sense of humour. All of his food is pureed, and he has nectar instead of juice, as he is having difficulty swallowing and not chewing well so he’s at risk of choking. The last time I fed him was when he had his heart bypasses. He’s good about it, but I suppose he has no choice. He looked exhausted after that, so we just hung for a little while and then left so that he might have a sleep. Sleeping through this might just be the best possible thing for him. Our bodies do all their recovery work while we are asleep, so I’m sure it will help with his brain injury.

It does sadden me to see Dad like this, but I’m trying really hard not to dwell on it. I’ve been keeping myself busy as much as I can, doing lots of housework and yard work, reading whenever I’m sitting for a while. I just find that if I don’t keep occupied, I start worrying about things like “what if he doesn’t get any better?” and all the rest. Of course, this doesn’t do anyone any good, but we all know how the brain gets. Being the person that I am, my mind can get pretty dark sometimes, and can stay there for a long time if I don’t keep it all in check. I do have a good psychologist, and I will go back and see him if I feel I need a brain tune-up to cope with all of this. So far, I’ve been travelling okay. I nearly had a good cry about a week and a half ago, but I snapped myself out of it, because I just kept telling myself he’s just sick, he’s not gone so there is no need to cry over it. I know I probably will at some point, I would just like to be in private when it does happen. MOTH is amazing support, but some tears need to be shed alone.

On the mend

Went and saw Dad today, and he is finally out of ICU! He looks much better, but he’s still terribly confused. He told me he was waiting for the wardsmen to come and take him somewhere, but when he asked the nurse when are they coming, the nurse told him he’d already been for his ultrasound this morning. They did an ultrasound on his kidneys as he has apparently lost some kidney function so they just want to see where that is at. His catheter bag didn’t look too good in ICU, but I thought maybe that was because of what he had just been through. Maybe, because he hasn’t taken care of his diabetes well (type 2), he may be having kidney issues from that. As Allan said, it’s wait-and-see again (he usually takes the tablets for his diabetes, but today they gave him an insulin injection to get his sugar back down).

He recognised me, but didn’t know my name. I’m quite happy with that, at least he knows I’m his daughter, and that he has a grandson. Couldn’t take the boy with me today, he woke up with a rash from head to toe. Probably just allergies from this cold that he has been suffering. I gave him two phenergan and sent him back to bed. He was asleep until after I got home at about 3.30 this afternoon. That’s very unlike him to sleep like that, but he really needed it as he is having trouble shaking off this cold. He’s still a bit chesty too, so it was good that he didn’t come today. I’ll give him another two phenergan tonight, and he should breathe easier in his sleep and be totally rash free by the morning.

They won’t let Dad get out of bed yet, he’s too weak. He really wanted to get up and go to the bathroom, but they got the pan for him – oh the indignity of it all! He’s talking quite well, but I don’t know what he’s talking about most of the time. He has no clue of the date, even though I had told him before the neurologist came in and asked him. He read the date on “Ellen”, but that was March 2012. He’s got his television back on, so at least he can watch State of Origin tonight. He knows he goes for the Blues, so that should make him happy. He can lay back and yell at the referees!

I’m really glad he is getting better, but it’s going to be a long road ahead. Again, I don’t know if he’ll make a full recovery, but he’s so much better than when he went in for surgery. At least he can talk now (slightly slurred) and manage to feed himself. He’s not eating much, but that’s okay as he still does have some weight to lose. It’s good to see him not hooked up to the machines anymore. He’s plenty battered and bruised though, and he’s not tied down anymore as he has no tubes to pull out. I’m sure he’s been difficult for some of the staff (not intentionally), but they have been completely patient and supportive throughout this whole process. I made a point of thanking all the staff on his ward today, telling them that they are doing a wonderful job. They were so appreciative, as most family contact is abuse for them. Everyone who has had anything to do with Dad has been amazing.

Yulefest, and Dad (of course!)

What a wonderful time was had by all who attended Yulefest at Allan and Julie’s last night. The food was amazing (as always), the drinks flowing, and the guests all mingled with everyone. I really enjoyed going from group to group and catching up with everyone there. It was good to see Julie’s family (awesome people!) and some of Allan and Julie’s friends that I have got to know over the last 20 years. They are really great people who know how to have a fantastic time.

We dined on roast pork and crackling with apple sauce, roast turkey with stuffing and cranberry sauce, roast potatoes, pumpkin and sweet potato, brussels sprouts with bacon, cauliflower and broccoli au gratin, potato bake, steamed peas and carrots. I think that covered all the dinner options. Dessert was sticky date pudding with caramel sauce, apple pie with custard and ice cream, and there were some strawberries and cream as well. I had to try it all, and I could barely move afterwards. We washed all this down with some lovely french bubbly, Pierre something or other…. it was just divine. Allan and Julie were also kind enough to give me a bottle of Chandon and some cash for my birthday last month, both of which are greatly appreciated. The boy got some money off them too for his birthday last month, which he is putting towards his leathers for riding.

Speaking of riding, the boy went for his first road ride yesterday, and I’m proud to say he came back in one piece. It looked like a shaky start, but once he was off, he was fine. He did a few laps of our long street, with sweeping bends, roundabout and big hill and he looked so thrilled with himself. I remember what it was like when I got to drive by myself for the first time, so I can only imagine how exhilarating riding for the first time would be. He went out again today not long before I got home and told me he got himself lost! I had to giggle, we’ve lived in this area for nearly 13 years and he’s still not sure of the lay of the land. It just shows that he doesn’t pay attention to what is going on around him!

So, I called into Nepean hospital on my way up to Linden yesterday to see Dad. His doctor, Sam, showed me Dad’s CT scan and it showed bleeding on the right side of his brain in the area that controls mood, so that goes a long way to explaining his general confusion. They could also see the infarctions (the clots from his carotid artery) and where they had hit, again mainly the right side of his brain. He also explained to me that because they have Dad so heavily sedated, they are worried about his breathing being compromised and they may have to intubate him and put him on life support. The problem with this is if they try to bring him out of it, his breathing may still be compromised, and then he will need a tracheotomy to keep breathing. We are all hoping (including Sam) that it won’t come to that, but if it needs to happen, then so be it. He didn’t wake up while I was there on Saturday and his breathing is quite laboured, so I was feeling quite upset by what Sam had told me. Sam is looking after Dad as if it were his own father, so he is doing everything he can to help Dad. The poor man has his arms strapped to the bed for his own safety, because if he isn’t restrained, he pulls his lines out and resists all attempts to do anything for him. He even managed to pull his catheter out at one point (oowww!).

When I saw him today on my way back home, his breathing was still laboured, but at least he was “sleeping”. The nurse looking after him came in and told me that this morning he wanted to get up to go for a pee. She held up his catheter bag and said you don’t need to go anywhere, you’re right to go. When he woke up while I was there, he told me that he doesn’t need to go for a pee, they got that sorted for him. I found that encouraging, that he remembered what the nurse said to him this morning. He wasn’t awake for long, but it was wonderful to see the recognition in his eyes. Last night he managed to pull out his feeding tube, but they have that back in and sorted for him, so that was going while I was there. He’s lost a lot of weight, but then he had plenty to lose. That’s what got him in to so much trouble in the first place – his love of good food, and copious quantities of it.

I’m starting to allow myself to believe that Dad may recover from this, maybe not to his former glory, but enough so that he will have some functioning when he heals from this. Every time he tries to talk to me he seems to be a little more aware, only minutely, but an improvement is an improvement, and I’ll take what I can at this stage. He’s had lots of visitors (not all at once), so I’m hoping he feels how much we all love him and want him to get better. I’m also taking his fighting as a good sign, that he’s not giving in and letting this beat him. It’s just going to take some time, maybe six to 12 months, but I think he’ll get there. I’m going in to see him again on Wednesday, but I think he’ll still be in intensive care. I’m going to take the boy as it will be good for Dad to see his grandson. I haven’t taken him thus far, as he has had a nasty cold and I’ve been waiting for him to recover from that before I take him. Hopefully Dad will wake a bit while he is there, just so he knows that his grandson cares about him too.