Tuesday, October 5, 2010

News from the front lines: anxiety and books

Three weeks ago (I think) my MIL passed out in the back yard as she was making her way slowly about the business of preparing to bathe her dog. Fortunately (or not as we will consider later), her older brother was with her and he was able to help break her fall so she pretty much just slid down the side of the house and landed on her butt sitting up. Rob happened to be home for some reason, perhaps so we could actually talk face to face uninterrupted. Off in the ambulance, some odd things on a chest Xray.

My MIL is 83. Her brother is 85 and spends a week with us each September. But mostly just her because he drives us batshitcrazy. But we love him. In a one-day-a-year kind of way.

Here are the high points:

1. Dilaudid makes my MIL delusional. And a bit meaner than usual. And escalates her suspicious nature to full-on paranoia. She was no ones' favorite patient and we saw that in the way she was cared for. That's always lamentable no matter how difficult the patient.
2. My MIL insisted she was able to come home; we said, "um, no" and then the pulmonologist who two days earlier told me he hadn't see MIL in several days and therefore was unable to tell me what was written in the pathology report of which he had a copy---that guy--- he said she was fine to go home. What he meant, I'm sure, was: we can care for her lungs adequately on an outpatient basis. Not the same thing.
3. Small old ladies are difficult to pick up off the ground. Its harder on the third time than the first.
4. Protection of her dignity is extremely high on my list of priorities. That notwithstanding, there are some things that could be managed much better in short term rehabilitation facilities.
5. Walking up hill is more difficult than down and we'll have to negotiate both any time we take her out. Physicians don't make house calls (unless you're Michael Jackson and then you should be veerrrrrrry careful).
6. It sucks awfully badly to lose your physical strength before your mind goes.
7. The hardest words to swallow are "I told you so". But it can be done. If you try really, really, really, really hard.
8. I know there's another thing. I'll come back. OH! I KNOW! Bronchiolitis obliterans organizing pneumonia (BOOP -- that's pretty incongruous, no?) is the most obscenely graphic disease name since black death.
We are doing the best we can. It is very difficult. The home health nurse came today, was very surprised MIL was home in her present condition and told us she should not "ambulate without supervision" until the home Physical Therapist does an assessment some time this week. Mary thinks that's just fine. The rest of us---not so much. It has helped me alot to think of my sweet cousin, Caddy Jean, who spends most of her days with people in similar situations (I mean my MIL, not me; I'm a great hang). I always put on my I'm-happy-and-not-at-all-grossed-out-or-annoyed face before I see her and so far its working. Refer to item number 1, above.

I've been reading mostly books about huge disasters in the US lately and then other books that expound on various underpinnings of those events. John M. Barry has written two really exceptional books. Rising Tide, and, The Great Pandemic on the great Mississippi River flood of 1927 and the flu pandemic of 1918. I've never read history so well written. I heartily recommend both.

I haven't read a lot of fiction lately but I did speed right through a collection of short stories by Danielle Evans titled, Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self . Not everyone is a fan of short stories but I mostly certainly am. These are eight great tales of (mostly) young women, mostly African-American (I think) with varied relationship and coming of age themes. I'm looking forward to reading more from her. Looking back now, I don't recall what in this very brief NYTimes blurb called to me, but it did and I'm glad of it.

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