True Stories

It was a crisp sunny day last Monday. My post dual organ replacement father was gearing up for a full day of softball. He was scheduled for surgery the next day, and he wanted to get in as much softball as he could before being forced out of action for several weeks (for three months, he insisted that he could "feel his organs". Turns out that it was a hernia.

Game 1 was about a 30 minute drive from home. He played well and went 3-4 as his team won.


Thursday was a big day for me at work. A big client was in and I had to give a short presentation. Smartly, sales usually keeps me away from clients, since I'm not as flexible as they might sometimes like. The presentation went well, but it was late when I got home.

Later that night, my Mom called me. The stress and fear in her voice was more than palpable. "Your dad has only eaten one popsicle all day, and can't eat. He can't drink either." She felt that the hospital rushed them out. I told her to call the clinic, explain the situation. If they didn't feel like he needed to come in, they needed to tell her what would indicate that he did need to come in.

She called back at 10:30PM - they were going to the emergency room - in Chicago 75 miles away. I wasn't fond of my last trip there. Mom can't drive in the city, having lived in the country for her entire life. It was too late for a train. Luckily a friend offered to drive them in.

I got there at the same time they did. I swear to God they put us in the same stall as we had last time. It was like nothing had changed. People waiting all over the ward on carts, noises everywhere.

We did the information ritual: the first 8 people in (attending, resident, nurses, etc) got the story. Same questions, same answers. Same disconnected headbobbing in acknowledgement. A nurse tried to get blood for one of the 18 tests they needed to do. She tried 4 locations with no luck. She just kept jabbing and scraping it around and around. By the time she got it to work, she had forgotten the part that keeps the blood from coming out. So it splattered all over the floor, and my Dad.

After several discussions with the Docs it looked like he had pneumonia. Needless to say with a reduced immune system, that would be a big problem.


The next two games were with the other team Dad plays on. 2-12 for the year. As Game 2 headed into late innings, Dad's team mounted a comeback. Dad hit a home run, and his team won the game.


4 hours after we arrived, the docs were wondering whether he'd had heart trouble in the past. They were asking questions like "Why did you come in again?" They were talking about tests ordered an hour ago but never performed. It was frustrating.

Finally, at 3:30AM, they had a plan. The transplant team and the ER team agreed he needed to be admitted. They were no closer to having a solution, but at least there was a plan. One of the doctors ordered a CT scan. Getting Dad to drink 16 ounces of barium fruit punch was going to be an unpleasant task. They wanted to see if the problem was just that his large intestines were lazy (i.e. they hadn't started working after the surgery).

They still didn't give the impression that they knew what was going on. There was no moment of "don't worry, this will be ok." But I knew I had to get some sleep, since I'd be driving them home, so I left.

I got home at 5 and got some sleep.

The next morning, I was awoken at 9am. "It looks like he'll be out of here at 11. He's doing better, and they think there's nothing seriously wrong."

Good news. So I sleepily headed into the city - timing my arrival so they would likely be waiting for me. I got off on the Ohio exit on the Kennedy, and called Mom. "They still haven't said anything."

So I parked and went to the room. Nurses were busy. No docs in sight. Dad was getting irritated. He and I briefly discussed just leaving. Mom's sanity over-ruled us. It became clear that he wasn't getting out soon, so I cabbed it to work and had lunch with some co-workers.

Before I went back, I called Mom. "They ordered another EKG, and they're giving him lunch." That was a large shock. In my tired state, I figured that meant they saw something they were concerned about and needed more tests. Another over night stay. Maybe heart trouble, maybe pnemonia after all. I asked Mom to get a Nurse and find out what the PLAN was.


The final game of the day was against the 14-1 league leaders. Dad's team had a big lead going into the last inning. In a scenario reminiscent of the Cubs bullpen, the bad guys clawed back. An error here, a home run there. Game was tied. The momentum Dad had built over the first two games was gone.

With the game tied, and two out, Dad came to bat. On the first pitch, he hit one past the left fielder. He rounded second as if he was going to go for third. He had no intention of actually legging it out, but wanted to force the throw. Always force them to earn everything. The left fielder overthrew the ball, and Dad sped (as much as is possible for a slow guy to speed) toward third. The third base coach held up the STOP sign. Dad went right through it.

The third baseman got to the ball quickly, and turned and threw to the catcher. It was going to be a bang-bang play.


Finally, on Friday afternoon, the nurse realized that the EKG order was not new. She was looking at the order from the night before. She said she'd start the paperwork and we could go home. An hour later, we were threatening to just leave again without the paperwork. Just in time for rush hour, we got to leave the hospital.

What I took from the experience was that the kidney ordeal is never going to be over. Dad is not going to be completely healthy ever again. He'll fully recover from this surgery. But there will be more scares in the future.

It's just another reminder that it's not always how something ends that matters. It's how you get there and how much you enjoy it.


Kel said...

not sure what to comment - just wanted you to know I read, and thinking of you and your family -

MIL said...

My heart goes out to you and your Mom and Dad for all you've endured. We're thinking about you.