I am sure there are many of us that have elderly parents.
My sister and I have a 95-year-old mother who has been successfully living on her own with help from the local Office of the Aging.
As mobile as she can be with her walker and cane, she is a 24-hour/7-day-a-week concern. Not withstanding the normal aches and pains that accompany age, she has remained relatively healthy. We always wondered how long this could go on, but that decision was soon to be made for us.
About a month ago, my sister took her to a local emergency room for labored breathing, and then the nightmare we all fear began. Mom was diagnosed with bronchitis and treatment began. Within 36 hours, she went into cardiac arrest. I got the phone call to ,‘Get here now!"
The hospitalist there stated she was gone, while another doctor from a different hospital saw her breathing and found a pulse. She was whisked to ICU.
Although we were not sure about the outcome at this time, we began to fully appreciate the protocol that was about to take place because of her age.
The hospitalist who couldn’t find her pulse had spoken to us later that day. He gave us the complete diagnosis of what occurred. We were devastated. He led us to believe it was over.
However, as the day ensued, we found out from other doctors that his diagnosis was incorrect. The push to sign the DNR was starting to get suggested more frequently. A Do Not Intubate form was being pushed as well. I was very concerned about the chain of events. I couldn’t help saying, “Who buys the pillow to smother her, us or you?”
The breathing tube was removed within 48 hours, and she slowly was coming back to her old self. Sunday, she was moved from intensive care to a room, and 24 hours later, she was walking with assistance.
The case worker and rehabilitation coordinator said she might be released as early as that day to a rehabilitation center. A confrontation ensued between my sister and the case worker because my sister did not feel she was ready to be released. There were some strong words exchanged and the possibility of her losing her spot at the rehab center.
We were told that the doctor who signed her release was confident she was ready, and she was released into the rehabilitation center.
Less than 24 hour later, I got a call from the center saying they had to take my mom back to the hospital. I asked, “Is she breathing?” They replied yes, but another complication had arisen. Now back to the hospital for a blood transfusion, and an endoscopy. No one there could perform the procedure, and we were on our way to another hospital that day. The doctor in the emergency room pulled me aside and asked if I wanted them to treat the problem when they find it. I said a resounding yes, and he said, “good”.
The test was done by the afternoon and it turns out all the medication they administered created an ulcer in her stomach. The hospitalist at the second hospital started with the DNR again. I said, “Just leave.” Seven days later, she was released and sent back to the rehab center.
After this ordeal, the decision was made for my sister and me that she would not be living alone anymore. Our goal was to get her into assisted living, where some of her friends are.
When I first went to the rehab center, I wasn’t sure what to expect. However, after her being there for a couple of weeks now, it’s amazing how much she has rebounded.
Her appetite is back, she is doing better walking and standing. I have gone to visit all different times of the day to see what was going on, and in all honesty she is either in physical therapy or sitting with other people in the sun room or recreational room. The amount of activities that go on are enough to tire me out. The staff is so kind and attentive to her I am actually not as worried as I once was.
Even the owners came over to say hello and wanted to make sure everything was all right. It’s a miracle. Her 100-year-old brother and family from Staten Island came to visit and were very impressed with the facility.
In closing, I have a few words of advice. If you don’t like the hospitalist attending the patient, just demand to see someone else. With hospital staff and doctors, you tell them what you want, not vice versa. And don’t be afraid to speak up and ask questions.
Bob Belive is a resident of Glenville. The Gazette encourages qualified readers to submit material on local issues for the Sunday and weekday opinion sections. Contact Mark Mahoney at firstname.lastname@example.org.