Wednesday, May 27, 2009

still ICU'ed

We left Mom a little after 9PM. She's still in the ICU due to a lack of available beds in the non-intensive section. Mom is no longer considered an ICU patient, however: her vitals are stable (though her respiration rate is high-- about 22-25 breaths per minute), the drainage from her cranium is slowing down, and she no longer needs an IV through which to receive nutrition-- she eats on her own, though she's still too weak to cut her own food. Her "regular" docs (i.e., not the ICU docs) are looking after her now, though we didn't see any of those docs today.

Mom is still very sleepy, and though it's possible to talk with her, her responses are very brief. She also hasn't shaken off her rattling, phlegmy cough, which Dad labels a URI (upper respiratory infection). In addition, Mom is often in pain from the surgery; she sometimes tries pushing at the bandages on her head, which are once again being held in place by a "stocking cap," a gauzy, white, cap-shaped net with a knot on top; it fits over the bandages, hugging them to her skull.

Mom's appetite seems to have returned, at least somewhat; she doesn't finish her meals, but she eats most of what's there. When we ask her how the food tastes, her response tends to be a noncommittal, wordless nod-and-bobble: edible, but so-so.

I remain worried that Mom's hands still tremble, and I wonder at her cognitive state, which seems at times to be little different from what it was a month ago. As a test, I asked her to describe how to make bibim-bap, a very common and very popular Korean rice-and-vegetable dish. I had to prompt Mom rather frequently; when she tried to respond to my question, it didn't occur to her to begin by listing bibim-bap's ingredients. By the time we got around to the actual cooking process, Mom's attention had drifted away from her own discourse, and she ended up staring silently at the TV. I didn't prod her any further. Part of me felt she simply didn't want to continue the mental exercise: this was her way of telling me to quit pushing her.

We're not sure how much longer Mom will be in the hospital. No one has definite answers, mainly because a lot depends on how well the antibiotic regimen is working. We guys-- Dad, David, Sean, and I-- are negotiating some sort of visitation schedule so that we don't all spend enormous blocks of time at the hospital. While being with Mom is never tiresome, it is tiring. The ICU very specifically does not want visitors to get too comfortable, and this is reflected in its no-sleeping policy, its two-visitors-only rule, and the hardness of some of the chairs inside the patient's rooms. When Mom initially came to Fairfax Hospital back in April, Dad spent the night with her in the ICU. I have no idea how he managed such a feat, given how uncomfortable such a night would have been. Love conquers all, I guess.

On the way home, I asked Dad what he thought about telling Mom's friends to come visit her in the ICU, since visits are allowed 21.5 hours out of the day. Sensing the stress of the ICU staff, which has to monitor and control the flow of visitors, Dad said that such visits might not be a good idea right now. I can see what he means: there might be a crowd of people who, because of the two-at-a-time rule, would stand around waiting for long periods to visit Mom. This wouldn't be convenient for anybody.

So I'm sorry to report that, for the moment, visits are probably not a good idea (a special exception would be the pastors, who've already come by more than once). If and when Mom is moved to the non-intensive section (there's a chance she might be discharged directly home), I'll be sure to announce this fact on the blog, and you'll be able to visit her.


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