Thursday, December 3, 2009

back from the medical center

Today should have been an uneventful day, and for the most part it was. Today was Mom's IV infusion day, and we had to leave home early. I grudgingly woke up at a single-digit hour after having about four or five hours' sleep; I showered and prepped and went upstairs. Dad and Mom were already out the door, and were slowly working their way down the wheelchair ramp and over to the van. The drive to Prosperity Medical Center was nothing special; traffic was great and we arrived at 10:45AM, a half-hour early for Mom's 11:15 Avastin-and-carboplatin appointment. I told Dad I'd drop him and Mom off, park, and buy a late breakfast for them. Dad said OK; I dropped the parents off at the building's street-level entrance, then went to park.

I quickly discovered, however, that the entire parking deck was full; as I wended my way upward, I saw that cars were streaming down from the deck's top level-- never a good sign. This is the first time that I had seen the parking deck this full; I zigzagged back down to the street level and tried the handicapped spaces next to the buildings, but they were full, too-- not surprising at a medical center.

It was becoming obvious that my simple plan of parking, buying breakfast on the first floor, and ferrying it up to the fourth floor wasn't going to work, so I took off down Arlington Boulevard. After about five minutes of driving, I realized I was near Lotte Mart in a wayward pseudopod of Koreatown (most of Koreatown is in Annandale, not Fairfax). I texted Dad that I would find food for him and Mom there, but that he'd have to meet me at street level because of the parking situation. When it comes to Korean food, Dad is sorely limited in what he likes, so I bought some Dad-friendly seafood fried rice and some mandu (Jpn. gyoza-- dumplings or potstickers). Dad met me outside at 11:45 and told me that Mom had only just been taken in. So despite having arrived 30 minutes early, the parents had had to wait nearly an hour before they were seen. That office is truly horrible.

I had a few hours to kill, and hadn't bought myself anything to eat, so I trundled back down the street and happened upon a Red Lobster, where I helped myself to a guilty pleasure: fried clams. By the time I got back to the medical center, around 12:45PM, the parking deck had cleared out for lunch, so there was no trouble going up to the top level and finding a spot. I napped there until I got the call from Dad to pick him and Mom up.

Mom seemed more alert than she had been during the trip over. She was still entirely nonverbal, but she was both more responsive and more able to comprehend what I was saying. Earlier in the day, when I had dropped the parents off in front of the medical building, I had asked Mom to unbuckle her seat belt in preparation for her transferral to the wheelchair. Mom stared at me, then nodded, but did nothing. This was disconcerting, because up to now, she would always unbuckle her belt whenever the minivan's side door opened. Today, though, she stared at me as if she hadn't a clue what I was saying. In the afternoon, however, Mom nodded "yes" and "no" to various questions, doing so in a manner that reassured me that she had woken up from her stupor somewhat. When we finally got to the driveway and parked, I once again opened the van's right-side door and asked Mom to unbuckle her seat belt. This time she did as I asked, much to my relief.

None of the above was particularly exciting or stressful, but what came next was. Dad got Mom out of the van and held her hands while she walked weakly up the driveway. I went ahead of them with the intention of opening the gate and picking up some of the garbage that had flown out of cans blown open by today's wind. Suddenly I heard a sound, and turned around to see Mom sitting on the asphalt and Dad struggling to pick her back up. "She just fell straight down," Dad said. I sympathized: the same thing had happened to me a couple months ago while I was walking Mom in Fort Hunt Park. When Mom falls like that, it takes only half a second for her to hit the ground. It takes a quarter-second for her guardian to realize what's happening, then another quarter-second to try to react in time. Thus far, that's been impossible. None of us has ninja-like reflexes. Still, it makes a caregiver feel guilty when they're unable to stop something right in front of them from happening.

Dad picked Mom up and took her up the wheelchair ramp. She made it to the sliding door, then collapsed again, banging her knee, and once again hitting her bum. I could hear her laughing at herself in a mixture of amusement and self-disgust; she doesn't like being this weak and helpless. What sane person treasures the loss of their independence?

Dad got Mom all the way into the dining room and sat her on a chair so that she could rest and have her shoes removed. He then got her into the bathroom, changed her out of her day clothes, and put her to bed. Mom nodded "yes" when Dad asked whether she had a headache (she's been having headaches with more frequency lately); because she was all banged up, Dad decided to address the headache and the body bruises with a Percocet. I also suggested that she take her Decadron before going to sleep; she gets four per day-- two when she wakes up around lunchtime, one at about 6:30PM, and one before going to bed around 11PM. I knew she'd be sleeping through 6:30PM today, which is why I wanted to make sure she got her dose.

Right now (6:03PM), Mom's fast asleep. She's been asleep since 4:45PM. I'll be checking on her at 6:30, then checking her again at 8. Dad's out shopping right now; the house needs to be resupplied, because tonight is the final night for Thanksgiving leftovers.

Poor Mom. This should have been a normal day, but the latter part of it turned out to be quite an adventure for her. Dad and I need to get her exercising; she's so weak in the legs. Even though we've taken her out as often as we can, it isn't enough: she needs to be doing the exercises that Dr. Royfe, her primary care physician, had recommended for her. Indoor exercise: another item for the checklist.


No comments: