The Hospital Wall

While Bob was hospitalized in 2018 I often walked past a wall with a Bible verse written on it in large letters. Once home I could not remember exactly what verse I saw so often. When he was admitted for the pacemaker procedure I went back to photograph that wall.

eph 3 20 to 21Most likely the passage was posted to remind employees who must pass that wall on their way from the parking garage that the power of God is at work in them. And is it ever!!

But it was a constant reminder to me that all the people praying for Bob, and my own often seemingly weak prayers and pleads were also God’s power at work within me on behalf of Bob and the staff and even myself.

Never discount the power of God at work within us.

“IMMEASURABLY MORE THAN ALL WE CAN ASK OR IMAGINE” – what are you looking to God for? Can you stretch your trust to this point? Would you LET His power be at work within and through you this week?

Indulge me please. Just read it two more times, slowly …

20 Now to Him who is able to [carry out His purpose and] do superabundantly more than all that we dare ask or think [infinitely beyond our greatest prayers, hopes, or dreams], according to His power that is at work within us, 21 to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations forever and ever. Amen. AMPLIFIED Version

 

Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. EPH 3: 20-21 NKJV

#12 Recovery Came

Slowly. His kidneys began to heal and urine output increased. Dialysis changed from 3 times a week to two to once and none. Home physical therapist released Bob to his own workouts. Home health nurse had one more round with him. She discovered that his breathing was not as it should be. Pulmonologist saw him next day and admitted him for a couple of days to his favored Clermont Mercy hospital. When he was released he immediately wanted to drive his new car to the Amish country store to get a new wind chime. We did.

His improvements have continued. Bob works himself more than the therapist would have. Silver Sneakers class at the YMCA. Weight room and treadmill included. He began riding his bike again this summer.

He has come so very far!

From frail with Jeff getting a little fresh air at the hospital, To standing on his own during our Easter celebration to the Reds game with Emily and the Grandgirl!

P1070496

We are relieved and delighted to have him back. He sees a cardiologist soon about possible need for pacemaker. Seems the illness likely damaged one of the nodes that control heartbeat. His runs very low. Too low, if you ask me. Everyone says he will feel so much better once he gets one. I can barely keep up with him now!

I pray these many health/illness entries might have encouraged you if you have had a similar experience. Or if you know someone who has experienced this, perhaps you have gained a better appreciation of what they might have endured. I hope their outcome was as positive as ours.

We attended a funeral a few days ago. The man who died was in the hospital the same time that Bob was in ICU. That man has now gone home to be with the Lord. I was reminded all over again how very close we came to planning a funeral. His family remains in my prayers.

#11 Life with Recovery

FEB 10 The days are running into each other. I cannot remember if I did loosen the lid on the yogurt drink or I just meant to do it. I sometimes forget to set the timer on the morning coffee. I often forget to set up the coffee pot period.

Quiet time is interrupted by bathroom usage. My jaw aches. Is it sinus/fibro or just the long-term tension of living in this new situation? Do I care which one? No, I just want the aching throb to stop.

Prayer? I often forget to ask the Lord Jesus for anything. I just go do the next thing. Get the underwear, fetch the emesis basin, retrieve the forgotten straw. Plan the meal, stay upbeat, don’t take it personally. This is hard. SO hard. The shattering and rearranging of our 47 years of marriage. The recalibration of what matters and what to let go, ignore.

I do not eat right. Sometimes I cannot eat. Sometimes I worry what is happening to my own health. Carry this grief; let it go; have a good cry; carry on. Rhythm of recovery that is not to my pleasure. Will this happen? Will that happen? Stay in the moment. Celebrate? The events of success.

The reading yesterday was dance and sing to the Lord and I had difficulty even contemplating such a thing. Yes, I rejoice that Bob is alive. No, I cannot fathom where all this is going. Someone sneezes and I cringe. I try to wear a mask every place I go. Then I forget and am frantic if there is not one in my pocket. The weather gets mild and most people give a sigh of relief. I worry that they are deluding themselves. The flu is not over. What about norovirus and other infectious things that could take our household down?

mask

Some see me wearing a mask and comment that I am so smart. Others laugh at how absurd the mask looks. They have no concept of what we have endured so far in 2018. Simply do not get it. Good thing I have rarely cared what others think of me!

In December I made stacks of sweet potato portions that I froze. The package keeps coming open in the deep freeze. I need to open that up

mopand decide whether to take it to Help Center or send it along with Jeff to a Community meal at Grace. Make room in the freezer. Oh geesh, really? With all there is to attend to? This was going to be the year I instigated deep cleaning and pruning belongings in every room. I can barely get the floor mopped.

FEB 21 There is a stranger living in my house with a warm familiarity. I am not certain that I know this man, though I very much want him to be my husband. He has a tremor in his left hand that was never there before. He is grasping at the reality of weeks unavailable to him due to the medically induced coma and catastrophic illness. He almost died yet has not totally resurrected.

There are times when he frets and repeats himself. There are flashes of anger and impatience. His hair has thinned drastically. He smiles more than he used to. I think he has become his father in many ways.

I can tell he is making an effort to be caring and tender, but then the struggle to recover overtakes him and he hits a slump, withdrawing into his shell of coping.

bottle 2Urine output seems to have hit a plateau and I know this worries him with the question “Will my kidneys recover fully? Or enough to stop dialysis?” The access was clotting on Monday. His hemoglobin was not reported in his lab results and he thinks that is due to the clotting in the access. He does not want the access redone. He would rather stop dialysis for a week and see what happens. They pull fluid off of him. He then feels he must spend the next 24 hours just trying to rehydrate so he can produce urine. He is very frustrated. Yesterday Jeff and I walked to the corner with Bob using his walker. He was feeling victorious. Then sat in the garage in the sun talking with Jeff for a while.

Help me know how to touch this stranger with compassion and grace. Upon awaking from the medically induced coma he whispered that I need to be more gracious. Was that You, Lord?

 

# 10 Necrotic Kidney Tissue

Journal from FEB 1

“You are My servant, I have chosen you and not cast you off; do not fear, for I am with you, do not be afraid, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with My victorious right hand.” ISA 41:9-10

The day Bob went to the ER, he had a sudden pain in his back. He thought he had pulled a muscle coughing. I thought at the time that was strange because he had not coughed for almost an hour. Later the doctors discovered the damage to his kidneys. The pain was right where you would experience pain if you had kidney infection. As long as he was suffering from the “acute tubular necrotic kidney tissue” he could not produce urine. Defined as : “Acute tubular necrosis is a kidney disorder involving damage to the tubule cells of the kidneys, which can lead to acute kidney failure.” Therefore, he could not remove the toxins in his blood. Necrosis is defined as the death of most or all of the cells in an organ or tissue due to disease, injury, or failure of the blood supply. Yikes..

A little kidney education here.”Dialysis is a process by which the excess toxins and fluid in the body can be removed. Hemodialysis is a form of dialysis where dialysis is performed intermittently. The blood in the body is continuously removed during the hemodialysis process and passed through an artificial kidney which cleans it.”

The treatment is an intermittent treatment and was performed in Bob’s case three times a week, each session lasting four hours. Sitting in a chair and getting progressively colder for four hours. Not moving around at all.  In evening he would have headache, fatigue, irritability, overall malaise. Feeling colder and colder and no matter how many blankets there was no warmth. Of course, if you take out all of someone’s blood, separate toxins and fluid, put it back so they are basically dehydrated: pretty awful feeling. Over a 48 hour period, he would get to feeling just a bit better and it was time to go do it again.

He mentioned that he could feel the prayers of all the people lifting him up. It felt to him like soft, rain falling. Not a chilling rain, but soft, encouraging rain. His best friend suggested his experience might be like this song:

Journal entry: “Oh Lord, without Your strength and help, without You holding us up, there is no way we would have made it through the month of January 2018. Today is February 1 and the Home Health Care nurse will come evaluate Bob and direct us in next steps. His O2 this morning is only in the 80’s. Not good. Bob says, “without enough red blood cells, you do not have enough oxygen carried throughout your body.” Some of this stuff scares me silly.

And yet, You tell me to not be afraid. “Do not be afraid. Do not rest there, Molly.”  So once again, I choose to trust You, Lord. I will make his egg and help him bathe and choose to trust and not be afraid. I would rather he bathe with the nurse today, but he wants to do that soon. You know, Lord, what I need to do to assist him in all ways. Equip me Lord.

I have had some deep episodes of grief over the sudden, abrupt changes in our married life. Such unforeseen developments that no one ever plans for.  Sometimes, when Bob is not around I just weep. Trying to process all this is very difficult. I continue to ask for prayers for us.

Gradually he began to urinate a little and measured and measured to determine if there was any increase occurring. Dialysis was populated with people who had been coming for a long time. Some had been there for years! Three times a week, four hours per session. We had no guarantee that Bob would not be one of those long term people.

Journaling again: I did make myself come straight home after I took him to dialysis. Made myself eat chicken noodle soup. Made myself watch a tv show and sleep. It felt as if I took a day off. Then went to AT & T to get estimate on upping our data plan before picking him up from dialysis.

I had made him hot tea for the ride home. ON the way home, he coughed and coughed; was unable to drink it at all. I knew that might happen but was still disappointing.

He was more accepting of his post dialysis fatigue, therefore less disturbed by it. We had a better evening. Watched news after dinner. Then “The Shack” in bed. I fell asleep twice. He slept until 2 AM. Got up to pee.  Took rest of his muscle relaxer, then he slept in recliner.

He was all hot to plan to send me away for a rest. I finally asked him to stop as I was crying. It is still too raw for this talk. I do not want to go to the Convent across town – too far. He was eager to hire a nurse or figure out when the kids could cover shifts and leave him alone at night. I think if I just take better care of myself during dialysis, I will be okay. This is what comes of my murmuring and complaining about someone’s indecisiveness about coming  to help us. I am so sorry I ever mentioned it to him. I should have known better.

#9 Coping with Health Crisis

Then there was the equipment drama. As if we have not had enough drama already!

From my notes: Bob finished his dialysis on Monday and the therapists also finished his occupational therapy as well as physical therapy. I am hoping he would be discharged early Tuesday morning. I know he will be exhausted just riding in the car and getting in the house. He does need one more dialysis treatment before he goes home.

He is not allowed to leave the hospital until he has his rolling walker with the seat in his hand. Did you know that Medicare will pay for a “Rollerator” walker with a seat, but if you want brakes on it you have to purchase those yourself? What a crock! Turn frail people loose with a rolling walker and no brakes. Whose idea was that?!?

The in-house supplier does not have one. The case worker found a supplier that could have it at the hospital, but they might not deliver until 5 PM on Tuesday! They also could not guarantee they would have a blue one like he wished for. Seems the supplier makes deliveries to many hospitals and facilities. His arrival at Anderson all depends upon what order the deliveries are loaded into his truck.  Grrr! I asked prayers for favor to get out of there by noon. We even asked the hospital staff if perhaps one of the adult kids could stop by and pick it up if it had not arrived by discharge time.  Nope. It has to leave with him. We are so tired of the hospital and the idea of waiting around tomorrow for someone to have time to read us the discharge orders, then someone to deliver the rolling walker really irritates me.

Tuesday morning I prayed for favor with the walker delivery and patience for myself.

When I finally found a parking space, I parked the car and began walking towards the hospital entrance. There in the curved drop off driveway was an equipment truck. I remembered the company name from the case worker. There was no one around, but as I approached I could hear noise inside the panel truck. So I knocked on the door.

A large man answered. I asked if he had a delivery for Robert Dutina, a rolling walker? He checked and pulled out a blue one, read the tag and replied, “Like this?”

walker

I was so excited! I told him I would like to kiss him for stopping at Anderson Hospital so early in the morning. And thanked him profusely. Seemed as if the day was going to be moving along.

I finally got Bob home about 1 PM, Tuesday,  January 30th. Whew! Jeff, our son, met us there and helped Bob up the new wider step. We immediately found out that physical therapy gave us the wrong dimensions and it would need to be wider yet to accommodate the walker and the man. Good thing our friends were willing to return and redesign the step for us. We were both exhausted at that point and naps were much needed by both of us.

So grateful to have him home with me at last.

 

 

 

 

#8 Coping with Health Crisis

Before the health crisis, at the after Christmas sale, I  bought a glittering tree ornament, a three-dimensional Fleur-de-lis and hung it from our bedroom curtain rod. The Fleur-de-lis is often associated with royalty. The three petals may also signify the Trinity.  Each time I opened and closed the bedroom curtains I was reminded that I am a daughter of the King of kings.

Fleur de Leis

1 Peter 2:9 declares “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.”

The King does not forget His sons and daughters. He watches over us in every hour of the day and night.

Grief   Changes  Vortex  Alive  Stunned   Lonely

One night I wrote in my journal: It seems so futile to rehearse it again. I did not call a friend for prayer because I am tired of going over the details, grief and changes. Our lives, our marriage have changed drastically. We have been thrown into the vortex of a nightmare that we cannot awaken from. We will have to adapt and become resilient to the changes that are required of us. And there will be many changes.

They are telling us that Bob will come home with a walker. We need to hire a plumber to raise the toilet seats. He will likely continue to require dialysis 3 times a week. No one can tell us for how long. However long it takes for his tubular necrotic kidney tissue to heal. If it heals. Doctor said he would give Bob a 50% chance of recovery.

He is constantly short of breath. The white count is going down, yet he is still on oxygen and breathing treatments that are a nebulizer with his inhaler medication in it.

They continue to give him heart medication though the arrhythmia has subsided. Is that due to the medication?

Diarrhea plagues him and he is too weak to get to the toilet in time. Or coughing hard makes him soil himself. Or he cannot get up during dialysis. The embarrassments of serious illness.

I am concerned about his mental state. He has had a major life change. At what point does someone talk with him and offer him counseling?

I rejoice that he is alive. I ache that he is suffering. He is stunned by his weakness. He is stunned by how close he came to dying. His eyes bulged when the nephrologist talked about his 50% chance of recovery. Yes, he accepts the fact that people can live a long, long time on dialysis. Someone is hounding me about kidney donor lists. I am ready to ignore those emails.

I am feeling the loneliness of being here for 20 days without him.” So ended that entry.

Waiting to be moved to an acute rehab unit,  Bob was sitting up every day now and I noticed a distinct change in his posture. More often than not he was hanging his head, almost like looking in his lap. It is hard to describe how this upbeat jokester went from usually looking around for his next tease topic to this posture of defeat, discouragement, exhaustion, probable depression. He had to work really hard to get his strength back.

When they moved him to the rehab unit, he was walking at first thirty-six steps with a therapist holding his middle with a belt and another aide walking behind him with a wheelchair, then gradually 236 steps, and eventually more with only a rolling walker and no aides or belt. His appetite took longer to recover than his legs and walking ability. He was determined to get better, but discouragement was available all the time.

The church people stepped up in a huge way! The women came to clean our house, top-to-bottom. I had been home alone for almost a month and did not worry about the house. Two guys came to build a larger step in the garage, one that would accommodate his walker. A neighbor put the license plates on Bob’s new car for me. Bob had barely driven that car when he got sick.

Another journal entry, JAN 29  5:14 AM   “And the time is close for bringing him home. I am more than a little frightened? Intimidated is more accurate. He has had constant nursing care since January 4 when he almost died. Now there will be home health care, and 24/7 nurse on call, but I have so many questions.

“His O2 level still seems low to me. There are times he is basically gasping for air? Do we need O2 in the house? How will I know when his cough needs attention? He is taking “tesa pearls” and Mucinex, but is that enough?

“I have a sinus thing starting again. I do not want to get him sicker.

“God, there are so many variables and moving parts here. I am clueless.

“I need You more than ever for wisdom, guidance, comfort.

“I have been awake since 2:10AM. Guess I will lie down again and try to sleep.

“Maybe Lidocaine patches on my back will help the pain?

“He is weak.

“He, too, is intimidated. What if he hits a depressive episode just coming home and realizing just how much he has changed?

“Help. I have been warned to take care of myself. Having him home moves the responsibility onto me instead of the hospital support staff.”

We eventually got him home. I pray this is encouraging you in your own journey. I am well aware that I am not the only wife who has recently had a critically ill husband. I personally know of three others right this minute. It is a difficult journey. We each tend to withdraw at the time. Perhaps reading this can encourage you or someone you know that their struggle is shared by others?

 

Illness and ICU #7

On the occasions when I was able to surface from being numb, the thanksgivings I did record included: apple turnovers at the hospital coffee shop (yum!); crushed ice in the atrium waiting room; finding Diet Coke in the vending machine whereas the cafeteria only served Pepsi products; brilliant sun in the bitter cold; making it downstairs for good coffee without missing a doctor on early morning rounds; finding a way to create rhythm with hospital visits; spinach soufflé to nourish me. I was living on ice cream, frozen Stouffer’s spinach soufflé, homemade vegetable soups, yogurt and sometimes Rapid Fire Pizza. Eventually I could add thanksgiving that Bob’s thoughts were returning without ICU psychosis clouding his brain as much.

“My soul is satisfied as with a rich feast, and my mouth praises You with joyful lips when I think of You on my bed, and meditate on You in the watches of the night; for You have been my help, and in the shadow of Your wings I sing for joy. My soul clings to You; Your right hand upholds me.” PS 63:5-8

People I barely knew at church were sending me encouragement. Bob’s friends were also. I met one woman in the grocery parking lot. She confided that her husband had been undergoing chemo and it was a long, long recovery process. She listened with compassion and then asked me, “Isn’t it strange when you gauge what kind of day you are having by how many times you cry?” She succinctly nailed that wisdom. Her comfort stays with me even now.

Along with thanksgiving I had recently studied a book about brokenness. About eleven days into the nightmare I was crocheting in Bob’s room one evening while he dozed. He had a clear realization that day of just how weak and frail he had become. The physical therapists had helped him stand and try to take one step. He was shocked over all the strength he had lost in those eleven days. I sensed this message of comfort from the Lord:

“I see you. I see you sitting there crocheting.”

“I’ve got this in My mighty, holy way.
I know it is hard to do, but I want you to try to relax and remember each time panic tries to grab you, I’ve got this. I’ve got this. Trust the outcome to Me, even when you do not understand where it is going or what the next step is. Trust and know that I am holding you and Bob. I’ve got this.
My dear, sweet Molly, trust Me.
Just like that knot in your yarn just now, if you tug on it things only get harder. Let me untangle the health mess for you. Yes, it has been a very hard day as Bob comes to terms with the reality of what January 2018 has brought to him. I’ve got him.”

 

I was stunned into thanksgiving by His comfort and love. Rarely do I hear this sort of comfort and assurance from my Lord. He was present to me in that room, with monitors beeping and all the rest of the hospital trappings. 

All glory be to You, Lord Christ! My learning about Brokenness came most recently from Ann Voskamp’s book  The Broken Way. I had taken notes from the book and was able to review them in the hospital room. She wrote:

broken way

“You know – everything all across this farm says the same thing, you know that, right? … The seed breaks to give us wheat. The soil breaks to give us the crop, the sky breaks to give us the rain, the wheat breaks to give us the bread. And the bread breaks to give us the feast. There was once even an alabaster jar that broke to give Him all the glory. Never be afraid of a broken thing.”

“Wounds are what break open the soul to plant the seeds of deeper growth. My dad told me this once. For a seed to come fully into its own, it must become wholly undone. The shell must break open, its insides must come out, and everything must change. If you didn’t understand what life looks like, you might mistake it for complete destruction.

“Brokenness can make abundance.”

“Why are we afraid of broken things? Why are we afraid of suffering? What if the abundance of communion is only found there in the brokenness of suffering – because suffering is where God lives. Suffering is where God gives the most healing intimacy.”

Brokenness, stillness, trust. I was learning.

Critical Illness #6

This section has a few ways that I tried to cope with this life changing and challenging event. My spiritual discipline for years has been to read the Word, study and pray. Repeat. When our lives hit this huge crisis and Bob almost died, it was difficult and practically impossible for me to hold to any discipline. I was upheld by the prayers of the church, but my study time failed completely. And then the Lord would drop a line here or there into my mind and spirit to encourage me. “Show us Your mercy, O Lord,” from the morning prayer suffrages, Book of Common Prayer. And I would go forward with whatever the day held for us. Often I prayed the full armor of God from Ephesians six as I drove to the hospital or dressed in the hospital bathroom after spending the night with Bob.

I began to approach the situation with stillness but no presumption that I in any way knew the ultimate result. Though I was often unconsciously holding my breath, there was a stillness in me. The stillness came with a peace that I recognized as coming from God. Reporting the day’s events and blood work results to prayer partners via email, without forecasting the next step or event or outcome, was about my only “productive” output.

The stillness was related to Habakkuk 2:20 NRSV “But the Lord is in His holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before Him!” Another prayer that surfaced from the BCP “We do not presume to come to this Thy table trusting in our own righteousness but in Thy manifold and great mercies. We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under Thy table. But Thou are the same Lord whose property is always to have mercy.” (Holy Eucharist 1 P. 337)

Part of my struggle was yielding to the facts and in stillness letting my wishes die, placing my hope in the plans of the Almighty. The “ISness” of the many illnesses he was suffering including the ICU psychosis. The nurses and doctors assured me he would come out of that, but no one knew when or in what condition afterwards. I could not see the outcome at all, but I trusted God’s goodness and His love for both myself and my family.

I learned that crucified, you must hold perfectly still.

Ephesians 3:16 helped me to trust more. “I pray that, according to the riches of His glory, He may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through His Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love.” I prayed for Bob and our children to be strengthened. I prayed for myself to be strengthened by His Spirit with power penetrating to my innermost being. Yes, crucified you must hold perfectly still. I was not “going” anywhere.

Brother Lawrence taught “Useless thoughts spoil everything and much mischief begins there.” I needed to still my thoughts and dwell in the present moment. “What if” thoughts brought needless anxiety. I just had no extra energy to waste on that.

The power of thanksgiving had been my study several years prior to this. Now it was difficult to even remember to give thanks.  I saw in 2 Corinthians 4:15b “So that grace, as it extends to more and more people, may INCREASE THANKSGIVING, to the glory of God”  but I was unable to do much of that. I became numb with fatigue and stress. His grace carried me and turned to thanksgiving in the signature of my every email with lyrics from “Good, good Father” written by Brown and Barrett, recorded by Chris Tomlin.

Eventually that signature changed to “Acceptance becomes the sacrament of the present moment, the point at which your struggle becomes useless and the unknown becomes the next step in life.” Joan Chittister

 

Critical Illness #5

And oh the kindness of others! People prayed almost around the clock for us. Different cities,  counties, states and even countries.

Awake, but still so ill!

IMG_1069

Bob looked terrible after being in bed for over a week. The nurses used some dry shampoo on his head, but the shave they gave him was not like he would have given himself had he been well enough. Our neighbor is a barber and came to the hospital, even with all the illness Bob was suffering. Chris gave him a razor shave right in his bed! He looked and felt somewhat better after that! This photo is a few days later and after his shave.

IMG_1071

You may have noticed in the photos there are fewer and fewer lines and tubes connected to Bob. As he slowly regained some functions the medical staff removed as many iv lines, etc. as possible. The more lines, they explained, the better the chances of infections.

Did you notice the blue prayer square pinned to his gown? The nurses were very conscious of it and careful to replace it whenever they had to change his gown. Many of my friends make these instead of prayer shawls, which can be large and somewhat cumbersome, especially in ICU. Once during the shift change a new nurse came in to meet us and go over his treatment plan with the nurse going off shift. The lights were dim in the early evening. She asked, “What is that Brillo pad pinned to his gown?” We told her it was a “Prayer Square.”  I have often been amused by her comment since then while crocheting a square for others.

 

 

ICU Illness Part 4

Someone wrote: “I had to accept myself in all my gory glory. Sometimes rage, sadness, and a myriad of other strong emotions will be part of your experience, too.” And so it was with me. Here is one of my journal entries:

Tired. Too tired to read. Often too tired to even eat. Numb with fatigue of body and emotional shock.
Feel
Express
Accept
Move on
Get up
Do it again
Keep the dining room table cleaned off because he likes that so much!
Find a way to cope with the shock

“You can’t be any other place than where you actually are!”

This verse from Ephesians 6:10 helped hold me upright. “Be strong in the Lord and the power of His might.”
Holman translation: Finally, be strengthened by the Lord and by His vast strength. And the NIV:  Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. A portion of this verse is also on one of the hospital walls.

The doctor told me Bob was in critical condition, streptococcal pneumonia, kidney injury and failure, sepsis, Type A flu. I went back and forth between home and the hospital as the weather dictated. Our adult kids did not want me to stay there every night as that was so tiring. They knew. They had taken turns doing just that! One doctor told us weeks later that the first week at Mercy Anderson he was the sickest man in the building.

People Bob had worked with and friends from church took turns taking shifts sitting with him when one of us could not be there. Our friend Robb was with Bob Tuesday afternoon when the doctors decided to let him wake up. Emily made it there moments later from her office downtown. She called saying he was asking for me. I rushed to get out of the shower and arrive.

He could barely whisper after having the tube in his throat for almost five days. Then we learned the horror of ICU psychosis. It was explained to me that even with the heavy sedation given, the ICU patients do not truly sleep. His symptoms included paranoia that the food and water were drugged or poisoned, agitation, anxiety, seeing things that were not there, disorientation. He was absolutely exhausted.

He did not recognize me as his wife. That first night in his agitation I told him he really needed to sleep. He replied, “My wife is in the bathroom.” I calmly stated, “Honey, I am your wife.” He said, “No, my other wife.” The children joked we should record or write down everything he said to use against him later. An attempt at comic relief.

The night nurse was able to tape a sheet over the light board on the wall as Bob kept staring at the medical notes there and asking me why they were moving. They were perfectly still. One aide was able to show me how to minimize the text the next day. It was a long night, every night.

Later Bob thought people had neglected him and his needs in the night. The nights I stayed he was very restless and often upset even though I was by his side. He had worked at Mercy Clermont for almost 40 years. Here he was at Mercy Anderson. He was certain he had to go back to Clermont to get the care he needed. He was determined to get out of his bed even if he had to crawl to the front door. He thought his friend Jim would bring the truck and take him back if only he could get to the front door. He was agitated and upset with me for not taking him. One night he tried to climb out of bed, ivs and all. I was able to reach the buzzer to call the nurse. He helped me get Bob back to bed. He had to be restrained with soft restraints. It was so sad. It was hard to believe my strong, intelligent, reasonable, loving husband was this person in the bed. Five days of delirium were exhausting and discouraging. Yes, we had him back with us, but his condition was still guarded and in so many ways unimaginable.

He was certain his mother was dead because he remembered receiving a larger than usual check at Christmas. (She was very much alive and awaiting word on his condition in California.) He believed he made roast beef sandwiches on sourdough bread at Queen Elizabeth’s funeral in London. (She, too, was very much alive.)

One on-line definition states that organic factors that can contribute to the delirium include infection and drugs. My husband certainly had plenty of both. Not only was he suffering from streptococcal pneumonia, kidney failure, kidney injury, and flu, but eventually he was also tested and MRSA pneumonia was added to his list of ailments.

 

My very, very ill husband.

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He bargained with me that he would drink his water if I would give him his cell phone. I gave in. He drank one sip and that was it. He told me the next morning he was able to make Fidelity investment account and bank transfers with the hospital remote. Even now, many months later, he is finding contacts he must have deleted from his cell phone while in the hospital. He called me five times one evening at home on both the cell phone and his hospital phone, giggling at his profound ability. He asked for paper and pen. The inveterate list-maker wanted to create psychotic lists. Ever so slowly his brain began to clear.

My counselor told me that this sort of psychosis is truly a form a suffering as the patient cannot determine reality from the delirium. My sister-in-law was able to coach our adult children and myself as to how we should talk to him to help calm him. Saying things such as “May I take care of that for you?” when he had outlandish fears such as thinking someone was robbing our social security account as he did not believe the recent deposits were in the right amount.

And oh, his financial fears. He had been a wonderful provider for our entire marriage! Here he was in ICU worried because he thought that every single procedure had to be paid for in cash before he would be treated. When he was unconscious and swelling from the kidney failure, our daughter and the nurse were able to remove his wedding ring. I had tearfully put his ring on a chain about my neck when he was insentient. I often slipped it on my finger as I tried to sleep, hoping for the resurrection of his health and our marriage. Once awake, he spotted the ring on my necklace and gave me detailed psychotic instructions that I was to go to his gold guy and sell it to help pay for all these procedures.

The ICU doctor tried to assure him that Medicare and our supplemental insurance would cover all the bills because his was a catastrophic illness. When the doctor left the room, my terribly confused husband confided in me that he did not believe a word the doctor said. I went to the financial office and they assured me that indeed the doctor was correct. It was a hard sell from then on! I would not let him worry about the payment without reminding him it was all going to be okay from a financial standpoint.

 

Illness Part 3

There were all sorts of medical terms I knew nothing about such as pH in his blood and creatinine (which I had typed for him on lab documents, but never truly understood), blood pressure monitored through an arterial line? Fentanyl – my husband? Restraints in his hospital bed? Talking with complete strangers about bronchoscopy and dialysis I found it difficult to comprehend that we were discussing my husband of forty-seven years.

 
Walking into another room in our home I realized I would likely need to figure out his method of bookkeeping and bill payments. The on-line payments I understood. We had such different methods of bookkeeping that over the years we had each gotten our own checking accounts!

Slowly it dawned upon me that I would not only need to oversee finances, but if and when I brought him home from the hospital I would need to do the shopping, tote the groceries to and from the car, put it all away and continue with the cooking, cleaning et cetera as our needs dictated. I began to realize that I would not bring home from the hospital the same man that was here on New Year’s Day. Forty-seven years of marriage and all plans were suddenly in flux with the future indeterminate. Fear was lurking amidst my every activity. With faith I clung to the God of all mercies to direct my steps and keep my heart and mind.

 
Toby Mack released a song about that time called “I Just Need U” and I played it over and over and over again.
“And, all I know is You’re my only hope.
When I’m up when I’m down,
When the wolves come around,
When my feet hit the ground,
I just need, I just need You,
On my darkest days,
When I’m losing faith,
No, it ain’t gon’ change,
I just need, I just need You,
Lord, I need You,
Yeah, I just need You.”

 

Bob’s high school sweetheart is now a general practitioner in the northeast and had recently had a husband in critical condition. I finally found her contact information following her latest Christmas card and what Bob had told me about her medical practice. I left a call with her answering service and she called back within minutes. She understood the power of the presence of a loving wife. After reviewing the progress of my illness and symptoms, she encouraged me to put on a mask and go to him. Another local ER doc who is a friend told me to just walk in like I knew what I was doing. Even spending one hour with him could make a difference.

He was admitted Thursday night. My cough began to break up Saturday night. Sunday I was in his room. No one questioned my presence at the hospital. They kept him sedated and unconscious for a total of almost five days. It seemed an eternity to our family. We were uncertain when they eventually let him wake up if he would be able to maintain breathing on his own without the help of the respirator. He had easily six IV bags hanging along with the jug of liquid that our son called his milkshake for the naso-gastric feeding tube. Wires and tubes in both sides of his neck. Catheter and other tubes.

My California lifeguard lay critically ill and I was helpless to change that. Eventually I gathered information for at least seven groups of email addresses to provide updates and prayer requests regarding his condition. Anyone who loved him, was willing to pray, and wanted updates made the list. In the beginning I sent updates twice a day or more. Later, it tapered off to once a day and then even less. We needed all the help we could get to return him to health and well-being. We are eternally grateful to those who prayed for us.

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More than once as doctors were telling me about his progress I would have to step away, take a breath and compose myself. Sunday the weather was taking a turn for the worse. I went home and packed a bag. I did not want to be stranded at home with a winter storm possibly keeping me from Bob’s side. I moved into his room.

 

#2 Illness January 2018

When we got inside the Emergency room, Emily and the nurse took Bob to a triage room while I checked him in. When I got to the back they were all ready to move him to larger treatment room. It was a very large room and they needed it. For 2-1/2 hours four to six nurses, the ER doc and respiratory techs worked on him to try to help him breathe with various treatments. His eyes were huge with terror as he tried to tell me through the blood in his oxygen mask that he COULD NOT BREATHE. I assured him they were doing all they could to help him. Finally, I turned to the nurse and said “This is obviously not working. What is next?” She told me the only thing left to do was sedate him and intubate him. I said to do it. She also said intubation required admission to ICU. The doctor had been working the ER every night that week. He said the ICU was full. They would try to get him moved to Anderson, or Fairfield, or UC. I kissed Bob as they asked us to wait in the waiting room. He asked, “Are you going home now?” I assured him I was going to stay. My children and I waited in the waiting room with two Elders from our church who came to support us and pray for us.

Kidney failure is not a term you ever want to hear in relation to your loved one. Intubation was scary enough. In fact, seeing him after the doctor had inserted that tube in the ER was one of the scariest things I had ever seen in my life! He was unconscious due to the drugs they gave him and kept him on for many days.

As they made plans to transfer him (as, yes, the ICU was totally full) I held his hand and prayed. I was forbidden to go with him as I too had tested positive for the flu. Jeff took me home as the kids had decided not to allow me to drive myself even though our house was about one mile away. Crushed and afraid I waited at home for our adult children to keep me updated on his progress and what the doctors had to say. They both did a great job! They met Bob at the hospital. Decided Jeff would spend the night with Bob. I made Jeff promise to send me a photo of Bob. Emily reported to work the next morning and let her boss know what was going on so she could take shifts staying with Bob at the hospital.

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Jeff’s photo only showed him holding Bob’s hand as the medication kept Bob’s eyes open all night.

 

Next morning, I got busy on the telephone and the computer letting people know how seriously ill he was and asking for fervent prayers on his behalf. I tried not to be alarmed over all the unknown factors.

When I was eleven years old my father died after progressively serious heart attacks. I watched my mother grieve for years, at times inconsolably, after his death. I hoped that if I got married I would never give myself to someone to such a degree that I had difficulty living without him. Not that I said that consciously, but that inner hope had made it hard for me to love my husband freely. During our marriage as I became aware of that restriction in my heart, I had been trying to love him more and more each year. Here I was, facing the possible prospect of my husband dying before I did. Prayer and the support of prayer friends helped me not to panic. One of my deepest fears seemed to be unfolding.

I give thanks this year that indeed, my husband is very much alive and well now. I will continue the saga as strength and time allow. I am posting this so readers will know how we coped and hopefully watch out for serious illness during the flu season. It really is not anything to mess around with. We both had our shots last year and this year. Praying you do, too!