Friday the 13th: My Week of Horror

My Dad lies on the hospital bed, fractured – in body, mind & spirit.

While Hubby, Ishaan & I were on a much-needed weekend break, he fell, not once but twice and broke his left femur. Terrible as that was (more so because we were away and out of cell-phone range), it was soon to become the least of our worries. Dad is a patient of Parkinson’s disease. He’s lived with uncertain balance and gait, tremors, mood swings & depression, insomnia, a multitude of drugs and their resultant side-effects for more than 5 years now. He’s actually been ‘broken’ for a long time now. For the last 6-7 months, he’s been on a drug cocktail that in my opinion would knock out an elephant, as his neurologist tries to reduce his symptoms while causing the least side-effects. It’s been a roller-coaster ride, and I don’t mean that in an exciting, happy kind of way. Well, last Saturday, he was finally pushed over the edge. We got home Sunday noon to find him delirious, incoherent and generally lost to this world.

We managed to get him medical attention (after many frantic phone calls to doctor friends, many of whom I must mention were not contactable or unavailable), and X-rays and a Scan confirmed the fracture of his left femur at it’s neck – the most common injury in the elderly after a fall. When we finally managed to get through to his neurologist, he told us to omit all his medications except for his Dopamine tablets. These were to instead to be increased as he had suffered severe stress, which was likely to last a while until he recovered. Makes you wonder sometimes doesn’t it, whether they were needed to begin with?

By Monday afternoon, thankfully, Dad, seemed better. His incoherence and delirium seemed to be waning and his orthopedician decided to operate on Tuesday. All went well, and on Tuesday, the fracture was successfully repaired under spinal anesthesia. Fractured minds however, are not so easily healed. Brain versus Bone (or for that matter any other organ in the body), Brain wins every time. He had as ‘normal’ a night as may be expected after his surgery on Tuesday. By Wednesday afternoon, we noticed that he was becoming incoherent again, & irritable. But Wednesday night, when the doctor stopped by to remove the drain from the surgical wound and dress it, he seemed fine again and responded cheerfully to the doctor’s suggestion that they would mobilize him on Thursday.

Thursday dawned with hope, and yet he seemed irritable and impatient and we had a tough time trying to convince him to stay in bed until the doctor arrived. He never did and Dad’s agitation and irritability reached new heights. As did ours. Who can blame him? By Friday the 13th (I only noticed the date later), he had deteriorated into a full-blown psychosis and was unrecognizable as the Dad I have known every second of my life. He became violent, abusive and even six people found it hard to restrain him in his bed. He refused to take his medications and wouldn’t let Mom or me stay in the room with him. It’s one thing to be a doctor and a whole other thing to see your own Dad transformed into a Mr. Hyde before your very eyes, held down like a rabid animal. That was the darkest hour of my life. And here’s the thing, not one doctor came to see him, until much later that evening. They did however sedate him, giving telephonic instructions to the staff. I could do a whole post on the conduct of doctors in Goa. I can tell you now, it won’t be complimentary.

Friday night was probably the longest night of our lives. We were tense, scared, and uncertain of what Saturday would bring. Perhaps there is some truth in ancient wisdom, because in true ‘The darkest hour comes before dawn’, fashion, Saturday brought fruition to our prayers and his treatment. A string of doctors visited him and each one in his turn explained to us what had caused his sudden psychotic episode. It’s very common in the geriatric age-group they said, more so in those with compromised brain function like Dad. It’s due to a combination of several stressful factors. Firstly the stress of the injury itself, then the surgery, the unfamiliar hospital environment, the pain from the surgery, residual effects of the anesthesia and medications, the loss of mobility, insomnia – all create confusion in the patient’s mind and lead to disorientation. In Dad’s case I think it was compounded by the fact that until the Parkinson’s struck, he had never had a sick day in his life. I don’t ever remember him having a serious cold even! Another fact that must have added to his frustration is that for the first time in his life, he was dependant. My Dad has always been proud of his independence & the fact that he never asked for help from anyone all his life, instead, doing all that needed doing, himself. A broken bone changed all that and for the first time he found himself, confined, limited, weak and helpless. That’s not a great feeling for any of us.

Be that as it may, that was our own personal ‘Black Friday’ and one that has indelibly impacted our psyches. Thankfully as I said, Saturday brought relief and comfort. The sedation had done its job, and he seemed calm if not totally relaxed. We were even able to make him stand and walk a few steps! That cheered him up considerably and probably assuaged what fears he had of being dependant on others in the long-term. We were over the moon to have him back and all we want now is for him to stay that way. The process of mobilization will be slow and rough at times, but I feel confident that I can handle anything Life may throw at us, after surviving ‘Black Friday’. It’s not like I have a choice. None of us do.

And so although this whole week has been about being caught between a rock and a hard place – uncertain of everything, plagued by guilt, fearing the worst and hoping desperately for the best; I am happy to report that this Sunday, Dad’s recovery is progressing well. We plan to make him walk some more today and hopefully if all goes well, we can bring him home sometime next week. The sooner the better.

Fingers & toes, firmly crossed.

Please keep him in your prayers.

12 thoughts on “Friday the 13th: My Week of Horror

  1. Oh Harsha, I don’t know what to say! Poor Dad….I can almost feel his helplessness 😦 ……and yours.
    Here’s hoping for a speedy recovery. Hugs and well wishes coming your way.

    1. Thanks M. I’m just so exhausted right now. We all are. Progress is slow, achingly slow at times and terribly uncertain and it takes every ounce of faith I have to keep going. Keep those prayers and hugs coming.

    1. Dear Harsha
      Understand very well what is happening… Our thoughts are with you!
      BTW, I am your best friend Beena’s friend…. Bijuchayan’s college friend from kottayam
      Now I live in Singapore, hubby is a consultant in Resp&critical care…
      I lost my liittle sister on a friday,…yes March 13th 2009…Talked to her boys(14,9 years) last wek(mother’s day…….. I know, you lost your sibling in January (?) 2009….Hope I do not sound crazy here…..
      May God(the common God who used to be the ‘lord of blessings’ for girls like us during our childhood days and pre medical and medical years….
      Sorry I got carried away…. wanted to send a message to you long time before,but did not have the courage.. I believed that one day I will get the opportunity…today i am not inhibited,….
      Will pray with all my energy to make your father better,, it is not about his age,brain condition or anything,I want him to come out of this so as to be with you for many more years…
      With prayers
      dr Vijo,Paul and mathew from Singapore

      1. Thank you so much Jissy. It means so much to me and my family to have you reach out to us. I am very sorry to hear of your sister’s loss. It must be very hard indeed for your family and especially her boys. Please know that you are in my thoughts.
        At times like this, my Faith is what keeps me going as I’m sure your’s does. because that is all that we truly have in this Life isn’t it? Our Faith. Thank you once again for your wishes and your prayers Jissy. We are very grateful.

        Love, Harsha.

    1. Thank you so much Wendy. I feel the stronger for all the support my friends give me and I wish I had more time to write so I could feel closer to you all. All I yearn for now is for him to get back back to some sort of ‘normal’ and for myself…all I want is a good night’s sleep. Life is so exhausting at the moment…

      Love, H.

  2. So sorry to hear about your dad’s illness and fall. Wishing your dad and your family the best as he starts his recovery from surgery.

  3. To think I chanced upon your blog looking for information on Therekol. . I came beak to your blog wondering if you had replied than could not find that post .. and now that I have gone through some of your posts that information on that fort does not matter anymore . Reading some of your posts , I am so moved by all the things you have written. I pray the God watches over you and your family always, may you have have forbearance when dark clouds gather . If he takes you to it , he WILL take you through it . You write very beautifully and in a very honest way. It is easy to figure you are very attached to your family and friends and the values and things which relationships stand for . May you always find time to read and write and do all the things you love . Oh yes it is very importance to have a lovely group of GFs. I have one and they have been there for me , when my family was going through a crisis , when my mother passed away most unexpectedly last month . But since we live in different towns we decided to do one holiday together every year . We started last year with Coorg . We reconnected after 30 years . they stayed with me in Bangalore before we headed off to Coorg and it was wonderful , the kids hubby all got along splendidly .. My Best F from Banglaore has relocated to the USA and I feel so bereft without her , even the kids miss her .. But this not supposed to be about me . You keep writing and I shall read whenever I have time . You are incredible behind the camera every picture is a masterpiece . Take care .

    1. Hi Jyoti 🙂 I’m so very sorry for this long-delayed reply. I’m in transition at the moment, having recently shifted to Bombay after two years here in Goa. Life has been crazy as we settle into a new home, a new routine and my son into a new school!! I much appreciate your kind words and am very glad that you found me because that meant that I found you 🙂 I am so sorry for the loss of your Mom. Please know that my prayers are with you and your family in this tough time. I know there’s nothing one can say to ease the pain, except to say that hang in there and surround yourself with happy memories and hopefully over time the pain will be replaced by them. I lost my brother 3 years ago and there’s not a moment I don’t miss him. But there’s not a moment when he’s not with me, in my heart. Parting from friends is so hard. I totally understand coz I’ve just moved and I miss my Moms group terribly 😦 It’s so hard to find like-minded women in this world na? When you do, it’s terrible to have to part. Still I’m sure your friend will visit and you will too. A strong friendship like yours will endure 🙂 My best friend lives in the UK and although we don’t see each other often, when we do, it’s like we were never apart!

      I’m very glad I’ve found you and I do hope you’ll come back 🙂

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