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.