Join Swagbucks!!!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Introducing Pop

Exhausted today. I haven't gotten to sleep at a decent time in weeks because my husband is a horndog I've been staying up too late and getting up way too early, which doesn't really help the whole insomnia thing.

Last night, Budman and I went to the VA hospital to spend a little time with his dad, who will henceforth be known as Pop. Pop has cancer. Budman's mother was able to go home and get some rest, which I know she really needed.

The VA hospital is such a sucky place. If it ever comes up, and you have the power to keep someone you love out of the VA hospital, I TRULY TRULY hope that you do. Unfortunately, Pop doesn't have any other options.

He looks pretty weak, he has fluid on his lungs (AGAIN, after they just drained it last week). They are installing some sort of drain/catheter-type thing, so that he will be able to drain his lungs as needed, since it takes an act of God to get anything done for him at that hospital. It seems to me, that they won't DO anything (at least not anything worthwhile) unless it's in order to save his life. If he's just having trouble breathing, they put him on oxygen (he has that at home) and breathing treatments (he has those at home) and run tests on him. If he's about to die, then they pull out all the stops and do something.

I'm frustrated, and maybe that's not really the way it is there, but it seems like it. That place was so awful. The air was hot and stale, and walking down the hall to find Pop's room, there was a horrible stench in the air. I whispered to Budman "Someone pooped themselves", and he muttered agreement. The rooms are unlike any hospital I've ever seen. Three, sometimes four beds to a room, and I can tell that the rooms were not planned that way, because they only put two TVs in each one. So, they're just overcrowded, or cutting costs, or I don't know what. The people that fill these rooms, I can only assume that they are the men and women who served our country in the military (Isn't that what the VA hospital is for?), don't they deserve better?? As we drove up, I was surprised at how nice the outside of the building looked, I was expecting a real shit-hole. The lobby is decorated and bright - like a regular hospital. But the upper floors, where the patients are...

As soon as we got there, we had no sooner exchanged pleasantries and sat down, when Pop asked Budman to take him out for a cigarette.

  • One could argue that he doesn't need to smoke, that it will only make him worse, his breathing is bad enough, no open flames around the oxygen tanks... (Just kidding about the oxygen tank)
  • Or, you can say to yourself, this man is dying, and one or two cigarettes are not going to change that, nor are they going to speed up the process anymore than it already has been. The doctors have basically told him already that all the changes he's made to his diet over the past few years aren't going to prevent the inevitable, so now he eats what he wants. So then the argument becomes: if you're down to your last moments, (however many - or few - there may be left) you might as well live them the way you want to.

After initially telling his dad that he wouldn't take him downstairs (and knowing full well that he can't make it on his own, because he gets winded walking to the bathroom, and he has to use a wheelchair-as-a-walker for that), he has the above mentioned argument with himself (I know, I could see the thought process reflected on his face, and because I was having the same argument in my head - I told you we share a brain) and gives in.

So, Pop gets to go downstairs, outside to sneak half a cigarette. Seriously, he can't even smoke in the smoking area, he does have an oxygen tank on his chair (it was turned off), and no oxygen equipment in the smoking spot. Budman felt a little guilty for taking him down there, but he's a grown man, and he does have a right to decide how he wants to live the rest of his life...

At some point during our visit, a young Doctor comes in, and gives him a marker. She explains: After he is bathed and prepped for his procedure in the morning, he is to take the marker, and write "YES" across the right side of his chest. Yep, you read that right - due to the potential for mistakes, they require that all patients mark themselves as to what area/side their operation is to take place. I told Budman, I would have written "You're the Doctor, you figure it out" across my chest if I were Pop. This does not instill a great deal of my confidence in their skills, people or facilities.

I know that they have a hard job. I know that they are most likely all underpaid. They are certainly overcrowded, and probably understaffed as well, becuase if I were a medical professional with a choice of places to work, I would not choose that place.

I'm pretty sure this is all disjointed, and my thoughts are not organized well, because you're getting them as I think them, and because, well, I'm just plain tired.

I've been meaning to post more detail on Pop's condition since the first time I mentioned him, and after last night, today seemed as good a time as any to get it all out.


for a different kind of girl said...

I hope things go well. I'm tired as I read this, so I hope I caught it all. My Dad gets his medical treatment at the VA, and gah, I just hope he never needs terribly invasive care one day. Hope you're all able to get some rest soon.

Melody said...

I'm sorry about your Pop. It is so hard to watch someone that you love struggle.

Just so that you feel better though, my mom had the same symptom your Pop has: lungs filling with fluid. They wait for a while to do anything to see if the problem will resolve itself, to see how often they need to be drained so that they can assess if they need other procedures instead, etc.

There are different procedures based on how long you'll need added support. For my mom, since they expect her to live for at least a few years, they did a procedure called a Pleurodesis. It is a procedure where their goal is to keep the lungs open all the time, so that the area around the lung can't fill up with fluid and compress the lung closed. (Fluid doesn't really fill the lung, but instead the fluid pushes the lung closed.) The procedure that she had was very painful, as it scours off the lining of the chest wall so that as it heals the lung will stick to the chest wall and stay open continually. It is very painful, but the only option (other than doing nothing, or just pulling off fluid as needed with the needle).

For those who are not expected to live as long, they put in an indwelling cathedar, (acting as a permanent chest tube) that can be drained at home by a caregiver. That way the patient doesn't have to spend as much time in the hospital. It doesn't work for long term (years) because its chance of getting infection is increased.

If it makes you feel better, my mom was in one of the best hospitals in our area, with one of the best doctors, and the procedures would have been the same as for Pop.

I hate hospitals! I have had to watch my mom struggle with partial amputation of her foot that was supposed to take 10 weeks from start to finish and really it took from July to January instead. And then a year later she had to undergo the Pleurodesis which left her in the hospital a little longer than she expected, not much, but still longer. Some doctors and nurses are so nice and easy to work with, and others make the experience a nightmare!

My mom has diabetes & lupus and with those come myriads of problems. She has recently undergone fistula surgery which grafts a vein and artery to prepare for dialysis in the near future.

It just stinks to watch a loved one suffer, and my heart goes out to you and Budman.

Take care of yourself.