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Postcard from the Front Line of Life

  1. Jan 15, 2005 #1


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    Staff: Mentor

    This has been one of those weeks where life gets really intense.


    I went to a funeral this afternoon for an elderly gentleman I have have known for several years. I spent 2 hrs at the funeral and with the family, where I learned from the family about their struggle with this elderly man as he gradually deteriorated mentally during the last decade, particularly during the last year.

    The elderly gentlemen was 88 years old. He had survived a torpedo attack on his ship during WWII. He went on to medical school, settled in our area and became an accomplished surgeon. He also rose to chief of surgery and director of medical education at one of the local hospitals.

    During the last two years, I would drive him to and from church on Sunday. I didn't think his wife cared. On the contrary, she was simply overwhelmed by a husband who was slowly losing his mind to senile dementia. Sunday was a day she could relax for while and not worry about her husband.

    His behavior deteriorated during the last year. So when I took him to church, I had to keep an eye on him. He could remember my face and my name, but otherwise he would easily get disoriented.

    Driving to church, he asked me the same questions every Sunday - how old I am, how much do I weigh, how tall I am, where did I go to school, how many kids I had, and so on. He never could remember that information. On the other hand, he could remember the score of his college football team whenever they played a game. And he could remember the classic old songs from the 1930's and 40's, when he was a young man. He would seranade me with old songs while I listened to National Public Radio's Weekend Edition.

    His wife now has a chance to regain her life. It is surely difficult to be a primary caretaker of an senior adult who cannot take care of himself.


    Earlier this week, my mother-in-law almost died because of our dysfunctional US medical system. :mad: She has been at home recovering from knee surgery, and is also being treated for diabetes, which was only just discovered after her surgery.

    On Monday, she was not been feeling well. She called the doctor and got an appointment 2 weeks from this past Monday. My wife thinking that's ridiculous, got an appointment for Tuesday (2 days ago). The health care workers visiting my mother-in-law did not realize that her health was deteriorating.

    On Tuesday, my wife took the day off from work to accompany her mother to the doctor's office. They tried but could not get a blood sample. They took a urine specimen. Lo and behold, they discovered that she was severely dehydrated and hours away from kidney failure. In the late afternoon, my wife took her mother to the ER for IV hydration. At the ER, they did an ECG (EKG) and found that an indication that she may have had a mild heart attack, probably complication of the dehyrdation.

    Yesterday, mom underwent more tests including an angiogram, which revealed significant blockage of one cardiac artery, and only slight blockage of others. Rather than perform an ivasive procedure like angioplasty or insertion of a cardiac stent, she will be treated with medication.


    It's been crunch time at work, and other personal stuff has been going on too, but that's enough. You get the picture. :wink:
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 15, 2005 #2
    It could have been worse, least you didn't have to shoot any claim jumpers!
    My grandpa lost his mind as he grew older and his funeral was almost a happy occasion. When the mind is gone death seems kind.
    Also you should be grateful that this week, while bad, is not a normal week for you. If it was normal you wouldn't be talking about it. I know people who have weeks like that everyday. Your mom in law is getting treatment so that's good news.
    I see that your glass is half empty, well good news is mine is half full and I'll give you some if you need it.
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