Thursday, September 30, 2004

Free Low Fat Diet Aid

It sounds like a headline from a supermarket check-out tabloid, but it's for real. It's even free.
Yes, free! No prescription needed! Just close your eyes: My mom is in the hospital, and she is getting better, I'm thrilled to report. The amount of fluids she is receiving through her IV has been halved now that she is eating and drinking liquids. She is still receiving fat through the IV, though. We all realize that we need some fat in our diet for our bodies to function. Looking at a clear bag of the ugly lipid stuff hanging from the IV stand and dripping into you is a real turn-off, though.
Mom enjoyed bacon, scrambled eggs, banana slices in orange juice, skim milk, red grapes, pineapple, strawberries, and honey dew melon, and an especially nice ground steak patty! Her IV amount has been halved. She is receiving fat through the IV, which she says is very ugly to look at. (Just a little diet visual for the rest of us!) Her meals are gluten-free until the blood test results are received. If she stays on that diet the hospital dietician will teach it to my folks.

Mom is walking without a walker, and doing some exercises. Gastro Man II told her she was not going home today, which was a relief to her. They do expect that when she is released she will go home, and not to a rehab center. Someone came in to explain various home help services that are available. Oh, the barium progress test from Tuesday didn't show anything.

The nurses have just been fantastic. My hero list is growing. So, as Dad reported, we have "high hopes". Neither of us could remember how that High Hopes song went, and I'll be haunted, no doubt.

Diving the shipwreck

This whole situation with my mom in the hospital has made for lots of introspection. It was a surprise to find I am strong and centered enough to be sad without becoming overwhelmed by and mired in the sadness. That seems to have brought up many other sacrifices and losses of the last 15-20 years for which I was always too afraid to grieve. The grief work still waited. It has been like discovering a bottle in a submerged shipwreck, bringing it to the surface, and uncorking it.....

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Comic relief

Mom had turkey and mashed spuds for lunch, and bland fish for supper! So far everything has "stuck the dismount" as they say in gymnastics broadcasting. This is the first solid food in at least three weeks, so we are very excited.

Mom spent over three hours in the imaging center doing a progressive small intestine check involving consuming barium. It was an "ordeal", but she stayed "bright-eyed and bushy tailed", according to Dad, and took some walks while she was waiting. There aren't any results yet. Sunday's abdominal CAT scan results were inconclusive.

The Gastro Man this week really doesn't agree with a celiac disease diagnosis. Only one of the biopsy slides from the colon and stomach scopes showed celiac-type cells. Also, Fritzi is over her urinary tract infection. She has lots more pep, color, and strength, and is moving better. Her nurse aid buddy takes her for walks. The folks are also very fond of all the night nursing teams. These sweet folks stop by to say howdy when they aren't even on duty in Mom's ward. They are definitely my heroes this week.

For comic relief a student in the nurse's aid program was assigned to be Mom's special buddy assistant. This seems to have been an adventure in supreme unprepared bungling, but both Dad and Mom kept their senses of humor. Mom finally told the young woman that she was absolutely not to bathe her or comb her hair since she didn't have enough sense to wear rubber gloves when dealing with the catheter. This was also after watching the woman start over repeatedly trying to change the bedsheets. If this had been reality tv she would have been fired. The supervisor for the training program apologized at length. I think the experience actually did Mom a lot of good. Makes me think of Inspector Clousseau. Reminded me as well of the bumbler that was sent to give me an eye exam when I was in early labor with Mike. Ah, teaching hospitals...

Keep sending good thoughts. It's a long trip from mashed potatoes to sauerkraut!

Monday, September 27, 2004

Better news

Mom had a stomach CAT scan Sunday afternoon. Based on the results of that, she may move to an outpatient status in the next couple days. A blood sample is being sent to California to test for celiac disease. My brother drove down for a pleasant surprise visit. All in all, she is feeling much better and stronger.

I called Mom at 4:30 her time. Just wanted to hear her voice which sounded stronger and clearer than it does at home. Talked briefly and she told me that she got choked up when R. walked through the door.

We are glad that all the bad stuff had been ruled out. I told Dad to call me if he wanted to give us a more in-depth report but he said I had heard all that there was right from the horse's mouth. So he is going to take the evening off from the phone. M

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Special Diets

I am frustrated with the kitchen at St. _____'s. They keep sending my mom the wrong meals. The kitchen being my only medical area of any knowledge, I want to grab the dietician's ears and snarl, "It's not that #$#$Q@# complicated to send the right diet! Do I have to come up there and put on my hairnet?!?" When she was supposed to be on cream soup and pudding, they were sending meatloaf or pancakes.

Celiac diet

Hi! Talked with Mom last night, and she sounded better, very clear-headed. She's a bit down contemplating the possibility of learning a new diet, but says she will do it if that is what is necessary. One of the neighbors had been in to see her, and to bring Dad some good coffee cake. Then Mike talked to her mostly about what he is cooking at his apartment. I know that was a big boost to her.

I talked to Dad this morning. He had a good talk with another couple in the neighborhood. I'm sure that was good for him. He is feeling pressed for time to make his hospital visits, pick up meals somewhere, take care of stuff at home, and make phone calls. He reports that Mom is still having diarrhea. She is also feeling chilly a lot. She is sitting up more in bed and in the chair, and is walking with the therapist. She is having broth and juices. She likes the young internist from her doctors group who has been visiting her the last few days. She thinks he is quite the comic telling her about how he just got married, and how his wife is buying all his clothes now. This internist is more sold on the idea that the problem is celiac disease than the gastroenterologist is. There are no further tests scheduled at this point.

The folks are pondering which rehab facility she should go into when she is eventually released. This is not an iminent concern, though.

Thanks to all of you for the celiac links and diet information, support and suggestion. I have printed out lots of info to mail to Dad.

Saturday, September 25, 2004

Better Coping Through Caulking

I haven't been able to blog much this week, and I feel weird. Blogging's like an exercise routine. When I miss for too long I feel grumpy right down to my toenails. My mom has been in the hospital back home since Sunday. She had been through a prolonged spell of nausea, and was dehydrated and weak. My dad was exhausted from taking care of her. Things are getting better now. Mom is rehydrated and able to eat some soup, although still on an IV, and is pleased with the care she is getting. The therapist has her up walking now. Dad is rested, but worried, naturally. He's able to get more information from the doctors now, and the doctors are starting to figure out what has caused this problem. We are all relieved that the diagnosis isn't as scarry as it might have been. So I spent my week on the telephone getting updates, feeding my questions to Dad, and disseminating information to other friends and relatives. By the time I sat down to watch a bit of the video of Bizet's "Carmen" I would conk out in the chair.

Why "Carmen"? That will be a different blog.

Why is it when we are stressed our tolerance for little stuff goes down? All week my disgust with my shower caulk has escalated. So I spent my Friday off in a crazed mode hacking and pulling out the old caulk, getting stains off the tile grout, and going to the hardware store. I can't change the situation for my parents, but, by golly, I can change the appearance of my bathtub!

Mike drove home from college, and did the actual caulk application. His hands are steadier and stronger, and he can even read the tiny print instructions on the caulk tube. We talked about his plans to change his major. He told me after he graduates and gets a job, he will help me repair and improve the condo so I can sell it and move wherever I want. I used to think I would live here forever, but I have days when I want to live in an urban loft or a small older home like my Grandma's. Anyway, Mike is a great kid, and he gave me a much-needed boost. I'm so glad he came back for a visit. My shower looked fantastic this morning, even if I couldn't shower in it. I trudged upstairs to the teen bathroom to shower. Next thing I knew, I was tearing out the gross caulk in that shower, and running back to the hardware store. Now the day is winding down, and I even have new caulk in the kitchen, and around the lavatory. A little part of my life is clean and orderly, and my effort will be visible for awhile. It's time to call Dad for today's update.

Not an acronym

Sprue is a "chronic, chiefly tropical disease characterized by diarrhea, emaciation, and anemia.
This is interesting to me from a totally backward, nonscientific, etymologic aspect. I was intrigued to find that the word "sprue" had a Dutch origin according to my favorite dictionary that my aunt and uncle gave me for high school graduation. Makes me wonder what tropical hellhole Dutch sailors colonized and how many survived the disease...Celiac Sprue refers to abdominal problems related to improper digestion of fats and wheat proteins.

Thank you for that explanation. I called Dad several times yesterday to try to catch him so he wouldn't be worried about having to fit in a birthday call. I finally caught him last night and he gave me the long rundown. He is trying so hard, but it sure takes a toll on him. It is painful to listen to him try to come up with the word he needs -antibiotic, catheter. This is obviously traumatic for him. I have to remember how old they are. Poor guys.

Anyway, I am up to speed. A friend's son was incorrectly diagnosed with the gluten allergy last year and she was able to find the appropriate resources, recipes, etc. to make the diet not completely inconvenient and unpleasant. Mom would have to give up a lot, but it would be a project for them! M

Friday, September 24, 2004

Today I feel frustrated being so far away.

My mom went for a walk with the physical therapist down the hall using a walker today. This is the first time she has done that in well over a week. She is eating her soup, and sometimes her jello. Her new IV connection is "pretty radical" according to Dad. Up to four different potions can be connected and regulated at a time.

The gastroenterologist reports that one of the colonoscopy/stomach scope biopsies indicated a gluten allergy. My dad wants me to research something called S.P.R.U. on the internet. Mom also has a urinary tract infection, which isn't surprising when she was so dehydrated, and also had that catheter blockage. She will get antibiotics for that through the IV.

Now that Dad is rested he is meeting with the doctors, asking questions, and getting better info. He is worried Mom may eventually have to move into a rehab facility, rather than come home. She will certainly be in the hospital through the weekend. She is getting bored enough to have tried to turn on the tv in her room, but not bored enough to put on her glasses to figure out the remote control.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Banana pudding

Hi, again! I am glad to report that Mom is doing better today. She coped well with the assorted roto-rooter medical procedures, and had a good sense of humor when I talked to her. Dad said that she was much stronger, and they were both encouraged. She was very pleased about the balloons, letters, and cards she had received, so I want to thank everybody for being so kind.

Mom also ate some bland tomato soup and a few bites of banana pudding, and it stayed put. This is the first real food she has eaten since about 9/12. She is still getting fluids by IV.

Dad and Mom are both so enthusiastic about the care and the personnel at St. ___'s. They did not have a report about yesterday's abdomen ultrasound, or any other lab results. Perhaps since the Gastro doctor ordered those tests, he will have to be the one to bring the results.

Thanks so much to all of you for your concern and support. I appreciate your love and good vibrations. (Yes, it's a Beach Boys moment!)

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Being old is not for wimps

This will be Mom's third night in the hospital. She is still nauseous. Her internist has called in a gastroenterologist. Today she had an ultrasound on her abdomen. She also had a painful problem with her catheter. Tomorrow she will have a colonoscopy and a stomach scope. Those won't be pleasant, but she will probably be sedated for them. Dad said they hadn't had any new lab reports today. I am trying to get him to be more proactive for her. I'm feeding him the questions they need to be asking. He saidMom specifically doesn't want any flowers, as all smells aggravate her nausea. She always appreciates letters with updates on your lives, guys. Dad appreciates short phone calls as long as he isn't hungry at the time.

The Pick

Things are going better today. Dad is very upbeat. Mom is getting a new, improved type of IV connection near her shoulder. She will also get a new mix of nutrients in her IV. The gastroenterologist has explained that the lab samples and the ultrasound did not indicate any problems. The purpose of yesterday's colonoscopy/stomach scope procedure was to look for indications that an infection has resettled in the intestines from somewhere else in the body (like from the root canal dental problem in August). They will have those results in a couple days. Mom will be staying at the hospital at least until those results are received.
Thanks for your continued support. We will be at soccer tonight until late.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004


Dad reports Mom is getting a lot of fluids through her IV, and has a good attitude, steady vital signs, and better color. There's no indication of when she might go home. I'm sure the doctor will want her to keep down solid foods before she leaves. Dad slept ten hours last night, and hopes to do the same tonight. He sounded better. I relayed the info to my sister who knew what was going on, and to my brother who didn't.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Becoming AnchorWoman

Nancy - I just got off the phone with Dad. I had been calling all afternoon and not getting an answer. I did not want to alarm you so I just kept trying. When I tried the last time he had just walked in the door from the hospital. Now he is talking to you so I didn't want to call. Just want you to know how frank he was with me. Didn't seem at all surprised that I knew what had been going on. I suggested that he not fatigue himself by calling us both with reports. I told him that I would depend on you for information unless he wanted to call me for some specific reason. He is trying to conserve his energy, stay fueled, and get lots of sleep. I told him I was very proud of him for making this move and also for knowing that HIS health was very important. That's why I don't want him to have to make multiple calls. Keep me posted. I will write Mom a note after I feed the family. So nice to have a long chat with you last night. I have missed that. I don't like email for correspondence because I do so darn much business on it. Would like to talk to you more. Hope you got some sleep last night. I am afraid that perhaps you spent your day calling Dad and were worried just as I was. Sleep well tonight. She is in the right place! Love, M

Zombies and potions

Dad has finally taken Mom to the ER this afternoon after a phone call with her doctor. She is now admitted at least for tonight, and on an IV to get her rehydrated and get her potassium level corrected. She has had a very thorough interview and exam by one of the doctors from the practice of their long-time doctors. The lab tests so far have not shown any bacterial infection, and this situation is no longer thought by anybody to be connected to the dental root canal problem. It is hoped that by feeding and rehydrating her with the IV, she can disconnect from her prolonged nausea syndrome*.

I also hope that Dad can get some sleep, as he has been "on duty" way too long and is a walking zombie. I wish I could have convinced him to do this Thursday when I first got an indication of how severe the situation was**. We had another long phone call last night, as Dad was really needing support and a sounding board.

*I'm not sure of the exact term. Basically, Mom had gotten into an automatic reflex of coughing and gagging whenever she ate or drank anything. This reflex fed and then was fed by her anxiety in an ugly spiral. Dad and I are both hopeful that if the doctor can get her to relax and rest her innards enough to stop the nausea pattern she will be okay.

**My dad tends to minimize problems. I'll never forget all of us gathered around five-year-old Steven who was hurt rolling down the hill in the backyard. Steven was lying there with his arm bent at an impossible angle, and Dad was telling me that it definitely was not broken. Dang. I'd seen a lot of broken arms by then, and it was mighty broken!