Friday, August 22, 2014
Fair warning - This blog is regarding the poor health of a family member and contains medical details that may not be suitable for all readers...feel free to skip to the last paragraph if this is you.
My step-dad is back in the hospital. I believe this is the 11th visit this year...third in the last 6 weeks...but I've lost count. First, some history. He's a smoker, an alcoholic and addict (pills). He had acute pancreatitis about four years ago and was diagnosed Type-2 Diabetic at that time - a diagnosis that was probably long overdue. He suffered an ischemic stroke coupled with a heart attack in October 2011, followed by a hemorrhagic stroke just 3 weeks later - on my sister's wedding night - the bleed was the size of a baseball. He recovered as much as he could and did pretty well for a little while...he has some executive functioning impairment, short term memory impairment, and total numbness on the left side of his body, but otherwise was okay. Then depression began to sink in and he started drinking again. Since then he's been on a roller coaster of bad health. Between being unable to properly and consistently manage his blood sugar, continuing to drink and smoke cigarettes, skipping meals (causing his blood sugar to crash) or eating foods that cause his blood sugar to spike, taking too much medication or skipping medications, he's spent more time in the hospital than out in the past 3 years.
This time my sister found him at his apartment unresponsive, hardly breathing, and vomiting blood. It appears that his liver is failing and maybe his kidneys, too. He took 6 bags of fluid intravenously before they got any urine output...it was almost 6 hours later and they were going to start him on dialysis if it continued (it didn't). His urine is very dark brown but the nurses say there's no blood in the urine (probably liver failure), he's intubated and on a ventilator and his blood oxygen was at 93% when I left last night (slightly low - should be 95% or higher), he has more tubes coming out of him than I thought possible. His hands are swollen from the amount of fluids they are pushing through him. If it weren't for him involuntarily moving his lips to drool out the blood collecting in his mouth, he would look dead. At one point my mom and sisters were told that his symptoms appear consistent with a person who ingested antifreeze, but I think that has been ruled out and my sister and brother-in-law said they didn't find anything at his apartment. The cardiologist said he may have had a small heart attack but it could be a false positive because of the kidney trouble; he will do an ultrasound today. We think he may have accidentally (or intentionally) overdosed - my sister said his pupils were just pinpricks when she found him - usually from opiates in our experience. We're not sure exactly what combination of things put him there this time. The worst part is that he was discharged on Tuesday from the Comprehensive Treatment Unit (addiction treatment) in the same hospital - because my sister had found him passed out in his car just a few days earlier.
Even if he does pull through and miraculously recover from whatever this is, there is every reason to believe he will continue on this destructive path until he dies. It's excruciating.
This is really sad and I'm hurting. I'm sad for my two sisters who have to watch their dad deteriorate, for my mom who continues to be there for him even though they divorced years ago, for my kids because he's the only Grandpa they ever knew, for my husband and my brothers-in-law who have to see their wives hurting and are feeling quite helpless, for his lifelong friends who are losing their "brother", for him that he can't see how much we all want him to live and be well. I'm angry at him, even though I understand addiction - I know it isn't a rational disease and he is behaving like an addict - I don't blame him, but I am angry (a subtle but distinct difference). I'm angry that his choices are making me lose another dad...my biological dad died 31 years ago - I was little, but I remember. I watched my dad get sicker and sicker until he died and I don't want to do that again, but that's exactly what's happening. And I'm so sad. Just...sad...