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Three score and ten or more

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Helsinki the next step on the road.

Helsinki, the next step on the road

(I know I said I would not do another "Day By Day", but the days I deal with here were special.)

After my daughter was on her plane I returned to the hospital where they let me feed Janet her dinner. I gave her four or five spoonfuls of what smelled like good soup, then she shook her head no.  She then drank two thirds of a glass of some kind of shake, which she liked, then they had a little box (like children have, with a small straw on the side) which the nurse said was important because it was an energy drink.  She drank half of that, though it smelled like coffee.  Then, she turned to me and whispered “I want a coke.”  I told her that the nurse wouldn’t approve that, and the nurse asked me “What?”

I explained, and the nurse said she had some fruit juice or lemonade.  Jan shook her head  and said “coke”.  The nurse told me to go ahead up to the snack bar and buy her a “coke”, so I went up and bought her a diet Pepsi.  It was the best I could do, and when I brought it down Jan drank almost a half bottle, which thrilled the nurse.  At the end of her meal, Janet leaned to me and whispered “I must have had a stroke, did I have a stroke?”    “Yes you did.” I replied, to which she said “I thought so”. There were then some peaceful and beautiful moments when I just held her hand and sat by her side.

At that moment, I felt that the worst part was over, and that it was just a matter of time before we could leave.  The worst part was  over, but there were more trials to come.  Before my daughter left, on October 16, I had been informed that my third son,  had taken leave from his position at the University of Mississippi and would arrive in Finland on October 18.  Brother Rogers had informed me that soon after that time, some of Jaana's family would be arriving for the Temple dedication and that we probably would have to move to another home.  He had contacted some members, and, if I had no objection we would move to a home only a few blocks from his, so that I could still find my way home from the hospital.  I really didn't find that distressing at all. The members of the Haaga Ward had been so friendly and caring that I was sure I would end up in good hands.

Things were a bit more troubling at the hospital.  I had been so worried when she did not come back to consciousness, and somehow, now that she was conscious I had assumed that she would quickly regain her strength, both physically and mentally.  When I got to the hospital a little late, there was nothing to dissuade me.  She was much better physically.  She had been sitting up in a wheel chair for over an hour and was not too thrilled about it.  She said that she felt like she was slipping downward all the time.  She was returned to her bed while I went to the waiting room to go to the bathroom.   When I returned, she was struggling with communication.  She was trying to let the nurse know that she was very uncomfortable.  The pain killers they are using not helping the arthritis in her hands, and she kept trying to rub an additional pain in her back.

When  one is fastened to multiple little hoses and tubes, using a hand to try to rub another part of the body can be distracting to the nurse.  She kept trying to rub her back by using the right hand in a way that showed the nurse that she had no blood pressure at all.

She gets more and more frustrated with communication.  She begins a sentence and, almost invariably, on the fourth or fifth word she concludes with "Well, I don't know." Or '"They just can't- - -" or "I just can't - - -" then "so they say-" or some similar confession of defeat.  Just as it begins to get really depressing, she says some complete idea that still may come from out in left field, but is cogent.  She turned to me, gestured me to get close and said in a soft conspiring tone "I need a birthday card, a really beautiful birthday card."  When I asked her who she would send the card to, she looked puzzled for a moment then replied "The Pope?"

Though her conversation wanders, when the nurses ask her questions with a "Nope", or "Yep" and there is no waffling around..  When the nurses began oxygen for another patient the machine became very noisy.  After about ten minutes she shouted "I just can't stand it."

When she was asked what she couldn't stand she looked buffaloed for a moment she did a very accurate imitation of the machine " Bub, bub, bub, bang, pit, pop, bub, bub, bub, bang."  They brought her some earplugs, which irritated her as much as the noise, so I asked her if I should sing to cover the noise.  She looked at me for a long time, then said "Nope!"  After a while, when the noise really stopped, she said "Now sing.", so I did.  At this point I was feeling very encouraged.

I got to feed her again, and she ate five swallows of soup, a cup of orange juice, a glass of water and a whole half liter of Pommac, an apple flavored Finnish soda (that I love.)  After the first long sip of Pommac through a straw, she smiled and said "Wonderful".  

I was brought down a bit when the neurologist came in and drew me aside.  First, she had to tell me that she had informed Dr. Kaarne that she didn't feel that our departure on Nov. 6 was possible.  She felt that the anesthesiologist would give me a better explanation (I think that she felt that the anesthesiologist spoke the most fluent English, having worked in the U. S. for a while) but for the time being she felt that, not only was the date too soon, but that she felt that Janet would probably have to fly as a stretcher patient when she did go.  That would require a nurse to travel with her.    She also informed me that, the next morning Janet would receive an Electromyologram  (commonly called an EMG) in the morning because they feared that she had a peripheral neuropathy (loss of nerve function in the arms and legs).  Because I have had a neuropathy since 1991 and was painfully familiar with the EMG, I determined not to arrive until the test was finished.  I went home that evening with mixed feelings, but generally I felt optimistic.

My optimism dropped as I entered the hospital the next day, and was asked to wait a few minutes to talk to the anesthesiologist, Dr. Varpula.   She arrived almost immediately. First she asked me to sit down, which is immediately scary, then, as she sat next to me she began to explain the options.  "There are three common means of travel when someone is ill that is from another country.  The first is to travel by private plane.  In this case, the invalid travels in a hospital situation with a nurse and all appropriate medications.  The second is to travel on a scheduled airline as a stretcher patient.  The airline arranges a space in first class with a seat for a nurse who must travel with the patient.  The remainder of the family may travel either in first class or coach as they prefer.  It may be that your insurance can cover the cost of either of these.  The third situation is that the patient travels as a wheel-chair patient.  This requires that the patient be able to make her own way down the aisles of the airplane and sit in a standard seat for the trip.  Some airlines, if there is space, will upgrade the ticket to first class, but we can't count on this.  We doubt that Janet will be strong enough to travel in a wheelchair by November 6, or, for that matter, for some time thereafter.  You will need to contact your insurance company to see if you are covered in any of these cases.  You should also contact your airline to evaluate the costs for the insurance company.  It probably will be worth your while to contact the U.S. consulate.  They are often able to exercise some influence on both airlines and insurance companies.  You should also contact your physician in the United States, since Janet will probably be hospitalized for some time after you arrive home.  I will also contact Blue Cross to see if I can help you in any way.”  The doctor also offered to contact our physician to evaluate the relative merits of  East Georgia Medical Center (in our home town), Memorial Health University in Savannah (Where I had my bypass) and the Medical College of Georgia (where Janet had her knee replaced and where they treat my neuropathy.  I dug out appointment cards from my wallet and gave her all of the appropriate phone numbers, then turned to talk to Janet. (Of course I reconstructed Dr. Varpula's discussion from my notes, her grammar may have been better, or worse, but this is the gist of the discussion.)

As Dr. Varpula left, the neurologist entered and briefly informed me that Janet did, indeed, have a peripheral neuropathy, that affected her legs more than her arms.  She left after just a moment and I could then visit with my wife.

During my visit, Jane changed from moment to moment.  She would have a period of rambling talk mixed with comments like "Oh Well!  I don't know--, I mean-- or I just can’t stand it", then suddenly she would be very cogent and aware.  The nurses came in to turn her on her side and she shouted "You guys are just too rough, stop it!"  When I gave her a bottle of Pommac with a straw, she drank deeply, and just as she had the day before said "Wonderful!"

The physical therapist entered the room with a bottle of water and a  plastic tube.  She was supposed to blow bubbles in the water eight  times.  At first, she sucked on the tube and the therapist said "No, No, you are supposed to BLOW, eight times for five seconds."  Janet blew once, twice, three times, four, five, then she clamped her mouth tight.  The therapist said "Eight times, doctors orders" and Janet just looked at her.  After a pause, the therapist laughed "You’re teasing me."  Jan just winked at her, but she still wouldn't blow any more bubbles.  As the therapist picked up the bottle and began to walk away, Janet said "Bub, bub, bub, bub, bub, then she gave the therapist a kind of a "raspberry".  It was funny, but she never did blow the other three (that day).  I think she was "blown out".  I showed her some pictures of home that Beth-Anee had left, but she had trouble focusing.  I asked her if she needed her glasses and she replied "Yes", so I gave them to her, but she still couldn't focus.  I then read to her a chapter of a book that my daughter had left for her.  She began to doze, but I got a lot of good out of the book.

By the time I had to leave to go pick up my son at the airport, she was sitting up in her wheel chair.  I told her that I was going to pick up our son (I am not going to use his real name, call him Robert).  She said, "Good."  I asked her if I should bring him to the hospital even if it was late and she said "Yep."  I asked the nurses if I could bring him in if it was after-hours and they replied in the affirmative.

Off I went to the airport (a little over fifteen kilometers), waited around till the plane came, picked up the luggage and went out to parking where I had trouble finding the car.  By the time we got to the hospital it was definitely after hours, and I was afraid she would be asleep, so we rushed down to the ICU.  When we arrived, she was prepared for sleep, but was awake, and as we walked into the room, she lifted her head and looked at him, so I said, "Here's Robert"  She turned to me and raised her eyebrows, (which I had learned meant "Huh?"), so I said again, here's Robert, don't you remember Robert?" and she replied, "Nope". It was kind of a tough moment.


At 1:03 PM, Blogger Patrick Joubert Conlon said...

My stroke was not as bad as Janet's and I checked myself out of hospital the same day. Hospital is really stressful.


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