Monday, January 22, 2007

"What Happened to Me?"

The title of this post is something that I heard my father say a few times this afternoon while I was visiting him in hospital.

Oftentimes, he lies in the bed, shaking his head from side to side, in a pose of what he's going through.

Today he was pseudo-sleeping when I came, so I sat and chatted with my mother. A short time later, someone walks in and introduces herself as an occupational therapist and she wanted to ask my father a few questions to assess him and his cognitive abilities.

She woke him, and even if it was just a light sleep, it was a sleep. To suddenly have to respond to questions would not be too good, I figured...and I was right.

There were basic questions that you and I would probably not have much difficulty with: What is your name? What city are we in? What province? What kind of building are we in? What season is it? What's the date? What floor are you on?

Even as she asked these questions, I knew that I had to hold back my retorts: my father has been lying in a hospital bed for over 4 weeks! How should he know the correct date? He'd been moved to several different floors over his stay! How could he know the floor?

I did ask her why she'd come now, especially after rousing him from sleep; he is rather clear-headed in the morning. She had gotten a requisition and was told to check up on him now, is what I was told.

My father, the former businessman, struggled with counting backwards from 100 by 7. He got to 93 and was stuck.

When asked to spell " world" and then spell it backwards, he couldn't spell it backwards.

He had to write a sentence for the therapist on a clipboard she provided. Even though he was lying in bed, and somewhat elevated, it wasn't a conducive situation for writing. I'm not quite certain what, if anything, he actually wrote on that paper. But when asked to read back what he'd written, he said, "You're a lovely lady."

He was asked to draw a clock face and provide the numbers. He couldn't do that.


When someone, G-d forbid, has dementia or Alzheimer's or even Parkinson's or suffers from a stroke, they might be so far advanced in the mental decline, and not realize that the answers they're giving are not correct, when administered tests such as this one today. The difference is that my father DOES recognize his inability to give the answers that, perhaps several hours earlier, might've been easy for him.

He recognizes these limitations. He told the OT that he used to do math so fast in his head. I grew up with math and spelling drills that my father gave me. This is how he taught us; this is how he taught himself. And suddenly the brain doesn't want to catch on anymore.

After the OT left, he was still hung up on that "subtract 7" question and pushed himself over and over to try and work through the sequence. I guess he was trying to prove to himself that perhaps he could do it, at least for himself, if not for the OT.

I saw the tears in my father's eyes when the OT left; I felt the heaviness of his emotional pain, and that of my mother who watched this too.

"What happened to me?... What will become of me?"

We tried to speak convincingly that after mental and physical rehab we hope to have him home again. As we do...and as he does.

As I've said, when the clarity comes, it is like a curtain is drawn open and the sun shines through. My father can talk about everything and anything. He can describe in detail episodes from 50 and 60 years ago. But when the daylight grows dimmer, the mind grows dimmer too.

The medication, the past seizures, the brain fluid, the lack of constant movement and being in a bed for so many weeks have taken their toll.

...But at what price?


Anonymous said...

I know how difficult this is! You are strong to be able to write about it so vividly. I hope the writing brings you solace, and also helps remind you that your readers are there praying for your dad.

tuesdaywishes said...

I remember this part. It's the absolute worst. May he have a complete recovery.

Val said...

Truly heartbreaking. Hang in there. People are thinking of you and of your family.

Anonymous said...

As I read this, I can really feel the heartbreak your father feels and the heartbreak that you and your family feel. It's just so unfair. And you want to protect your father so much from these people who are 'just doing their jobs' but may lack the sensibility, senstivity and/or time to properly honor him. I am so sorry you are all going through this. You are in my thoughts!!!!!! Hugs!!!!

Mata Hari said...

I'm sorry. I've been there, have seen others go through it, and I know how hard it is. It feels so surreal to be in the hospital with someone for days on end, knowing that people on the outside are living normal lives and laughing and going about their business. It's very helpful for your father that you're there with him. Patients need advocates who can run interference with the nurses and doctors and make sure they're being taken care of. I wish your father a very speedy recovery, and I wish you you the strength you need. Try to get out with a friend for a coffee break to clear your head.

Sharon from NY said...

Pearl, I've been reading your posts and keeping you and your father (and Mom) inmy thoughts and praying for a refuah for him... but it has been hard to write a comment..... this is all so familiar. It's like what we went through when my father-in-law first became ill. I can't think of anything to say that will make you feel better. If I were there and we met, I would give you a long hug. That doesn't really translate online! Just know that thre are people out here thinking of you you all. As "elie" said, I hope that writing helps a little and I completely agree with "mata hari", taking a break with a friend for a coffee can renew your strength and give you a chance to clear your head a little. Make sure to take care of yourself. Since you do, indeed, need to be available for your Father as an advocate; so you really need to make sure you are as OK as possible. Best from Marty, as well.

cruisin-mom said...

Pearl, as always, your writing is so beautiful and moving. You are in my thoughts and heart.

torontopearl said...

Thank you, all, for your kind support. Somehow it's easier to blog about what goes on than to talk about it to people 'round these parts. I appreciate your "listening ears & expressive eyes."

Anonymous said...

Pearl, may your father have a speedy recovery and a refuah shelema. Your words move me deeply, I am sitting with tears and heart-ache! I am glad you are writing about your feelings and I can just imagine that it is easier than to talk to people. Be strong, hang in there and know that we all think of you and pray for your father!

A Simple Jew said...

May the Ribbono shel Olam help your father return to be the father you always remembered.