Death Is An Insidious Jester.
Death is an insidious unwelcome jester
who mocks the kingdom of life,
and antiquates all modern medical technology
with an ancient repertoire of barbs.
He brought his most unfunny gig
to my family over four weeks ago,
to harass my father who has been on
a feeding tube for fifteen years.
Imagine not eating food or drinking
anything liquid for such a long time.
Just an endless Jevity and Ensure,
bottled nutrition condensed through
a tube directly into his stomach.
Plus the constant assailing of his senses
with billboards and commercials describing
the marvelous tastes of a juicy steak,
the never ending parade of video taunting him,
with platters of delectable delights he can never savor.
Then add the gallons upon gallons of
liquid sustenance being poured into glasses,
carbonated, condensated, cruelty to
a man who could no longer swallow such refreshment.
He worked for twenty-nine and a half years
in a shop on a punch press, surrounded by smokers,
breathing the toxic residues they expelled,
secondhand smoke invading a man
who's hands never touched a cigarette.
Eventually all of those men succumbed
to the force of their habit, and my dad was left
with a throat cancer, that wrapped itself
around his jugular vein, and created
a large knot on his neck.
I bet him a hundred dollars that it was
just a cyst, and that he should see a doctor,
and have it removed,
He much like me was always afraid
of the medical system, and his reluctance
over time became malignant.
Several major surgeries and 32 chemo treatments later,
he was without much of his vocal cords, and
salivary glands on one side of his neck,
while the flesh in that area hardened like stone.
But he settled into a life without
the things he loved most, food and drink.
Four weeks ago, after a birthday party with his daughter,
he was sorely tempted by a piece of leftover cake,
he had cheated on his feeding tube regimen
six times before, sneaking tastes of coffee and soft foods,
but this time death was dancing just outside his door.
He choked on that cake, and was able to regain his breath,
but after he went bed, he spent the night
coughing and gurgling, under the agony
of aspiration Pneumonia.
His wife and my sister who rushed over there
in the wee hours, called nine one one when they
found him not breathing, cold, clammy and gray.
Death was sitting unseen on his chest,
impinging on his ability to suck oxygen.
His blood oxygen level sunk to fifty,
for how long no one knows,
normal is one hundred, and he
should have sustained brain damage.
They rushed him to a hospital,
where we all waited for over two hours
for them to stabilize him.
It took an additional four hours
to get him a bed in ICU.
Then the true seriousness of his situation began.
He spent nine days on life support,
with a ventilator tube abrading
the right side of his throat.
Then when they tried to wean him off the vent,
the procedure failed, and they had to reinsert
the painful tube once more.
Daily suction was another necessary torture
to remove the fluid buildup in his lungs,
like a fish hooked on a line,
he gagged and coughed his way
through the vacuuming of his throat.
Death sat howling in a visitors chair,
at his struggles to embrace life.
Eventually he was weaned off of oxygen,
and was able to sit up and croak out words to us,
in his Godfather voice.
But then they decided to put a J-tube
into his small bowel, to replace the G-tube in his stomach.
The thinking was that this would help cut back
on his aspirations in the future.
Sadly during what was to have been a 30 minute surgery,
under twilight sedation and local anesthesia
he began coughing and moving around,
so they had to insert the vent once more.
This set back all of his vocal abilities,
by re-abrading his throat.
Plus his surgery ended up lasting
more then three hours.
Then death began Act two.
The doctor had ordered pain meds
on the day following surgery,
but the nursing staffed failed for some reason
to administer it to him for over 18 hours.
He had been stapled back together,
and every move caused him pain.
He was quite out of it, and could not
express his need through his pain,
and the tube in his throat.
We found out later about that hellish day he spent.
Meanwhile death was kicking him in the ass,
with 3 or four bedsores, after twenty days
on an air mattress bed.
Medicare would not order a mattress
that would prevent bedsores
until he actually had them.
I went out as soon as I knew and
bought a green tea, Aloe Vera and charcoal infused
ventilated 2.5 inch mattress pad of Memory Foam for his bed,
and also a memory foam pillow for his head.
$84.00 later my dad was floating on a cushion
that relieved all the pressure points.
His smile was priceless.
Medicare would have ordered egg crate foam,
which is abrasive, and then charged a couple
hundred dollars for the pleasure of insufficient protection.
They discharged my father too early,
they needed the bed, and so he was sent
to a nursing home nearby.
There he was placed in a 1970 hospital bed,
that had a crank to raise and lower his head and feet.
At the hospital he only needed to push a button
on his bed and it would raise and lower itself.
I asked them to let me put the memory foam
mattress on his bed, but they told me at
the nursing home that their policy forbid it.
It was not fireproof.
I was appalled and told them that nothing
made in 2009 in this country was flammable
as far as bedding is concerned,
yet they still refused to use it.
Patient comfort was overridden by policy control.
I also stopped a nurses aide while I was visiting him
in that hellhole, who came into his room
without gloves and a mask.
You see on top of all of his other miseries,
he had contracted mersa in the hospital
and we had to wear gloves and masks
whenever we visited him.
I told her she needed mask and gloves,
for his protection and hers,
Who knew what the last patient she visited
was infected with, or whether she even
had washed her hands.
Sadly that problem mattered little.
My dad in need of a bedpan rang his buzzer
forty or fifty times before a nurse responded
and by then it was too late,
he had soiled himself and his bedsores.
Fecal matter and open sores do not mix.
The nurse at the home noticed that the smell
of my father was similar to C-diff patients,
so she had blood drawn to do a culture,
and confirm it.
Then the doctor who was supposed to order P.R.
and suction for my father, failed to do so on day two
at the nursing home.
They also had no Jevity or Ensure to feed my dad
which is the only brands he can tolerate,
so they gave him something else instead,
which set off nausea and more diarrhea .
Subsequently he was rushed back to the hospital
by ambulance that night when he was having trouble breathing.
Death followed like a faithful puppy dog nipping at his heels.
Last night I visited him back at the hospital,
now in his fourth week of recovery??
He had spent the day in the E.R. waiting for a bed.
They had drawn ten more vials of blood
to do cultures and tests.
He was polka dotted with cotton balls
taped to his frail flesh.
When I got there he was in need of pain meds.
That was at 6:30 P.M..
By the time they got a doctor's order for meds
and then got the med from the pharmacy
it was 9:30 P.M.
He had not been fed all day, through his tube,
and when I left at nine thirty they still had not received
the Jevity he needed, that they had ordered
from dietary three hours earlier.
Suffice to say, I am not too happy with the systems.
He has three or four bedsores, Mersa, possibly C-diff,
plus post surgery Pneumonia, perhaps because Medicare
wanted him discharged as soon as possible.
So now we wait, but thankfully death
is on hold once more.
It is a thin, frail mistake riddled hold,
but it is at least a momentary respite for him and us.
I don't believe there is much of a chance
for an almost eighty year old man to survive
the complications of his plight,
through both the accidental and the negligent
procedures that he has faced and will face even more soon.
But I love this man we entrusted to those who
can heal him or at least give him some modicum
of comfort as he passes.
I understand mistakes are made,
I just never realized how many can occur
in four weeks of hospitalization.
He is not going back to that Nursing home,
we have what we hope is a better facility
if he makes it back out of the hospital again.
This hub is simply a forewarning of what you
can expect to deal with in our modern
medical treatment centers.
This is a great example of what the current
Medicare program offers, the program that most
republicans want to leave in place.
I can almost wish them all some bedsores,
some mersa, and C-diff so that maybe then
they can C-differently about the reforms
we truly need in this country and show some mercy
not mersa for those who now lie sore in bed.
This is but one story of one man ,
in agony many times over four weeks.
There are hundreds of thousands of similar
if not worse stories going on right now
all across this country.
There are also many many successes,
hopefully my father will be one of them, in the long run.
But I guess I want to warn you all, that if you
or a loved one goes into the hospital or a nursing home,
you must take an active, demanding role in their care,
lest you lose them to a careless mistake.
If a doctor comes to see them , tell them to demand
that he wash his hands before he treats them.
Nurses and aides too.
Match his family doctors request for meds
and tolerable foods, with the hospital staff.
Make sure if it is a prolonged stay,
that you provide something more than an air mattress
and daily turnings. Insist on it, buy it yourself, if need be.
I may still lose my dad to sepsis in his bedsores,or c-diff,
and they claimed the air mattress was the best thing for him,
and they turned him every four hours for three weeks.
We must take extraodinary measures
to prevent bedsores, beyond what Medicare and the hospitals offer.
I have leaned my lesson, it has been tattoed in the bruised viens
and blistered bottom of my precious dad.
I hope you can all fare better,
when the time comes for you to give death the finger.
Thanks for listening.~~~MFB III