Sunday, December 4, 2016

What's Next? Part Two............

Didn't I preface Part One with the command to never ask the question, 'What's Next?'  Let me check on that......yep, I sure did.  So then why didn't I heed my own warning?  Here I go again, airing more of the linens which should never see the light of day in polite company.

First, a little background on the week just past:  After working in the garden here on Tuesday, I paid an impromptu visit to Carl's folks.  They only live a country block away, approximately a mile,  and we are separated by a large woods and several private property lines.  My eighty-seven year old mother-in-law (MIL) has been having some health issues for years, primarily with painful feet.  She'd finally consented to using a walker in the last six months which should have been a clue to how bad she's feeling. 

The family  found out on Thanksgiving Day that my FIL had taken her to the emergency room the night before with swelling in her legs which she said was cellulitis. We were all alarmed but she assured everyone the swelling was only temporary and the prescribed antibiotics would fix everything.  I was a bit skeptical, though.  The swelling did not look good, but then, swelling rarely does.  

When I went to see my in-laws on Tuesday, it was clear she wasn't getting any better.  The antibiotics weren't going to be a fix after all.  With many phone calls, a new doctor and plan for treatment was lined up for Thursday which, coincidentally, was the same day (one hour apart) as my gynecological appointment.  Great.  The timing was awful, but what can you do?  I didn't want to cancel my procedures, I can't live in this Worry Limbo Land of mine forever, either.  

 Carl's sister wasn't able to go with her parents to their appointment due to an appointment of her own, so my BIL drove them in.  My FIL does still drive and insists he could do it; truth be told, we're all anxious.  Maybe he could, but I'm thirty years younger and I am not crazy about the heavy traffic.  He's 86 and has a very sick wife; let us young whippersnappers do the driving.  

Back to my situation; Carl drove me to my Ob/Gyn appointment and it went as well as can be expected.  After a bit of a chat, the doctor bid me drop my lower quadrant garments and don my sheet and she'd be right with me. At least the exam and endometrial biopsy was quick; lying on my back I searched for a spot on the ceiling to stare at so I could practice my Lamaze breathing.

"Hey!  You're tough!" the doctor said.   Those Lamaze classes were worth the money after all.  I actually managed not to flinch and slam my knees back together.  That's an accomplishment, right?  Ok, it's not something you can brag about in mixed company, but still.  It's something.

"Ok, I've got the samples I need and I'll be sending these in for screening.  Are you busy today?  Would you be able to come back in for an ultrasound in about an hour?" the doctor asked.

We agreed and wandered across the street from the gynecologist's office to the hospitals.   First we decided to check and see where my MIL's wound care appointment was going to be. The two hospitals are attached but not affiliated. They share common walls but not driveways; this was where I'd made my mistake back in February when I took Mom in to the ER, I saw an 'Emergency' sign and didn't realize I was at the wrong hospital until she was admitted.  I was stressed out and just wanted to get her help.  

Navigating in the hospital(s) is just as confusing for me, even Carl was turned around a few times, but we finally figured out where we needed to go for his mother.  We still had an hour and a half before my ultrasound, so we checked out the cafeteria in the first hospital for lunch.  Carl and I are very shy about new restaurants and the big lunchroom was intimidating.  We were almost lured in, but changed our minds at the last second because the food didn't smell very appetizing.  We decided to try the other hospital next door.  After a maze of hallways and elevators and a lot of walking, we took the plunge and ordered some food.  (I know, we're really pitiful, aren't we?)  

We took a seat by the window and looked down at the street below while we ate.  Carl was busy watching a crane installing some AC/heating equipment next door.  I wasn't feeling great but not any worse for wear which was good.  (I'd read some hum-dinger hair-raising stories on websites about endometrial biopsies; again, careful when Googling things, your results may vary.)  

We sat and chatted awhile and watched to see where we were supposed to place our trays and dirty dishes when we were done.  Observational skills are important, look and learn.  Aha, that's where they go, dishes done, off we went back down the elevators, through the halls across the street to the gynecologist's office. 

After a very short wait, the ultrasound technician summoned me and I was off to yet another procedure which is best left to the imagination.  At least it wasn't painful, just awkward.  The tech didn't say anything as she scrolled around on the computer screen, clicking on images and taking measurements.  I didn't say much either, I mean, she had me in a compromising position, but I did ask her how many older women she sees on a daily basis.  

"A lot," she said.

"Do the issues ever end with us women?" I asked.

"No, I don't think so.  Sometimes it really does seem like we got the short end of the deal, doesn't it?" 

"Yes, no shortage of worries, that's for sure," I said.

Shortly afterward it was over.  After I dressed again, the tech took Carl and I through the maze of hallways and showed us the door. Just as we were leaving, the technician said, "Doctor will be calling you in a few days with the results.  Don't worry too much," and she smiled reassuringly.   (I'll take that as a sign she didn't see anything too far out of the ordinary.  Hey, a girl can hope, can't she?)

We decided to leave our car parked in the doctor's office lot and walked back across the street to the hospitals again.  We arrived just in time to find Carl's folks heading into her appointment with the nurse.

The nurse was a bit overwhelmed by the amount of people she had to deal with when we got to the exam room.  Carl opted to stand and my FIL and I were seated.  When my MIL's legs were exposed, Carl and I were both shocked.  This was definitely more than a case of sore feet.  Her legs were terribly swollen and dark red with an open wound on her left calf muscle.  

Sitting in the exam room viewing the extent of what she's been suffering, it was hard to believe she could have gone this long without saying something.   But unfortunately, she has always had a strong tendency to deny things she doesn't want to face.  We have never had a close relationship, but my heart hurt seeing her condition.   

When the doctor came in, the verdict eventually turned out to be a lack of circulation to the lower extremities.  There was no diagnosis given yet, but MIL has been set up with an appointment to test for circulation and heart issues this coming Thursday.  Her blood pressure is sky-high and she is at risk of a stroke, but they want the infection cleared up first if they can.

The doctor also said, "It is time for her to move to assisted living."  Neither of my in-laws seemed to grasp the seriousness of the situation or what the doctor was proposing.  My FIL is still working as an ornamental iron craftsman and even yet, still taking on jobs for people.  He doesn't hear very well, so I don't know if he heard what the doctor said or not.  I didn't say a word, but Carl's eyes met mine across the exam room.  Now what? 

The first matter to tend to is the open wound.  The doctor asked who would be in charge of overseeing the wound care since the bandages need to be changed every twenty-four hours, and then looked directly at me.  

I admit I wasn't ready for this; I take care of my own ninety-six year old mother every day, which also includes her finances, shopping, laundry, and house maintenance, though she does still handle her own hygiene for the most part and cooking.   Can I take on another one?  Or two??

Then I panicked and thought who knows what's going on with my own health since an hour before I'd just crawled off the exam table myself, but.....what do you say?   

My FIL said he could handle it, but he's eighty-six years old.  I said we'd figure out something and paid extra-close attention when they showed us how.  My MIL's leg is causing her a great deal of pain; again, I was shocked she was able to endure it as long as she did. She was sent home with a huge bag of wound supplies, gauze and special bandages and back home she went.

We walked hand in hand out of the hospital, ugh, what a day.  One thing I realized I've done wrong in my life is not appreciating every day.  As we drove home in the gathering darkness, I saw a young girl walking down a sidewalk, looking bored.  I thought back to how many times I've taken boring days for granted not realizing how lucky I was not to be sick or worried (or worried sick.)

I don't know how this is all going to turn out.  To say I'm overwhelmed is an understatement, everything is up in the air at this point.  How do you make sure your elderly loved ones are adequately taken care of and make the right choices for them and yourself?  

After all in February 2016,  I was told to put my own mother in a home, too, but in the end, even with all the paperwork in hand and with my toe in the admissions office of the nursing home, I backed out and took my mother back to her own house.  Of course, that was no easy decision either, but installing the cameras in Mom's house did give me more peace of mind.  There are no guarantees we did the 'right thing', who even knows what the right thing is?  Every situation is different and can change at any time. 

When it comes to my mother, I'm her only surviving child, so the responsibility and decisions are solely mine.  Mom isn't dealing with open wounds, thank goodness, but her short-term memory is worsening.  I really don't have anything concrete in place when the next emergency comes along, but I do have some contact numbers for her and people I can call.  Sort of.  Ok, I admit it, I'm not totally prepared for every possible crisis.  Is anyone?

At least with Carl's parents there are still two children to share the burden, though we are the ones who live a mere mile away.  Carl's sister and brother-in-law met us at Carl's folk's house on Friday because I wanted them to see how bad MIL's leg is.  With my FIL at my side, we managed to change the dressing, but I know it was painful for her.  My FIL told me he knows he can handle the next changes by himself. Oh, the guilt. 

Their family is reeling from the sudden loss of Carl's brother, Larry, only a little over a month ago and now this.....there's apparently no shortage of misery to go around.  

All we can do is take it one day at a time.  My Al-Anon training prepared me to break it down to one minute at a time if necessary.  

You can do almost anything for one minute, right?   That is, as long as you remember to keep breathing.  

  (I think I should sign up for a Lamaze refresher course.)







Charade said...

I think you're doing quite well, considering the circumstances. While you deal with each crisis one minute at a time, please know that all your blog followers will deal with prayers and caring thoughts for you.

Alison said...

We're with you, Karen. In your circumstances, I would be unable to string words together to write a blog post, so I think you're doing well. Hugs!

FlowerLady Lorraine said...

Dear Karen ~ Oh my, your poor MIL. And my heart aches for you and Carl, and your FIL.

Love, hugs & prayers ~ FlowerLady

Karen said...

Charade, thank you for your prayers, I so appreciate it. Today was a little calmer, thank goodness; the prayers worked!

Alison, thank you for the hugs. I called the nurse at the doctor's office (who knows me from my frequent visits/calls) and told her all the elderly were ganging up on me. Thank goodness she has a sense of humor. But now my in-laws have changed clinics again, so I have to make some new contacts.

Rainey, Thank you for the love. It's been an almost surreal fall so far, let's hope winter brings some serenity.

Peonies & Magnolias said...

Sending you hugs and y'all are in our thoughts and prayers!!

Carol said...

Well your plate is certainly overflowing :( You are in my thoughts and prayers. Sending warm thoughts of healing and strength.

outlawgardener said...

Adding my voice to the chorus of support. They say that God never gives us more than we can handle so you're obviously one of the strongest people I know! Sending you prayers, hugs, and love across the miles.