Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Ambulance Run

I had to take a late-night ambulance ride the other night when my father fell down in his room.

It was about 2 am Tuesday morning and I heard this tremendous crash, falled my father's voice shouting out "Robert!"

I ran into his room and found him stretched out on the floor right next to his bed. His head was propped up against the night table and we found he had a nasty lump back there.

Thank God I had Edith, my dad's night aide, staying over with us. We just set up a baby monitor that night and it worked perfectly.

Edith and I got my dad off the floor and we checked for broken bones. He was not very responsive, but with the dementia that's not surprising. I debated calling an ambulance, knowing that I'd have to spend the rest of the night in the emergency room and then go to work the next day.

My father had a preliminary kind of stroke called a TIA during the summer and then a real stroke back in October. Both times he fell and both times I let him talk me out of calling an ambulance. This time would be different.

Given my father's age and medical condition, I don't think there's such a thing as hitting the panic button or over-reacting. Every thing now is pretty much an emergency, so I tried calling our local ambulance, which was closed, and then hit 911.

I gave the operator the details while Edith dressed my father. The ambulance showed up and the two EMT's--a young man and woman--could not have been nicer or more professional. They really put me at my ease.

I called my sister and told her what was going on. I told Edith to hold the fort and then hopped into the ambulance. It was all kind of surreal, like it was happening to someone else and I was just watching.

The female EMT was standing over my father, who was in a stretcher, and checking his vitals.

"How do you feel?" she asked him.

Upon hearing the word "feel" I immediately perked up.

"Be careful," I said, "he likes the ladies."

I heard the EMT make a little "ooo!" sound which told me I was too late and that my father had somehow managed to cop a feel while strapped onto the stretcher. The guy could show Houdini a thing or two.

This was my second sleepless night. On Sunday night, when I had no one to help me, my father began doing his late night hallway marches. He knocked on my door at some ungodly hour and wanted me to zip up his coat.

"Where are you going?" I asked.

"To get breakfast," he said.

I explained it was only 2 AM and that he should go back to bed. Of course he got up three more times after that.

When Monday morning rolled around I looked and felt like hell. I was trying to eat my breakfast, but my father stood over me, just staring. I explained that Mary, our daytime aide, would be coming in soon to make his breakfast. It didn't work and finally I stood up, took my bowl of oatmeal and went into the porch.

I was tired and angry and my father was like an infant. He wanted to eat and he wanted to do it right now. He kept on taking the coffee can out of the refrigerator and saying "Chock Full o' Nuts"--which pretty much describes my house now that I think of it--but I was so tired and pissed that I told to wait for Mary and stormed into the bathroom to take a shower.

"I told you this fifty fucking times!" I shouted.

It was a good thing I locked the door because I heard my father walking behind me and trying to open the door. I suspect he wanted to try and hit me and I would have been forced to ram his head into the toilet. Just kidding...

On The Ball

But I was better on Tuesday. I was calm and living in the moment--no worries about work, the holidays, or taking out the trash. I was doing my job.

We got into the ER and wheeled my dad into one of the little cubilces so the doctors could go to work on him. I warned the first nurse not to get too close and she heeded the warning. When another nurse came by I started to warn her, too.

"I already heard," she said.

Good news travels fast. The ER was amazingly quiet, but then this was a weekday, so there were not the usual weekend gunshot and stabbing victims, no OD's or car wreck victims. In our wing there was just one little old lady who, like my father, was sound asleep with her mouth wide open.

Time just kind of melts in the ER. There are no windows and with the lack of sleep I felt like I was levitating around the place. I had taken a book with me, but I couldn't focus too well on the type.

As my father slept I got a chance to play hero. A nurse had brought this rolling bureau over to the old lady's bed and began opening draw and draw and taking out various tubes. Well, Sir Issac Newton tells us that if you pull out enough of those heavy draws, the whole goddamn thing is going to tip over, which is exactly what happened.

I sprung into action, grabbing the bulky bastard and pulling it back up on its wheels, while the nurse quickly shut the drawers.

"I've done that," another nurse said.

The first nurse thanked me profusely and told me I was a life-saver. Hey, I didn't have much else to do.

One of the ER doctors showed up and asked me a bunch of questions about my father's health and medications and my answers were shamefully lame, even after all this time.

It turns out that while the EMT's recorded my father's meds, they did not take down the dosages. And then I forgot to bring his dentures, which meant they'd have to give him pulverized slop, instead of the regular slop.

I talked it over with the doctor and then decided to call Edith and ask her to come down to the hospital with the meds and the dentures. She was right on the ball, showing up at about 6 am all bundled up with her hat and boots.

I handed over my dad's teeth and meds and decided it was time to go. I told my dad we'd be back, though he was pretty much out of it.

As Edith and I walked out to the lobby, I dug out my cell phone to call a car service. The ER security guard, who didn't even seem to be listening, suddenly perked up.

"What car service are you calling?" He said. "Eastern? You'll be here till next week."

"I was going to call Your Car Service," I said.

"You'll be here to next week waiting for them, too," he said. "Let me call someone."

The guard picked up the phone and began speaking in rapid-fire Spanish. I was concerned about some scam, but then he told me the car was right outside. And he was right.

You have to figure that guard is getting a little kick-back for hooking up people with the car service, but who cares? This how life works and since we didn't get ripped off, I wasn't complaining.

It was still dark out and my neighborhood was quiet and lifeless. Normally, I would be getting up in an hour or so, but I planned to eat, sleep, and go in late.

I hit the deck when I got home and got a few hours sleep. That was on Tuesday and my father is supposed to come home today. I'm on vacation for the week, so I don't have to worry about work, but after so many hospital runs, all I think about is when will I have to do the next one.

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