i think it’s safe to say that, anytime the phone rings unexpectedly at 6:15 a.m., it’s probably not going to be good news. which was the case this past friday morning.
tripp picked up the home phone from the charger on his side of the bed and handed it over to me. i turned on my bed-side lamp…the caller ID was from hillcrest medical center. i answered the phone and on the other end of the line, a doctor was calling to let me know that my dad had been transported to the ICU and had been intubated and put on a ventilator. he told me my dad was in critical condition.
i immediately went on the search for my cleanest pair of sweatpants while trying to dial my parent’s phone number. my mom groggily answered the phone and i relayed the information the doctor had given me. about that time, the nurse on my dad’s floor at the hospital was calling my mom, so she switched over and i finished getting dressed. my called me back confirming what the doctor had told me…as i was fumbling to find some socks, mom said to me, “the nurse said that i needed someone to drive me to the hospital.”
by this time, tripp was up and heading to the shower. i kissed him goodby and went downstairs to the kitchen. i filled up my travel coffee mug, pulled my pink ball cap on over my ponytail, and locked the backdoor behind me. i backed my car out of the driveway and made my way to the highway for the 20 minutes drive to my parent’s house.
as i drove, i replayed the events of the day before over and over in my mind. mom had called me thursday morning to tell me that she was bringing daddy to the ER…he had been battling a chest cold all week, but it finally got to the point where he was having trouble breathing…he was experiencing what he calls “the elephant on my chest”. the ER confirmed that he had developed pneumonia in both lungs and the doctor informed them that he needed some extra support to help him get his breathing and blood oxygen stats back on track. thursday afternoon my dad was admitted to the hospital.
it was around 7:30 or so thursday evening when i left the hospital. my dad had just finished eating his dinner – a turkey burger with a side of couscous/quinoa salad…my dad was not so not impressed, but considering he hadn’t eaten all day, he wasn’t going to complain. too much. my mom left the hospital not long after me and texted me when she got home. said daddy was resting comfortably and was watching tv when she left.
“he was doing ok when we left…what in the world happened??” that’s the question i kept asking in my mind on the drive to pick up my mom.
by this time it was a little before 7:00 a.m. the sun was coming up and all the way to mom’s i watched as the first rays of light leaked into the indigo sky. as the sun broke up over the horizon, there was,at first, a slight blush on the clouds. but as it continued to rise up, the entire eastern sky was soon ablaze in gold and crimson.
if you have read my blog for very long, you might know that i have a thing for sunrises and sunsets. to me they are a reminder of a good and loving God…a faithful God…merciful and trustworthy. and to have this brilliant sunrise in my face on my entire drive felt like God was there with me. and it was a comfort to feel His presence with me and giving me strength and courage in my hour of need.
once i got to mom’s, i helped her get her stuff together and we turned around and made the trip back to the hospital. the morning rush hour was in full swing, but we managed to make it to the hospital by 7:45. i dropped mom my mom off at the front entrance and then parked my car. i made the short walk up to the entrance and then followed the maze through the hospital and up the elevators and found my way to my dad’s room on the ICU.
i turned the corner, and through the sliding glass door i saw the ICU nurse explaining my dad’s situation to my mom. once i walked in, i saw my dad.
the tubes, the wires, the machines….it was shocking…..i have never witnessed anyone hooked up to a ventilator. it took my breath away. and for a moment, i was afraid and i wanted to cry. but i remembered the sunrise….i took a deep breath, and turned my attention to the kind and caring nurse, nikki, who was checking the wires and lines connected to my dad. she explained that he was completely sedated so that he would not attempt to remove the ventilator tube. she showed us the giant mits on his hands….one more level of protection against being able to pull out the tube….and how if those didn’t work, he would have to be restrained.
once my mom and i got settled and up to speed with where we were, i went downstairs to floor below to find donna, my dad’s nurse from the night before. thankfully, she had not left yet and was able to shed some light on what had happened overnight… to help my mom and me fill in the gaps.
donna explained that she had gone in to check on my dad at 2:30 a.m. he was receiving a breathing treatment (he was getting them every six hours) and seemed to be doing well. but around 4:30 a.m. he was having trouble breathing again. since he was not able to having another breathing treatment, donna called in the doctor who ordered a steroid shot. they waited for a few minutes for the shot to take effect, but my dad continued to struggle to breath. it was then that the doctor felt it was necessary to take him to the ICU to place him on a bi-pap machine (sort of like those machines that help with snoring/sleep apnea) to get his breathing under control. during transport however, my dad started vomiting which presented the added risk of aspirating this into his lungs. so given the state of my dad’s breathing, his decreased oxygen saturation, and the current status of his blood tests, the doctor made the call to intubate my dad and place him on the ventilator.
okay…so this is how we got here.
as the morning went on – i swear time seems to evaporate in the hospital…one minute it is 8:00 and the next minute it’s 10:45 – a myriad of doctors, nurses, and techs cycled through my dad’s room. nikki continued to monitor the machines and my dad’s pulmonologist was brought in to access his condition (my dad has asthma which was a huge factor in his chest cold escalating into pneumonia).
one of nikki’s priorities friday morning, was to find the ‘sweet spot’ in my dad’s sedation. she wanted to keep him comfortable and prevent him from trying to remove his ventilator tube, but she wanted to be able to wake him and have him follow some simple commands. this turned out to be a challenge on friday. so he stayed completely sedated.
my mom spent the morning updating friends and family on my dad’s condition. she kept in close contact with my brother who was driving a load back to oklahoma from cheyenne, wyoming…driving as fast as legally possible and for as long as his log book would allow.
later that morning, my mom’s friend paula came to visit. i went and got us all some food although none of us really felt like eating. we sat out in the waiting area while they ran some tests on my dad. while we waiting and talked, my mom decided that she would let paula take her home – she had rushed out of the house so fast and wanted to get a few things so that she could spend the night at the hospital. plus this way she could get her car and bring it up to the hospital as well. so after mom left, i went back and sat in my dad’s room with him.
there was, as always, a frenzy of activity around the nurses station. and in my dad’s room there were the rhythmic sounds of all the various equipment at work….the gentle drone of the ventilator, the regular hum of the blood pressure cuff, and the alternating fill and release of the circulation cuffs around my dad’s calves. but even still, it was peaceful. and so i took a few quiet moments to text my friends…to share with them what happened and to ask for their prayers.
my mom got back to the hospital around 3:30 friday afternoon. during the course of the afternoon they were able to lower the amount of oxygen my dad was receiving. he got his regular doses of antibiotics and steroids. nikki came in to check on him periodically. she assured us that things were going well….”baby steps”….that’s what she said. in the ICU it’s baby steps. and daddy was moving in the right direction.
i left the hospital around 4:30 and came home to a big hug from tripp. he asked about my dad and i filled him in on the day’s events. i called kelsey and updated her as well. then later tripp and i went to dinner. we sat at the bar so that we could get in and out quickly….the drunk couple sitting next to me was especially annoying given the circumstances. about halfway through our meal, we placed an order to go to bring back to my mom at the hospital.
as we made our way to ICU, i showed tripp all of my landmarks for finding my way around – south elevators to the sixth floor, go straight at the restrooms by the sign with the big, green leaf. past the wall of certificates, right at the big painting.
by this time, it was shift change and we met our night nurse, chris. my dad was down to 40% on the respirator which was another baby step in the right direction. and given his overall lung improvement, they felt confident that they would be able to remove the ventilator tube on saturday…we all breathed a huge sigh of relief.
around 9:30 that evening, chris came in to check on my dad. and then she directed her attention to my mom…she was prescribing some very sincere, but tough love. chris urged my mom to go home to get some rest, and after a few convincing arguments, my mom realized that it was for the best. chris promised to call if anything changed and she promised “i’ll take care of him like he’s my dad.”
i reached over the hospital bed and gingerly hugged my dad, and then i watched as my mom kissed his forehead and squeezed his hand. i put my arm around her as we walked out towards the elevators. then tripp and i walked her to her car. we said, “i love you” and promised each other that we would try to rest as much as possible.
to be continued…