Thursday, September 26, 2013

Another Day, Another Visit to the ER

I am not making this up.

Soap opera writers are starting to call me for story ideas. I expect my evil, identical twin to show up any minute now. (Okay, that part I'm making up.)

Many thanks to Richard's brother, Jim, who spent his
afternoon in the ER with Richard
Richard normally has swelling in his lower legs. He wears compression socks to manage it and recently ordered one of those nifty compressor machines that hospitals use because we noticed his legs were getting a bit more swollen than usual.

And who doesn’t want more medical equipment in their house?

Before getting this handy new device, Richard’s legs swelled up overnight and turned a horrible color of reddish purple. Not a bad color for the walls but on legs, not so much.

Oh, then he had excruciating pain in his upper thigh.

Here’s a tip: Do not Google these symptoms. Especially don’t click on “images.”

I did and Richard’s legs (and worse) were staring at me from my screen. 

Coincidentally, he had a follow-up with his pain management doctor this morning who suggested he immediately see his primary doctor for an ultrasound.  The pain management doctor called the primary doctor who, once Richard was back home, called Richard to tell him to go to the Emergency Room which is actually five minutes from the pain management doctor. Good thing Richard had driven 20 minutes back to the house. . . 

(I don’t understand why there wasn’t a directive by the pain management doctor to go directly to the emergency room but I’m tired of trying to figure out why he does the things he does.)

The suspicion was Deep Vein Thrombosis which could have been a result of his recent hospitalization. The doctors were all almost certain he had a blood clot so he had blood work taken, x-rays done and, finally, an ultrasound.

For those counting: Richard and Robert have both been in the ICU this month and Richard can now add another visit to the ER.

Three trips and/or stays in the hospital. This month.

This equals about 3,467, 989 trips from home to work to hospitals back to home to pick up Robert and back to the hospital. 

I know there are people who have it much worse than we do and I am not trying to be ungrateful, but I can’t help but think:


Thankfully, the ultrasound did not show any signs of a blood clot.  Richard had his water pills increased and was told he had severe edema and to follow up with his primary care physician. 

Richard is home now and was well enough to play with the dogs and assist with Robert.

Which is a good thing because I am busy preparing for the exorcism . . . 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Grateful for Great Care

Some people review restaurants, movies, cruises or even shopping experiences.

Me, I think I could make a career out of reviewing hospitals.
Robert on the mend in the MICU
Robert has been hospitalized three times over the last year and a half – all at the UC Davis Medical Center.  (He has also been to the emergency room of another hospital for a couple of falls when he lived at New Home but those were not overnight stays.)

I have come to expect great care from the UC Davis Med Center and I couldn’t be more grateful. 

When I changed Robert’s primary care physician from the New Home “doctor” (yes, I used quotes) to a UCD Health System physician, I didn’t know what to expect.  I was concerned because Robert is not a private pay patient – he is on MediCal and Medicare so I wondered what type of care he would get. (A stereotype I had in my head that I am not proud of.)

When we first visited this doctor, though, I thought I had hit the jackpot. She was kind; she listened to me about Robert and even wrote down the name of an online shoe store that she loves.

Now that’s my kind of doctor.

When she went on leave and Robert had to see other physicians, I never expected to get that same level of care. Again – wrong! Robert has seen two other doctors and both have been thorough and caring (although no one else has given me tips on where to get great shoes).

One of them even explained that she had read Robert’s records before our appointment but wanted to read them in more detail after meeting with us and politely asked if we could wait.

Um, you read his records and you want to read more?  Oh yes, we’ll wait. We will be happy to wait.

As a comparison, for years I felt like I was meeting my own physician for the first time each time I had an appointment. (My doctor is through a different medical group.)

There are many reasons I am grateful to the UC Davis Medical Center and I want to share what they are doing right!

Robert’s first bout of pneumonia and sepsis landed him in the UCDMC for a week.  He was in a regular room and the nurses were all terrific. My husband or I stayed with Robert during the day and through the shift changes to be sure there was a smooth transfer of care but it always went seamlessly. 

Round two of pneumonia and sepsis happened last April and, while I was still grateful for the good care he received, there were hiccups. An ER nurse didn’t even look at me while I talked to him (much less listened to me) and actually gave Robert a duplicate of a seizure medication I had already given him at home an hour before. (He was a better listener after that incident but I was/am still bitter about it.) 

During that stay, once Robert was out of the MICU, he was moved from room to room on a daily basis until he was discharged.  I never could connect with his doctor until I had the nurse call the doctor and I talked with her on the phone.  Even she didn’t listen to my concerns! Note to medical professionals:  LISTEN TO THE CAREGIVER!  (Phew – just had to get that out.)

Robert’s most recent hospitalization was a dream come true (well, except for that whole pneumonia and sepsis business). 

The personnel in the emergency room (nurses, doctors, x-ray tech) were fantastic. They asked questions. They were concerned and caring. They were respectful of Robert and me and my husband.

They listened.

They actually made me feel as if I was a member of the team caring for Robert. Which is awesome because I am

The decision was made to transfer Robert to a regular room which seemed reasonable to me based on his vitals.  The nurse caring for him on the regular floor kept a close eye on him and very quickly realized he was going downhill.  She notified the right people and we had a rapid response doctor looking at Robert and then calling the MICU team for evaluation.

It was obvious the systems in place for quality patient care were working properly. There are protocols in place which were followed to the letter as far as I could tell.

Robert was transferred to the MICU in short order where the great care continued.  The team of doctors who visited Robert actually talked with me each day and asked questions as well as explained what was going on.  (By contrast, the team in April discussed each patient outside the patient room and I had to try to eavesdrop to get any real information.)

Robert was moved back to a regular room once he was stable enough. He stayed in the same room for several more days which I think is a very important part of his recovery.  He had fantastic care from the nurses and I was able to talk to the doctors who had been involved in his care from the beginning when he was admitted to the emergency room. 

One of the most important aspects of Robert’s care at the hospital, and one for which I am extremely grateful, was the willingness to adhere to his medication schedule.  I get it – it’s not easy since Robert has seven times throughout the day he is getting medication.  One of the first things I do when Robert is hospitalized is hand out a copy of a one page contact and medication schedule – to the ER personnel, to the nurses once he is in the MICU then again to the nurses once he is in a regular room. Everything you need to know about Robert is listed on this sheet of paper (except the fact that he loves Family Feud and Jeopardy). 

When he was hospitalized in April, Robert was not kept on his regular medication schedule no matter how many people I gave the med list to or how often I went through it with then nurses. The nurses actually told me they weren’t able to adhere to his regular schedule. I wondered how we could evaluate his progress if his medication schedule was not kept the same (I don’t even think they gave him all of the medications he was supposed to have). If he doesn’t get better or develops a new problem how can we determine if it’s the bacteria or a new problem or because his medications were changed?

I was concerned the same thing would happen this time so asked one nurse if she needed me to go over his medication schedule. While I was offering to give her the medication list and schedule, she produced a copy of it and asked if it was what I was about to give her. The nurse who had been with Robert before her had given her a copy.

She acted like it was the most natural thing in the world to listen to the caregiver.

Oh my god. I almost hugged her. (Instead, I thanked her profusely.)

Robert eventually improved and was discharged after the doctor and I talked at length. I was also contacted by the discharge coordinator and told Robert qualified to get physical therapy at home. In the three times he was hospitalized, this was the first I had heard of this and was thrilled when she told me it might take a few days to set up but that he could have it at home. Fantastic! Sign us up.

Robert has beat pneumonia and sepsis not once, not twice but three times.  I am well aware this is nothing short of a miracle considering sepsis is the leading cause of deaths in US hospitals. 

Robert may have been given a miracle (or three) but I know that much of that miracle is due to the outstanding care he received at the UC Davis Medical Center, especially during this most recent visit. 

To the doctors, nurses, physical, speech and respiratory therapists and staff as well as administrators (for developing and implementing those helpful protocols):

Thank you from the bottom of my heart. 

And, to share Robert’s words (words he repeated to every single doctor, nurse, technician, therapist and custodian who came into contact with him whenever they left the room):

“Goodbye and God Bless You.”  

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Sepsis: What to Know

In the last 15 months, Robert has had pneumonia and sepsis three times.  He was hospitalized in May 2012, April 2013 and just recently, September 2013.  In Robert’s case, these seem to not only go hand in hand but come on quickly with little to zero warning.

During Robert’s bout with pneumonia and sepsis this past April, he actually went into Septic Shock.  His blood pressure dropped so low the medical personnel in the Emergency Room had to start a central line (an IV in the neck) and give Robert Norepinephrine which treats low blood pressure but needs a big vein to go into.

Sepsis scares the heck out of me since it is so serious and seems to come on so quickly.  Fortunately, we live in an area where the teaching hospital Robert goes to for his medical care has made “reducing deaths from severe sepsis and septic shock an institutional priority.” 

In April, we were asked if Robert would participate in a research study aimed at protocols of care for early septic shock. Robert has volunteered to be in numerous research studies over the years for various epilepsy drug and medical devices so I knew he would want to participate in this study. He was not able to consent but since I have Durable Power of Attorney for him, I consented on his behalf.

Once Robert was alert enough, I told him he was in a study to help other people with septic shock.  He was happy to help.

Because Robert seems to be susceptible to pneumonia and sepsis, I have researched both and been given information by the hospital.

I also learned that September 13 was World Sepsis Day and September is Sepsis Awareness Month (who knew?).

As caregivers, the more we know about sepsis, the better prepared we can be in order to advocate for our loved one with a diagnosis of sepsis. (The following information was gathered from several sources.)

What is sepsis?

1.     A reaction to an infection throughout the bloodstream.
2.     Sepsis does not occur by itself; it is a reaction to an infection (such as pneumonia, urinary tract infection or even Appendicitis);
3.     Bacterial infection is the most common cause but sepsis can be caused by a viral or fungal infection as well;

A few facts about sepsis:

1.     Sepsis is the leading cause of death in U.S. hospitals;
2.     750,000 Americans per year will get sepsis;
3.     Between 28 and 50 percent of people with severe sepsis will die (more than U.S. deaths from prostate cancer, breast cancer and AIDS combined);

What are the symptoms of sepsis? (Be aware that while many symptoms can be the same in both children and adults, there can be differences)

Symptoms in Children:

1.     Fever or low body temperature;
2.     Chills;
3.     Fast heart rate;
4.     Breathing changes;
5.     Skin rash;
6.     Less urine output;
7.     Confusion, lethargy;
8.     Nausea, vomiting;
9.     Shaking;
10. Warm skin;

Symptoms in Adults:

1.     Fever or low body temperature;   
2.     Chills;
3.     Fast heart rate;
4.     Rapid breathing;
5.     Skin rash;
6.     Less urine output;
7.     Confusion or light-headedness;
8.     Cool, clammy skin or red flushed skin;

I have found with Robert he develops a skin rash, is confused and usually too weak to stand on his own, has a fever, high pulse rate and low blood pressure. This last time in the hospital he also developed severe shakes which was quite unnerving to see.

Unfortunately, many of these symptoms are symptoms of less severe conditions so it can be difficult to tell if this actually indicates sepsis. It is best to contact the doctor when these symptoms occur or go straight to the emergency room to be on the safe side. 

Treatment of sepsis:

1.     It’s important to start treatment for the infection as soon as possible before the sepsis becomes so bad that it causes organ failure.
2.     Often, the treatment will be in the Intensive Care Unit with a broad spectrum of antibiotics to treat the underlying infection;
3.     IV fluids as well as oxygen is also often used in treatment of sepsis;

Because Robert has had pneumonia and sepsis several times, Richard and I know how this develops in him. Robert gets congested, he develops a cough and runs a fever. By this point, I have taken him to the doctor and he is put on antibiotics. His symptoms clear up but then strike again and in lightning speed his blood pressure drops, he runs another fever and he becomes weak and confused.

Because pneumonia is the culprit each time, his doctor is trying to figure out the cause. Robert has undergone testing and sees a lung specialist next month.  In the meantime, we are on the lookout for lingering pneumonia and its unwelcome companion, sepsis. 

I realize this information about sepsis may seem scary but the more information we have as caregivers, the better advocates we can be for our loved one.

Please share your experience with sepsis in the comment section.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Robert’s Turn in the Hospital

October cannot come soon enough.

My husband, Richard, was in the hospital for four days after Labor Day (most spent in the ICU), thanks to an inadvertent drug overdose by his doctor.
Robert when he was in the ICU - feeling better!
Robert was pretty sniffly that week and I half-joking said to my daughter that Robert was going to end up in the hospital by the following week.


By the time Richard was home and recovering, Robert’s sniffles turned into a cough. I took him to the doctor on Friday who prescribed antibiotics but by Friday evening, he was pretty sick. I slept on the family room couch (in Robert’s room) and woke up every two hours to take his vitals.

He has had pneumonia and sepsis before so I knew what to watch for: extremely low blood pressure and high pulse rate. His pulse rate was high but the blood pressure remained in the “okay” range.  Robert’s fever spiked around 2:00 a.m. and I debated about calling the paramedics but the fever came down with Tylenol.

Through the night, his congestion worsened and his lungs sounded awful.  I tried to get him to cough up whatever was in there and by morning, even had him get up to get cleaned up. He was weak but not as bad off as he was last April. 

When Robert is sick, he progresses to “oh crap” very quickly so I called the paramedics and got ready for their arrival. Richard and I sat Robert in his walker in the front room, making it easier for the paramedics to access him. I also got my handy cheat sheet ready to hand to the EMTs.

Robert was in the Emergency Room for a few hours and sent for x-rays. Once he got back from x-rays, his blood pressure started dropping and he was significantly less alert. I notified the staff about the difference and they gave him more fluids while preparing to send him to a regular room.

Once Robert was transferred, it didn’t take long for the nurse to realize he should be in ICU. She called the Rapid Response team who called ICU and he was transferred again. 

All the while, I am talking to the staff about their protocols and what constitutes “sepsis” (a blood pressure with the systolic number below 90 is one trigger for a diagnosis of sepsis).  I am no nurse but I do want to know what to watch for at home and want to add to my “advocacy arsenal” for the future.  So I take notes and listen and soak up as much information as possible.

Robert was in the ICU from Saturday afternoon until Monday mid-morning. He is now in a regular room and will most likely be in the hospital the rest of the week.

I know he’s feeling better because he is asking for a chocolate shake! He is still on a clear liquid diet but as soon as he can eat regular food, we will bring him his favorite drink.

Richard and I have been taking shifts at the hospital so we don’t miss any information from the doctors or respiratory therapists. Robert is not a reliable self-reporter so it’s important we are there to let the nurses and doctors know if he’s having any problems.

(No matter what, Robert will say he is “excellent” when asked.  That’s not exactly helpful or accurate when he’s lying in the ER with a fever of 102 and pneumonia.) 

I think we all need scorecards to keep track of what’s happening so here’s a recap:

Richard was in the hospital four days; Robert has been in for five days so far for a total of nine days spent in the hospital this month and counting;

Robert has had pneumonia and sepsis three times in sixteen months (twice in the past five months);

Our puppy has torn up countless newspapers because he’s confused why his routine is messed up; Where’s Dad? Where’s Robert? Where’s Mom?

Robert is several days behind on eating Rocky Road ice cream and chocolate shakes.

Me? I’m going to have a spa day every day for a month when this is all over.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Robert’s Sister Goes to the Movies: Identity Thief

It was a movie watching extravaganza one hot weekend in August.  On Saturday night, Richard and I joined Robert to watch a movie.  We had pizza and salad for dinner and gathered around the television in the family room. Robert was able to peacefully enjoy his dinner because I shielded his food from our ever-growing puppy.
Identity Thief (2013) Poster
Identity Thief (2013) Poster

Taz is getting much better about leaving us alone when we eat at the dinner table but it’s really just too much for him to handle when we eat in the family room.  Oh the smells! And everything is sooo close! Please, please, please drop something he seems to plead at Robert’s feet.

After eating a few bites of his combination pizza and doing a bit of thinking, Robert decided he wanted to watch a comedy.  Richard and I scrolled through the list of movies to rent on our television and landed on “Identity Thief.” It looked cute enough plus Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy were in it. It had the potential to be pretty darn funny. 

Early on, it seemed the concept was a bit of a stretch (woman steals man’s identity; man travels several states away to confront this woman and bring her to justice). There were several very funny scenes but just as many raunchy scenes and way too many unbelievable plot points.

The best part of the movie was that Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy were in it!  Cam (Eric Stonestreet) from Modern Family was also in it but his scene with Melissa was too over the top for me (and might be a tad embarrassing for a caregiver watching with their caree – especially if it’s their mom or dad).

The movie is aptly rated R. “Identity Thief” was released in 2013 so the price is still a bit steep for purchase ($14.99 on Amazon). I would recommend renting it instead so you’re only paying around $4.99

Robert laughed a lot during the movie since there was a lot of physical comedy. He deemed the movie “excellent” but I am only going to give it two and a half out of five scoops of Rocky Road. 

Sorry, Jason & Melissa!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

What Love Is

With Richard in the ICU due to a “pocket fill” of his intrathecal infusion pump device (causing an overdose of Fentanyl), we didn’t have much of a chance to celebrate our anniversary.  The best gift I received was Richard coming home the afternoon of our 16th anniversary.

Since Richard has been home, I have been unusually nice to him (you know, because of that whole near death experience).
Love is . . . having fun! 
It’s starting to freak him out.

My excessive niceness is no doubt due to the fact that this was so unexpected, so serious and so frightening. I had never even heard of a “pocket fill” with this pain pump device so always thought of his refills as routine. He has the larger pump (40 ml) so only has to get it refilled every 60 days or so.  It also means more medication to fill in the pump – or to accidentally fill into his abdomen.

So while I am in this lovey-dovey mood (and since I didn’t get Richard a present), I thought I would write about our own experience and what love means to us.

It just so happens today is his birthday so Happy Birthday, Richard and Happy (belated) Anniversary! 

What Love Is:

Love is . . . blending two families together and seeing three smart, funny, productive citizens come of it.

Love is . . . going to the pound to pick out a dog to add to the family and voting on his name.

Love is . . . going to bed mad. Even waking up mad and staying mad (sometimes for quite a while) but knowing eventually things will be better. Whoever said “don’t go to bed mad” wasn’t married.

Love is . . . not noticing the grey hairs or extra weight or a wrinkle or two.

Love is . . . giving me flowers once a week for a year as a first anniversary present (he’s a lot mushier than I am).

Love is . . . accepting that I won’t be near as mushy as he can be.

Love is . . . reassuring him that I am not going anywhere when his pain and various medications make him – well, awful - to the kids or me.

Love is . . . going with him to doctor appointments and advocating for a better pain solution (a decade ago and again now).

Love is . . . not getting too angry when Rachel and I brought home another cat.

Love is . . . making me a mocha every day – even if it’s because he knows how grumpy I am without my caffeine.

Love is . . . giving up our “empty nest” to take care of Robert.

Love is . . . walking on the beach hand in hand.

Love is . . . sitting in the emergency room with me when my appendix was ready to burst.

Love is . . . sitting in the ICU with you after your doctor gave you an accidental overdose of Fentanyl.

Love is . . . holding you when you didn’t think you could handle much more pain.

Love is . . . being there with me the night my mom died.

Love is . . . letting me pick out the paint colors for the house and me letting you think you had some say in it.

Love is . . . a glance.

Love is . . . watching all the seasons of NCIS – in about six months.

Love is . . .surprising me with an exercise bike just because I wanted one (but still not commenting about the extra weight).

Love is . . . being so angry at each other that you wonder how you will even make it one more day. But you do. And then you make it another day and then another. And pretty soon, you realize that love isn’t all about butterflies, roses and rainbows; it’s about commitment.

Love is . . . holding hands while falling asleep, even with a bed full of two dogs and a cat.

Love is . . . not knowing what will come next but knowing we will be together when it does.

Happy birthday & anniversary, Richard! 

Love you.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Choosing Pain or Taking a Risk

Richard survived the unintended Fentanyl overdose and was released on Friday - our 16th anniversary and Robert’s birthday.  It certainly was a day to celebrate!

What a difference a year can make.
Dinner in Rome - 2012
A year ago, we were in Rome and then on a cruise to France, Spain and Italy again. It was the trip of a lifetime (after a year, I can forget about the pain Richard was in after the flights, the lost luggage and all the extra activity).

No, this year my husband was lying in ICU because his doctor inadvertently filled his abdomen (instead of his subcutaneous intrathecal pain pump) with 40 ml of Fentanyl.

Yes, 40 ml.

Richard not only has the pain pump but has the “big boy.” I talked to the doctor in charge of the clinic (the one who has his name on the door) and he explained what happened called a “pocket fill.”  It’s rare, he said, and has happened twice since he started using the pumps.

After doing research and friends sending me information, this is apparently a known risk for these devices and there is a recall on them. The company doesn’t recommend removing them but developed extra precautions to reduce the risk of the pocket fills.

Note to company: they didn’t work (although I have no idea if the doctor even followed these “extra precautions”).

Last week Richard was going through extreme withdrawals and was miserable. We knew what would come next – the pain.  Since the pump refill didn’t actually happen, his pump doesn’t have any medication in it. 

This thing, as mad as I am about this ordeal right now, has changed Richard’s life. Before the pump, he had to control his pain with extreme amounts of strong oral narcotics.

He couldn’t drive; he had wild mood swings; he was grumpy and when he wasn’t grumpy, he was sleeping.

Good times.

A decade later, he still talks about not ever wanting to put the kids or me through that again. To him, he is secondary in the equation. He would love to be out of pain but, more than that, he doesn’t want to be that person again with his family.

I tell him that it is okay, that period of our life is behind us. The kids and I all understand what was happening. It was difficult but it’s over.

Now the pain is back. Extreme pain. Debilitating pain that stops him in his tracks and has my husband in tears.

The pump is not functioning and he is feeling the full effects of life without it. He cannot get comfortable; he cannot sleep yet he can barely get out of bed.  He cannot do much of anything except try to relieve his pain with a heating pad, heat wraps, a TENS unit, some Advil and a few of his Hydrocodone.

He has lay down in a tub of warm water; showered several times so the warm water can ease the pain.

Richard is usually boisterous and loud with an inner monologue that has no understanding of the concept of “inner.”

Now he is quiet.

He speaks softly and not often.

This is not my husband.

Unfortunately, we have not yet been able to find a different doctor who works on these pumps or who might have a different pain solution for him. Richard has to choose between living with this pain while we search for a new doctor or go back to the same pain clinic that put him in the ICU.

The lead doctor was not the one who overdosed Richard so Richard has agreed to return to the clinic but only having the lead doctor work on his pump (“routine” refills and everything). 

We had suspected the pump was malfunctioning before all of this and have been pushing for months to get that figured out. Richard was experiencing achy joints and all sorts of ailments (many symptoms of withdrawal) so the doctor suggests an MRI dye study to view the pump and see if it is working.

That is scheduled for Wednesday at 6:30 a.m. Because we have Robert, Richard’s mom will take Richard to the appointment and I will finish getting Robert ready for Day Program and then meet them at the clinic.

Richard has to be put under anesthesia for the dye study so he needs someone with him all day. I’ve taken the day off from work but I suspect his mom won’t leave his side until he wakes up.

This makes me nervous but I know Richard wants to be out of pain. Let’s see what is going on with the pump and then discuss other pain control options with this doctor. If Richard can get some sort of pain control then we can continue our search for another pain management doctor.

This is a risk and anyone who knows me, knows I am very risk-adverse. However, I know Richard would not make this choice if he was able to find some other way to get out of pain. The dye study itself won’t get him out of pain but it is the first step in that direction.

I’m sure everyone is shaking their heads and thinking we are crazy but this pain has to stop.

The quiet is starting to freak me out.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Robert’s Sister Goes to the Movies: Happy Feet

Before Richard was in the hospital but after my stint as a caregiving cheerleader to Robert with those pesky socks, we had a movie weekend at home.

Happy Feet (2006) Poster
Happy Feet (2006) Poster
“Identity Thief” was on the agenda for Saturday night and “Happy Feet” was our Sunday afternoon entertainment.

For someone who loves movies as much as I do I am woefully behind in my viewing of popular movies.  I mean, is there anyone besides me who hasn’t seen “Happy Feet?”

“Happy Feet” is a movie about Emperor Penguins who are pretty much required to sing if they want to find their soul mate. One young penguin, Mumble, can’t sing but, boy, can he dance!  No one appreciates this skill, though, so he is deemed an outcast and kicked out of his homeland.

Poor guy! He even falls in love with another young penguin but he i sure she won’t love him because he can’t sing. He does enjoy dancing so much he just can’t stop and teaches others his nifty moves wherever he goes. 

While on his adventure once he has been exiled, he becomes a hero with his dancing abilities.

There is a strong environmental message in the movie which isn’t a bad thing but it is a bit too heavy-handed for me.  Of course, this was released in 2006 not too many months after the largest Alaskan oil spill in history.

Maybe heavy-handed isn’t too much after all.

Overall, the movie was enjoyable with an uplifting message and lots of feel-good song and dance routines. I won’t tell you if Mumble gets the girl but you probably already know since I am no doubt the last person to have watched this movie!

Robert enjoyed this PG rated animated film as well even though he did take a short nap during it (which is pretty normal for him).  It lasts 108 minutes and would be a good, fun movie for any age, caree or their caregiver.  In fact, it might be a fun movie for grandma and grandpa to watch with their grandchildren. 

Since “Happy Feet” has been out for several years, it is going to be easy to find and cheap to purchase or rent. Amazon has a 24-hour rental for $1.99!

So pop some popcorn, download the movie and clear some floor space – because this movie is going to make your feet happy and ready to move!

We’ll give “Happy Feet” three out of five scoops of Rocky Road Ice Cream.


Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Richard is in the ICU (What?! Who?!)

Richard is in the ICU.  Not Robert.  Richard.  

I'm as shocked as everyone.
Say Cheese, Dad!

As many of you know, Richard has severe back pain and it is managed with an intrathecal pain pump filled with Fentanyl. This is refilled every 60 days or so. He had a pump refill appointment early this morning and he walked out the door like any other day.  Well, except that our puppy, Taz, escaped and we had to chase him back in the house.  Twice.

Other than that, everything was perfectly normal. Robert was picked up for Day Program and I left for work. 

Mid-morning I texted Richard asking how his appointment went.  I didn't think anything of it when he didn't reply as I thought he was busy. I ended up making an appointment for myself because I've been experiencing some dizziness and thought I could take a longer lunch and have a quick appointment and then back to work. 

That was the plan, anyway.

In the middle of the appointment, Richard called and sounded awful. He was groggy and he said he was in the hospital. What?? Were you in a car accident? What happened??  He answered my questions with non-answers and just kept saying he was in the hospital and told me which one. 

As I was rushing out of the doctor appointment, explaining to a nurse that I couldn't wait for the doctor and had to leave, I realized: Robert is going to be dropped off by his van in 10 minutes.  

I then realized my phone was about to die. 

Oh crap. 

My phone charger in my car doesn't work so I just had to hope I had enough charge to call the transport company and tell them I was on my way home to get Robert.  When I called, they answered, "This is Medstar. Please hold." Click. 

Are you kidding me? 

Thankfully, they got back on the phone before the phone died and I explained I might be a few minutes late in being home.

I zip home, still without any information about Richard, and the van hasn’t arrived yet.  I plug in my phone, let the dogs out (pleasantly surprised not to find any accidents after such a long time in the house alone!).

Taz didn’t even eat anyone’s bed which was an added bonus.

I called the hospital and told them all I knew was my husband had been admitted and I knew nothing else.

“What’s his name?” Oh, okay, I know that.

“Richard Kreis – he’s in the ICU. Let me transfer you.”

He’s in the ICU?? Why is he in the ICU?

“Let me transfer you.”  Okay, okay, okay.

I talked with the ICU nurse who didn’t tell me anything other than the doctor would call me. Yeah, I’ve heard that one before.

“No, really, he’ll call you as soon as we hang up.”

The doctor actually did call right away and as we talked, Robert’s van pulled up. I went out to get him in the house and ushered him to the bathroom all the while talking to the doctor and taking notes.

Apparently, at Richard’s appointment, something went wrong with the pump refill and the medication went into his body instead of the pump.

Richard had overdosed on Fentanyl at 7:30 this morning and NO ONE CALLED ME!  The doctor said they were monitoring him and he would have to stay overnight but that he should be better by the next day. 

I couldn’t even believe how this happened but the doctor had given me all the info he had.

I quickly packed Robert’s meds and a snack and hurried him up in the bathroom, helping him change his briefs into fresh ones. Robert wanted to brush his teeth which is always followed by shaving so I explained Richard was in the hospital and we had to get going to see him immediately. 

“I understand.”  Robert didn’t put up a fuss or anything. He didn’t even ask to shave, bless his heart.

On the way to the hospital, I called Richard’s pain clinic and spoke with the doctor Richard saw this morning. He was extremely apologetic about what happened and also apologized for not notifying me.

It went only slightly better than: “We almost killed your husband and on top of that, we didn’t call you but we are very, very sorry.” 

Gee, thanks.

He had no good explanation for what happened. 

My husband is lying in the ICU with an overdose of drugs in his system and no medication in his pump so I know once he recovers, he is going to be in a world of hurt.

I still don’t understand how this could have happened. I don’t understand how I was not notified by the clinic, the ER or the ICU!  Once I make sure Richard is recovering as he should, these will be questions I will ask and answers I will get.

I do not want this to happen to another family!

When I left the hospital tonight, Richard was still groggy and sleepy but on oxygen, being monitored and given fluids as well as an antidote that is supposed to counter-act the overdose.

I’ll update more when I know more.

Oh, and the picture is payback for all the times Richard took candid pictures of his mom while lying in a hospital bed! Richard is passed out and the girls are enjoying some fun time with dad.

Because, no matter what, Richard would want us all laughing. 

Monday, September 2, 2013

At the Movies with Robert’s Sister: Now You See Me

I love three-day weekends. For one, it means a four-day work week! Not that I dislike working but it is nice to take a break from work.

We live by a schedule whether it’s a three-day weekend, through the week or a regular weekend.  Medications, lunch, laundry, shower, shaving, more medications, more laundry and more shaving. Throw in the dogs’ schedule: eating, playtime, sleeping, playtime, eating, playtime and sleeping.
Robert at the Movies

It may seem like chaos to the outside observer but we know the schedule and know what works for us. I schedule Robert’s haircuts after lunch and before mid-afternoon medication time. Our dinners out are scheduled early so Robert has enough time to enjoy a dinner out yet get ready for bed before his 9:00 p.m. final dose of medication for the day.  It is very, very rare that Robert is in bed after 9:00 p.m. A solid routine and lots of sleep means fewer seizures (usually).

So there were all kinds of reasons NOT to see a movie on Sunday, Day Two of a three-day weekend.  I was getting stir-crazy being in the house all weekend and thought Robert and hubby would have fun going out too.  But what to do?

Being spontaneous in our household means thinking of something to do at noon and then putting it into action several hours later.

Driving to the beach was out. It is too long of a drive for us with Richard’s back pain. We have to stop and let him stretch several times during a drive and a two and a half hour trip to the ocean turns into five.  (And that’s one way.) Plus, we haven’t taken Robert to the beach yet and I don’t know how that would work (I mean, seriously, how easy is it to go the bathroom at the beach?). It is not something to figure out in an afternoon.

What about a movie? I checked what was playing and the only movie that sounded like something we would all enjoy was “Now You See Me.” It was showing at one theater that I haven’t been to before and started at 4:45 p.m.

Ugh! This was a terrible time. This was fifteen minutes before Robert’s medication time not to mention his regular dinner time; smack dab in the middle of the dogs’ dinner and playtime and, since the movie was longer than I would have liked, we would get home later than I would prefer in order to allow Robert time to be in bed by 9:00.

Plus, this movie was showing at a theater I had not been to and I didn’t know the bathroom lay-out. The bathroom situation is one I always consider no matter where we go.  An emergency clean-up could strike at any time – do they have family-style bathrooms or will Richard have to take Robert in to the bathroom and do the clean-up duties? It is a serious consideration. 

We knew the walk to the theater from the parking lot would be too much for Robert so we have to bring the wheelchair. Will there be space for the wheelchair and Richard and I to sit together? I have been to theaters where there is one spot for the wheelchair and only one chair next to that space. Other seats are in the row in front of those two spots – whoever designed those spots obviously didn’t anticipate more than one person going to the movies with the person in the wheelchair!

Even though there were plenty of reasons not to go to this movie, we went anyway. Robert got ready to go – went to the bathroom and shaved and Richard loaded the wheelchair and fed the dogs. I prepped Robert’s medications so he could take them before the movie started.

We got to the theater in plenty of time and were surprised to find this was a cheap movie theater! We paid $4 per ticket! What?!  Since we were in the middle of dinner time, I told Robert we would get him a hot dog along with popcorn and Sprite. Heck, let's splurge! I just saved a bunch on the tickets! 

“Can I have candy too, please?”

Um, no.  This is plenty; plus, I’m going broke at the concession stand here. (Tickets may be cheap but food is not!)

I scoped out the bathrooms and they weren’t family-style but they were at least close to the theater we were entering. It would be an easy maneuver to take Robert in if needed.

Richard wheeled Robert into the theater while Robert held what seemed like a gallon-size cup of Sprite (and that was the “small”) and Richard held the gallon-size tub of popcorn (at least that was called a large).

I waited for the hot dog (not sure what they were doing with it but don’t really want to know) and caught up with them as they entered the theater.  The wheelchair area was at the end of a row in the back of the theater. Woohoo! Richard and I can sit together and – bonus – Richard has a place to stand when he needs to stretch his aching back.  We set Robert up with his food and drink (we could have used one more cup holder but that wasn’t a huge deal).

I gave Robert his meds before the previews started and he enjoyed some popcorn and his hot dog. He ate more popcorn during the movie and would have eaten more if I had let him. Instead, he made sure to eat every last popcorn crumb in the tray I had given him.

The movie is not going to win any awards but it was definitely entertaining. It was less predictable than I expected which was a pleasant surprise and the actors were all likable (although I couldn’t get Mark Zuckerberg out of my head since Jesse Eisenberg was in this movie and he starred in “The Social Network”).

The movie had magic tricks which Robert enjoys as well as a cat and mouse game involving Morgan Freeman and Mark Ruffalo (two actors I adore!) and lots of action. The movie is rated PG-13 so there weren’t a lot of disturbing violent scenes although there was someone having a very bad day which involved getting tangled up in a garbage disposal.  There wasn’t anything graphic but just the thought of what could happen! Yikes!

I peeked over at Robert throughout the show and only once or twice was he dosing off (probably because he was in a junk-food coma). 

Once the movie ended and we were on our way out to the car, we asked Robert what he thought of the movie. “I loved it” was his reply.

How was the hot dog? “Excellent. I loved it.”

Did you like the popcorn? “Yes, I loved it.”

And the Sprite? “It was excellent. I loved it.”

There were lots of reasons we could have stayed home instead of venturing out but these were the best reasons to have gone.  We even got home in enough time for Robert to finish his bedtime routine with a few minutes to spare before 9:00 p.m.!

I would give this movie three (out of five) scoops of Rocky Road Ice Cream but will have to add a half scoop since Robert had such a great time. 

3 ½ scoops for Now You See Me!