Sunday, March 18, 2018

Coming Up For Air

Well, not really.  That’s actually wishful thinking on my part but I had this title in my mind for a month when I really thought things were settling down.   

Ironically, I started writing about Robert when I began caring for him but stopped (no – let’s say paused) because I was caring for Robert.  My original intent was to keep family and friends up to date and then I realized there was a lot of caregiving information to share as well as people who followed along after falling in love with Robert. 

And now I am neglecting this space!
Robert and Carol - before getting sick

Please don’t take it personally.

Let’s catch up!

Carol (grandma, great-grandma, #1 mother-in-law and most stubborn broad in the universe) was hospitalized in November and came to temporarily live with us while she recovered. She has a variety of health issues and it is best she stays with us. I think she should stay for good but she’s stubborn (as I mentioned) and refuses to think of the arrangement as permanent.  Fine.  We’ll be on a week to week trial basis if that makes her feel better. 

Richard (husband, co-caregiver, Mr. Macgyver, chronic pain sufferer who doesn’t let it get him down and #1 brother-in-law) has been dealing with a non-healing, expanding wound on his lower leg. The doctors have sent him to wound therapy specialists, tried all kinds of wraps, antibiotics (because of recurring infections) – even maggot therapy!  (That was as disgusting yet as fascinating as it sounds.) 

Richard with his good luck angel from
our friend, Pegi
After 14 months of this wound continuing to grow, they finally suggested a skin graft.  We were very hopeful Richard’s leg would finally heal and his pain would go away.  Make no mistake: this wound was extremely painful. He usually had to clean it twice a day which meant scrubbing it (yikes!).  There was a great deal of screaming (from him) and a lot of hoping the neighbors didn’t call the police on us (from me). Surgery would be a welcome relief for everyone!

Surgery was a week and a half before Christmas but he was out and home before Christmas and our hopes were high for a successful graft.

Robert (most excellent brother, word search king and Family Feud fanatic) woke up with a fever and cough on Christmas.  We had a house full of family over to celebrate so loaded him up with his fever reducer and antibiotics that we keep on hand for just such occasions.  By the end of the day, Robert could not even stand.  It took both Other Brother and I to take him to the bathroom and keep his legs under him so I could change his brief. We got him to bed and hoped the antibiotics would kick in by morning. 

Yeah, that didn’t happen.  (This isn’t a sitcom, after all.)

Richard had a surgery follow-up appointment the next day so his brother, Mark, and Carol stayed with Robert while I took Richard to the doctor.  Robert was safe in bed but still running a fever. 

The leg was looking good!  The doctor was very pleased and thought the graft had taken “98%”!  Woohoo!  We were ecstatic. 

As we waited for a prescription, Mark called to tell us Robert was burning up.  

Oh, crap.  So much for the antibiotics.  I had Mark give Robert more Tylenol and we hurried home. 

By the time we got home, Robert was not breathing well so we had to call the paramedics.  I try to avoid hospital stays but this was unavoidable.  Thank goodness we did send him to the hospital because, as it turned out, he had the flu and pneumonia along with a strange skin bacteria that caused sepsis!

I couldn’t believe how quickly Robert went downhill.  The hospital was the best place for him for now. 

The last week of December passed in a blur but, as it happens, my birthday is that week!  Richard and Rachel (fabulous daughter, animal lover and person who can make me double over with laughter) made my birthday extra special. After visiting Robert in the morning and talking to the doctors, we had breakfast at one of my favorite restaurants. Carol and my BFF came to make the breakfast even more special. Afterwards, Rach took me for a surprise spa pampering session which was just what I needed. 


Within a few days it was New Year’s Eve!  Robert continued to recover in the hospital with IV antibiotics, Richard’s leg was almost like new and none of us had caught the flu from Robert.  Carol was having issues with her blood pressure dipping too low and was very tired but the flu seemed to have bypassed all of us.


The three of us had a simple dinner and while I was doing dishes in the kitchen and Richard was stretching his back in the living room, we heard Carol coughing in the dining room.  Then a loud thud. 

It took us a second to rush in to her (she drops things all the time and gets irritated if we immediately come running.  Remember? Stubborn!). 

I got to her first and she was out cold. And bleeding from the head.  I yelled for Richard to call 911 while I shook Carol to wake up – all the while thinking she had a heart attack and had died.

It took a minute but she woke up and we did what we could to figure out where the bleeding was coming from (her head? her nose?) and stop it.  Paramedics came and Carol was alert and coherent.  It didn’t appear to be a stroke but was probably from the darn low blood pressure.  She passed out and hit the corner of the wall which caused a gash or two.  Since she is on blood thinners, there was a lot of blood. 

Off she went in the ambulance with Richard following close behind.  I stayed home to clean up what looked like a crime scene. 

Did I mention all the blood?

Happy New Year. 

January was spent shuttling between hospitals (you didn’t think Robert and Carol could be in the same hospital, right? That’d be too easy!  At least the hospitals were just a few miles apart though.)  Carol was released to a care facility to get physical therapy where she promptly got the flu. 

Back to the hospital for Carol. 

Robert enjoying a field trip to the hospital cafeteria
Robert had to have long-term antibiotics so had a picc line installed in his neck since his arm veins were shot.  He went to the physical therapy rehab floor of the hospital and eventually came home.  Carol soon came home too. 

Have I lost you, yet?  Let me recap: of the four people living in our house, three were hospitalized within three weeks of each other. 

(This blog could be super short if I just stayed with the recaps.)

Somewhere in there, I got sick too (but not get-to-a-hospital sick), orchestrated an office expansion/move for work and we converted Robert and Carol’s bathroom tub to a walk-in shower (thanks to Matt, #1 son-in-law). 

I was hoping for some downtime after the office move and all the hospitalizations. Who wouldn’t!

Richard’s leg still had a spot about the size of a quarter that wouldn’t heal so that became a bit worrisome. Carol’s cough continued while she also still declared she would be returning to her own home very “soon.”  Robert again became sick with a high fever and ended up in the ER.  This time it was a respiratory virus so it had to run its course.  It dramatically affected his breathing, though, and he had to be on continuous oxygen, even after returning home. 

It is the middle of March and I am sitting in the office I now share with Richard so Carol can have her own room (temporarily, of course).  Richard has a second skin graft scheduled for later this month but it is outpatient surgery and not a week long hospital stay.  Carol has her cough again/still and has been sleeping a great deal but at least her blood pressure is normal.  Robert still has a bunch of congestion but we are keeping up with his pulmonary health exercises and his vitals are fine. 

I think this is the moment I can come up for air. 

It is just a moment but I will take what I can get. 

Richard and I taking a breather