“Make Friends and Keep ‘Em Close – trust me on this.”

Where the heck is HuntMode? Have you wondered why I have not been posting of late? …remember that good deed I mentioned wherein I was helping my neighbor, who had received a sudden diagnosis of a really big tumor growing inside her heart? I asked for your prayers and you all responded instantly and most generously. And, she came through with flying colors. Oh, but there was this one little glitch, something not covered in the pre-op of what she might experience post-op. Pay attention here:

A side effect of stopping your heart and then restarting it again, is delirium. Doesn’t happen to everyone. Might last only a day or, weak laugh, might be two weeks. Not laughing anymore, might be a couple of months.It occurs most at night, but can start as early at 4:30 p.m. (Pacific Northwest gets and stays dark earlier in the winter) until daylight hours the next day. It is terrifying from the patient’s viewpoint. They cannot distinguish between what they see and hear and reality. It creates high strung paranoia and great fear within the patient that the people around them (read “the staff”) are out to hurt them or that they hate the patient.

It can wear off gradually or the patient might just pop right out of it and be fine. Or maybe not. Some days my friend seems to make progress, and then 4:30 p.m. rolls around and she’s once again, cycling high, cycling low, crying from being misunderstood and feeling alone and abandoned or, on a mission to save other patients from ill-treatment by the wicked mean-spirited staff. Sigh and sigh again. During peak daylight hours, say from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., she can appear competent, albeit often times belligerent and angry about the night before.

It has been a full-time exercise staying on top of her care, speaking with her surgeons, her transfer to the Skilled Nursing Facility (SNF) for rehabilitation – always needed in heart surgery cases, never mind the delerium side-effect. My friend on her first day at the SNF (pronounced “Sniff” !) got very angry just about 3:00 p.m. and by the time I got there at 5:00 was in full fury and battle mode to show them exactly how a 78 y/o woman should be treated. Highlights: She hit the call button 21 times at 3:00 p.m., and only stopped at 17 times because I saw what she was doing and was appalled, telling her to stop it. “I am making a point, HuntMode.” She gritted out through clenched teeth and fist.

This small, “frail” woman who could not even sit up in bed seven days earlier, much less on the edge of her bed, got so mad that she had to use the bathroom, she demanded I assist her out of the bed, whereupon, once on her feet, and finding her roommate was using the bathroom, marched off in search of one – going into the next patient’s room – with me trailing behind her and I stopped at the hall, watching her act out her anger. We had a quick argument when I told her to get out of that patient’s room and she told me off right properly, “Shut up, you idiot!” and she charged down the hall, in and out of rooms, on her way to the nurse’s station where she insisted on using their’s….. I watched this scene play out. My friend had the bit in her teeth and she was playing it to the hilt. I asked the staff what they do in these circumstances. “This cannot be the first time this has happened. How do you handle this?”

They hadn’t moved from behind the desk. Simply watched her and worried aloud that she would fall, which infuriated my friend, who was still in search of a bathroom. When she hit a wall with either her hand or her fist, we helped her open the door to the “shower room,” filled with equipment and, thankfully a bathroom. On coming out, my friend seized the little towel woman, maybe a small nurse, by the shoulders – gently, but firmly, and said, “You must never let this happen to another person!”

“Well,” they said softly, “we just wait until the medication wears off…”

I lasted two hours before going home and calling her surgeon to ask how they had allowed her to go to the SNF in that condition. I said, “I am telling you, I have dealt with manic depressives since I was twelve years old and I am now 58 years old. She is off her meds, to put it in the vernacular! Rapid eye blinking and something is funny about her pupils, they are small – her eyes look small.” And, I told them what she’d been doing.

“Well, see, this is just a side effect, awful for you, but all we can really do is wait for it to work out of her system…” How long? “Oh, it could be a day or, or, or…” “What? Three weeks?” “No, maybe until next Friday. At that point, the Sniff should call in their psychiatrist…”

When I called back at 9:00 p.m., she was being transferred to another area. The SNF specializes in Alzheimer’s, as well as dementia and rehabilitation. She has spent the last week in the area set aside for dementia, which isn’t helping her either because when she is in command of her faculties, it’s got to be a complete horror to her. I have sat with her in the common room in this area, where the patients take meals and get out of their rooms for “social time.” Many are elderly, in wheelchairs or on beds that wheel and they cry out, “Help me, help me, help me.” Or, in one memorable instance, “Kill me, please just kill me.” over and over and over again.

Thankfully, my friend had reached out to what remains of her family, a brother-in-law who is 87 and a niece who is 72 and they were there on the day of surgery and they have been calling and visiting since. They live between 2 and 4 hours away. My friend had stipulated me as her emergency contact and so I am, while updating her family two to five times a day, depending on what’s happening. Physically, she is doing very well, remarkably well in recovery. Mentally, not so much. And, she whole-heartedly believes she is competent. She was an irascible, self-determined woman who lived life on her terms and damn you if you didn’t agree with her. (It can be a bit difficult to tell which one you’re dealing with – ’cause she was pretty belligerent to start with.)

I’ll tell you what, folks. This has given me much pause on where we are headed. Never mind Obamacare. I am speaking as a generation. We threw out the rules, our customs, our traditions, so that we could have it all, so that we could have instant gratification and freedom to do our thing. Choosing to have children or not. We are now fast closing in our senior status and my friend’s situation could happen and will happen on a grand scale. Make friends and keep ’em close.

19 thoughts on ““Make Friends and Keep ‘Em Close – trust me on this.”

  1. *sigh* Well, you know (now) I’m a Gen Xer, but I get this. Really I do. I’ve mentioned my own struggles with bipolar. I did mention that my mother has Parkinson’s, right? And yet she’s having to deal with her mother having Alzheimer’s and dementia… *sigh* Can’t remember if I mentioned what my father is going through or not.

    Never mind Obamacare, indeed. We’ve got to take accountability for our own problems, somehow. The pattern of blame the generation before doesn’t work too well, as you can probably see. All too often, it’s blame the previous generation, and saddle the next. Point the finger at the nebulous “them”, but not fully acknowledging the fault of “us”.

    My dad’s parents have passed long ago, and both sets of Cimmy’s grandparents, too, but… we feel their presence, still. It seems they are acutely aware of our family’s problems. We listen as best we can.

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    • Oh, Jak, my heart is with you both. Stay as strong as you can and lean on one another. If I was technically astute and clever, I would place a small heart right here. With you in thoughts, prayers and spirit, HuntMode

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    • Yes, Tess. And, I keep remembering those posts you did about making your own arrangements for your funeral. More and more of us will have to face this head on and the consequences if we do not.

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      • My Mom always came home from visiting someone in hospital sad but also angry. She always managed to see a few people out in the halls, tied into their chairs and never seemed to have visitors. They ended up sleeping with drool dripping and chin sunk to chest.

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    • E.G., we’ve been friends for only about six months though neighbors for a couple of years…. One great motivator for me was thinking, “Oh my God, this could so easily be me.” And, I have made many of the arrangements necessary – but they need updating and I’ve delayed on that – serious mistake because it could happen at any time. Thanks for reading and sharing your own concern. Best ~ HuntMode

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  2. Hunt, What a wonderful friend you are, truly, to take this responsibility and make it your own. To stand up and in for your friend, to be her POC, and conveyor of info to the brother and niece. Being her advocate, talking with her Doctors, explain to her Doctors her condition, and then following up, and doing it again as necessary. If each of us had one friend like you, that would be all we need. Everyone else could be an acquaintance. But the sad reality is very few of us have that single friend like you, that single go to person. Some folks with wide and extended families, don’t get the level of support you provide your friend. I know that deep down your friend appreciates you to no measurable amount. Your friend has enough going on that she most likely recognizes the change in her attitude and behavior as the sun goes down. And because of this is constantly grateful for your attendance, I know I would be. Please take care, be safe, and realize you don’t have all the energy you once did, and you will need to take a break before you breakdown. Again take care, Bill

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    • You’re right, Bill. I had a unique set of talents based on my background and family to come to her aid and keep coming to her aid. Being the fierce spirit she is, she tried everything she could to get me to walk away and I kept saying, “Hey, it won’t work. I might walk when you’re throwing a scene because I deserve better than that. But I’ll be back the next day. I promise you a good fight when you’re back home. Until then, I’ll see you tomorrow.” She has taken great comfort in that and made me prove it just about every day. 🙂

      I have also made it clear she could burn me out and that she would not like that.

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  3. I’m so sorry your friend is going through this! This must be very wearing for you as it is often harder on family watching someone they love go through a tough time. I hope whatever it is in her system causing this works its way out soon.

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    • Thanks, GP – hopefully, we will recognize what’s coming in time to get our ducks in a row and our friends and family on our side.

      We had a daily prompt a while back on what would you do if you had a lot of money. Mine was to buy land, build a lot of guest cottages and gather my friends around me and them so we could keep an eye on one another. Prescient, maybe.

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  4. She is so blessed to have you there with her as is her family. What a kind, patient, inspiring wonderful person you are. I agree, we need to keep our friends close so that we can all take care of eachother and stay connected. I’m sending you strength and extra prayers as well as prayers for her quickly healing as I am sure she must be so very frustrated by everything going on. ♥ Big hugs xo

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    • Oh P – I ACCEPT your prayers and all the extra strength and light and I thank you from my heart to yours.

      I’m starting to get a bit embarrassed by all the praise coming my way – this is what friends do in my world and I freely admit I had no idea what was involved when I agreed to help her get to her doctor appointment way back on Feb 4… Good thing I didn’t, as I guarantee I would have quailed at the scope. Still, we’re getting there. I’m waiting on recent developments to see if they hold before updating.

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      • Sometimes it’s better to just say yes to life and then watch as it unfolds because sometimes the path is so windy and at the end is so much better because you took it, but if you knew all the info at the start, as you so plainly said, you would have quaked in your boots as to the amount of work. But the payoff to helping your friend is priceless and nothing you could have ever predicted and perhaps if you had known so much you would not have said yes so readily…but you did, the path is here and you are walking a gift of a lifetime. How blessed are you and your friend ~ and the rest of us for being able to share your having this experience. I pray she heals quickly for both of your sakes. ♥

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  5. I once saw an episode of Picket Fences. it has stuck in my head for all these years. The judge of the small town got Altzheimers. A very dignified old man, he had to start wearing nappies. He visits his kids at the police station and they let him sit in his office to make him feel better. He comes out of the door, naked, holding the soiled nappy in his hands. “This thing is filthy” or something to that effect. Everybody sees him standing there, this once clever, dignified man, naked, holding a dirty nappy. his son took him back to the old man’s office and shot him.
    A harsh ending, yes. And not one that would fly very much in the real world at all, but I’ve often hoped and wished, that, if that wold happen to me, please take me out of my misery and everybody else’s.
    I can’t see a friend sticking by you. Kids, maybe. husband or a lover, possibly, but, for the most part, it’s strangers that get to be with you in your last hours.
    May I be the one to choose how I spend my last days and not some demented brain cell running havoc inside my head!!
    Hope your friend gets over this soon P. In the meantime, she has my prayers. And you, you have always had them!

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    • I know a couple of people that feel the same, J, and I sure have come closer in understanding that viewpoint. It is quite possibly how science has overreached in keeping us alive, but for what quality of life.

      I was bringing a friend of mine up to date about what I’d been doing with helping my friend. This friend had spent four years helping her Dad with Alzheimer’s. She broke down into tears while I was venting. I felt instant remorse and shame for not remembering who my audience was. Later, she said a good cry can be good.

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