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.