Today is Monday, December 12, 2011, less than two weeks until Christmas and instead of doing Christmas shopping and decking our halls, I’ve left the guys at home and made a trip to my parents’ home because my dad suffered a heart attack Wednesday, December 7th.
I drove down by myself, my first time to be away from Josh for more than one night since he has been ventilator dependent, etc. Josh was not too happy for me to be going without him, but we a great team of nurses helping his dad with his care while I am away.
On Wednesday, December 7th, I had just gotten home and finished lunch after one of my four big final exams of the week. I just had one more to study for and take the next day. My plan had been to spend the afternoon and evening studying for my last exam then dig out the Christmas decorations, cards, etc.
My plans changed quickly, though. My sister called me to tell me she had just got a call that Daddy collapsed on his way to his regular dialysis appointment, and they were rushing him to the emergency room.
I immediately called my mom to find out what was going on. Mama told me that Daddy had not been feeling too well the night before or that morning, but had walked out to the van that takes him to dialysis.
**My dad has had diabetes for many years. He is blind in one eye and only has a little vision in the other. He has had bypass surgery several years back. And, his kidneys are so bad that he has had to be on dialysis treatments three times a week for at least 10-12 years now. Below are pictures of what dialysis is like***:
They were getting things ready to help him into the van that transports him to dialysis, so he sat down in a wheelchair. As they were loading him in the wheelchair into the van, they noticed he had his head hanging down and he was not responsive. The van driver yelled for my mom and asked her if she wanted the driver to call 911. My mom didn’t know anything was wrong until then. She came to try and help rouse my dad and said, “yes, call 911.”
My mom says a sheriff’s deputy arrived very soon afterwards and helped them lay my dad out flat and start CPR.
An ambulance and more sheriff deputies arrived minutes later and worked on my dad a few minutes and raced him off to the hospital. The deputies asked if my mom wanted them to take her. She said she would be okay to drive but they followed her a ways to make sure she was ok.
At the hospital, my mom found my dad hooked to a ventilator.
Doctors asked her if my dad had advanced directives for an event such as this – in other words, did my dad to be revived if his heart stopped. She wasn’t sure, but said she wanted them to do all they could to save him. They suspected he’d had a heart attack. And that means he was probably without oxygen to his brain for some amount of time. They weren’t sure how much damage had been done. But his vital signs were so poor they did not risk taking him through a CT scan.
My sister, Amanda (see her in her orange UTSA shirt below) got a flight and I took her to the airport so she could be with my mom by that night. I took my last final exam on Thursday and headed to Odessa that afternoon.
Oh, here is a picture of me with most of my fellow Respiratory Therapy students on the day of our last final of this semester (taken December 8th, not long before I left to go to Odessa):
By the way, I've since got my grades back for my 1st semester classes. I got all A's!!!
Anyway.... back to my story:
Luckily, Josh’s nurses were able to work out a schedule to be with him the majority of the time so I could worry about my parents without having to take Josh out of school and with me. He did not need to be sitting up at a hospital all the time with me with my dad in intensive care. **Huge thanks to Nancy, Dot and Cisco for all your help!!!**
The doctors gave my dad a hypothermia treatment (see example picture below) in order to try and preserve neurological function as best they could and to slow down his body and allow him to heal as much as he could. They gave him powerful sedatives and other drugs to make sure he would not move around or shiver from the cold. That treatment lasted Wednesday night through Saturday. They began warm him back up then slowed down and eventually stopped the powerful drugs, so they could see how he was.
They say his heart looks enlarged on the right side (which is the side that pumps blood into the lungs where it gets oxygenated). This enlargement usually happens because there is a problem getting blood into the lung area and the heart has to work extra hard. When you work a muscle more than usual, it gets bigger. Below is a picture I found to illustrate this:
And, they say my dad had significant right pleural effusion. That is fluids that make their way into the space that surrounds the lungs, making it difficult to breathe. Below is a picture I found of someone's chest xray that has this problem (this is NOT my dad's xray, but one I found on the internet) The black is air, the white where the right lung is supposed to be (near bottom of chest) is fluid:
They treated my dad for pneumonia (in case that is what was causing this fluid) and gave him blood thinners (in case a clot may have caused his heart attack).
My dad’s vital signs improved. He did not require as much oxygen and his heart rate and blood pressure looked better. He had some fluid pushing into his right lung. And that has since lessened, helping him to get better ventilation. He has had a CT scan of his head and an EEG. Those were done to look for brain activity and evidence of a possible stroke. They told us the CT scan looked good – no signs of stroke. But we have not heard results of the EEG. We were told they would likely take my dad for a CT scan of his chest with contrast solution today, to check for problems with his heart and lungs.
Here is what an EEG test looks like:
Here is what a CT scanner looks like:
We are waiting to see how much my dad can recover. So far, he has only opened his eyes a few times, moved his legs and looked like he was trying to move his mouth as if to try and talk. I think he moved his hands slightly today, but just a couple of times. Mostly, he sleeps.
Meanwhile, we found that my mom had an eye infection on Saturday, and got her to a clinic to get it taken care of. And she has not seen a doctor for herself in quite some time. At the clinic, they found her blood pressure was elevated, so my sister made her an appointment with an internist doctor. They are at that appointment right now. And my dad’s nurse just came to say he would be headed to the CT soon. So, I will finish this post and post some pictures and links to more information on all these medical terms, etc. when I go wait in the ICU waiting room.
Back home, Josh was asked to participate in a couple of tests for ROHHAD research. One was a smell test and the other was a temperature regulation test. He received the materials for the test... including the little beanie baby leopard wearing a temperature Ibutton and a wrist band with another Ibutton (seen in the pictures below) He finished up those tests after I was away in Odessa.
Josh seems to be doing pretty well, all things considered. This morning, he saw an orthodontist, who says he could benefit from braces. We are waiting to see what insurance and Medicaid will cover on this, to see if we can move forward. They say it could take three weeks to learn what would be covered.
I'll try to update my blog more during this break from school. I go back January 17th!