Third time was the charm.
It’s been a wee bit hot in Portland.
My dad passed out on three separate occasions over a period of six days.
Each time, he insisted that it was the heat. Or loss of equilibrium and inner ear pain from an ear lavage. Or, he admitted he had taken in about 24 oz of fluid (half of which was coffee), on an 88º day.
However, this is the version my father likes to tell strangers. And doctors. And paramedics.
He omits the small backstory about passing out cold in his condo in Marin County, California, three years ago. He “injured” (broke) his shoulder in that fall. Woke up alone in his home, and drove himself to urgent care.
It was several months later that I found out, when his Lady Love Nadia, called me from her home in England to rat him out: he was scheduled for surgery to repair the shoulder, but he was alone, and the surgeon was unwilling to do the procedure unless there was a friend or family member there to take him home and care for him.
(That was me: taking time off from a busy OHSU clinic, flying down, and staying with him and getting him set up to be alone without the ability to drive, and no local bus service.)
Back to present day events:
Last week, my dad passed out 3 times. One of my chickens died, possibly from heat stoke. I had a nasty-puking-Migraine from (pick one) heat and/or stress.
On Sunday, I walked around the corner to check on Bob.
He answered the door, his eyes rolled back into his head, and I did the thing Physical Therapy folks call an “assisted fall” to prevent him from slamming his 6 foot self onto the wood floor.
And I called for help.
Bob explains dizzy spell~assisted fall to the doctor:
“I do normally stand up slowly, but my daughter was at my front door. I had to let her in.”
(It’s all my fault!)
One can see in this photo that my dad’s heart rate, at that moment, was 50 (beats per minute). This was actually a high point: he had been hanging out between 44 and 48 BPM.
A “normal” adult resting heart rate ranges from 60 to 100. An adult athlete, may have a baseline slow & low: like my dad, hanging out in the 40s or 50s.
This actually fits with my dad: he was jogging until he was 79, no smoking history, rarely drinks.
Difference being: adult athletes manage to stay hydrated, and well nourished, and can stand up from a chair without passing out. It also turns out that there is some irregular rhythm to this slow heart rate, and his blood pressure drops significantly when he changes position, so they admitted him for cardiac monitoring.
Bob settles in to his first evening as an inpatient:
Nurse: Mr. King, would you like some ice cream?
Bob: Yes, that sounds nice.
Nurse: We have chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, and orange sherbet. Which flavor would you like?
Bob: Sherbet is not ice cream.
Bob’s first night alone in a hospital. (Ever).
I waited until the RN shift change, then got ready to head home. Told Bob I love him, that I knew he was in good hands, and that I was going to leave and let him be.
His reply? “Feel free.”
I’m pretty sure that was Bob-speak for “Don’t let the door hitch’ya where the Good Lord split’chya”
Why I’m still here.
Second night: o8.15.2016
All jokes aside, my dad is afraid, and I want him to know that he will be ok, and that he will be able to return to his “normal” life in the near future.
There’s a clean shirt ready for him.
I handed him his hospital issue toothbrush and toothpaste this morning, when I saw they had not been used last night.
I’ve been there: I’ve been that noc shift nurse that meant to encourage the bedtime care, but was simply too busy with sicker patients.
I’ve been that patient… Too scared or overwhelmed, too nervous to bother to ask for a warm washcloth to wash my face with.
I’ll leave again at shift change tonight, and I’ll be back at 6 or so in the morning, on my way across the hospital courtyard to my office.
I want my dad to know that even though he is frightened, and feels stripped of his choices, that his dignity and safety are still my highest priorities.
The clean shirt hangs there, he will see it as he drifts in and out of sleep tonight.
There will be bright lights, and bed alarms, and beeping IV pumps.
But at least he will know that he is loved, and I will be back for him tomorrow.