Every Day is a New Day

When you're a kid, you go to school most days of the year. When you're an adult, you work. And when you're a senior citizen, you go to the doctor. It seems like that's all my folks do when they aren't going to the supermarket or pharmacy. Every day is a different doctor or new prescription. Occasionally they might switch things up and go to the vet, especially now that we have a blind, aging cat who requires regular steroid shots. It's not easy for any of us to get old, but it still beats the Cobain route.(Or would a Haim reference be more timely?)

With my father's recent problems, he's been to a different doctor almost every day. And every night when I come home from work, it seems like they're finding something else to do. A bypass, potentially a triple one, was supposed to take place on March 22nd. Then they found that his carotid artery was clogged too and might need to be addressed prior to his heart. Then they wanted to do both surgeries at the same time, which sounded insane. But I researched the procedure, called a carotid endarterectomy, and found it was fairly common to be done at the same time as a bypass. A clog in the Carotid, which leads to the brain, can cause a stroke. Before repairing stenosis or clogging to the heart, it is important to have that major artery clear. And studies have shown more success when the surgery is done together.

I found it interesting that dizzy spells are associated with a clogged carotid artery, and may even be mini-strokes. My dad has had a handful of mysterious dizzy spells in the last two or three years, usually in the morning, which resolve by the afternoon. He always speculated it was a reaction to some new medication, which he would immediately stop taking, or perhaps that he'd had more salt than he should have. I've always hated his tendency to stop a medication without consulting his doctor, either because he thought it had a side effect or because he was impatient and assumed it wasn't helping him if there were no immediate results.

So, he has a lot on his plate, but this seems more and more common for people in their 80s. Barbara Bush had her aortic valve replaced last year and thought it was no big deal. Granted, women have a higher pain threshold than men, but she's also a few years older than my dad. And my dad just turned 80, so he's barely an octogenarian. Of course, when I got home on Thursday and learned that he was probably going to have his aortic valve replaced with a mechanical one, I wondered what else they could do to this guy. I do appreciate the idea of cutting a person as few times as possible, and it only makes sense to fix everything that needs fixing while they're in there. I had no problem with a surgeon removing my healthy appendix a few years ago while he was correcting an intestinal birth defect that almost killed me. That was an ordeal I wouldn't want to go through a second time, so if he saved me from the possibility of more abdominal surgery later in life, more power to him.

Friday was the first time I heard somewhat good news. My dad met with yet another specialist from this team planning to rebuild him, to make him stronger. He's scheduled an MRA for next Tuesday, a noninvasive magnetic angiography that will give the clearest picture yet of which arteries are clogged, which are narrow, and how the blood is flowing through them. If things are 90% clogged, then surgery is inevitable, but if they're more in the neighborhood of 70%, he thinks the surgery might not be necessary. Whether that means they still proceed and address the less risky carotid problem first, or explore medical options, I know not. I do feel confident at the idea of finally getting a clear picture of everything in order to plan a strategy, and I can stress to my dad enough to follow doctor's orders to the letter, following what they prescribe and being patient for it to work.

So, life is going on. Work continues to be busier then ever, and I even got tapped by human resources to show a new hire around next week as part of their “buddy” system. I still remember my tour like it was yesterday, but I'm one of the regulars there now. Parade season is starting this weekend too, although if it rains as hard as they predict I hope they cancel this one. I've got my poncho ready just in case, because it wouldn't be the first time I worked in a full downpour. We're just taking things one day at a time, and if my dad finds on Tuesday that he'll need to have those operations on the 22nd, I'll have to miss a few meetings and get some friends to cover for me at work. I'm also trying to work ahead in case I need to be out for more than one day, although it was tough this week since I was covering for someone else already. It does seem like my dad will miss the one gig this month he was going to play, an easy and short indoor one at a catering hall, but the band leader will more than understand when we tell him why. Right now, we're taking each day one at a time, and not planning too far ahead. Who knows what tomorrow will throw at us next?


Blogger MCF said...

Addendum: So this morning, they tell me the MRA is ONLY to check the carotid to see if he needs that procedure at the same time as the bypass; he's still having the heart surgery either way, but the carotid may be able to wait.

3/13/2010 12:17 PM  
Blogger Lorna said...

Hang in there. Modern medicine is amazing.

3/13/2010 6:02 PM  
Anonymous FawnDoo said...

From what you describe, it sounds like your dad is in good hands both at home and in the hospital. This is a tough time for all of you, and I wish nothing but the best for you all. Easy for me to sit here thousands of miles away and type that out, but I really do hope that things work out alright for you and your folks.

Don't go brushing up on that draft eulogy, don't even let your brain dig it out of whatever storage bin it's sitting in. Focus on what needs done, on what your dad needs to get through this, and let the rest attend to itself. Positive thoughts are the order of the day.

3/13/2010 7:37 PM  

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