Stenty Birthday

My father made it to 80 years old this week, a genuine milestone. It's hard to believe that it's been 18 years since he first started getting chest pains, a sensation he described as not unlike suddenly breathing in cold air. After numerous cardiologists, it was determined that he had several blocked arteries. Without bypass surgery, the doctors only gave him 3-5 years to live. He opted not to have the surgery, and instead tried a balloon angioplasty twice and a laser angioplasty once. The doctor burned him on that last one, and he was done with conventional medicine.

He radically changed his diet, eliminating cheese, bologna, ice cream, salt, and more. My mom started using turkey for our meatballs and meatloaf instead of beef. After a while, I didn't notice the difference anymore. He also started getting chelation treatment, a homeopathic remedy in which intravenous minerals are used to flush out the bloodstream and remove plaque from the walls of the arteries. Though not recognized by the FDA, it certainly made a difference. He continued to march with bands, and even after retiring continued working on cars on the side, both ours and his friends'. He definitely pushed his limits and did things people his age with his medical condition should not. One such incident involved heavy lifting of a tree and exacerbated a ganglion cyst on his shoulder. It turned into a wound and became badly infected, and he spent two months in the hospital and then a nursing home last year until the infection was knocked out.

He played a few gigs last year, but found he didn't have the strength to walk far. A lifetime of bashing his hands while working on cars left him with bad arthritis. He managed smaller jobs that didn't involve a lot of walking. As his birthday approached, I had the bright idea of taking him to a Yankee game and/or a tour of the stadium. I was very excited, and ran the idea past my mother, who nixed it. She didn't think he could handle the walking or the stairs, and told me his pains were coming back lately, more frequently and with the mildest exertion. Even walking around the supermarket with her he was getting them. She felt his cardiologist, who had suspected aortic stenosis before the whole shoulder problem took center stage, was now being too conservative. So she got him an appointment to see her cardiologist and get a second opinion.

The only time they could get in was on his birthday. In the morning, I presented him with my gifts, a book detailing the photo history of the last Yankee stadium from 1923 to 2008, and a collection of 25 John Wayne movies. The rest were the standard gifts, crossword puzzle books and a plethora of healthy snacks ranging from breadsticks to unsalted pretzels to rice cakes and more. Later that night, when I got home from work, my dad was doing his usual routine of watching the rerun of the previous week's LOST, which has little pop-up notes explaining things the audience might have missed. “I think that kid was actually Faraday and not Jack's son, because Jack doesn't have a son and the note on here said he was playing the same song on the piano that Faraday did.” I'm still not sure he's following the whole parallel alternate timeline route the show has taken this season, but I like that he's trying to figure it all out with the rest of us. I don't think his theory is right, but any theory is valid right now.

My mom had a different story. “Did your father tell you what's going on?” I told her I already saw the episode last week, though I knew she probably wasn't talking about LOST. Long story short, the cardiologist wants my dad to have another angioplasty, and possibly have a stent put in to keep the arteries open, if they are able to expand them. It's a relatively uncomplicated minimally invasive procedure, entering through the leg, and if all goes well he should be done in a few hours. I'm a little nervous that he's a lot older now, and certainly don't like that he's using the same doctor who burned him with the laser that time, but I am confident in the advances in technology and procedures over the past two decades. At 80 years old, I don't think he has to worry about bypass surgery anymore because now it would be too risky. For this procedure he'll be mildly sedated but awake, and hopefully it will bring him some relief from the symptoms he's been experiencing. I don't know how many years he has left, and I'm grateful for the extra 18 we've gotten since he first learned of these problems. Whether it's another 5, 10, or God willing 15 years, here's hoping they're relatively pain free years.

My mom did manage to surprise my dad with a cake on Tuesday night, which she baked late the night prior. She woke me up to tell me our cat Chirp had gone “somewhere”, and after a groggy search of the kitchen I noticed the open oven door. She had left it open to cool when she was done baking, but since it was still a little warm he walked right in and casually balanced his paws on the grill. I freaked out, while my mom thought it was cute. That cat is too nosy for his own good sometimes. Even with oven mitts I couldn't get to him, and ultimately had to put down some food so he walked out on his own. We were able to share the story with my dad the next night, and I enjoyed watching a new LOST with my dad, suddenly thinking thoughts like I hope he gets to see how this show ends. It's hard not to worry. He's going in Monday morning, and if they do put in a stent he may need to stay overnight. Otherwise, he'll probably be back home before I get done with work. I'll be praying in the meantime, and trying to keep his mind, my mom's, and my own on other things.

He grumped on Tuesday morning that I should tell people he was “only” 78, because he didn't want them to think he was old, and 80 was officially old. 80's no mean feat, but I'm greedy. I want there to be an 81....


Blogger Lorna said...

Nicely done, and you and your family are in my somewhat inconsistent prayers.

3/04/2010 5:44 AM  
Blogger b13 said...

Hope all goes smoothly for your pop. Why no picture of "Oven Cat"?

3/04/2010 9:51 AM  
Blogger MCF said...

I was too busy freaking out that my little buddy was in a recently-used oven to think about taking a picture; I just wanted to get him out of there.

3/04/2010 10:28 PM  

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