This year, I finally lost my shit.
Pops was working with some doctors on some back/neck pain that was also giving him some difficulties walking. He made the appointments, somehow got a ride to a neighboring town to see the surgeon. He scheduled a surgery.
He seemed to be doing okay. Other than his occasional rants toward my mom, he seemed pretty stable (granted, I didn’t know how bad his living space had gotten), but for his “normal” we were looking pretty good. Clark & I took him out to eat for his birthday – the first time that they had met. It went better than I thought! Pops has a hard time remembering some stuff that is currently happening, but he can tell you stories of growing up that are clear as ever to him.
During lunch, he asked me for a ride to the hospital in the next couple of months for his surgery- no problem! The hospital is in the town I work in, easy enough! I didn’t get to meet with the doc or nurses to discuss expectations before. He was in charge of his own medical decisions. He expected to stay one night.
After that first night, I spoke to his nurse. She felt he was unstable, and weak. She wanted to talk to the doctor about keeping him for at least one more night. I explained that he lives on his own. He needs to be 100% independent. He needs to be able to get up from bed, to walk to the bathroom, to bathe. He does not live with me. He cannot stay with me. He needs to either go to a skilled nursing facility or be ready to take care of himself before discharge.
I had this conversation multiple times, with multiple nurses and they all pretended to hear my concerns. They explained his behaviors and asked if it was “normal”. Sorry ladies – there is no baseline for “normal” since his TBI. They recommended that he go to a nursing facility until he was stronger. He refused (shocking, I know).
He wanted to smoke. And nursing homes do not allow smoking. Totally logical…
The hospital wanted him to use a walker. He refused. He doesn’t need that. He is fine. He just wants to go outside and smoke.
I told them to stop giving him options. Tell him that he is going to a facility – that is the only way he can be discharged. I thought we were all on the same page, but they did me dirty. After a week (much longer than he thought the stay would be), they told me that he is ready to be picked up.
Are you sure? It didn’t sound that way yesterday…. again, he lives on his own and needs to care for himself. They assured me and I left work to go get him.
So let me set a scene here…. I am waiting outside (because COVID rules are still in effect at the hospital). I called and let them know I was waiting. 30 minutes go by. Then 45. I called again – they are working on his discharge, he will be right out.
Then I get a call from home. One of my boys, Kevin, cut his hand pretty bad, and needs to go to the hospital, because he will probably need stitches & he passed out. Queue up my anxiety – not because the family at home cannot handle it, but just the fact that I cannot go right now to be there for my kid. So I am frantically trying to send my mom the insurance info, so she can go to the ER, and the hospital that is discharging my dad calls me.
The nurse. She wants to give me his discharge instructions, so that I can take care of him. NOPE. NOPE. NOPE. I told her – he is to take care of himself, so she needs to go over the discharge instructions with him. “But I don’t think he understands…” Whelp, then I guess he should still be in your care or discharged to a facility.
About then, they wheel him out. I can tell before I even go to open the door, that he cannot stand, walk, or even get from the chair to my car. I got a little snippy with the nurse who brought him out (maybe a little unfair, but I was feeling some major stress). I asked how they expected him to care for himself, if he can’t even get into my car?!? “Well ma’am – he wants to leave, and we cannot keep him.”
I wanted to get home and see my kid. I was done.
So we lifted my dad into my passenger seat. He cussed at me. He cussed at the nurse. He couldn’t buckle his seatbelt. He wouldn’t let me help.
The discharge nurse came out to go over his after care instructions. He told her to fuck off, so she did. She tried to have him sign the paperwork, but he could barely lift the pen to the right spot. No instructions given – just that he can take a shower later.
So off we went. He cussed at me for the first 15 miles. Then apologized for being an asshole. Then asked if I have his new prescription for painkillers yet? (FML dude… I haven’t even gotten us back to town yet – but tells me what his goal was all along). We got stopped in some traffic in a neighboring town… I stepped on my brakes, and he said “If you get in an accident, I am going to be really pissed at you!”…. At this point, I sent a text to Clark & said I was going to reach across, open his door and leave him on the side of the highway! It was VERY tempting… but we drove on.
My anxiety was rapidly increasing… how was I going to leave him to take care of himself? How was my kid in the ER doing with getting stitches? When will my car stop telling me that he isn’t buckled… UGH! This day isn’t going to end well…. and his behavior was deteriorating by the minute (right along with my patience).
We get to his house, I pulled into the driveway so he had the shortest distance to walk. He rents a back bedroom in a residential house. His landlord was an angel, who looked out for him all the time – but I KNEW that he was going to need more. He was in no shape to care for himself. BUT – I can’t stay with him, in his disgusting tiny room (that my mom had actually cleaned, but still). There is not room in our tiny home for him to stay. What the fuck am I going to do?!? I may be a bitch from time to time, but this is my Pops (who I do love a whole lot) and I have no clue what to do… and honestly, I just really want to see my kid.
But, one problem at a time. Let’s get Pops out of my car and into his room, so he can smoke and do whatever else he was dying to do.
Me: “Pops – let’s get you out of the car. Put both feet out of the car, and on the ground, and I will help you stand up.”
Pops: “Fuck you, I can do it”
He puts one foot on the ground. Can’t get the other foot out of the car. He half falls out of the car. I picked him back up and put him on the seat.
We did this 4 more times, until he LET me help him put both feet down.
Me: “Stay right there. Here is your cane, but don’t move until I get your door unlocked. Seriously, DON’T MOVE!!!”
I turned to get the keys out of the back seat. Turn right back around, and he is no longer standing. He is flat on his back on the front lawn (thankfully)… This is when I snap.
Me: “DO NOT FUCKING MOVE!!! I’m calling an ambulance, and you are going back to a hospital!”
Pops: “Fuck you. I’m not going. I need a cigarette, can you get me up so I can smoke?”
Remember, he just had BACK SURGERY… so it isn’t like I want to try and pull him up to standing. Plus he is a lot taller than me (like almost a foot taller). Not the easiest thing to do, even when he is the least bit helpful. So I chatted with the 9-1-1 operator. They are pretty familiar with my dad. I explained our current scenario. She asked if he his his head (his response was “Fuck you” – shocking, I know) – I told her that I didn’t think so… she let me know that fire & ambulance were headed our way.
I wanted to just sit right down and cry. I watched him lay there. I listened to him continue to cuss me out. I listened as he told me that he doesn’t need me and I should leave him alone (but help him get more cigarettes and his pain pills first). I waited for the cavalry to arrive.
Pops argued with the medics. He didn’t need to go to the hospital, he just needed help getting up and to his room. I explained the whole situation, and I told them that I felt very strongly that he cannot care for himself, and should have never had been released from the hospital. Luckily they agreed. Luckily they were “familiar” with my dad, and recognized his decline. After a little battle, they loaded him up on a stretcher and took him to the ER…. Perfect, I was headed that way to see my kid.
Mom and Kev were wrapping up paperwork and he was heading home. Couple of stitches, keep it dry… make an appointment to have the stitches removed in a week. Other than having a student stitch him up (and I guess a horrible person overseeing the task), he was in and out without issue. He was waiting in mom’s truck in the parking lot as the ambulance arrived with my dad. Kevin – in all his dry-humor Kevinness – said “Thanks grandpa, for showing me up.”… I was thankful for the laugh (but in need of something stronger).
We chatted a bit with the crew from the ambulance. One of the ER nurses came out to talk to me… I let her know that he had surgery earlier in the week. That I felt the operating hospital wrongly discharged him to wash their hands of him. And that I felt very strongly that he was not in a condition to take care of his own basic human needs.
They were going to at least keep him overnight, so I finally headed home.
Through this whole living nightmare, Clark was asking how he can help? What can he do??? I didn’t know. I wasn’t sure what I was doing at the time. But I was welcomed home with a big hug that helped me pull myself together. And a cold drink to help me make a call to my brother & sister that wasn’t going to be the easiest.
If you are still with me on this journey, the next post will share what happened next, and where we are today…. I promise, I will wrap it up (for now).