Do you remember about six weeks ago, when Vernon was assessed for surgery to have another dialysis port put in his arm? And then two weeks ago when he was supposed to have the surgery? I was in Seattle but had arranged for my friend Sharon to sit with him while I was away. However, there had been a mixup with scheduling the ambulance and the whole thing was postponed.
I was annoyed at the time. It felt like I couldn’t even leave town with out everything falling apart. But today—the day the surgery was rebooked—everything was worked out for good…as it most often is.
For one thing, I was able to be with him this time. That was great, partly because they had so many health-history questions for me to answer that I don’t know how Sharon would have got through them two weeks ago. You realize how well you know a person when you are rattling off his medical facts and dates like a first language.
Its always strange to be in a real hospital again. This was Vernon’s fourth official hospital: Fountain Valley Medical Center. At this rate, it may be possible to have surgery at all of the hospitals in Orange County. We won’t make it a goal.
I was delighted to find him very quiet and relaxed in his room. After some of the dialysis stories of the past week, I had been quite concerned that I’d find him in an anxious and confused state, being the difficult patient he’s gaining a reputation as. But we had a couple of sweet hours together. I played him music on my phone from some of his old playlists. He particularly loved hearing LOVE. He asked me to read to him about the music on wiki pages. We went on like that with different music for awhile. It was great.
But what I loved most is that he seemed to be able to remember more things in context of conversation. When I read a letter from his mother that I had read to him on Tuesday, he would interrupt: “Wait, you read this to me yesterday. I already heard this.”
And when the nurse came in to ask me more questions about his health history, Vernon demanded (as he sometimes does): “Are you talking about ME? Well, I should answer the questions then!”
And so she asked him the questions. Some he could answer correctly, sometimes he looked at me for the answer. I felt like a translator in those moments, rather than a carer. It was…a refreshing change. Maybe for him too.
My friend Sharon, who is also a nurse (the one who was waiting for him at this hospital two weeks ago when he didn’t arrive for his surgery appointment) just so happened to call me up this morning, saying she’d join us at the hospital.
I don’t know what I would have done without her today. As nice as my visit with Vernon was, he does tend to lose interest in things after a short while and its nice to have someone else to distract him. She has a wonderful bedside manner…and even in listening to her talk to him, I learned better ways to communicate with my patient.
After a few hours, when it was obvious that things were running behind schedule, I finally had to go to nurses station and demand his surgery start soon. “He has a severe TBI,” I told them. “He’s been waiting too long. He has been good, but I can tell you he is about to shift over to his aggitated state. Please send someone soon.” I don’t know exactly what I said, but they seemed to take me seriously and hurried things along. I may or may not have made a reference to Dr. Jeckye and Mr. Hyde.
I had to leave just after we took him to Pre-Op. It was time to drive south and pick up the kids. But Sharon stayed with him til it was time for surgery, keeping me updated the whole time. Hours later, she was still at the hospital, waiting to make sure all went well.
It did. The doctor called, saying that in the end, he was able to put in the av fistula, which 6 week ago, he had decided to compromise on (with an AV Shunt.) Apparently, the Fistula is the better long term option. So it was a surprise WIN!
I don’t know where things are going from here. But it seemed like everything important fell into place today enough to give me hope for the next day anyway. Today marks Month 11. Tomorrow I have a meeting with his doctors, hopefully his case manager, and also with the dialysis center to see how we can even out some of the current obstacles. But that’s tomorrow.
In the famous words of Scarlet O’Hara: “After all, tomorrow is another day.”