It’s just before 7 am on a Saturday. I’m sitting at my parents kitchen table in North Carolina, admiring the gorgeous azaleas in bloom outside the window. The sun is coming up, the sky is still gray from the rain the night before. Much needed, much loved rain. It’s Yellow Season. Pollen season. When all the trees open up and cover everything with a fine, not-so-thin, yellow dust. Sticky dust. It gets everywhere, through screens, on shoes, clothes, in my hair. It is the devils powder. Thank God for rain.
I would never choose to come to NC during Yellow Season. I would never choose to fly during a Pandemic. But there is always a but. I will do anything for my family, my husband, my kids, my parents. I am here for my dad. I fought a week-long battle to get here, and that is a tale all in itself, I got here last Friday. In time to see Soren, who’d flown in to relieve Cole, and at the perfect time to be very useful.
I’m rarely political out loud, even rarer on this blog, but healthcare in the US is abysmal. My dad was in a beautiful, newly renovated hospital. One of the top in this country. His care was outstanding, albeit not perfect. There were small things missed (such as his apnea machine, listed at the top of his chart). He had a team of Doctors who saved his life. It was close. Much, much closer than I was prepared to face. He is doing well now, though nights are still tough, and at home. And this is where my rant comes in.
My dad is home. He is where he wants to be. In his own bed, not hooked up to a gazillion machines, able to stand up and go to his toilet. Unassisted. This alone has improved his health, his outlook, a thousand times. But he came home too soon. In a medical system that does not extend well beyond the hospital environment. In Europe, in Holland, my aunt had a serious eye condition. Six times a day a home nurse comes by to help her administer the eye medications. Here in America we get a nurse once a week.
I’m blessed to share the nursing with my sister, Manon. We take turns. My dad is still critically ill with a dangerous staph infection. It’s in his blood. So far it’s out of his heart. Every 8 hours he gets IV antibiotics through a stitched-in-place pic line in his left arm. Refrigerated antibiotics that must be taken out an hour before. Antibiotics that require a special saline before & after, as well as a heparin flush. We know this by its acronym SASH. Everything given at different rates (speeds) we measure precisely on our phones. The whole process takes about an hour-and-a-half. My sister takes the late shift, I take the early mornings, we split the afternoons. Luckily we both work from home. It is possible for us.
My dad is also a diabetic. An experienced, careful, detail-oriented diabetic. Not that long ago he got a sensor to measure his glucose levels, it’s made caring for him so much easier. But. The infection and the new medications have thrown off his rhythm. It’s disrupted his insulin use. Today it’s pretty stable. On Sunday, the first day home from the hospital, it was anything but stable.
Usually his blood sugar is very stable after dinner. Not Sunday. Not Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday either. Every evening, after dinner, his blood sugar would dip dangerously low. As low as 54! Neither my mother, nor my sister, had any experience with diabetes. We weren’t briefed upon leaving the hospital, so it is only because I had gestational diabetes during my last pregnancy that I knew it was problem. My dad, of course, also knew.
Dad is stubborn. And private. And proud. He knows how to manage diabetes. He does not need anyone’s help. Especially not from non-diabetics that know nothing. He did ask me for a glass a juice. I do know what that means. It means he’s low. Last Sunday that started the first argument.
“Dad? What’s your sugar at?” An innocent question from a loving daughter. My independent dad was not happy to share. Low blood sugar makes you cranky, and a daughter trying to interfere is not appreciated. I pushed. He cranked. Two hours later we finally hit 100 and I could fall into an exhausted sleep. My dad, life, jetlag, kicking my butt.
In the morning, blood sugar back to normal, my mom’s amazing coffee in our hands it was a much easier conversation. He made some micro adjustments, unwilling to call the doctor and sure he had it under control. Monday night was rough. Back under 60, a cranky dad, a pushy daughter, a couple of hours of tense sugar watching. Friday night, last night, we finally had this down to a science. No more dropping below 70. A nice 110 by my bedtime.
We are now old pro’s at the IV infusion treatments. We are old pro’s at the new diabetic treatment. Now we are learning about his heart medication, because that too is out of whack. Again, he had this managed. He knows what he is doing. But. This infection. This medication. It is wreaking havoc with his heart. The beat is irregular. This we cannot fix. We cannot make micro adjustments. We see the cardiologist on Monday. In Holland, the cardiologist would have seen him immediately. At home. Or maybe back in the hospital. Here we are so happy with Monday. Here I keep checking to see if my dad is still alive.