February 29, 2012

Leap Year Day: Dealing With Life & Death Issues


Wednesday, February 29, 2012  

6:55 a. m. My husband Monte calls to me just as I emerge from my night’s rest.

     It’s Leap Year Day. We are going to the State University of New York Upstate Medical University Hospital, to see Monte’s older brother, Paul (not his real name), who is hospitalized for a broken hip caused by a fall. Paul celebrated his ninetieth birthday in May, 2010.

     Just for the record, Paul lives in upstate New York near the St. Lawrence River. Monte and I live southeast of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. We are staying at the James Street EconoLodge Motel in Syracuse, New York, where we registered early Saturday evening.

     During our time at the hospital, I keep notes on who the doctors/nurses are, what they tell us, and how Paul is doing.

7:40 a. m. I choose a sesame-seed/poppy-seed bagel from the hotel’s continental breakfast, and wonder Will I be taking a drug test any time soon?* We need to be at the hospital, so I take the bagel with me.

8:10 a. m. We line up at University Hospital to get our daily visitor ID sticker. We must present our driver’s license from which a photo ID sticker is made. It lists the floor, room number, and the name of the patient being visited.

8:24 a. m. I’m in Paul’s room. He rests, I take out my bagel, which, slabbed with peanut butter and cream cheese, is pretty messy. I struggle to cut it into pieces with a plastic knife.

     Monte is elsewhere, trying to contact the physical therapist who treated Paul last summer. He hopes she will help him in his struggle with a decision: Should Paul should be subjected to post-surgical physical therapy by having surgery to repair his broken hip? It’s a fifty-fifty decision that Paul might not be able to help make. He is out of it much of the time, due to the injury and the medications. Monte’s limited medical power of attorney puts him in the position of making this decision if Paul is incompetent to do so.

     Post-surgery hip physical therapy is pretty rugged. Monte is concerned about hooking Paul into this therapy if he isn’t a good candidate.

8:27 a. m. Monte returns to wait for a call back from the physical therapist. I start to drink my coffee and take my cardiac meds.

8:30 a. m. Monte receives a call from the physical therapy agency director—-she saw Paul once. He asks about Paul’s attitude and willingness to work with physical therapy in comparison to the average patient.

     The agency director said she saw a very good, willing, physical therapy participant. She noted that without surgery the prospects aren’t good for Paul. She shared that her father was ninety-two when he had hip surgery and the outcome was good. She considers Paul to be a pretty reasonable physical therapy candidate, and if he were her father she would allow the surgery. If he is a walker it’s logical to try it.

     Monte discusses the situation with me. I take notes. Monte has considered Paul’s lifestyle. Paul likes to walk and be out of the house. Without surgery he will be unable to walk, he will be confined (more…)

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