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Where I’ve Been

July 25th, 2007

I’d intended to blog sooner, but life has a way of intruding. Last Sunday, when Vic and I were on our way back from a short vacation visiting friends in South Carolina, I received a phone call from one of my dad’s neighbors in my hometown of Hobart, Indiana. Dad was in the hospital following a fall at home, and apparently suffering from failing kidneys.

I attempted to call the nurses’ station, but ran up against federal privacy rules. “I’m his son,” I said. “I have no way of proving that,” replied the nurse, adding “Can I take a message and have him call you?” “I was told that he was incoherent,” I answered.

Frustrated with the uncaring bureaucracy, my dad’s seemingly dire condition and the ten-hour drive between me and him, I shouted, “I DON’T CARE ABOUT YOUR FUCKING PRIVACY LAW! I AM IN FUCKING TENNESSEE AND I NEED TO KNOW HIS CONDITION NOW!” Needless to say, that approach didn’t work either: “Do you want me to take a phone number where he can reach you?” In the end, I gave it to her, adding “I hate you.” “I’m sorry to hear that you feel that way,” she said as she hung up.

I’ll admit that I feel bad about blowing up at a nurse, but dammit, she could tell I was upset and yet made no attempt to explain the proper method of obtaining information, nor did she contradict my (misinformed) belief that he would be unable to return my call. Surely, talking to family members is part of medical training?

Dad did call me back after a while, and he didn’t sound as bad as I’d feared. He’d had some sort of illness late last week, and collapsed with weakness in his bathroom. He lay there for an indeterminate number of hours before finally crawling to a phone and getting help from the neighbors.

Unfortunately, that time spent on the floor only made things worse, leaving him dehydrated. (Yes, in the midst of a room full of plumbing.) Furthermore, lying prone for hours caused microscopic particles of his muscle tissue to clog his kidneys, reducing their ability to function.

While he sounded pretty good on the phone, by the time I reached him (about 9:00 pm Sunday) he wasn’t looking very good. The fever was causing him to hallucinate about, of all things, a giant Pac-Man. That’s right, Pac-Man. “Wakka wakka.” Keep in mind that my dad is one of the few people who still plays arcade Pac-Man on a frequent basis. (Whether he was also hallucinating Inky, Pinky, Blinky or Clyde, I have been afraid to ask.)

The next day, he was moved into intensive care after his blood pressure began to drop, and he began receiving drugs to keep it up. Otherwise, he seemed stable, and happily Pac-Man had vanished, presumably to munch pellets elsewhere.

Vic and I arranged to be met halfway between Hobart and Champaign, so that I could trade her for a suitcase of clean clothes. She’s home taking care of kitties while I’m staying at my dad’s house and checking in on him.

As of six this evening, Dad is still in intensive care, but all of his signs are improving and everyone seems hopeful that’ll we’ll be able to move him to a different room tomorrow. They identified the bug that caused the infection–some form of streptococcus–and have been pumping him full of antibiotics. His fever has been gone for more than 24 hours, his blood pressure has returned to more or less normal without drugs, and his kidney and liver functions continue to improve. He is not seeing early ’80s videogame characters.

Meanwhile, I have discovered the joys of the borrowed laptop I had sent up with the suitcase. I am blogging this from a Panera Bread Co. restaurant: one of the few chains I’m aware of that provides free wi-fi. I’m thinking that I’m going to have to get my own laptop; it’s amazing just how much it comforts me to be connected.

I am hopeful that I’ll be able to return home soon. I miss Vic and the cats, and honestly, I’m looking forward to getting back to work.

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