But A Small Moment ….

We left my Dad’s story in the Emergency Room at Queen Alexandria Hospital where he was diagnosed with a broken neck. (See ‘The Fall At Highlands Road’). I mentioned saying that one would think the story would end there; his neck would mend and life would move forwards as normal. Unfortunately, my Dad’s story did not go that way.

Before the fall, my Dad was in the initial stages of vascular dementia. He had had several bleeds in his brain which had affected his memory and more recently, some of his life skills such as cooking rice, curry, chili and chips; and making a cup of tea. He liked to cook these parts of the meal. When he was outside in the kitchen and couldn’t remember how to do these things, he would call on my Mum to come and help him.

The past year, before the accident, he had had his driver’s license revoked. This was of great consternation to my Dad. He love to drive. It was how he was able to be free, independent, and of great help to others. My father fretted about the lost of his license, losing sleep over it. He was very angry and felt powerless.

Now with the broken neck he was confined to the orthopedic ward. Being out of his familiar environment and routine, his dementia exponentially increased. The hospital staff had to lock down the orthopedic ward so that my Dad would not wander off; he kept taking off his neck collar, he would start playing with the hydraulics under his bed (probably thinking he was tinkering on his car), and he would start taking other people’s things and hoard them in his bedside locker. The latter behaviour is very typical of people who have dementia.

I think it is very interesting that the hospital kept my Dad on the orthopedic ward and didn’t move him to a geriatric ward. Nevertheless, being so far away, I was not able to talk to the staff and find out the finer details.

While all this was going on with my Dad, my Mum found out that she had breast cancer and was undergoing regular intense treatment in the same hospital. She would get herself there; see the doctor; and then go further into the hospital to visit my Dad. It is the most frustrating thing living so far away from my parents in their time of need!

I am, however, happy to report that even with all the stress my mum experienced on top of dealing with her disease that she is a survivor of breast cancer.

Mum knew that Dad would be in the hospital for twelve weeks whilst his neck healed. She was looking forward to having him home again. Towards the end of the stay, she was asked to go into a meeting to review my Dad’s needs. My sister went in with my mum so between the two of them, they would absorb everything that was discussed.

The doctors and the social workers told my Mum that my Dad needed to go into a facility where his needs would be met. His dementia was really severe and he would be in danger back in the home environment. The reality of this news was a shock to my mum. She knew that my Dad had deteriorated whilst in the hospital, but she hadn’t even considered that he might not be coming home.

Mum and I spent some time discussing this on our weekly Sunday call following her meeting at the hospital. Knowing that Dad was stubborn at the best of time (takes one to know one!), with his dementia exasperating this trait, it would be very hard for Mum to convince Dad to not to do certain things to keep him safe; it would be hard to monitor him twenty-four seven. I proposed to my mother to consider which decision would be best for her relationship with my father. Would the constant lack of sleep and the continued contention be good for both of them? How would she feel if Dad messed with the electric wires in the house? Would this cause a fire in the house? Would Dad electrocute himself? What about him wanting to use his power tools? Would she be able to stop him? What if he decided to drive anyway? Would it cause an accident that would not only hurt Dad but also members of the community? What if Dad left the house and couldn’t find his way home or deal with the traffic and got hurt?

With a lot to think about and ponder over, Mum and my sister again met with the doctors and the social workers. They found a nice facility within a mile and a half of my Mum’s home. She could walk or drive there. With Mum having in her mind the importance of maintaining a good relationship with my Dad as her highest priority, when she found out that really she had no choice in deciding whether my Dad went into the facility or not, I think this concept gave her some measure of comfort.

Mum and Dad had been together since they were young children, swapping comics with each other, and playing in the street. They lived down the same street in Southampton even though the street changed names half way down. They had grown up together and married. Despite my Dad’s days at sea for work, they had a lifetime of being together. This separation was and is hard on both of them.

Dad was transferred from Queen Alexandria to the nursing home in Fareham via non-emergency ambulance. Unfortunately communication between the two organizations and between the transportation was not stellar. Dad was transported without his neck brace. No medications were transferred nor was the medical regimen shared between the two facilities. My mum does not know what type of medicine my dad has but there is one that helps to keep him calm when he is agitated. Mum is not sure whether that is a sedative or not. He usually gets tired and extra sleepy when he has taken it. The staff at the nursing home were not aware that my dad needed this but his needs became apparent very quickly.

Going to a new environment for people in my dad’s condition can be very scary. For him it was another unfamiliar environment with unfamiliar faces. As the nursing home has clients with diagnoses varying from dementia, Alzheimer’s to schizophrenia, being with people with unusual and unpredictable behaviours is also extra scary for someone who is a vulnerable adult.

My mum and sister were there to welcome my dad into the nursing home and to get him situated. When they prepared to leave, my Dad became extremely agitated. He was held down by six male careers. He screamed at my sister to rescue him. It is very distressing for me to even relate this; it must have been more distressing to my mum and my sister to witness it.

My dad is now very content at this place and is attached to many of the staff. He is super polite and has good manners except when he gets agitated. A small dose of the medicine does help to relieve his anxiety and fears in these situations. Even though he can’t hold a conversation anymore and is extremely inarticulate, he still can manage to say ‘Yes please’ in response to a question. My mum and sister visit him very often. I visit him in my thoughts every day and when I go to England.

I can’t even begin to imagine what it is like to have dementia; how frightening it is not to be able to remember; to not know the people around you, even dear ones; and to lose the ability to speak and communicate.

My mum, my sister and I all know what it feels like to be on the other side of someone who has dementia; to see those we love change and drift away from us; to walk the long dark road of grief that seems to have no beginning and no end; to love unconditionally and completely with no expectation of reciprocity.

Fortunately, we know Dad and we know his heart. We know his consistency and the depth of his diligence and caring. This is but a small moment of time until we meet again, whole and complete, on the other side of the veil to enjoy endless eternities of loving association and joy with each other.

Walking on Air.

Saturday had a twist in store for me in more ways than one. I had planned to do so much that day, but as always my ‘To Do’ list is always adventurous and far exceeds the hours and energy available. After exploring a new venue for dinner with friends up in Brigham City, I decided to quickly go shopping so I was ready for the coming week.

I zoomed around the store picking up the items on my shopping list, pleased that I could still walk fast and that I hadn’t over eaten at our meal. I was hoping that I would be able to catch up with the things that I hadn’t done on my list due to coming to a complete halt after lunch. I arrived home about 8:15 p.m. and unloaded the shopping, putting the first load on top of the freezer in the garage. I could get it into the house in two trips. I waited patiently as the front of the garage door closed. If my dog got out of the house, I didn’t want her to escape through that garage door. Then I opened the door into our little courtyard or patio, climbed the three steps with the first load of shopping and plonked it on the counter in the kitchen.

Before I could turn around, the dog had gone out the back door. ‘She must need to go out,’ I ruminated. Then I realized I that I hadn’t pushed the garage door shut. “Oh no!” I rushed out the back door as I didn’t want the dog to go to the loo in the garage.

“Where did the steps go?“ I mused as my feet met air. ‘Time seems to have slowed down,’ I continued.

But all too soon, I met the concrete with a thud and the pain shot up through my body. ‘How stupid!” My mind screamed. I couldn’t get up and I felt like I was going to pass out.

I must have screamed when I landed as my husband came running out. “I’m hurt!” I exclaimed. I couldn’t get up. He tried to help me but I couldn’t put any weight on my feet. I felt waves of nausea ripple over me and I became very light headed.

Eventually, although I don’t remember exactly how, my husband was able to help me inside to the reclining chair and put some ice on my right foot which hurt the most. I’m grimacing in pain but worried about the food that I had left in the garage and the kitchen that could go off in the heat. My husband is adamant that we are going to the Emergency Room. I’m concerned that even though I’m in pain, no-one will believe me and worried about the huge bill that it will generate. However, the pain and my husband’s insistence won the day and we manage to get me into the car. I didn’t have the ability to calm my husband’s anxiety as I was focusing on controlling my pain by trying to relax. I nearly had a panic attack on the way to the car and needed to breathe as best I could on the trip to the hospital.

Once we got to ER, my husband pulled up and went to get a wheelchair. A member of the hospital staff helped him and came out with him to get me into the chair. She wheeled me in to get me registered and to go to triage whilst my husband parked the car.

About twenty minutes later, we are admitted to a room. I’ve really glad that they weren’t too busy. Everyone was super nice. My swollen ankles and feet showed them that I was telling the truth even though I was able to mask the pain somewhat. I had a series of x-rays and fortunately for me it turned out that I had not broken anything. Just a sprained left ankle, a sprained right foot and a slightly sprained wrist. I was given a large dosage of ibuprofen for the pain and a brace for my left ankle.

Taking my feet off the level bed to try and stand up to have lessons on the crutches took my pain back up to a seven from a four or five. A constant throb to excruciating stabs. Training would have to wait until I was at home. I could look up some videos on YouTube. My husband went to get the car.

It was pretty tricky trying to get back into that wheel chair again. This time with very little help, the inability to put any weight or pressure on my right foot, the raging pain as the blood rushed down to my feet again, and having to get from the elevated bed to the low chair. I am so glad that I didn’t fall again or twist my left ankle further as I attempted to wheedle myself into the right position to lower myself into that chair. The young lady who was going to give me lessons on the crutches didn’t really know how to help me into this chair. Nor did she know how to get me into the car. But she was excellent at pushing me from the room and out of the hospital to the car! My husband took over and got the wheelchair almost adjacent to the passenger seat and I was able to use my arms to pull myself over to the seat.

As we drove back home, the Ibuprofen kicked in and the pain dropped to a more manageable level. I am so thankful to the wonderful staff at the hospital, to my wonderful husband who cares so much, and to wonderful medicine and technology. I am thankful that I was wearing a little backpack on my back when I fell which cushioned my back and hips. I am thankful that I didn’t break any bones and that I didn’t live alone. I would still be on that concrete patio right now, unable to get up.

I became even more sensitive to the needs of others who are confined to wheelchairs for various reasons or have artificial limbs and wonder how they manage? I reflected on their strength and courage to move forwards in their lives and to become as independent as they can.

I got used to the crutches as soon as we got home. I wanted to lay down upstairs rather than lay on the couch. The stairs seemed daunting and I wasn’t that good with the crutches. So I relied on skills that I learned many years ago and, once I got my husband to lower me onto the stairs, I turned around and crawled up those stairs. Getting up again when I got to the top was another difficult maneuver and with the help of my husband and one of those crutches I was able to get up.

By the time I got to lay down in bed it was about 1 a.m. Then my husband and I needed to decompress. I think I fell asleep about 2:30 a.m. I had been awake twenty and a half hours. I wouldn’t recommend trying to walk on air unless you have as much faith in the Saviour as Peter had when he began walking on water.

Today, I am able to put a little more weight on my right foot; I haven’t been downstairs for three days as I can’t manage them yet. I’m still icing the swelling. The beauty of working remotely is coming into its own as I can hobble to my desk from the bedroom on my crutches. Some kind friends have visited and bought in dinner or yummy treats; my daughter and grandchildren came to visit and brought me little ‘get well’ drawings, lemon bars and some lovely roses to look at as I lay in bed; and I’ve received multiple texts of support and love. All in all I’m on the up and up. My husband is super sweet and attentive although I’m probably driving him crazy with how much water I like to drink! Now to just have a shower ….. that would be soooo nice!

Trailing Clouds of Glory!

Last Thursday evening, my husband and I began looking after our five grandchildren aged 9, 7, 5, 3 and 21 months, whilst my daughter went into the hospital early Friday morning to deliver her sixth child.

I think our task was much easier than my daughter’s, although I went back to work this week for a rest! It’s at times like this, that getting old is frustrating with the lessened ability to do as much as I could do in my prime. Nevertheless, we lost none of the children and no-one died. That is a success, right?

For Friday, Saturday and Sunday, we divided the children up with my daughter’s in-laws. This really helped with getting age appropriate activities going and being able to give the time and attention that the children needed.

This is a stock picture, not my grandson.

We received a text and cute pictures of our newest grandson late Friday afternoon. As a mum, it was with great relief that I knew that both Mum and baby were okay and healthy. As all parents know, you never stop worrying about your children and their offspring.

Saturday morning we took the two little ones to enjoy a few rides on the Canyon Model Railroad that were having a free day. They really enjoyed that. I think Grandma and Papi enjoyed it even more. Could have spent all day riding if it wasn’t for the scorching sun! Then off we went to visit my daughter, her husband and the new baby!

In America, it is really cool that the father can stay in the hospital with the mother and the new baby. Everyone has individual rooms with an ensuite. I remember my days in the hospital after the delivery of my children in England. We were in a large ward separated from the other mum’s and babies by a curtain that we would pull around our bed if we wished. My then husband wasn’t allowed to stay. He could come during visiting hours. When I was a child, children weren’t allowed into the hospital. I remember being lifted up and looking in through a window to be able to see my little sister after she was born.

My daughter was looking really well although tired from the birth and sore from the afterbirth pains (which get worse after each birth). My little new grandson was beyond gorgeous. My daughter’s husband introduced little William to his big little sisters. Both were so gentle with him. I think that the youngest finally understood what we had been telling her about the baby coming out of mummy’s tummy and was amazingly kind and tender to her little new brother. Seems this kindness and love just oozes out of this little girl.

Each of my grandchildren have amazing unique qualities that belong just to them. Those qualities came with them when they were born. Being a sociologist, I was always taught that we are a product of our environment. When I had my children I decided to do a social experiment. I had one girl and one boy. Both played with dolls and cars. (Both favourite toys of mine!). I dressed them mostly in unisex clothes and colors. They had the same books and the same opportunities. I know that you can’t control your environment and the way that you behave due to your upbringing so I’m sure that we were modeling many behaviours to our children unconsciously.

I was a single mum when my youngest child was four. Dad wasn’t around much for visiting. When my son was a young teenager, he one day turned around to me exclaiming that I used way to many words to explain things and suggested that I became more succinct! He didn’t mean to be sassy, he was just trying to express a frustration. Well, I’m still female and still use a lot of words to convey stuff; but my son showed me that he was very male and wanted concise conversation.

My daughter and son are like chalk and cheese. I brought them up the same way, but they are very different. They may share some similar mannerisms, but their personalities are distinct and very different. Even as little kids, they were different in the way they reacted to things. My daughter was a go-getter and loved to join in everything. My son would hide behind my skirts and was very retiring.

So too are my grandchildren. Each one has a very distinct personality and interests. As I held my new little grandson on Saturday, and as I have held my own children and each of my grandchildren as they have entered the world, I am moved to tears at their purity, their innocence, and their glory as they came straight from the presence of God. Wordsworth says it so well:

Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar:
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home:
Heaven lies about us in our infancy!

“Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood” by William Wordsworth.

What an honour it is to hold a child of God in my arms! To be entrusted with God’s child to rear, to protect, to teach, to respect, to honour, to nurture and to help them prepare for eternal life back with their Father in Heaven. I am grateful for my call to be a mother and grandmother. I reverence this sacred office and hope that I can do all that is expected of me with the trust that has been given to me by God.