Getting old sucks…

But being older and in a hospital sucks even more, I suspect.It’s a long story and I’ll try to keep it reasonably short. My father developed a breathing problem that defied treatment for many months, and finally went in for what seemed like the finally right answer. The procedure went well, he went home, and unfortunately he didn’t get better. As so often happens, other problems started to show, and he ended up in the emergency room with a suspected blood clot in his lung.

That was about 2.5 weeks ago, and since then we’ve ridden a small roller coaster of side effects and recovery. I, as the youngest offspring, went last on Dad-Watch and my sisters bore the brunt of stress dealing with return trips to the ICU and the attendant suspense.

The latest ailment is a potential liver problem. He’s turning yellow, and the concern is that his liver is acting up. It could be a blockage, clot or something equally serious. It could also be irritation from low blood pressure, or the roughly 6 units of blood that ended up in his belly as the result of some earlier internal bleeding – and the source of the drop in blood pressure. Anyway, his internist and GI guy both agree on an ultrasound and order one at around 9:30am yesterday morning. The bad news is my father cannot eat or drink anything until the test is complete.

Yep, you guessed it – they didn’t come to get him for the test until 8PM. Vicki, our nurse, has called his doc by then to find out whether to keep waiting or cancel it and wait until tomorrow. I dig up the doc’s unlisted number to call him at home in the evening to make sure he understands my 78 year old father, who’s urine is already the color of strong tea, hasn’t had a sip of water for nearly 12 hours. I end up not calling because my father calls and lets me know they’ve come to get him.

This is just one of the little events that makes a hospital stay so much fun. On another time, when I was trying to locate Dad after they moved him to a different room a case manager assured me that neither my father nor myself were ever in his previous room. Later, in another conversation, she thanked me profusely for pushing my father up and down the hallway – something I haven’t ever done because Dad can walk.

Another time I call “room service” (their term) to order dinner for Dad, and I’m told I cannot do that until I get the nurses to make some change in the computer, but she tells me that after I start to order. No problem. She tells me I need to call back and order after the change is made.I talk to the nurses, who make the change as I wait.

I call room service. It’s naturally the same lady, who as I begin to order interrupts me to say an order is already in for that room. Then she stops, I hear clicking, and she says she can’t let me order without the change being made. She stops again, more clicking, and she says no it’s alright it’s fine.

It could, of course, be a heck of a lot worse. My father has insurance and good doctors, children who can come and be his advocate, and I suspect hospitals everywhere have the same kinds of administrative foibles. With luck he’ll be coming home soon, and this will be over.

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