Monday, November 15, 2004

Getting old sucks.

It's a gloomy, rainy Monday. So why not have a gloomy posting, eh?
On June 21st, my stepfather Roy had surgery in Houston to repair an aneurism on his aorta, just below his heart. Going in to this, we knew that the sugery was going to be very serious and that his recuperation process was going to be quite lengthy and difficult. We also knew that Roy's health was not the best: He was 70, but seemed 80. Had had two previous heart attacks in the past 10 years. Had had surgery to repair another aneurism on his aorta (near his stomach) in the early 90s. And had early-stage emphysema due to a lifetime of smoking (he'd finally quit after his second heart attack, five years prior). So, due to his age and his compromised physical state, this already intense surgery could prove to be more risky than normal. So we were scared.
But the surgery went off without a hitch. The thinking was that he'd be in ICU for 5 or 6 days and then in the hospital for another 8 to 10, and then home for a long rehabilitation process--roughly 4 to 6 weeks.
Well my friends, things didn't go as planned. Long story short: he's still in the hospital. That's right: in five months, he hasn't been out of the bed. Hasn't showered. Hasn't stood on his own. Hasn't pissed on his own. He is unable to breathe on his own withouth a great deal of effort, and has to be on a ventilator, breathing through a tracheotomy in his throat, at least 12 hours a day. Doctor's fear he will never be able to be weaned off of the ventilator due to the state of his lungs (remember the emphysema I mentioned?). Oh yeah, and he's got significant, permanent brain damage due to either a lack of oxygen to the brain, a lack of blood flow to the brain or some combination thereof. He doesn't know who my mom is. He hallucinates. He can't read or write. He has trouble controling his own bowels and can't feed himself. In other words, he's fucked.
This is a guy who, up until his day of surgery, was a contributing member of society: running his own business for 40+ years, married to my mom for 26 years, a father, stepfather and grandfather. Now, he's a like a helpless child. And my mom is by his side for 8 to 12 hours a day, trying to understand his ramblings and clean up his messes. His kids rarely come to visit. His business associates' visits have trickled off. The bills keep piling up and he will never, ever get any better than he is right this second.
My mom is devastated and exhausted. She's held out hope for months that this situation would get better--at least slightly. It has been horrible watching her hope and optimism erode as day after day has passed.
This week they're planning on moving him from the hospital to a nursing home. From one bed to another. From treatment to maintenance. There is no end to this ordeal in sight.
If this were 50 years ago, the aneurism on his aorta would've eventually burst and Roy would've dropped dead. But because the technology now exists, we can now have surgery to repair an aneurism and extend somebody's life by years...or decades. But his life is ostensibly over. My mom's life is over in a lot of ways because she is his caretaker. So in trying to extend this 70-year-old-in-poor-health's life by 5 or 6 years, two lives have been devastated, their finances are being eviscerated, and those who love these people are severely affected as well.
After living a full, productive life, what a crappy way to go out.

2 comments:

Von Tripper said...

You've just outlined one of the biggest reasons why I believe hell only exists on earth. Even if Roy is paying back karma (absent dad type issues), your mom has done NOTHING to deserve this, my heart hurts for her.

Karla said...

Hey M...er, um, Karla May.
Just so you know, I did light a candle for him (and you and your mom) at "my" church in London. I dunno, maybe some thought waves came your way from it. I remember what my folks went thru when my Omi was in a home, and it's not easy. Multi hugs to you.