When a Loved One is in the Hospital

A few things that I learned during my Dad’s hospital stay

  • Make sure the hospital has your emergency contact information immediately. On Sunday I realized that I left the night before without giving anyone my contact information. I went to the nurses station to ask them to add me to the emergency contact list assuming my Uncle was already on it. They didn’t have anyone listed!
  • Make sure your loved one has an updated Proxy. It wasn’t until Sunday that my Dad realized that he didn’t have an updated Proxy. At the nurses station they were able to provide us with the forms that we could sign right on the spot.
  • Nurses aren’t always on top of it.hate to say this. I know so many wonderful, wonderful, wonderful nurses who would do everything and more for their patients. But the hard truth is, there are some nurses who for some reason or another just aren’t on top of it. Make sure you ask questions, pay attention to medicine doses and types and just watch out for the overall well-being of your loved one.
  • Overpack. You will never be sorry you packed too much if you end up having to stay longer than expected.
  • If you aren’t sure if you should go…go. The only time you will be sorry if you go/don’t go, is when you don’t go and something happens. Nothing is as important as being there for family.
  • Rest is Extremely Important. For the patient and for YOU.
  • Try not to schedule a stress test on a Friday afternoon. Things are put on hold at the hospital over the weekend. If it’s not life or death, you are going to be doing a lot of waiting around.

You never expect to get that call. The one where your dad just failed his stress test so miserably that he’s waiting for the ambulance to rush him to the hospital. The feeling of helplessness is inexplicable – especially when your 5 hours away at work. Do you rush there? How bad is it? What’s going to happen?

I got my answers pretty quickly. Yes I should rush there. It’s bad. And A LOT is going to happen over the next few days/weeks, including Triple bypass surgery that ends up being Quadruple bypass surgery. My dad doesn’t half ass anything – including clogged arteries.

Since it happened Friday afternoon, my husband and I left work a little early and went home to pack our bags and get on the road to Syracuse, still not knowing what to expect. In the first hour before we heard anything, we assumed he would be getting a stent, completely unaware of the extent of his damage. While throwing a few things in a bag, my sister called. “Triple bypass surgery. Pack heavily.” A wave of heat rushed over me and the tears just spilled out. I quickly pulled myself back together quickly and a few items of clothing turned into a suitcase. I’m so grateful for that call  – or else I would never have prepared enough for the entire week home I was about to spend. (Although I still packed just a few undies short of enough!)

I called my mom to ask her to watch the dog. We threw the bags in the car and I ran back to water my plants quickly. I know the plants sound weird and trivial, but you’d never believe the things you worry about during an instance like this. We stood in front of the house trying to think of anything else we could be forgetting in our haste, jumped in the car and headed towards Cuse.

We got there at 11 p.m, only five hours later but it felt like ten. Plus, Tim had already driven home that day from VT. VT > CT > NY. And he did it all without complaining once. I have an amazing husband. I couldn’t be more thankful. I really wanted to see my dad, but since it was so late, I texted him and asked him if we should sneak in or just come in the am. He texted back “am.” So we made our way to my cousin’s house who was so amazing to let us crash last minute. I am also extremely lucky to have the most incredible and supportive family. Lucky gal, I know!

My sister was already there and we showed up to a delicious spread of food, the best hospitality and a very comfortable bed! I was ready to drop. Between the end of the week, not having slept well the night before and emotional drain of last six or seven hours, I felt like I could barely stand. I thankfully got an amazing night’s rest there. Which was more important than I even knew to help me get through the days to come. One thing I have learned is that sleep is important crucial for the family members.

Saturday morning the waiting game began. I was anxious to see my dad so we got to the hospital early. My dad had been at Crouse hospital since 5 p.m. the day before and hadn’t even spoken to a Doctor yet. He got there, they did the catherization that determined the extent of his damage (a lot) and then he was sent to a room on the fourth floor to wait for an undetermined amount of time. Let me repeat, an undetermined amount of time.

We finally asked the nurse when we would have any word. At around 11 a.m. the Doctor came by making his rounds. This is where we got really lucky. We were extremely fortunate/blessed/lucky that Dr. Lutz was going to do my Dad’s surgery. When we first met him we were confident that he would do a good job. But we had no idea just how amazing he would be!

He walked us through my Dad’s condition. The three main arteries were 95% clogged and there was potentially a fourth blockage that would need a bypass. So he would be getting triple and maybe quadruple bypass surgery. But first he would need to be transferred to another hospital for the surgery. St. Joseph’s in Syracuse specializes in cardiac servicesand, as Dr. Lutz pointed out, has three out of three stars in the Society for Thoracic Surgeons National Database.

They wouldn’t even be transferring him to St. Joe’s until Monday and his surgery was slated for Tuesday. Turns out dad wasn’t the only one having heart problems. We were stuck. 95% plugged up didn’t stop my dad from trying to escape from the hospital for the weekend. But, as to be expected, the Dr. said absolutely not. Can’t blame him for trying.

My dad was literally a ticking time bomb. He said if something were to happen, it would be pretty devastating. If left untreated, he had a 50/50 chance in the next year of suffering a massive heart attack. We were extremely lucky that it was caught when it was. It’s hard to consider yourself lucky with such a diagnosis, but the truth was that we were lucky.

With little to do over the weekend, my sister made the two and a half our drive home to her kids. Tim stayed with us through Sunday afternoon before having to make the five hour drive back home for work. Then it was just my Dad and me. We kept ourselves busy playing cards, watching movies, creating a to-do list a mile long for me to complete and we even bought an iPad air. No better time to get more use out of one!

By Monday we were pretty antsy (who am I kidding, by Saturday afternoon I saw my Dad get this “get me out of here” look in his eye). Waiting for the transfer was a little like torture. To keep with the no one tells us anything theme we had going, we had NO idea what time the transfer would take place. I was paying the meter every two hours because I figured they would transfer him pretty early. 11 a.m. rolled around, 1 p.m, 3 p.m. Then they came to get my dad for an ultrasound? But still no one knew anything about when the transfer would happen. All they were telling us was that they didn’t have a bed ready for us yet. While my dad was gone getting his ultrasound, his phone rang. I automatically dismissed the call before I realized it was St. Joe’s. I called them back immediately and was finally transferred to admissions who was trying to get in touch with my dad to tell them they had a bed ready!

My childhood friend, Jen (forgot her birthday in the previous post) was parking to come visit. I told her we might be gone, but she used to work in a hospital so she knew better. Transfer paperwork takes a while. Her visit helped the time go faster and by the time I went down to pay the meter, my dad was calling me telling me the ambulance crew was there packing him up – I had just paid the meter but I was so happy I didn’t care. This part of the waiting was over!

As soon as we got to St. Joe’s we finally got some answers. We got there at 5:30 p.m. Monday and they immediately got him situated and then took him for a gamut of tests to prepare for surgery the next day.

Surgery would definitely be the next day. He was fourth in the plans so they said they would be taking him anywhere from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. At 9 p.m. that night my dad had some good friends visit him. That’s when I realized how beat I really was from the day. We both were. I called it a day, told my dad to get some rest and I was off to do the same. The next day was surgery day.

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