October 1st, 2016

A tough summer

Puzzles for Mom


On August 5 at about 12:30 in the morning Kellie and I received a phone call from Dad saying he was having chest pains. Thus began a long journey for our family this summer.

We rushed over to Mom & Dad’s home. On the way we called Dad back and told him to call 911. By the time we arrived the ambulance was there and they took him to Pioneer Valley hospital. I went to the hospital and Kellie stayed with Mom.

After hours of tests and monitoring they concluded Dad was having a somewhat minor heart attack and determined they should do an angiogram. This procedure along with an ultrasound revealed Dad’s heart had several severe blockages and was only pumping at about 30% efficiency. (I later found out that healthy people’s hearts pump at about 60-70% efficiency.) They also concluded that due to the extent of his blockage, using stints presented too much risk for stroke. They brought in a heart surgeon from Salt Lake Regional Medical Center, Dr. Jordy Cox. Dr. Cox told us that Dad’s best chance was open heart surgery. Otherwise, Dad would have a major heart attack and die.

Just the day prior to the heart attack we had finally gotten Mom & Dad to sign wills, a trust and power of attorney documents. Therefore, I have had the awesome task of making most of the medical decisions throughout this whole thing. But Dr. Cox asked Dad if he was willing to have heart surgery to which Dad responded, “I guess we’d better.”

They took him to Salt Lake Regional that evening and Mom moved in with Kellie and I. On Monday, August 8 Dr. Cox performed open heart surgery and put in four bypasses. The procedure took about 6 hours. My brother, David, came up to the hospital with me to wait in the waiting room. The surgery was successful. David and I went in to see Dad in the ICU after the surgery. I’ve never seen so many tubes and connections and monitoring machines. Dad was still unconscious so David and I went home.

During Dad’s stay in the hospital I started a couple of Facebook chat groups to keep family up-to-date. Those chat sessions detail the long and arduous process this has been. I won’t recount all of that history here. In a nutshell though:

  • Dad was in the ICU ward until August 23rd when they discharged him and sent him to the 5th floor acute therapy hospital.
  • While staying on the 5th floor Dad made some progress physically but his mental state seemed to go round and round through various stages of anger, depression, anxiety and confusion. The chaplain and speech therapist basically recommended taking Dad home to die. Dr. Cox remained convinced that Dad could recover to his previous state prior to surgery.
  • On September 6 they had to rush Dad back down to the ICU because he had become unresponsive that morning. After numerous tests they determined he had contracted MRSA and was suffering from pneumonia and his second UTI since being in the hospital.
  • He remained very sick in the ICU for a couple more weeks. Physically he made some progress but not as far as he had gotten on the 5th floor. Mentally he continued the same cycles he had been experiencing before and after his stay in acute therapy.
  • On September 22nd they discharged him from Salt Lake Regional and sent him to Landmark Hospital in Murray. Landmark is a Long Term Acute Care (LTAC) hospital and Dad remains there as of today. Physically he is making some progress but has regressed from his level of activity in his second stay in the ICU at Salt Lake Regional. Mentally and emotionally Dad is really struggling.

I really don’t know what to do or what’s best for him. It’s tiring and depressing. I remain hopeful but often wonder whether this is all in vain. Mom is better off living with us than she was at home before all this began, so that’s one bright spot. In the photo above Mom is doing a word find puzzle. We are finding ways to keep her mind active. She struggles with short term memory loss and it’s hard to get around, but we are doing the best we can.

This is long from over.

2 comments to A tough summer

  • Delores Freestone

    We are so sorry to hear of his struggles, we will keep him, along with your whole Family in our prayers.
    We know first hand what a tough year this has been. Keep in touch please and keep us updated.
    Ralph and Delores Freestone

  • Ron Dow

    I was aware of Uncle Ernest’s overall condition, but wasn’t aware of all the complications. What a tough summer! I have kept all of you guys in my prayers. Seems that you are following your parents’ example of when they cared for Grandpa Freestone. I admire your strength and courage.

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