Thursday, May 10, 2012

Really?? Did you mean that?

Currently it is the 18th day for my brother to be in the trauma unit at UAB. I had to count that on a calendar because I'm really not all that sure. The days have begun to run together.

During my brother's stay, I've had to prepare for a graduation, a prom, a charity walk, a staff meeting and a birthday, all important events, but somewhat diminshed due to the circumstances.  It's as if life goes on, but is in some strange holding pattern all at the same time.

 I can say that now he is awake and alert. The trach makes it impossible for him to speak but he's mouthing things to us, writing notes with that little chicken-scratch hand writing of his, and using a lot of sign-type language.

We've come a long way from those early days. Day Three was another long, boring day filled with a whole lot of nothing. We did have a few visitors, who made the waiting more bearable. I went to lunch with my cousin D, but really didn't feel much like eating.

Day Four, I went back to work, which was a good distraction, but I shudder to think of the decisions I had to make that day.

On Day Five, they removed the breathing tube. Though I was working, I had planned to leave early to see him. At almost 4:00 pm, I received a frantic call from my mother. I dashed out the door, leaving my computer and my phone on and had to call back to make sure someone turned it off.

Our worst fear had been realized....he had pneumonia. When I arrived, he was on a mask, but his breathing was very labored. He would cough, nearly choking. I couldn't bear to watch. The nurse told my mother that they may have to re-intubate him, or worse, insert a tracheotomy.  Mother signed a large stack of papers for procedures that may or may not be performed on him.

The next day, the day nurse told me that his pneumonia was caused by MRSA, the antibotic resistant staph infection. They were ready for it and had already started him on a strong, broad spectrum antibotic. Then all we could was wait.

A few days later, they put in the trach tube.  He suffered from "icu psychosis" from his extended periods with no definable wake/sleep pattern. They added more tubes that he would not have approved of or been the least bit happy about. They tied all four appendages to the bed to combat the thrashing and kicking.  It was almost like the little brother I used to have was gone and left this mad man in his place.

Mother and I went to his house on that first weekend to check on his cats and put several lights on timers. He had left it just like he was only going to be gone for the day. Dishes in the sink, clothes in the washer. Fruit flies had formed on the dishes in the sink and the cats were in desperate need of attention. We spent most of the day cleaning. My mother is a real stickler and soon I had to start a list of items to replace because they went straight into the trash. By the end of the day, it was very long.

Oh, and we killed the vacuum cleaner. I'm not certain what did that, but it suddenly smelled like burning rubber and began smoking profusely. I know that I've mentioned before that I am not good in a crisis situation, so when the vacuum began smoking, I began screaming. I couldn't turn it off! Thankfully, my mother was trying to find out what I was screaming and unplugged it. The rest of the day, the demise of the vacuum caused us to laugh uncontrolably.
It was apparent early on that many of our friends were very concerned. My Facebook page was in constant motion, as long time friends checked in, new friends asked for updates, and people that were friends of my brothers, but new to me, left messages. They were all basically the same..."I'm concerned, I'm praying and if you need anything,please let me know."

Really? Did you mean that? Do you realize what you are saying?

Now I know that all of my friends are well meaning. I'm certain that if I were to make a menial request of any, more than a few would deliver. I'm quite sure that if I had asked the former high school boyfriend who visited on Day Three to bring me a latte, he would have.  My cousin D even bought me lunch..But when it boils down to it, how much of it do we really mean?

My mother said that when people say that, they really mean they want to bake you a cake.

That's okay too.

We had certainly needed help cleaning up Dooder's house. Darling Hubby's cousin, another police officer, lived down the road. He was checking on the house and rinsed the car off so that it wouldn't be obvious that no one was home.  But we couldn't ask him to take care of the cats. My neice also lives up the road, but with a brand new baby, I couldn't ask for her assistance either. A long time friend was checking the mail, and was feeding the cats, but he wasn't a cat person.  My mother finally found a place to board $10 a day....times 2....oh, well, you do the math.
So, while sitting in the waiting room, waiting for my one, coveted hour of visitation, I came up with a list of things that one can offer that would actually be helpful.

Pay for a day in the parking deck
I think this is the single-most helpful thing anyone can do. UAB is $6 dollars a day. Now multiply that by at least 3 family members for 18 days. Now that it's obvious that Dooder is going to be there a while, the long term Parking Pass is much more economical, but for the short term, this is ideal.  Mother and I both agree, we will be doing this from here on out. Paying for one family member to get out of the parking deck at least once won't break me.

Bring some snacks and drinks
I've actually been doing this one for a while. I call it my "Hospital-ity Bag." I get a bag (the cheap, reusable shopping bags are great for this. Much more sturdy than a gift bag) and drop some packs of crackers, chips, nuts, granola, cookies and some juice boxes, or water, down in it.  It's so much easier on the family than having to empty your purse in the waiting room for change only to find out the crackers you can buy at the store for $1 a case are a $1 EACH in the vending machine.

Bring something to keep the little ones occupied (and away from the other visitors)
This is also part of my Hospital-ity Bag.  If I know that there will be little ones, I drop in a box of crayons and several coloring and activity books.

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