Ch.97 Pat Returns to the Hospital
June 29, 2021
10:00 a.m. “Ron, Pat fell out of bed and is floating in and out of awareness. We’ve called an ambulance.”
11:00 a.m. Pat, my daughter Cindy, and I are at the emergency room of the Mayo Hospital in Osseo, WI. Pat says she doesn’t hurt anywhere. But she’s very weak. The doctor decides to take a urine sample. Positive. Pat has another urinary tract infection, the second in one month. She needs to be admitted to the hospital, but they have no openings. She may have to be transported many miles from here because every hospital nearby is full.
2:00 p.m. Surprising news. The discharge people at Osseo have found an opening for Pat at the Mayo Hospital in Eau Claire. That’s as good as we could hope for, since it’s the largest and best staffed hospital in this region.
3:00 p.m. Pat’s been driven by ambulance to Eau Claire. We meet Dr.
Barusya, who is a hospitalist, which means he specializes in treating extremely sick people at the hospital. Hospitalists don’t have non-hospitalized patients, so they do not have to split their attention between outpatients and inpatients. I feel relieved, knowing Pat will receive good and consistent care.
Mayo’s current Covid policy is that only two people are allowed to see Pat. This evening I am joined first by Cindy and then by Joshua. We don’t realize that the two allotted slots cannot be rotated. Fortunately for us, though, nobody intervenes, so both children have a chance to see Pat.
June 30, 2021
10:00 a.m. I ask the staff to allow Jenny, my other daughter, to be substituted for Joshua, who visited Pat last night. That’s when we learn about the “two and only the same two” policy. Fortunately, they allow Jenny to be named the second visitor. Jenny works part time and can come here almost every day, whereas Cindy lives almost 100 miles away and Joshua has a full time and quite demanding job. Jenny gets here around 3 p.m. I could go home now. I should go home. I decide to stay a little longer, though.
Pat is sleepy in the way really sick people are sleepy: sometimes she doesn’t respond to me at all, while at other times she seems half-awake. Sometimes she seems weary beyond words. I’m starting to feel that way myself. Depression and despair are creeping in.
4:00 p.m. Bad news. Dr. Barusya informs us that Pat’s urinary tract infection is caused by treatment resistant bacteria, not e coli but enterobacter cloacae. He’ll know two things by tomorrow: 1) if the infection has gone into Pat’s blood stream (sepsis); 2) which drug or drugs will best attack the bacteria. I ask him if this infection could be fatal. His response, “not yet,” is not reassuring.
7:00 p.m. I’ve written my brothers, children, and friends, telling them what’s happening. I’ve talked with my twin brother Don and his wife Randa (they’ve already searched the internet for Enterobacter cloacae); I’ve had dinner; I’m watching the hockey and basketball playoffs. I’m feeling nothing at all. No emotion. Numb.
July 1, 2021
11:00 a.m. Relief! Dr. Barusya informs us that Pat’s bacteria actually is highly responsive to antibiotics and the infection hasn’t reached her bloodstream. Pat looks much better; she’s awake, alert, even a little hungry. Later in the day she responds better to physical therapy, although she still cannot stand on her own.
4:00 p.m. I’m home now and Jenny is with Pat. Jenny sends a message saying the plan is to discharge Pat tomorrow. “That’s not right,” I think, as I struggle to contain an immediate burst of anger. Pat is not strong enough to return safely to the assisted living center. I call Mayo and ask to speak with the doctor. In the meantime, I write out my concerns because I can state my case better and less emotionally when I’ve written down my thoughts. Soon Dr. Barusya calls, and we have a good, informative conversation. He seems to think Pat will immediately receive physical therapy at the assisted living center. I doubt that is a possibility, especially since we are approaching the July Fourth holiday. He agrees to wait until tomorrow to make a final decision in my presence. I feel I’ve done a good job acting as Pat’s advocate. Sometimes I get too angry, acting out my anxiety; at other times I am too complacent and unquestioning. This time I believe I was firm but respectful. It takes discipline to advocate well.
July 2, 2021. 11:00 a.m. Our saga continues. A new physical therapist named Beth arrives. Beth tries to help Pat get from bed to chair. Failing, she calls for another staffer and for a device that safely effects the transfer. Turning to me, she says the obvious: my wife is in no shape to return to the assisted living center. In fact, Beth recommends that Pat go to a rehab facility where she will receive physical and occupational therapy every day. Later, Dr. Barusya agrees. Now the only problem is that it is too late to get anything done on this Friday before the Fourth of July. The earliest we can hope to transfer Pat will be Monday.
Amazingly, Pat is staying calm and positive throughout all this chaos. She smiles at me, tells me that she loves me, seems to understand what is going on and to agree with the plan. I wish I could say the same for myself. I feel like I’m on a rowboat in swirling seas.
July 3, 2021
The staff on the third floor discovered that today is our anniversary – We’ve now been married 56 years. The nurses made a “Happy Anniversary” poster, and they all sign their names to it. What a kind and thoughtful idea. We are both deeply appreciative.
One ominous note: I see one bullous pemphigoid blister on Pat’s armpit. Bullous pemphigoid is a terrible auto-immune disorder that causes its victims to suffer long-lasting itchy and painful liquid-filled blisters. Pat had her first attack of this chronic condition last year. If it returns full blast we will be in serious trouble.
July 4, 2021
The holiday is slowing things down. We can only wait for a referral to a rehab center. Pat’s mood is good, but I think her inactivity is decreasing her strength.
Pat’s comments on Pat Returns to the Hospital.
Ron: “Pat, what do you think of your stay in the hospital?”
Pat: “Not very good because I was sick.”
Ron: “How hopeful are you about getting back home? Pat: “I’m fairly hopeful. I’m feeling myself getting stronger.”