by Eileen Spillane
Last week I visited my family on the East coast – a pre-holiday visit to celebrate my niece’s birthday and visit my Dad in rehab, recovering from pneumonia and a new diagnosis of leukemia. He has become all too familiar with rehab centers as he approaches 80. I’m sure he doesn’t know who Amy Winehouse is but he channels her lyrics on a regular basis.
Fortunately my four siblings are around to help care for my aging parents with my brother at the helm coordinating the care. I was in town to help out. My sister and I attended a discharge-planning meeting with my Dad, in which the date of expected discharge was three weeks away. This was met by an eye roll by my Dad – he wanted to hear the discharge date was now.
I get it. I want things now. We all do - material things, relationships, answers, outcomes met, things to change or things to stay the same. It is hard to embrace the uncertainty of not knowing. I wanted a medical provider to explain why my Dad’s hemoglobin of 6.9 went untreated for the last three days. I wondered why the three medical providers (NP’s and MD) only visited the Rehab a few hours a day. I didn’t want cancer cells in my Dad’s blood. I didn’t want to wait 8 hours in the ER for to confirm his blood levels, type and match his blood and watch the blood drip ever so slowly over 4 hours. Sometimes the present moment is not sunshine and roses.
Life is full of opportunities to see reality as it is and how we want it to be different than it is; Whether it is a car breaking down, ants invading your home, a failed relationship or a challenging health condition. Everything changes even if we try to force it to stay the same. We can either fight reality or accept its changing nature. Even our red blood cells get replaced every120 days.
I watched my mind, which was fairly content, yet at times it wanted to be elsewhere. I had a wide open schedule with nowhere to go and I was psyched my Dad was getting new blood cells to oxygenate his muscles in rehab and perhaps wean off oxygen. We needed a bit of a boost to ambulate 125 feet to get him home and we needed every little red blood cell on our team.
While my dad napped, I did some reading. A watched pot never boils, nor does a watched blood transfusion. I longed for the days of gravity tubing so I could speed it up a wee bit. I’m used to transfusing blood in rapidly on healthy young women experience a postpartum hemorrhage so this four hour business felt like molasses. I laughed at my mind as I watched my thoughts without being too wrapped up in them. Of course we had nowhere to go. We had an awesome nurse, my Dad got great care and he got every last drop of those energetic red blood cells.
We were ready for discharge for the emergency department. The nurse arranged for transportation back to rehab. She tells my Dad that the ambulance will be here in two hours. Yes, two hours. Dad naturally met this with an eye roll. I settled back into the uncomfortable metal chair and watched a whole new set of thoughts.