Never Goodbye

Navigating the Journey through Dementia

The next day Dad was still awake and hallucinating due to lack of sleep and the “sedative”. In his crazed state of mind, he began seeing bugs on my face and hot dogs in the trees outside the window. He started threading a line on his invisible fishing rod and casting from the bed. From his food tray he was taking bites of imaginary dishes. As my dad was laughing and having his first psychedelic experience, I was short on sleep myself, and thought it would never end. That night they gave him a sedative that actually put him to sleep, and we finally got some rest.

Despite all the marvels of modern medicine, the following night, the exact same sedative did not work. During his sleepless commotion, he managed to pull out his catheter and IV, and once again became very busy with hospital exit strategies.

Prior to dad’s surgery, doctors discovered he had a heart murmur. However, a number of tests determined he was in good enough shape for hip surgery, despite his heart condition. The hospital cardiologist returned at the end of Dad’s stay to do a follow up heart test, an echo encardiogram. The cardiologist proposed exploratory minor surgery to determine the severity of heart valve damage causing the murmur. I discovered by questioning the doctor, heart murmurs develop over a long period of time, in fact, years.

I figured anyone walking two to four miles a day for the past twelve years was surviving quite well despite a heart murmur. Piggybacking another surgery on top of the one he had, sounded like an exercise in ignorance for a man my dad’s age. Dad would hate every minute of another surgery. It might crush his spirits completely, severely lessening his chances of longer survival. I told the cardiologist “no thanks” on the offer of minor surgery exploration.

When I encountered the cardiologist’s assisting intern in the elevator, he said no further surgery was a wise decision. I felt vindicated. The assistant seemed to have a higher level of care and honesty than the doctor–perhaps because surgery did not represent a paycheck for him.