Oh my lawd! I’m gonna tell you a story so you better get comfy. Speaking of comfy- my dad broke his hip last week, so comfy he is NOT. If you are reading this with all your bones in tact, then you better be thankful.
So let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start (channeling my Maria VonTrapp). Last week, my 81 year old father, in his attempt to show my mom his foot for her to find a sliver he thought he felt; in an extremely dextrous fashion, he lifted his sockless foot on the table for her to observe with a light and a magnifying glass. Before you can say ‘orthopedic trauma’, he falls backwards and lands on his left hip. In agony he tries to get himself up. No luck. My mom tries to help. No luck. I wasn’t there, but she said his yelps of pain were somewhat sickening. I’ve written about my dad before, here and here, he’s a strong, self-reliant gentleman, who has never been in such a helpless state like this.
Even after my mom called over their neighbor to help him up, it was clear he needed an ambulance.
They called 911 and off he went to the Emergency Room. I met my mom there and they wheeled dad into x-ray. A fracture of the femural neck was evident. 3 shots of morphine later, he was still miserable. A shot of Valium into his IV helped him relax, but it was a long night.
He actually doesn’t remember it, thankfully. Our body’s defense mechanism to not remember pain is quite a blessing.
A day and a half later, he had surgery to correct the fracture and my mom and I spoke with the surgeon post operation. He was very clear that in my dad’s age range, and in order to return him to his status quo of health, he needed to get up and learn to walk, with the help of a walker, right away. (This is foreshadowing people.)
My mom was concerned for his discharge since they live in a split level house. Everything he would need would be on the main floor- kitchen, bed, toilet, bath; but there were 13 stairs in the way of his destination. How would she get him in the house?
When the option of post-op rehab, covered by insurance, in a facility was brought up to her, she considered it, especially as a way for him to gain strength on his walker to become more mobile and eventually be able to get in the house. Easy peasy, right?
Once he was discharged they transported him to the nursing home- let’s not sugar coat it. This was a nursing home. Even though they advertise as a “post-op orthopedic rehab facility”. BULL. SHIT.
It was a nursing home.
My mom immediately got the wrong vibe at this place and felt bad for leaving my dad there. He was in the wing with all the dementia and permanent residents. Translation- the droolers and wanderers of the place. A woman who likes to sit in the middle of the floor. Or another woman who constantly asks where the bathroom is, even though she lives there. So sad. Truly. My grandmother spent her last years in a home suffering from dementia, I know what it looks like. If I ruled the world, my Utopia would be beautiful rest homes for old folks that are free and run like 5 star hotels. But I digress…
My dad is not a whiner. My dad has lived on beans and toast for dinner during lean times. He doesn’t expect a lot. But when nursing staff doesn’t treat him as a respectable, lucid adult and also neglects to get him out of his wheel chair throughout the day- even though it is explicitly the surgeons orders for him to do so, he becomes frustrated.
And folks, the beds were hand crank beds, not mechanically adjustable, and the dresser and bureau drawers were broken. The TV only got four channels and the valences on the windows were from 1984. I’m picturing corporate off at the Miraval spa retreat enjoying the residuals they get from Medicare and keeping the overhead pretty low by cutting on corners, like, hmm, let’s say, no defibrillators on the walls for GOSH SAKES!
I’ve seen more defibrillators in an airport or school gymnasium.
We now launch Operation Get My Dad Out of this Shithole.
Mom heads over to the hospital and gets orders from the surgeon to get him an ambulance home and EMTs to get him up the stairs. She’s hoping these orders are covered by insurance. This is what she was told, so we’re sticking to it.
Mom makes an appointment with the Rehab Manager, the nurse somethingorother and the Social Services coordinator at the Shithole place to discuss their poor care of my dad.
I join the conversation. My mom is sweet. Kind. She has notes, she apologizes and tells them it’s not personal.
Social Services lady says she is sorry. Asks what they can do to make it better for my dad. Wishes she was able to .. blah blah blah waa waa waa waa waa (You know the Peanuts cartoon? This is how the grown ups sounds. This is what I heard coming out of their mouths.)
Lady tells my mom she wants her to understand that my dad can leave on his own accord, but it will be AMA (against medical advice) to which I want to say, “What medical advice? You let him sit in a wheel chair for 48 hours and never took him to physical therapy.) But I did not.
The meeting concluded and mom and I devised our strategy. We took him back to his room. Packed up his things.
She headed to the hospital pharmacy and got his pain medication prescription filled. Even though Nurse Ratched said she’d be happy to provide him with some before his transport, we decided not to count on anything. I stayed in the room with him and waited. Mom wanted to call the ambulance service- she had the signed paperwork- but she had to get him the meds first AND get the house ready and roll up the area rugs. Details are important people.
My dad and I sat and waited. I went to the coffee machine and sneaked a mocha in for him. The machine had a sign that read, “beverages too hot out of this machine, patients and residents are not allowed to drink beverages from this machine.” My dad has to have his coffee and tea extra hot, so this was perfect. I made sure no one saw me bring it to his room. Which added to the clandestine feel of Operation Get My Dad Out Of This Shithole.
Then my mom calls and tells me she’s waiting for the Oxycontin but the insurance company actually has to SPEAK to the doctor. The written prescription isn’t good enough for serious narcotics like this. UGH. Whatever!
Wait some more.
Mom calls again. Screw the insurance company, she paid cash for the pills and will get reimbursed later. She can’t wait for the doctor, that could be hours. She’s going to call the ambulance transport to come get him and will I meet her in the parking lot to get his Oxycontin for him. I see the movie version of this with Shirley Maclaine and Emma Stone by the way.
So I go out to the parking lot and get his prescription. I jokingly told her, “thanks for making me a mule for dad’s drugs!” <== a sense of humor is key in these Delta Force like missions.
When I got to dad’s room he says, “Do you have the D-R-U-G-S?”
Me, “Dad, I think people can spell around here.”
Then mom called again, the ambulance was going to be there to get him within 30 minutes.
Hooray! We wanted out of this place.
When they arrived in the hallway with their stretcher and wearing their navy blue polyester uniforms, my heart lifted. They were friendly, professional, joked with my dad, enjoyed his dry humor and British accent. They strapped him in and we rolled down the hall.
EMT Nate was filling out paperwork with Nurse Ratched and I heard her say, “no the patient hasn’t received any rehab.” Boom. Yeah, suckas, that’s why we’re busting this joint.
I told the EMTs why my dad had to leave. They said, “you don’t have to tell us twice. We’ve seen these places, they aren’t pretty. At least this one doesn’t smell so bad it burns your eyeballs.” Hmm, they had a point. It did smell decently.
They loaded dad and I texted mom to put the tea kettle on ‘cuz HE WAS COMING HOME!
Now the hard part began for the EMTs.
They contemplated the stairs and the stretcher. Of course, smart-ass me asks what the big deal is, the EMTs that got him to the hospital in the first place had to get him down the stairs. Well, they explained to me that getting down is easier than up, AND there’s usually about 6 folks at a site between EMTs and fire fighters. Sure enough, my mom described one of the EMTs that night as big and burly. These guys bringing my dad home were actually on the small side.
Once they determined it was easier to carry him up the stairs in a Baby Bjorn, they spun into action. Okay, it wasn’t a Baby Bjorn, but it was a plastic sling with handles. They got him up the stairs and into his awaiting chair.
My mom made friends with the EMTs, she makes friends with everyone. And friend requested them on Facebook, exchanged Twitter handles and took a few selfies. Just kidding!
I remembered to take the bottle of pain pills out of my purse and give them to my mom. Not that I didn’t think of keeping maybe, just one. Nope, that’s illegal folks!
Dad got a cup of tea and I did too. And mom took a shot of tequila. Okay, just kidding again. She didn’t, but I think she could’ve used it!
Since then, dad has been great in getting up on his own with his walker. Getting to his bed and the bathroom, slowly, but surely. And the nurses and PTs that come to the house check his pro-times (blood clotting) and all that, so he’s in good hands.
And most importantly, Operation Get My Dad out of this Shithole, was a success.
Here’s to being kind to your kids in case you need them to bust you out of a nursing home one day.