Late last Sunday night Dad and Sue were watching T.V. when she heard him shuffling his legs around. She described it as "restless legs". She asked him what was wrong and he said, "I don't know, I don't feel well." When she began asking him basic questions he couldn't answer her. So she called 911. Once the EMT arrived his blood pressure was high but his blood sugar was normal. They suggested to Dad that he go with them to the Hospital. He didn't want to go. They proceeded to tell him, "Sir, you can either go with us or with your wife, but either way you need to go." So, of course he said Sue would take him. The EMT said to Sue before they left, "Now, we are going to drive by in half an hour and you promise that Jeep is going to be out of the drive way." She said, "Yes!"
Dad walked into the ER on his own two feet but quickly after arriving told Sue he needed to sit down. It was obvious he needed to be seen quickly and it wasn't long before they took him back. The next few hours his condition worsened and it began to look more like a stroke. By 3am they were convinced it was a stroke even though the MRI was not showing any abnormalities. At this time the symptoms only presented on the right side of his body including his arm, leg and face.
Sue called me (Melanie) at around 9 am to say Dad was in the hospital. I immediately called Kordell and we drove straight to the hospital. When we arrived he was visibly upset (understandably so). He joked about not being able to making it to work. For those of you who didn't know Dad has been working at our gymnastics gym 3-4 days a week. He loved the idea that he was a janitor just like his Dad. He even joked at our staff party a couple of weeks ago when he introduced himself to the other 26 employees that "Even after all these years, I'm still picking up after her!"
Although he could speak it was with a slight slur. His blood pressure and blood sugar were very high. They began to treat it like any other stroke. He was kept very busy with OT/PT and Speech. He was able to stand on his left leg during PT and although very vocal about how ticked he was he still had his sense of humor. When the nurse would leave and say she'd be back he would say, "Don't worry, I'm not going anywhere, I'll be here when you get back."
On Tuesday they did more tests (MRI, cat scan & an ultra sound on his heart) and still no proof that it was a stroke. His blood pressure and blood sugar were still very high. He was still able to eat the delicious hospital food (ok - he really hated it), but was aspirating on liquids. So they thickened up all liquids but he was still able to swallow on his own. He started to have trouble finishing a sentence with out taking a breath. The doctors began discussing a "long-term rehab" room on a different floor where he would begin intensive rehab.
On Wednesday he was really tired. He was no longer able to stand on his good leg during PT. His appetite was gone. Whether he didn't want the hospital food or he was afraid to choke he refused to eat. His breathing became much more labored and you could hear the liquid in his chest when he took a breath. He would try to cough and his muscles just wouldn't do it. His blood pressure and blood sugar was still very high.
On Thursday the paralysis began presenting itself on the left side and he was really starting to have a hard time breathing. When I spoke to him that night you could hardly understand him at all. The Doctors said he would be moved to ICU in the next day or so. Now they weren't so sure it was a stroke. It certainly was an unusual case. They began to suspect Guillian Barre Syndrome.
I arrived at 8:30am Friday morning. When I got to his room it was empty. I went to the desk and asked where my dad had gone. She said, "Oh-I didn't realize you were family. Your dad has just been moved to ICU." She tried to prepare me for what I was going to see. Let's just say it didn't work. I walked into the ICU and straight to his room where there were half a dozen doctors around him. He was in respiratory distress. I just stood there in the door way and looked at all the doctors. His original doctor saw me and said, "You need to hurry and come see your father, we are about to inti bate him." I quickly gave him a kiss on the cheek and told him I'd be here when he woke up and they rushed me out. It was an awful sight, one I will never forget!
Sue was on her way to Hoquiam to tell Christopher about Dad. I called her to tell her she needed to get here now! His original doctor walked by and assured me "He is not dying. We sedated him and he will be asleep most of the day." Then she said, "You should just go home for the day." I thought, "Whatever lady, I'm not going anywhere!" I called Vicky and my mom so she could get a hold of Kordell. Regardless of if "he wasn't dying" right then, I knew it was not good. He was very unstable. Blood pressure was high, blood sugar was high, on a ventilator and his kidneys were not working either. We decided Sue would go see Chris since Dad wouldn't even know who was there. Chris needed to know what was going on.
Brooke came up from Oregon with Roni and Kordell Jr. (Kordell's kids). Sue arrived around 5pm along with many other family and friends. Including the entire Powell family. Nancy (BIG Kordell's girlfriend) drove up to Kordell's work to drive him to the hospital.
They did a spinal tap to find out if the Guillian Barre Syndrome or some other infection was causing the paralysis. Again, they did not believe it was a stroke. We spent the day waiting for the results. At 7pm when they kicked visitors out for the shift change Sue and I went to the desk and asked Dad's nurse if the results were back. She proceeded to tell us the results were negative for Guillian Barre. We then asked her what was next. She said, "I'm not sure the neurologist doesn't work weekends." WHAT! You mean to tell me there will be no more tests until Monday. In my most polite but very angry voice I said, "We aren't going to do anything else until Monday? Does that sound right to you?" She said, "I'm sorry that's all I know." As you can imagine this was not what we wanted to hear. We went home very discouraged!
Saturday morning Dad's brother Larry drove up from Oregon to see him. It was great to see them together for the first time in a long time! I know that meant a lot to Dad!
Due to the weekend he had a new crew including a pulmonary doctor and physician. THANK GOODNESS for this new crew! His nurse was named Susan and was amazing. Between her and the pulmonary doctor they decided it was an urgent matter and they would FIND a Neurologist to come in and help Dad. Finally, someone who saw the urgency! They even went as far to say, "If we can't get one to come here we will transfer him where ever we have to to find a Neurologist." Within an hour a new Neurologist was there. He looked through dad's charts and interviewed Sue and Dad. We had discovered that dad could answer yes or no questions by blinking his eyes. Within 5 minutes of being in the room this doctor did a test on dad's eyes and because of how they moved he stated conclusively, "He has had a stroke in the center of his brain stem."
FINALLY! An answer to what is causing this, so we thought.
Vicky flew in from Idaho and Devan (her son) drove up from college in Portland. All the kids and grand kids were together.
Sunday was a fairly relaxing day. We felt somewhat relieved that we knew what it was and now it was time to let his brain do the work to repair what had happened. Thanks to Kordell discovering that Dad needed his glasses we watched football with him all day. Unfortunately, neither of his teams won. I kept blaming his high blood pressure on Farve not winning the game for the Vikings! He was tuckered out and didn't even watch the overtime.
Monday we arrived to the original Neurologist saying he wanted another (#5) MRI to confirm the stroke in his brain stem because if it didn't show up then he wanted to do more tests to see if it was in fact Guillian Barre Syndrome. WHAT! We still aren't sure if it was a stroke or not? Talk about a roller coaster ride.
The results came back and the Neurologist came to find us and asked us to follow him to a conference room. It was obvious this was not good. We sat there as the Neurologist began to explain that the MRI was abnormal and he did indeed have a stroke in the brain stem. He went on to explain that worst case scenario is that his current state (total body paralysis) and on a ventilator may be as good as he gets. Knowing Dad's wishes we all knew Dad would not want to live on a machine the rest of his life. We were devastated!
Sue, Nancy and the Neurologist went in to tell Dad what they found. He surprised us all and said he was not ready to give up the fight. We (the kids) were all relieved to hear this. Because we too are NOT READY for him to give up the fight!
After we all gained our composure we went to see dad. We spent the day with him playing a game of Charades. It was fun for us, but probably not much fun for Dad. He had a lot to say and so we spent hours going through the alphabet to find out what words he wanted to spell. Our first word was IRE which was suppose to be ICE. He wanted ice on his neck. He went on to request everything from SCOOT MEUP to WATER. We kept asking him if scoot meup was a name? Finally we saw SCOOT ME UP. He rolled his eyes. We really hope he gets to speak to us again so he can tell us what he was really thinking! He went on to request we call Larry (his brother) to wish him a Happy Birthday. He also spelled JIMMY ALASKA FUTCH BEER STRAW. Sue remembered a friend of Dad's in Alaska who was in a wheel chair with a trake and he use to drink beer through a straw. I think a nice cold glass of beer is his motivation. Some habits die hard or not at all.
Today dad had a heart procedure to check for the cause of the stroke. They put a camera down his throat to his heart. He did well but they didn't find anything. He's been sleeping most of the day. He's pretty tuckered out with all the visitors. We just want to make sure he remembers all the reasons he has to live!