Much has happened health wise in our family since my last writing, dear Readers. I will try to lay it out for you as things happened.
We were within five days of meeting our son and daughter-in-law for a four-night visit to Boston, followed by a much anticipated vacation to Ireland. It was Sunday evening and we had enjoyed a quiet dinner at an area restaurant. As we walked out, my husband uncharacteristically took my arm as we headed toward the car, saying “If you don’t mind, I’d like to hold your arm as I feel a bit weak.” Upon reaching our home, he went straight up to bed.
About an hour later I could hear him in the bathroom, very ill with severe nausea. I worried that I could not support him should he falter, so I called 911. Arriving at the hospital he was feverish and became unable to respond to questions. In fact he could not even state his name when asked. Unknown to me at this point was the fact that my husband was going into shock.
In the emergency room I kept getting asked, “Is this normal behavior for your husband?” I wanted to shout, “No!! This is not like my husband. Something has happened to him! He is ill.”
Extensive testing later revealed a perforated gall bladder along with a bacterial infection that had entered his bloodstream. It was a very long night. In the wee hours of the morning he was admitted to the hospital. He remained not his normal self mentally.
It took some days to isolate the specific bacteria. Surgery was successful.
When I was able to go home for a few hours, my research on the Internet revealed my husband had what used to be called, ‘Blood Poisoning’. I caught my breath, remembering that that condition took my grandmother’s life when she was 58 in 1945.
Further reading revealed that bacterial infections in the bloodstream can alter the mental state in patients, which was happening to my husband. He went from barely responding in the ER to talking incessantly. I kept getting asked, “Is this behavior normal for your husband?”
I became his advocate with the medical staff, letting them know who he was when he was healthy and active, a teacher and engineer, who had lectured in the university. I brought in his ‘Memories From My Life’ poster to display by his bedside, hoping to relay the message, “This man is very much loved and was a contributing member of society.”
And then it hit. My taking up for my husband reminded me of the caregiving of my mother, as her memory faded due to the onset of dementia, and the desire that her attending nurses and doctors know that here was someone who was loved and regarded by her family, a dedicated classroom teacher, who inspired her students to excel. For her too the ‘Memories From My Life’ poster let her caregivers know that she had led an active and productive life.
As the antibiotics began to take hold, my husband’s mental state began to improve. But I remained vigilant to people ‘talking down’ to him.
I too underwent a change during his days of hospitalization, not just serving as his advocate but realizing my role at home is going to be different with added responsibilities at least for a while. And I know this is all very familiar to you, dear caregivers.
The overseas trip will be there in time.