Thanks for Celebrating Dad With Us

03/31/2014

#dadupdate

Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for taking time to send a birthday greeting to my dad (Norb Kwiecinski). We had a large crowd gather in shifts at RML on Saturday and Sunday, all family. Without question, Dad was overwhelmed by it all.

But he needs it.

He’s just now coming to grips with where he is, how long he has been in the hospital, how long he’s been lying in bed, what it‘s done to his body, how challenging it is to do the simplest things now. So when he has a crowd of people come to see him, for his birthday no less, and he realizes that he’s still in the hospital, and he barely remembers that it was still early January when he walked into Lutheran General, yeah, he’s going to be completely overwhelmed.

He has a lot of time on his hands these days. His mind is getting sharper. He is anxious to improve. He knows he can’t do much of anything. He can’t hold a damn newspaper for longer than five minutes if he’s lucky, for God’s sake, before his hands and arms tremble from the exertion.

So what do you do with all of that time?

Wonder if it’s all worth it? Wonder if anyone remembers that you’re still alive? Wonder if anyone cares?

I don’t know. But any of us can imagine and conjure our own thoughts.

So when he has a crowd of people converge on him, you bet he’s going to be overwhelmed. I would. Any of us would. It’s so hard to relate to what he is going through.

But that same overwhelming crowd brings life. Vigor. An essence of existence that may seem commonplace or routine or normal to us. But vital to Dad.

He sees, understands, and feels that there is something to live for. There are countless someones to live for. He needs a reason to practice swallowing so he can take a sip of water or simply suck on an few small chips of ice. He needs a reason to sit up for ten minutes, feeling like it’s ten hours, and know that he needs to progress to three hours of therapy a day.

Baby steps. Not only does he need to take those baby steps, he needs to have a reason to take them. He needs to see those reasons. He needs to see and hear and feel the love, the life, the beauty of his family and friends.

Dad’s coming back to us. But he still has a long, challenging road ahead of him. It’s time for more support than ever.

I wish I had time to write more. Thanks again, everyone.


I Wish I Hadn’t Left

03/16/2014

#dadupdate

I know I’m supposed to take care of myself.  I know I need to take a day off.  I know I have other responsibilities and obligations and know that other people who love me and care about me want to see me.

That’s what make the stress and pressure of all of this so much worse.

I told Dad this afternoon “I have to leave soon,” and he said “I don’t want you to leave.”

Of course, I couldn’t hear him say it.  I had to read his lips.  He’s got the trach.  The docs and nurses wanted the balloon inflated this weekend to prevent aspiration, so he couldn’t speak audibly.

So I had to read his lips.  I had to see him tell me “I don’t want you to leave.”

I didn’t leave right away.  I hung around for a while.  Because I didn’t want to leave.  I wanted to be with my dad.  But I had to leave.  I had no other time to take care of a project that needed to be complete for the upcoming week, and there would be no time to do it any other time except this weekend.

The rest of the weekend was gone.  This afternoon and evening was all I had left.

When I told Dad “I’ve gotta get going.  I need to get to village hall to take care of the reports,” he shrugged reluctantly.  He didn’t frown, but I knew the look.

I left.

And I wish I hadn’t.

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Please keep praying for Dad.  He’s supposed to be transferred tomorrow.  But we need an open bed.  Please pray for that open bed.

And that nothing else stands in the way of getting Dad to the next baby step.  And that he continues to take small baby steps of progress toward a recovery that is complete enough to get him home again.


The Next Giant Baby Step Could Be Today

03/14/2014

#dadupdate

Lots of activity for Dad (Norb Kwiecinski) on his 56th day in intensive care.

He stood up again with the help of the physical and occupational therapists.  He had a nice conversation with Felicia, the speech therapist, as he tried out a speaking valve for his trach.  Not ready for full-time use of it yet, but he’s making progress.

Uncle Stan, Dad’s brother, and Aunt Bernie visited during the afternoon.  I asked Dad if he wanted to say hello to Uncle Stan by having me place a finger over the trach opening.  When Uncle Stan heard Dad greet him, he couldn’t mask his joy.

Dad was exhausted after therapy, visiting with us, a couple of minor “housekeeping” procedures, good-natured two-way harassment with John, the physician’s assistant, the long conversation with Felicia, and a long visit with Dr. Charles Alex.  He kicked us out around 6:30.  Said he wanted to take a snooze.

He’s pushing hard.  He’s working hard.

Dad had a good night, according to his overnight nurse.  Slept on and off, probably because he fell asleep so early in the evening.  The plan is to transfer him out of intensive care today, day 57 of intensive care.

We are collectively holding our breath that this is really happening.

Dad is stunning everyone, us, the entire medical staff — everyone — with his giant baby strides forward.  Baby steps… baby steps…


The Baby Strides of a Giant

03/13/2014

#dadupdate

DAD STOOD UP!!  He got up out of bed!

Talked with Geri, his overnight nurse, this morning on my way to LA Fitness, just to see how he did last night.

As you can imagine, he’s ready to get the heck outta Dodge, to coin an expression.  He’s so eager that he has his good moments and his bad moments.  The night before, Tuesday night/Wednesday morning, was not so good.  Sleepless, restless, anxious to escape the confines of that hospital room that must now feel like a prison cell.

Today marks Dad’s 56th day in intensive care.  Could we be ready for the next step?

Yesterday afternoon, his last IV medication was turned off.  He slept all morning and the early afternoon after his restless night.  One more swallow test, this one under x-ray, remains before they allow him to taste more than a taste-sip of water or a sample-sized swallow of food.

That swallow test occurred shortly after he awoke yesterday afternoon.  He didn’t pass.  Was he too sleepy going into the test?  Would he have benefited if he had been awake awhile longer beforehand?  Too late now, the test was over.  Try again another day.  Hopefully today, but I don’t know if a follow-up test has been scheduled.

After the test, later yesterday afternoon, when I was saying goodbye, Dad was decidedly more awake and strong enough to speak by covering the trach opening.  He chatted up a storm!  Among the many topics discussed, his car.  Was anyone driving it?

I don’t think he bought my “too snowy to keep jockeying cars in and out of the driveway” explanation.  And knowing that we were starting it and letting it run a while weren’t good enough.  I promised him we would drive it.

The evening hours passed.  I passed out on the couch, er, the floor next to the couch, and Kathy literally served me pizza because my legs refused to cooperate.  (Her homemade ‘za was delicious, by the way.  Chicken, turkey pepperoni, and spinach on a crisp, flavorful, thin crust.)  Stephen threw in a load of laundry for me (and dried it) because, again, it was clear I wasn’t moving anywhere.

The alarm roused me way too early again today and I went through the motions of beginning another day.  On the way to play racquetball, I phoned the hospital.

Geri was so happy to talk with someone from the family.  She said that he was up most of the night, but he was watching sports.  And then she said he stood up.

What??  I couldn’t believe what I just heard.

Yep, she was at his side and had to hold him, “but his feet hit the floor.”

Geri said he finally fell asleep around 4 AM, so “be prepared if he’s sleeping when you get here.”

I continue to shake my head in amazement at everything that has occurred in the past two months.  Today marks two consecutive months of confinement for Dad.  I think he entered Lutheran General January 14 and was transported to Christ late in the day January 15.

Are we close to taking the next step?  It appears so.

But as we have learned in the past two months, baby steps.

Yeah, they may be baby steps, but I can assure you, the steps that Norb Kwiecinski took overnight were strides of a giant.

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For more on my dad’s battle with a significant health issue, search #dadupdate on Facebook.


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