Conversation in the Night

“Shuree, Shuree.”


I wake up suddenly. It is1:00 a.m., but it’s not very often he actually attempts to call my name and I can’t wait to hear what is happening.

“My pillow.” (said in his soft thick tongued voice which sounds almost like an accent. He never used to sound like this.)

“Oh, your pillow is on the floor! You lost it. Is that better?” (after arranging his head on the pillow again).

“I’m hungry”, he says, as he reaches for my hand.

“Oh no, and I’ve already given you extra before bedtime. I can give you some water though, and maybe a little “food” with it, in the tube.”

I warm up the water and take the leftover formula out of the fridge, load the bag and prime the tube, hook him up and start the drip. He wants to talk more.

“Are you happy?” (Something he’s never asked before).

“No, not really. I’m sad that you’re sick.”

“I’m not sick.”

“It seems like you are, but are you happy?”

“Yes, and I want a cup of coffee. Can you make a cup of coffee?”

“We don’t usually drink coffee in the middle of the night, when we want to sleep.”

“It would make me very happy if you would make me a cup of coffee.”

I can’t believe he’s asking this in such a sweet, almost begging manner. Of course I will make him some coffee. I do the Keurig thing and take it over to him. He has a spoonful.

“You can take a sip” he says.

“I’m going back to bed when we’re done so I’m not going to have more. I took a sip just to make sure it wasn’t too hot for you.”

“I called you here to see if you could make sandwiches for the men.”

This is an odd twist and I’m not sure where it’s going… “what men?”

“The men out on the street. I thought maybe you had sandwiches in the freezer and we could give them some.”

I remind him that he called me to get his pillow, and because he was hungry, but he remembers none of that. After I tell him again about the stroke and how his body doesn’t obey his brain anymore, he tells me I’m exaggerating. I count the months since he’s been unable to walk, or eat or do anything for himself. He stops talking and I ask him why – it’s because I’m arguing with him.

Asleep again.

I can tell the feeding is making him sleepy. He says his stomach feels better. I tell him that it was nice of him to think of hungry men on the street and want to feed them. He had about four tablespoons of coffee during our conversation, so I put the rest away, cover him, and turn out the light.


November in a Nursing Home

Freezing rain, snow showers, car covered with dirt and salt spray, gray skies, darkness before we are ready for it. It’s definitely November in Wisconsin. My daily trips to Spooner seem short by comparison but they still are challenged with this weather.

I am learning how different a nursing home is from a rehab hospital – something I knew in my head but experience emphasizes it. Some days I am dismayed with the care the husband is given. Some days I feel much better about it. Several days I have had to wake him up and get his care started without help. The weekend was actually frightening with the staff being stretched thin and several incidents happening. I wasn’t sure Dennis was getting his meds or his feedings on time or at all.

Today I arrived late in the morning and all was peaceful and calm, the room was straightened and my husband was dressed and sleeping in his recliner. But let me tell you about yesterday…

Somewhere between his speech therapy session, which I was told went well, and his PT session something happened to Dennis. He was much different, being unable to participate in his PT transfers, unable to keep himself upright, and not being responsive to questions and general talk. He stiffened and was hard to move and slept for hours without his usual requests for position change or the urinal. I wondered if he was having a second stroke. After a couple hours without improvement, it was decided to pack him up and go to the hospital ER for evaluation. The ambulance came and got him.

I will mention here that he didn’t want to go and had to be talked into it. He saw nothing wrong with the way he was feeling. I knew something wasn’t right but didn’t know what. I’m the one who has to think about him needing emergency care. Emergency care in the nursing home amounts to an LPN doing chest compressions while waiting for a phone request for a doctor to show up – no monitoring, medications or personnel familiar with running a code. I pretty much scared him into going by telling him to get evaluated or risk dying in his bed.

At the ER we got so much information over the next five hours. He had a urinary tract infection but the good news was that he didn’t have Covid, didn’t have pneumonia, didn’t have a second stroke or heart problems. He got a dose of antibiotic in his feeding tube and another ride back to Maple Ridge in the ambulance.

I went home and was settling down to sleep when the nursing home called to say Dennis was on the way back to the ER because his feeding tube had come out. I had heard a popping sound while watching the ER nurse give the antibiotic but I assumed she was familiar with the ports on his feeding tube. I asked her if one of them was the inflation port for the balloon that kept the tube in place in the stomach. She said yes, but didn’t seem concerned. The balloon had broken but the tube didn’t slip out until back at the nursing home when they moved him about.

Dennis got a new tube put in and two more rides in the ambulance. What a night. And, as I said, he is pretty hard to wake up again today, but with reason.

I find it hard to sit and watch him sleep. He is unable to wake up long enough to focus on anything or communicate more than a word at a time. I hope that as the urinary tract infection clears up, he will revive, be himself again and resume therapy.

Our setback matches perfectly with the gray, wet, coldness outside. It’s November.

He has a window. The view is not very impressive.

When It Doesn’t Happen

I have no hospital picture for today. Instead I took this shot of our meadow while walking, thinking and praying about handling disappointment. Sights like this speak God’s goodness to me.

Today Dennis was supposed to have a PEG tube for feeding inserted into his stomach – a procedure done in the radiology department under light anesthesia. It didn’t happen.

I had explained what it was and why it would be better than the nasogastric tube he’s had for weeks now. I played it up because I think having one less tube going down his throat might help him swallow better and eventually be eating and drinking normally. We were looking forward to having it done. By that, I mean Dennis was looking at the clock on the wall in front of his bed and asking every few minutes if it was time yet.

A few minutes before the appointment, a nurse came in and told us he had been rescheduled for the first thing tomorrow morning. They had several emergencies that took precedence. They were sorry. I was sorry.

Preparing for this procedure included having nothing in his stomach, so he had no feedings all day and the night before (via NG tube) and no IV fluid, and no ice chips as he had been having before. He was feeling very dried up. Since his new appointment is early tomorrow morning he won’t be getting anything tonight either.

All I want to say here is that we are getting used to disappointments. All they mean is that we didn’t know what God’s plan was. We now know a little more about the next right thing he’s doing for us. Accepting that does a real correction in my perspective. It makes waiting and trusting way easier.

On the Bright Side

On the bright side, today he was able to lift his right arm and bring his hand all the way to his nose to scratch an itch. He didn’t think of doing it himself, but when I suggested that maybe he could, he tried. I only helped him a little. Later he did it again to show the nurse that he could. He also shifted his upper body a little in bed, readjusting his position, which he has not been able to do prior to this. You may not understand why I am so happy about these small victories, but they are big changes in the right direction. Trust me.

I am praying that everything goes smoothly tomorrow. I hope to be up at the hospital, in his room when they bring him back. It’s been a while since I’ve seen his face without any tubes. I’m ready for that.