Waiting for dad to be paroled from Albany Med
Exactly one week ago I called my father to tell him I would be visiting him at his Albany apartment at about noon the next day. But at 8 the next morning my husband handed me the phone: It's your father. "Come now," dad said, "and take me to the hospital."
The survivor of two multiple bypasses and a valve replacement knows when things aren't right. Of course he was right: Separate from the diabetes-related fluid buildup, his heart rate was 43.
Wonderful Dr. Costello, who makes house calls and could teach classes on bedside manner, came to the apartment, did an EKG, confirmed dad's self-diagnosis, talked to the cardiologist and called for an ambulance.
Four days later, dad became the owner of a pacemaker. " Are you comfortable," asks the nurse, on cue. The patient shrugs: "I make a living." Two days later, he is, as he puts it, eligible for parole. We waited two hours for a doctor, an hour for a nurse. He is dressed and ready to go.
Another half hour, still waiting. The nice people on the 4th floor of Wing D bribed me with free coffee and chicken salad on white. How hungry must I be to be excited by hospital food? Dad's last stint in the hospital was supposed to be his last.
In November, admitted because of the aforementioned diabetes-related fluid buildup, the docs advised him to prepare for dialysis or prepare to die from failing kidneys. He was adamant against dialysis at this stage of the game. On oxygen 24/7, on insulin, on half a diaphragm, he decided enough is enough. Dad was at peace with his decision. His grandkids came home from college, his sister came up from Queens with his nephews. He held court at his own wake, and a good time was had by all.
Three weeks from admission, his cardiologist showed up in his hospital room with a shocking question: What are you still doing here? We filled him in, surprised he didn't know. Your kidneys won't kill you, the doctor assured him, your heart will.
That was a lesson to all of us. In journalism, they teach you, if your mother says she loves you, check it out. In medicine, if the physicians on call tell you you're dying, call your doctor. Sure enough, the kidneys stopped failing and dad was sent home. He was ready to go, but my mother wasn't ready to have him at her side.
It took a while for dad to get back his mojo, helped along by grandchildren's milestones: college graduations, a nursing degree, a 25th birthday, and, as I write this, his youngest grandchild's 16th birthday. All things he hadn't expected to be around to celebrate.
Another hour, no doctor, no offer for dessert. Dad is dozing. How long must we wait for a five-minute (if that) sign-off? Why the delay? Another half-hour and the friendly and helpful Dr. L. apologized for the waiting, used her pull to merge two follow-up visits next week for same day, and promised the nurse will be in shortly with the discharge paperwork. That was 20 minutes ago.
If we ever get out, you will be reading this. Meanwhile, I will take a deep breath, get my life's priorities in order, and be glad for another day with dad.