We Step Out for the Night: Caregiver’s World

It was Thursday night and I was getting ready to meet Grete, a family member, at a restaurant for dinner. Dennis was back in bed after an afternoon in the recliner. I crushed up his evening pills, dissolved them in some water and took them over to pour them in the feeding tube. It was about time for our hired caregiver to arrive, and for me to leave.

I hooked up the syringe/funnel to the husband’s feeding tube and poured medicine in and watched as a wet circle appeared on his shirt. I checked my connections with alarm and couldn’t see any leaks or openings. Then I lifted the shirt and discovered the real cause. The other end of the tube was no longer in his stomach.

There it was, with the balloon that was supposed to keep it in place mostly deflated. I didn’t know when it had come out, or why, but it probably didn’t take much to bring it out. Something like this had happened when he was in the nursing home and it resulted in a trip to the Spooner ER for tube replacement.

I seriously entertained the thought of sticking the thing back in, and would have tried if I had known I could inflate the balloon to keep it in. I didn’t have the right kind of syringe to do that, so I followed plan #2, call the Hospice nurse. Let someone else decide…

I also called Grete and asked to postpone our dinner to another day, knowing that it might take a while to see this circumstance to a satisfactory end. I also called the caregiver and told her we most likely would not be home. The husband and I were stepping out for the night.

Who wouldn’t want to spend an evening in the ER with this jolly fellow?

Hospice called the ambulance for me and they were soon at the door. Dennis knew enough to be a little anxious but I reassured him that we were going on this adventure together. He laughed. I like that he laughs at my jokes a lot more these days. “Adventure for you,” he said.

After our short ride in the ambulance we were introduced to our ER crew and gave them the story. You have to understand that after a tube like this comes out something should be done very soon to keep the tract open. The PA attending us knew that but unfortunately he had never encountered this problem yet and didn’t think they even had another gastrostomy tube in the ER. Lucky I had brought the old one along in a zip-lock. That’s what they ended up using.

It wasn’t easy to get it in, but after several attempts and a couple techniques, it was replaced and the balloon inflated. I’m a little worried that there might be a slow leak in it, and we might have another event in the future, but so be it. We were discharged and back in the ambulance for the ride home within three hours. That is amazing for any trip to the ER.

The husband got pretty tired out, but I think he kind of enjoyed the extra attention, meeting new people, new places, all that. Isn’t that what we hope for on “date night”?

Note to self: Get one of those feeding tubes before the next time – I bet they have them on Amazon.

The culprit

Being Contrary: Caregiver’s World

Today, in my caregiver’s world, things have not gone as expected, but have not gone badly either. For one thing, I did not make my bed and it set the tone for contrariness for the whole day.

Did. Not.

The CNA coming to help with morning chores needed to hurry and be done, and it was unfortunate because I was needing her to stay with Dennis while I went to my study group. I called on my brother and he was able to come but it was a bother to have to come up with another plan. I was able to get to my Bible study group late, but I was there. My phone only disturbed the group twice before I had to leave – early, oh well. I spent some time thinking about why it is so easy to stay home in contrast to the effort required to go someplace.

One of the phone calls led to a new piece of equipment getting delivered today. The hospice nurse thought the husband would benefit from a suction machine and it was added to our little “hospital at home”. I worked with it and we tested it together until he said “don’t do that anymore” (he was being contrary too), after which he called me from another room to suction him again.

The work table is getting crowded but I now have my own little emergency room complete with oxygen and suction.

But while we were doing all this, I started watching a YouTube video that I could not get away from. I was fascinated as I watched this young Asian girl carve a homestead out of the tropical jungle, all by herself. She chopped bamboo, carried rocks from the mountainside, built substantial structures to live in and house her animals, got her gardens growing and even wired the place with electricity from a turbine set in the stream. She was so smart and good at all of it. She pounds nails without bending them or hitting her fingers. Her channel is called Ana Bushcraft, and she was very crafty.

Up on the roof, no ladders or scaffolding – she just climbs
Never bends a nail (on camera, anyway)

I didn’t always know what she was building, but could not stop watching her work. Her patience and willingness to do things the slow way with whatever materials she could find made me wonder if I would be able to work like that. One project at a time, she transformed her part of the jungle. It was nice to lose myself in her world where there were no sick people, no meetings to attend, no technologies or devices to drive her crazy – just a lot of plain, old hard work. (But I also wondered who was behind the camera, out there in the rainy jungle day after day.) It rivaled the other channel we watch – the cooking show from Azerbaijan.

It was probably a little wasteful of my time, but as I said, I was feeling contrary. I should have been making my bed, but it will be a lot quicker to get into tonight. I’ll make it again tomorrow.