Thursday, April 22, 2010

About my Dad

Something pretty huge has been going on in my family lately. Until now I haven't had the energy or the heart to talk about it. Actually, I still don't. But I kind of feel like if I talk it out I might feel better. Probably not though.

My dad is really sick. I mean, really really badly sick. Until January he was the picture of "health"... very strong physically, very active, always working on some project or helping someone, spending his weekends fixing stuff, chopping firewood and the like. Honestly I don't recall a single day my whole life that he's been sick. With the exception of hay fever in the fall, I've never even seen him take medicine.

And now, well it's a whole different story. Now I can't even keep track of the number of pills he takes a day. 20 maybe? Could be more. He is in excruciating pain 24 hours a day. He can't sleep. He hardly eats. He's so weak. He can't make it up and down stairs with out stopping and holding on to the rail. He can't move or walk very far. And he needs someone to help him out of the recliner or bed.

He moves at the pace of a very elderly person. And he's only 56. But I have seen him "age" 30 years in the past 3 months. I thought I would never see my dad get old like this. I mean, he's still quite young. It's very difficult to watch.

You're probably wondering what in the world would cause such a change. And that's an excellent question. One to which we still don't have a satisfying answer. But here's what we do know (as of today).

In January he found out (by trying to write himself a life insurance policy) that he is diabetic, has high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. When we heard this we were not entirely surprised. There were a few signs looking back. For one, over the last 2 years he has lost a substantial amount of weight - maybe 50 pounds - without diet or exercise. And during that time he credited the weight loss to drinking lots and lots of water. But now we know that he was drinking so much because he was always thirsty - a sign of diabetes. As is weight loss, but we didn't know that at the time.

Secondly, he had been drinking 2 Rock.Stars (an energy drink) daily. I read the label on those things and kept warning him that it couldn't possibly be good for his body. But he kept at it. So we half expected to find out there was a problem with his blood sugar.

The fact that he was diagnosed when he was is purely an act of the mercy of God. Because this is a guy who hasn't been to a doctor in 10+ years. And refused to even go for a check up because he felt fine. When the life insurance company required blood work he was confident it would come back clean. By the time the lab contacted him with the results, his levels were so bad they recommended he see a doctor immediately because no normal person should be walking around alive with numbers like those. This was a very extreme case, which if left untreated any longer could very well have killed him.

So, in February he was given his first round of meds for the 3 main problems (blood sugar, blood pressure, cholesterol). For a while he had to adjust the levels to properly control things, but was able to get a combo that worked. We thought the problem had been solved. My mom started cooking for his special needs and it seemed like life would return to normal.

But a few weeks later he started to develop a severe burning pain all over his body. It was the worst in his legs. He described it like his skin being on fire. Not like a sunburn, but a burning inside. It started to keep him up all night. Then it started to distract him all day. It progressively got worse until it became unbearable.

He returned to the doctor and was given pain killers. Consequently he started sleeping All THE TIME. And by all the time, I do mean that I hardly saw the whites of his eyes during the entire month of March. The pain would keep him up all night, so he would over medicate, which would knock him out (the only time he didn't feel the pain), and he would end up sleeping all day. He was allowed to take the pills every 6 hours, but they only took away the pain for 2-3 hours at a time. This creates a problem. He could either take more than recommended and possibly overdose (which he did once) or he could spend the rest of the time in terrible pain.

He spent a few days in the hospital from the pain, which is when I really knew things were worse than he was letting on. From that point until now he's like a different person. Things have digressed so quickly. The pain is worsening and he is weakening by the day. He hasn't been to work in any real capacity in nearly 6 weeks. He lost 18 pounds in less than a month. For a 6 foot tall man, 173 pounds is thin. I can see his ribs now. And he looks so grey and sunken. You can just see the toll this pain has caused on his body. I think part of it too is the emotional pain. Just not knowing and not seeing any end in sight. He has said things like he's not sure how much more he can take.

They've gone to a neurologist and an internal specialist and so far no one knows why the medicine isn't working for his pain or what's really causing the pain in the first place. Strangely, the diabetes and other things are "under control", or at least showing good progress. So why the pain? And all the other side-effects? Could the medication be the cause? For someone who never even took tylenol before, this is such a 180. He had 2 doctors tell him today that he's an anomaly. Great. That's real encouraging. He'll go see a cardiologist next week and an endocrinologist in 2 weeks to find out if this is possibly a heart or thyroid problem. But until then, he'll keep taking pain meds around the clock and wait it out.

I know when I put it like this it seems so simple. But believe me, it is not. Watching someone suffer like this is heart breaking. And knowing there is nothing you can do to stop it is worse.

December 2009

April 2010

3 comments:

Courtney said...

My first reaction comes from medical person in me...I wonder if the pain is neuropathy--which is usually hand in hand with most diabetics. Also, I wonder if the need to stop going up and down stairs, etc, is heart related...possibly an irregular heart beat (a-fib) and/or chf (congestive heart failure). There are some ppl who have both b/c of the way the body works in these situations. And high blood pressure tends to be a part of it as well. Although, if he's not having any/alot of extremity swelling then it's prob. not chf. But, you never know til the dr. looks at him.

Now, on the personal-friend side...I am praying for a complete healing for your dad. I pray God gives him strength and peace, physically and emotionally. I believe it is possible. I know you do too.

It's def. hard to watch our parents age. Just yesterday my dad was acting down and when I asked him what was wrong he just replied that it's hard that he's lost weight and muscle and now feels like he can't do as much. Very hard on his male ego for sure.

The most we can do, as daughters, is give love and support, and prayers of course...as I know you already do.

Let me know if your family needs anything at all.

(((hugs)))

Jilli said...

Oh my Sarah, thankyou for sharing this. I had thought I noticed the thinness of your Dad in Ragon's photos... I remember him being such a big strong man. I am so sorry you and your family are going through this. It is so difficult to see your parents' health fail. Could his pain be RA or Fibromyalgia? Or Thyroid issues? My Mom has all that. She says the RA and Fibro makes her skin and joints feel like they're on fire. A lady in my Bible study has a punched nerve/nerve damage or something in her back that causes round the clock pain. She can hardly have anything touch her skin... God is the great Physician, He knows what's going on. I will keep you all in my prayers. Please keep us posted!

Anonymous said...

Sarah, continue to be strong like I know you have been, I know this is a difficult time for your family, I will keep you in my thoughts and prayer.
Love, Barbara