Last week a Speech Therapist was working with Dad to help strengthen his vocal cords and throat.
They’ve been highly irritated since his surgery and he’s had difficulty in swallowing, primarily fluids and his daily dose of pills.
The therapy room was at capacity so instead they did the therapy in his room right as Mom and I arrived for a visit.
They taped something under his chin and the therapist said, “Okay Paco let me know when you feel it.” A few seconds later Dad grips his wheelchair, “OH I FEEL IT,” he said.
“What is that thing?” I asked. “It looks like a TENS Unit for his throat.
“That’s exactly what it is,” the therapist said, looking impressed that I knew what a TENS unit was. A TENS unit sends electrical pulses through the skin. These pulses control pain signals in the body, creating temporary or permanent relief from pain. They can control abnormally excited nerves and release endorphins. They are also used to stimulate nerve cells to speed recovery.
Intubation is frequently used when the patient is under general anesthesia and at 91 it was likely taking Dad a bit longer than normal to recover from having a tube shoved down his throat.
“Holy heck, isn’t that painful to use on the neck like that?” I asked, to which my Dad belted out, “Yes, it is. It feels like it is pulling out the hairs on my chin.”
“Okay Paco,” the therapist said. “Start singing your vowels.”
“Start what?” I asked.
“a-A, e-E, i-I, o-O, u-U, OUCH,” Dad sang.
“Well done Paco,” the therapist said as I just stared at him in amazement.
I was about to say way to go Dad when the therapist grabbed the remote and said, “Okay we are turning up a bit more.”
OH (Bleep) I thought to myself.
“OH (BLEEP)…I-I-I- FEEL IT,” Dad said. “That’s enough please.”
“Sing your vowels, Paco.”
“AAA, EEEE, III, OOO, UUU can stop this now please,” he sang.
“Yes, we will stop it for now and you have to just do it one more time,” the therapist said. “We have to turn it up one more time. You are doing so well.”
Mom had that look on her face. The kind that meant get me out of here while he is screaming or singing or whatever they want to call it. I grabbed Mom’s walker and took her for a stroll down the hallway.
“AAAAAAA, EEEEEEEE, IIIIIIIII, OOOOOO, oh my goodness….UUUuuuu, I’m finished no?”
“Is that Paco?” the nurse down the hall asked. I nodded yes. “Go on with your bad self-Paco, sing it!” she yelled toward his room.
“Yes, you are finished Paco, well done.”
Later that day the Occupational Therapist and I bundled my Dad up in a heavy coat. We took him to the parking lot. It was the first time since he broke his hip on Dec. 18 that he had been outside the hospital room.
But it was a freezing cold morning and the temporary glee of being outside was quickly replaced with, “Man it’s cold out here, take me back to my room.
“We will Paco, you just have to practice getting in and out of your car, so when it’s time for you to go home your daughter and son can help you,” the therapist replied.
The notion that he was finally in the getting ready to go home phase took over and we practiced the stepping and lifting and getting back out twice before we all retreated to the room, frozen like popsicles.
This past Friday, Dad was discharged. My brother and I had rearranged many home furnishings making sure he had clear walkways and paths for his walker and wheelchair. We both got into Dad’s mini-van and using the recently learned technique I got Dad into the passenger seat and off we went. It was another cold day, but the sun was shining, and he just stared out the window with a smile, occasionally saying, “Look at this.”
He was happy to get home. He wheeled around the house and saw how we had arranged the furniture, made his bathroom and shower handicap ready and even fixed his bed so he had a side rail he could use to help him in and out of bed.
“Nice,” he said giving us the thumbs up.
So, he is home now. And we begin the next phase of our adventure. He can no longer just push a button and have a nurse cater to his needs. He will need to start doing some things on his own. And of course, we will now have to figure out the day-to-day activities based on our surroundings.
“I want out of these hospital pants and I want a shower,” Dad said.
And so, it begins.