Vacuums and Denial and Conjecture, oh my…

My previous post described my experience of a particular nurse in the hospital at which my dad is staying. This post is the other side of the story…

Naturally, I have missed the one (hmmm) time the doctor doing rounds has visited my dad, for the last three days. Darn my 5-year-old, starting her first week of kindergarten.

One big challenge we’re currently facing is that my dad is a 79-year-old genteel Southern gentleman who was raised to be in awe of medical authority.

My mom is of that generation, also…to the point that when I was asking questions of her neurologist (as she was being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s), she chastised me on the way out of the office for being “rude!” to the doctor.

The idea that the pressures on doctors have changed…and that everyone needs to take or at least share ownership of their own health care…is so foreign to my parents, I have given up trying.

So I am the one who does the research and asks the (understandably) harried doctors what the heck is going on, why, and what are we going to do about it? Which brings me back to my conversations with my Dad’s doctors (and lack thereof).

(By the way, I’m taking a really circuitous route, but the moral to this story is that communication is good.)

My dad was admitted to the hospital with pleural effusion. Or is it a pleural effusion? Can pleural effusion be plural? I have a ton of time on my hands.  These are the things I think about. Pray for me.

Anyway, what it is, singular or plural, is fluid in the chest cavity that presses on the lungs and makes it difficult to take in adequate oxygen. Looks pretty scary from the outside, I’m betting it feels even scarier.

After providing some relief by draining said fluid, the doctors are now determining why it’s there. Mind you, we’ve been determining for, now, 7 days. With no conclusion and no identified end to the process.

I’ve been a good little owner of my dad’s healthcare, and I’ve done my internet research. 90% of all pleural effusion(s?) are caused by (1) pneumonia, (2) tuberculosis, (3) congestive heart failure, and (4) lung cancer.

For my dad: one, two, and three have been ruled out. Here’s the thing:

NO ONE has even mentioned #4. We’re running all kinds of tests – x rays, and CAT scans, and bloodwork, tests on the drained fluid – there’s been one veiled mention of a biopsy. Of what? A candy bar? His big toe? Come on, people, spit it out!

My dad isn’t asking any questions of the doctors when they come in (in the morning, before I have had a chance to get to the room). Today: “Daddy, did they give you any indication of how much longer you would be here?” No. “Did you ask?” No. They did say that they are going to drain more fluid today. “Did they give you any indication of why they think the fluid is rebuilding?” No. “Did you ask?” No.“Did they say anything more about possibly performing a biopsy?” No. (and no, he didn’t ask)

Ugh. I suspect that my dad’s recent need for Xanax means that ignorance is not bliss, but forcing reality on him right now doesn’t seem right. I, on the other hand, feel so helpless without direct access to the doctor, and with no information to either confirm or deny my suspicions.

Not to trivialize the above situation, at all, but I have a tendency to make connections between the most disparate situations. And I am reminded of this…

One of the (fair) (and balanced!) criticisms of my leadership is that I don’t communicate enough. I hate meetings, I hate the phone, I like to solve problems ad hoc, I enjoy operating off-the-cuff, and most importantly: I don’t like to trouble or burden the people who work for me with the challenges I and others and the organization are facing.

I worry that too much bad news will take their eye off of the ball – which, in the case of challenging times, is the last thing (that I think) we need.

I had a pretty spectacular crash in a business situation a couple of years ago. An 8.9 on technical merit and a perfect 10 on artistry. I think a lack of communication from me contributed to the problem. It wasn’t the sole reason, but definitely a contribution.

So, with my dad’s situation, here I sit on the other end of that story. By receiving no communication, or round-about communication, or soft-pedaled communication, my anxiety is worse…and therefore my eye is off the ball, anyway.

If someone would take the time (ah yes, I do know that’s the rub) to shoot straight with me about my dad’s health for 5 minutes, I could make a plan and make better choices about how to spend my time:

Should I go visit my mom and reassure her face-to-face that Daddy is getting the best possible care?

Is my dad going to be in the hospital in a state of limbo for several more days, and so I need to balance his needs for advocacy and company with, for example, my first parent-teacher conference this afternoon?

If my dad and I are getting ready to go into a weeks- or months-long process, might I go to my office for a few hours to move some to-do’s a little further down the field?

And oh yeah, just who is that cute guy living in my house? I’d like to, I don’t know, go to lunch with him sometime?

Again, I have a pretty serious situation on my hands right now. Part of my coping strategy is to swap out my emotions for dark humor (because that’s SO effective); I am nowhere near as flippant or cold as I might seem.

But, note to self: Protecting people from negative information…or not being able to find 5 frickin’ minutes to share the truth, even harsh truths…creates more problems than it solves.

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