Sunday, October 16, 2011

A wrong diagnosis and a simple question: Sir, Why can’t you lift your leg up? My Father in hospital and no other stories to tell this week.

My Father slowly on the mend after his emergency hip operation on Wednesday.  Olivia and Susana spend many an afternoon with him, as does Olga.

Hi everyone, 

This week has not been good.   In fact it has been exhausting and very worrying; very different from last Sunday when life went on as usual.  Now it has fallen all apart.  There is only one thing to report, my Father is in hospital and our lives revolve around him.  The house is empty, the dogs don’t know what is going on and we spend the days and nights taking turns to be with my Father.  Eladio and I take turns at night and the girls or Olga go in the afternoons. In Spain each patient is expected to have someone to accompany him, day and night and that is what we do.  We have turned into nurses over night, something which for me was distressing and difficult at the beginning but is now becoming easier.  As an acquaintance said on Facebook, “do it with love and it will all come naturally”.  How right she is.  Thank you Tanya.

You will know that my Father fell some six weeks ago, just a few days after being in hospital.  He complained that his left ankle and foot hurt and the 4 doctors who saw him, including a prestigious traumatologist, all made a wrong diagnosis and said he had a sprain and prescribed bandaging and paracetamol.  He did tell them all that it most hurt when his left leg was lifted but they still all insisted he had a sprain which they could see from the X-rays.  However they only took X-rays of his foot, not his leg or higher up, even though we insisted. And because of the wrong diagnosis in those six weeks he was confined to a wheel chair and terrible pain and dependent on us for his every movement, which of course depressed him.  We did our best to look after him and feed him and cheer him up but I could not understand why six weeks after the fall he was still in agony.  What we didn’t know was that he was also losing blood.  No wonder he was so weak and listless. He was monitored by his local GP, if you can call it monitoring, who told us that from the blood test results she had seen he had lost a lot of hemoglobin and iron and could be bleeding internally.  She thought the loss of blood came from the daily aspirin he was taking for his heart and took him off it and prescribed iron tablets.  She warned us that if we saw any blood in his stools, to rush him to hospital.  This turned out to be a contradiction as apparently if you take iron tablets your stools will always be black.  

On Tuesday afternoon, the day before Spain’s national holiday on 12th October and the day before my trip to Lithuania, fate was ironically on my Father’ side as we would finally find out what was wrong with him.  In the late afternoon, Eladio saw the dreaded blood and rang the doctor who told us to ring the equivalent of 999 (112 in Spain).  The Emergency services immediately sent an ambulance and my poor frightened Father was lifted in to it on a stretcher.  It was his first time ever in an ambulance and my third, I think.  Luckily I was able to accompany him and Eladio followed behind in his car.  We were taken to the Spanish national health service hospital in Alcorcón some 15km from home.  He was in agony the whole way complaining about the pain in his foot with every bump the ambulance made and I could do nothing to help him, just look on with a broken heart.

We arrived at the hospital and were attended immediately.  I had dreaded hours and hours of waiting in the emergency unit but no, two young doctors came quite soon.  In just five minutes they realised what was wrong with him.  The young South American doctor asked my Father in perfect English “Sir, could you please lift your right leg up (the good leg)” which he did.  Then he said “Sir, could you please lift your left leg up (the bad leg)” and my Father said he couldn’t.  The doctor insisted: “Sir, why can’t you lift your left leg up?” and thereby came the answer.  He couldn’t lift it up because his hip was broken or that was what the doctor suspected.  His suspicions were confirmed with an X-ray five minutes later. We could hardly believe what we were hearing.   Six weeks ago my Father had fallen and broken his hip and none of the doctors had been able to diagnose or bother to diagnose it.  The so-called prestigious traumatologist at the Clínica 2001 in Majadahonda just took an X-ray of his foot, briefly touched it and did not ask my Father the vital question if he could lift his leg.  Later I asked the traumatologist at the Hospital de Alcorcón, why the other doctors hadn’t realised and I think he covered up for them by saying that if my Father had complained about pain in his foot they wouldn’t have suspected it was his hip.  I then asked why the pain was in his foot if the fracture was in his hip.  The answer was simple, pain can manifest itself in another part of the body to the injury, as often happens with back injuries, for example.  But surely traumatologists know that I thought.  Thank goodness the young South American doctor, to whom I will always be grateful, asked that one simple question which was the key to my Father’s well being.

Luck was also on our side on Tuesday in that we knew a doctor at the hospital who pushed all the right buttons for things to move fast and in the right direction for my Father.  It turned out that Juan, the father of Rocío, the girls’ best friend from St. Michael’s school, is the head anaesthetist at the very same hospital where my Father was.  Juan was travelling to Chicago the next day, but even so he rang all the right people and got his team to take his place and be there for any assistance we needed, including Teresa, a gentle lovely doctor who helped us enormously throughout.  

Luck was not on our side that first night which I spent with my Father in the Emergency Unit.  I had just a hard chair to sit on and needless to say neither of us got a wink of sleep. That night is better forgotten.
So now we knew he had a broken hip which would have to be operated.  However my Father was a high risk patient because of his age and weak health caused by the blood loss.  There was an option not to operate but that would have meant never walking again and forever living in pain.  We decided then and there that he was to have the operation. The doctors were not sure whether the blood loss came from the hip fracture or from another cause.  So first they had to wash out his stomach and then subject him to an endoscopy, the latter an unpleasant test which when we read the consent form, made us think twice.  Thankfully Juan was always there to advise us on the phone.  I cannot thank him enough. No internal bleeding was evident from either procedure so the next day, Thursday, they went ahead with the high risk operation of a replacement hip. 

Teresa and the Cristina, her delightful young colleague from Juan’s team of anaesthetists let me in to the ante theatre where I was able to see my Father before his operation.  He was going to have a lumbar anesthetic rather than a general anesthetic which was a lot less dangerous for someone his age.  Some two hours later Diego, the traumatologist who had operated him, told us the operation had been a great success.  We were so happy!  Teresa then let us see him in the reanimation room (if that’s what it’s called in English hospitals) and he was amazing, he was all there, completely aware of what was going on and not particularly distressed or worried.  I was so proud of him.

Well that was last Thursday and today is Sunday.  He is slowly getting stronger.   All my friends and family have been a great support.  I hesitated about reporting his progress on Facebook but now I’m glad I did.  There have been so many wonderful comments and I read them all to him and he is amazed.  Thanks my friends.  Fátima came to see him last night and Julio came this morning, Pili and Dolores ring nearly every day and Jackqueline is praying for him as are some more of my friends. As I said on Facebook, it’s good to have religious friends in these times, hahaha.  I made a pact with Jacky, I would feed him with food made lovingly at home and she would pray.  Jackqueline has prayed at every stage and every stage has been a success.  I’m so impressed with her results that I have now asked her to pray for him to walk again and have a good health and mind and live to at least 102.  She has agreed but is not too sure whether 102 is God’s providence or not! Caring for Grandpa after such a big operation is like reviving a wilting plant, some sun, some water and most of all loving care.  

As the hospital food is not appetising and he is not very hungry, I decided on the second day to bring him his food from home and bring him the food he likes best. So here I am thinking most of the day what I am going to make to take him for his next meal, to whet his appetite and to make him stronger.  Then when he eats it all, I feel like clapping my hands with joy and happiness as my tactics are working.  Our main occupation now is for him to eat and to do the special exercises from his bed in preparation for getting out of bed.  Yes, Grandpa will get stronger, the pain will go, he will take his first steps on a zimmer frame and he will come home and will have quality of life.  Then we’ll take it from it there, slowly but surely.  His main objective is to go on the weekly food shopping outing with Eladio where they both enjoy a glass of white wine and a tapa at the Cafetería Río.  You see, he doesn’t ask for much.  

Whilst my Father has been in the hospital I haven’t really followed the news, as my thoughts are really only with him.  There really are no other stories to tell this week.  I have realised however just how warm the weather continues to be.  We still go about in summer clothes.  Before my Father went into hospital on Tuesday afternoon, believe it or not both Olivia and I swam in our very cold pool.  We enjoyed the afternoons with him there, as did our dear dogs which are now a little abandoned.  I took this photo of Elsa on Monday who this week reached the grand old age of 5 months, a mere puppy but now getting bigger and bigger as you can see from the photo below.

Elsa was 5 months old this week.  She is so beautiful and such a lovely dog.

 If my Father hadn’t been admitted to hospital, this week I would have told you more about the lunch with my ex Nokia girl friends on Monday.  The lunch was called for by Susana to celebrate her new job but she cancelled at the last minute, as did Fátima.  So Jill, Ana, Zenaida and I arrived at the restaurant Susana had told us the lunch was to be, a place called Coquerel in Majadahonda to find it was closed.  In the end, rather cross with Susana, we went to a Chinese place nearby and had a cheap menu of the day.  

I would also have told you about my exciting trip to Vilnius in Lithuania on Wednesday for the Communications team meeting.  But of course I had to cancel it.  I love travelling but even if I had been going to the moon, I would have cancelled as I could not miss being with my Father at such traumatic times for him.  

And that my friends, is the story of how our lives turned upside down in just a week.  As I finish writing my thoughts are with my Father and Eladio in ward C2, room 222 at the Hospital Universitario Fundación Alcorcón.  Eladio will be in the reclining chair by the window and my Father in his hospital bed.  They occupy one half of the room.  The other half is occupied by another patient, Juan in his late 80s’ who snores so loud at night I can’t sleep.  Rosa, his daughter spends every night with him and we have become good friends.  Illness tends to unite.  I wish them all a good night as I wish you too.

Cheers my friends, till next week.  



Anonymous said...

Thank you for letting us know what happens with Grampa. You know I have a special love for him. He is strong and he will get better and better everyday. Give him a huge kiss from me. To Eladio too. And you of course. And be strong.

Masha Lloyd said...

Thank you Cops and thanks for writing here. Of course will give him your hug. Love you too Masha

sandra said...

My dear Masha,
You are the most loving daughter a father could wish for! And with you comes all the love from your darling husband, daughters and extended family! Your father is strong with a fight for life: that's wonderful! And going forwards, we must all remember that the difference is in asking the right questions! That goes for all walks of life and doctors are no different. They don't think of everything and sometimes the most obvious is staring them in the face! Luckily, the South African asked the right question! Thinking of you all, and wishing your Father a swift recovery so he can be back on his feet soon. Love and kisses Sandie xx