Happy Thanksgiving

 On Sunday, my father, who hadn't called me since the previous Monday (but I saw him on Saturday), left me a voice mail while I was in church (my phone is silenced during the service).  It was hard for him to get his words out, but in the end, he wished me a very, very, very, very, Happy Thanksgiving.  And although it is June, it meant a lot to me.  It was probably one of the most heartfelt messages I've ever gotten from my father.  

Let me explain why.

As I have written previously, my father has been in the hospital and rehabilitation facilities since February.  (I'll be honest, I’VE lost sense of the exact timing.)  Due to numerous health issues, he developed pressure ulcers that are severe.  (I never realized how severe they could be.)  After his first stint in the hospital, he was released and came home, where he has a 24/7 caregiver.  He also had daily visits from a wound care nurse.  After a week or 10 days, the nurse didn't like what she was seeing and he was sent back to the hospital.  When he was released again, we agreed he would go to a rehabilitation facility as he was still on IV antibiotics and needed specialized care.  I thought that would only be a few weeks.  I was wrong.

When I first went to see him at the facility, he was on a heavy dose of painkillers.  He was not very coherent and he was nauseated.  It wasn't good and I was upset at the turn of events.  However, over the next week or so I believe they reduced the medication and he was alert, but still in pain.  (You don't want to be around when they dress his wounds.)  His caregiver and I trimmed his hair.  He ate (with his assistance from his caregiver) food that she made at home for him.  (He HATED the food at the rehab facility.)  As time passed, I thought he was getting better and I was hoping that he would be able to come home in early May.

I spoke with a supervisor at the facility to see what the exit strategy was.  It was then that I was told that his wounds were still very severe and that it would be another couple of months.  I had barely digested that (and broke the news to my dad), when he was taken back to the hospital.

During this last stay, I was able to speak to a palliative care nurse.  (Since I didn't know what palliative care was until last year:  "Palliative care is specialized medical care for people living with a serious illness. This type of care is focused on providing relief from the symptoms and stress of the illness. The goal is to improve the quality of life for both the patient and the family.

"Palliative care is provided by a specially trained team of doctors, nurses and other specialists who work together with a patient’s other doctors to provide an extra layer of support. Palliative care is based on the needs of the patient, not on the patient’s prognosis. It is appropriate at any age and at any stage in a serious illness, and it can be provided along with curative treatment"  This comes from https://getpalliativecare.org/)

The nurse was forthright with me, which I really appreciated.  She let me know that his wounds would probably never fully heal.  (Not that they wouldn't heal, but not completely.)  I had never considered that.  I also hadn't considered that this cycle of hospital/home or hospital/rehab might not be one that could not be broken.  It might be a fact of life.  Not what you want to hear, but it did at least help ME understand what was going on.  I expressed that when my dad was able to go home that I would definitely want home palliative care (in addition to any other in-home nursing/wound care that he could receive).  MY goal was for him to be as healthy AND comfortable as he could be.  Not 100% perfect, but as healthy as his age and his body would allow AND as to be as pain free as was possible.

He moved from the hospital to a different rehabilitation center the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend.  (Caught me by surprise, but...)  He chose the facility.  When I saw him that Sunday, he was mostly sleeping, but relatively coherent.

I was used to him calling me every morning.  That stopped happening the last Tuesday of May.  It worried me, but I was not overly alarmed because his caregiver goes to see him every day and spends 5-6 hours with him.  I spoke to his caregiver AND the nurses at the facility; they confirmed that he is getting pain medication twice a day and/or before they do the wound care.  While I am not happy that he is on so much pain medication and that he is sleeping most of the time, from what I can see (and I saw him just a few days ago), he is relatively peaceful and calm.  And I think that this is important.

For many years (what seems like an eternity), my dad has had pain:  in his back, his legs, his feet.  As the years have gone by, it has only gotten worse.  At least, for now, he seems comfortable.

So when he called me (I'm sure with the help of his caregiver), while it took a while for him to get the words out, his words were clear.  And while he was wishing me a "happy Thanksgiving," to me what he was really telling me is that he loved me.  For me, that means the world.

This has been a long road for my dad and it's going to continue to be difficult.  For now, I am grateful for the small amount of peace that he seems to have.  For that I give thanks and say, "Happy Thanksgiving."


  1. It’s a long road for you both. God bless your wisdom and compassion.

  2. https://bmacards.com/To5v7l


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