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One lesson I’ve learned in going through this caregiving experience is the importance of trusting one’s gut. I’m guessing new parents must also go through this learning process. It comes from getting to know someone so well that you can intuit when something’s just a little off, combined with the knowledge that you are the one who will have to take action should anything go amiss.

My gut was proved right just this morning. For the last few days, Dad has been acting steadily less like himself. Yesterday we went to his primary care doc’s walk-in clinic when I noticed his speech going slightly off. I kind of thought they’d be sending us right to the hospital – I didn’t want to be the one to force Dad down that route, yet again, on my own. Instead, though, after a once-over for stroke symptoms, they sent us to the blood lab for blood tests and set an appointment for today to get an ultrasound of his carotid artery. Dad and I both were relieved they didn’t think the situation warranted an ER visit, and we went on our way.

Last night, though, my gut was sending out warning signals once again. His appetite was way down and he announced he was headed to bed as soon as he pushed back from the dinner table. I’ll admit that it was kind of nice to have the living room tv to myself for the evening, but I knew it wasn’t for a good reason. “We’ll find out more tomorrow,” I said to my churning gut. “Keep calm, give the doctors time to figure it out.”

I woke up at about 4:30, and couldn’t get back to sleep. I felt I could almost hear the little neuronal circuits going off in my head, like little tindersparks in a brush fire, and every time I quashed one with my attempts at deep breathing and relaxation, another would pop up a few brain folds over. I was about ready to give up and get up at 5:45, when I heard what I thought was a call for help from downstairs.

As I got to the bottom of the stairs, there was a second call. I got to his room and asked what he needed – “I gotta go to the bathroom.”

“O.k,” I said. “You need help with that?”

“Where’s the nurse? She just walked down the hall.”

“Dad, you’re at home. Do you know where you are?”

“Yeah, I’m at home. Wait, I’m still hooked up to the machines, I need to get unhooked.”

“Dad you’re in your bed. You’re not in the hospital.”


Into the bathroom he went. To the sofa with my head in my hands I went. On his way back to his bedroom – literally a 120-degree turn and two steps from the bathroom door – he asked where all his stuff was.

Double crap. Damn that darned gut anyway.

Now we’re back in my least-favorite place – ER purgatory waiting for a bed. And my gut is telling me this time is worse than last time. His kidney numbers are through the basement and the ER doc didn’t give me anything on which to hang higher hopes.

This gut check is giving me a kick to the gut