So, a week and a half since the last emergency, and I’m back to waiting for the sound of falling shoes (which often strongly resembles the sound of falling fathers). Dad seems to have a closet-full of shoes just waiting to hit us on the head whenever we start getting just a tad too comfortable in our routine. Sure, things seem fairly quiet – today’s lung doctor appointment seemed to clear Dad of any serious lung-disease concerns, and he has happily (if not terribly successfully) rejoined the ranks of poker-playing old guys at the senior center. But the specter of his shifting blood pressure continues to linger.
In fact, Dad’s primary care doctor thinks the blood pressure condition has become a chronic part of Dad’s physiology. His blood pressure in the morning can be very low, and can shift quickly – typically further downward, but, more recently, upward – when he stands. The doctor has cut anything that could be contributing to the problem – notably the Flomax and the diuretic – but the problem persists. Now he’s added fludrocortisone in an effort, I believe, to help Dad hold onto some fluid, and, so, build up his blood volume a bit. Things are a little better when I can get Dad to concentrate on getting fluid into his body, but when the visiting nurses had me keep track of all the fluid he took in during a day earlier this week, I saw that he was only taking in about a liter – half of the two-liter goal he’s supposed to be shooting for. And that was with me filling glasses and setting them down in front of him. Short of water-boarding him, I just don’t know how to get him to drink more. He even sips his Scotch so slowly now that it takes him almost two hours to finish his cocktail-hour double. I never thought I’d feel sad to see him drink so slowly.
The side effects of this new drug look kinda scary – it’s a synthetic steroid that sounds like it can do nasty things about 18 different ways, though Dad is on a pretty low dosage (I think). It just brings home the fragility of his body, and the delicate balance of risk and benefit he’s living with these days. The new drug may encourage high blood pressure and put added stress on the kidneys, but the low blood pressure he has now can easily lead to more falling incidents, which are significantly more dangerous in the short term.
On the plus side, the lung doctor today did a quick-and-dirty breathing test that showed Dad is actually breathing quite well. Afterward, though, he suggested Dad get a more thorough version of the test to help answer a couple of questions today’s test raised in the doctor’s mind. When I pressed him on the real need for the test – after all, today’s test, along with Dad’s personal impression, indicated that his lungs are working much better than they were a couple months ago. The doctor suggested that a more intensive test would establish a healthy baseline, in case, a year from now, problems emerged. In my head, I was wanting to scream, “ARE YOU NUTS?” A year from now, if Dad’s still alive, his lungs likely will be the least of his problems.
So, we shook the nice pulmonologist’s hand (and he really is a nice guy) and said we’d see him when we see him. Then we made it back to Brewster so I could drop Dad off at his poker game. He hobbled his way up the ramp to the door, waving as he went, with me wondering just how long his current hand of reasonably good health (for him) would last.