It’s been a hard day, with feelings of dejá vu written all over it. As I came into the building at Featherstone today, the aide in charge asked if I had been called out this morning. I told her I had not.
“Well, let me tell you the story then.” She said.
Early in the morning they found Carolyn coughing up food from her mouth - lots of food that wouldn’t stop coming up for a while. Not vomiting violently, just flowing out. She was non responsive, and they found her blood oxygen level at 74%.
All week she has been eating well, and you begin to think that she has come through the episodes of respiratory seizures that made her pass out and hit the floor while walking months ago.
It’s back, similar to last year. Except this year she can’t stand or walk.
There may have been some aspiration of food into her breathing passages, too. The aide said she did all kinds of things to bring her back around, including holding her upside down to clear her airway. All that training kicks in without a thought.
She told me she said, “ Not today, Satan, not today!” I can live with that kind of religion all day.
Some day it’s going to happen, but not today. Not if she can help it!
She spent some time cleaning out the food from her mouth with swabs, and put her on the oxygen concentrator, and increased the flow up to the max. In a few minutes the oxygen level came up to 88% and they knew she was out of the woods for the time being.
Later in the day, after more hard coughing, the oxygen level climbed back into the high nineties where it should be.
At noon I took her to the dining room and tried to feed her. They were serving beans and cornbread with fried okra on the side, one of her favorite meals. She took in about four spoonfuls of beans, one small piece of cornbread, and a piece of okra. Then she started coughing, because her mouth was full. She couldn’t swallow anything. I tried to give her a drink of tea to help her swallow, and it just ran back out.
I gave up trying to feed her and rolled her back to her room. She looked a little pale to me, so I hooked up the oxygen machine again. The same aide who rescued her this morning came in to give her a breathing treatment with Albuteral in a nebulizer. She got some more swabs and spent several minutes cleaning out the food that was filling her mouth.
We left her on the machine the rest of the day. At times during the afternoon her mouth would gape open, and I would move the cannula from her nose to her mouth to ensure that the oxygen was being inhaled.
I didn’t even bother to take her to the dining hall for dinner. They brought her a small bowl of applesauce, and I put one spoonful in her mouth. It just sat there. She still can’t swallow anything.
I opened a bottle of Ensure strawberry shake and put a straw in it. She could not draw it out with the straw. So I got a teaspoon and tried to spoon it in, hoping that it would flow down her throat and be swallowed. On the third spoonful she got choked and started coughing again.
Nothing frustrates an old mechanic more than finding something that he just can’t fix. I told her that, with tears in my eyes.
I took her to the bathroom, changed her into dry, clean clothes for the night, and laid her down to sleep in her bed. When she looked like she was comfortable, I shut the window shades, turned out the light, kissed her goodnight, and went outside to tell the aide on duty to keep an eye on Carolyn, as I was going home for the night.
Then I drove home, went to my room, shut the door and cried.