Our Boat

Caloosa Spirit

Catalina 42 mkII

Log #96 While We Were Making Other Other Plans

We’re getting close. We’re still in Indy, but there’s light at the tunnel’s end—maybe next week. My round of doctor’s visits is over for the time being, and let me just say that if I never see the inside of another waiting or exam room it will be too soon. I won’t be that lucky, though, since my next CT scan is scheduled for 5/13. Let me recap.

The scan I had last week indicated some small improvement in the bacterial infection in my left lung. Good news! The infectious disease doctor was quite satisfied, given the reputedly slow growth and death of this particular bacterium. However, he rained on my parade with the news that the recommended sure cure for the infection is “resection” (read: surgery) to remove the damaged area. Oh, joy. It wouldn’t have to be immediate, though, so he was fine with our returning to the boat and possibly scheduling the surgery for late spring. Off I then went for one more visit with the pulmonologist. He was less gung-ho surgery and quite encouraged by the CT scan’s evident improvement. He suggested that we wait another three months for another scan, and make the decision about surgery then. Unfortunately, I fully expect to have the surgery in late spring, since I really do want to do whatever it takes to minimize the chances of any recurrence. But maybe I’ll get lucky and the antibiotics will wage a successful war on the bacteria during the next few months. We’ll see.

The other concern, though, that has kept us here in Indy has been my mom’s health. She got seriously anemic during December, and since then she’s had several gastro-intestinal procedures to look for internal bleeding. To say the least, the tests have been trying, especially the starvation and laxative preps. So far nothing has been identified as disease or serious condition, and she’s presently feeling much better and mostly like her old self. She is slowing down, but at age 96 I guess she’s entitled. We have one more doctor’s appointment for her in a couple of days, and we hope for positive results that will tell us we can leave her for a few months.

So we think we’re close to heading back to Caloosa Spirit, and we’re eager to be on our way.

Well, we’re mostly packed and ready to hit the road tomorrow morning. Mom got a clean bill of health from her last test and there are no other tests or concerns in the offing, so we feel comfortable leaving her on her own for a few months. We can almost feel the warm sunshine already.

We almost made it. We got as far as Sarasota and were visiting with Mike when we got the call. Mom was being taken to the hospital for a suspected stroke and possible heart attack. The most horrifying news was that she had most likely been lying on the floor in her apartment for more than a day and possibly two. Jim and I quickly made the decision to return to Indianapolis. We haven’t made that trip without overnight stops in many a year, but we were running on adrenalin with some help from caffeine.

Mom did indeed have what the neurologist described as a moderate stroke. There is good news. She still has good use and control of both arms and legs (although her left side is slightly weaker), and she understands everything we say and ask of her. And the heart attack was quite mild with no residual effects or damage. The bad news is that she must wear a cervical collar for the indefinite future due to some ligament damage from her fall. We hope it will come off eventually. Also, she’s unable to swallow presently, so she has a temporary feeding tube. Again, the hope is that this situation will resolve itself in the short term.

Mom is starting to be more alert and she tries to talk. However, the collar, her swollen tongue, and the lack of her dentures are all contributing to making her speech unintelligible for the most part. We’re looking for small improvements each day. She’s due to remain in the hospital (Methodist Hospital downtown) for another week or so, then on to a rehab facility for who knows how long.

In the meantime, we’ll be staying here in Indy for the indefinite future. Jim will most likely head down to the boat within the next couple of weeks to take care of some repair issues that have been waiting since December. Back then we were only coming north for a couple of weeks, remember? While we hate cancelling all our cruising plans (meager as they were after the already truncated season), I can’t imagine being away from Mom right now. Our plans are to move the boat north to St. Petersburg (hopefully to a marina) yet this spring, and maybe go down for 2-4 week periods as we can. Right now we’re just taking it one day at a time.

A day at a time. One day has made a huge difference. Today Mom is unresponsive and has been since last night. A new CT scan indicates that she’s had another stroke, this one larger than the first. Now her motor and language skills have still not been affected, but her vision has. She’s lost at least half of her sight. We had to make a choice between starting an anticoagulant to keep her from having another stroke, or letting nature take its course. Neither choice was a good one, as the anticoagulant had a better than even chance of causing a bleed into one or both of the existing strokes, thereby causing death. Without the anticoagulant another stroke is likely, also causing death. After much pain and anguish and consultation with out-of-town family, we’ve opted for a hospice setting for Mom. We love her too much to put her through any futile heroic measures, and we know she wouldn’t want that. It’s been a very long day.

Late this afternoon Mom was transferred to the Yellow Rose unit—the hospice unit in the hospital. She now has the uncomfortable neck brace off, and she’s free of most of the cords and tubes. We hope she’s comfortable. How long she remains on the Yellow Rose unit will be up to her and God.

After being visited once more by her doctors we feel at peace with our decision. With or without the anticoagulant her chances of survival are less than half, and any possible recovery is less likely than that. Even if she would survive she’d be dependent on full-time care for her daily bathing, dressing, toileting, etc. The feeding tube would likely be permanent. Given Mom’s love of activity and independence—not to mention eating—, this vision of her future would be abhorrent to her. She’s lived her 96 years of life with the dignity of an independent and vibrant soul. We want to see her life end in the same manner.

Fair winds and a faithful wake until next time,
Alice & Jim Rutherford
s/v Caloosa Spirit

Posted Saturday February 28, 2009

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  1. Jim and Alice,
    Very, very sorry to hear the news about your mother. You have really been through so much awful craziness these past months. We’re thinking about you . . .
    — Kitty and Bob Bennett    02/28/2009 01:47 PM    #
  2. Dear Alice, Charlie and Family,
    Received your email concerning your Mother. We are the couple that planned the travel for Speedway AARP. I’m sure your Mother had a lot of memorable times with us. It started in 1992 and we celebrated her 90th birthday in Boggstown.
    We talked often about growing older and concerns involved.
    She had lots of great memories, her trip on your sail boat, trips East to visit relatives and many many more.
    Our thoughts are with all of you. Thank you for keeping us informed.
    Our prayers are with you.
    Bill and Jackie Reynolds
    — Bill and Jackie Reynolds    02/28/2009 04:19 PM    #
  3. Jim and Alice,
    Our prayers are with you as you go through this. We have both been through what you are experiencing, and know the conflict that you face. Letting your loved ones go with peace and dignity is the most gracious gift you can give them.

    It will be a bitter-sweet day when your mother goes to her final reward, so be at peace and remember and reflect on the wonderful times you had with her.

    We are thinking of you.

    Paul & Mary Margaret Fitch
    — Paul & Mary Margaret Fitch (AngelHeart)    02/28/2009 10:08 PM    #
  4. Jim and Alice,

    We’re so very sorry your Mom is fading, but relieved you’re at peace with the decisions. Nancy’s Dad passed away in early December, with no heroic (i.e. sometimes futile and invasive) efforts. He went peacefully to Jesus and we have no regrets. Our prayers are with you.
    — Jay and Nancy    03/01/2009 08:26 AM    #
  5. I’m so sorry to hear of your continued health issues, Alice. I’m most saddened to hear the news regarding your mother. I know how hard this must be, but how wonderful that she has been so active and alert for 96 years. I pray that your mom is not suffering and I will keep you all in my prayers. Our love to you at this difficult time.
    — Fran and Gil Carlson    03/01/2009 06:28 PM    #
  6. Alice & Jim
    So sorry that Mum has been so sick this year. Your being there during this was good for both of you. Went thru Hospice care with my mom. You are doing the right thing. God gives us wisdom and confirmation on decisions like this. She hears what your are saying even in comma state; just hold her while you can. Hugs & Prayers
    Dawn & Bruce Turek    03/02/2009 10:51 AM    #
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