When Jeri’s mom turned 100 I tried to talk Jeri into going to Southern California and visiting family there and being a part of the celebration. She declined saying it was just to difficult for her to fly and I was not in any shape to drive down. We had just returned to the mainland and had relocated to the Portland area. The 5.5 hour flight was exhausting for Jeri and so I understood. As time went by I would ever once in a while ask the question again and she would always reply no.
About three or four weeks ago she comes to me and says she wants to see her mom. Great, I go on line and found tickets on the 22nd of February for 85 bucks, about $150-200 savings per ticket. I figure this is a good idea because at our age we have no idea how long any of us will live. Throw in cancer and this centurion may out live me.
We are now into February and I wake up Sunday morning of the 12th with my left eye swollen shut and various shades of red indicating infection. I text Lani, our doctor daughter and she and Randy hot foot it over to our place and take us to the ER at Oregon Health Science University (OHSU) hospital. With my 10 year history with OHSU, even with a lobby half full of people waiting to be seen, I get pulled in triage licitly split. After triage they find a cubicle and a bed and start saline and IV anti-biotics.
Next comes the Internal Medicine team that controls antibiotics and they tell me all the different ones they will be giving to me and it sounds like a foreign language, I won’t even try to make any sense out of it. A CT scan is scheduled later in the morning or early afternoon. The results are that the infection is on the left side of the eye and is starting to migrate around to the back side of the eye. This greatly concerns them because from the back side of the eye it is a straight shot to the brain.
Then the ENT surgical team comes in and tells me that the previously scheduled sinus surgery scheduled for Thursday is still on. This is to try and clean out the sinus area in the forehead and put in a stent to allow it to drain.
Next comes a team from the ophthalmology dept. saying that there is a possibility that the tritium mesh that they put in when the maxillectomy was done may be infected and if it is it will have to be removed and they are thinking of doing it at the time of the sinus surgery.
Now is when it gets complicated. We have three teams involved, all have to be consulted with, all have to be on board with the final decisions as to treatment and surgery. That is like trying to get congress to make a decision. For the next three days I do not get a clear direction as to what is going to happen except that it is pretty certain that the sinus surgery will happen. The ophthalmology surgeon is vacillating on whether to remove the mesh or not. He finally decides not to and do a wait and see. If the infection returns then they will have to remove it. I ask what the recovery time is and they all say two weeks. I inform them that I have tickets booked for us to go to LA to visit my 100 year old mother-in-law 6 days after surgery. They kind of roll their eyes and said good luck with that.
The day of surgery was good except that the 30 minute procedure took 90 minutes. During the surgery they discovered that during the Maxillectomy the ophthalmologist rebuilt part of my eye socket with plastic that had become infected. So they had to remove it which was very difficult and time consuming. They are hoping that this is the source of the sinus infections that have been recurring off and on.
Later Thursday they said they would keep me over Friday and probably release me Saturday if everything looked good. Friday morning the ENT team comes in, looks me over and then says we think you can go home this morning, I was out of there by 11 am. That has never happened before. They have put me back on oral anti-biotics and it looks like that will be permanent.
I was scheduled for Friday an infusion of Keytruda but oncology canceled that because of the surgery. The next one is scheduled for March 13th. On Tuesday the 21st I met with the ENT surgeon and he took a peek up my nose and sinus and pronounced that everything looked good and I was cleared to go to California. Like I needed his permission? Yeah right!
Jeri and I had spent the last couple of days packing so there wasn’t a whole lot left to do. I didn’t get to bed until 11 pm and was up at two to shower and throw last minute stuff in the bags. We left the apartment at 4 am for Randy’s, our son-in-law, place as he had generously offered to drive us to the airport. Our flight to Burbank left at 6:40(what was I thinking) and arrived at 10 am. Our niece Susan picked us up and took us back to her house where she had breakfast fixed. What a sweetheart!
Jeri’s sister and brother-in-law then took us to our motel, and then we went to visit Jeri and Judie's mom. Millie was setting in the foyer of the entrance waiting for us. To make a long story short, she did not recognize Jeri or me at all. After about 15 minutes the care giver and us decided we would take her to her room. As we started to leave, Millie complained that she should stay and wait until her daughter showed up. Then a wonder thing happened that I will remember forever. The caregiver leaned down and gently told Millie that her daughter was here, she was just older. Millie set straight up, eyes and month wide open as she was able to recognize Jeri. As the two cried and hugged each other I couldn’t hold back the tears as they finally connected. This was the good part of our idea to visit.
The following day went downhill from the day before. She recognized Jeri but I don’t think she ever figured out who I was. She would ask questions like where was Jeri living, was she living alone, who was taking care of her. Just before dinner Jeri’s dyskinesia kicked in and that really disturbed Millie. She told me I should take Jeri back to the motel, that it was too much for her, to disturbing. A couple of times she suggested that I put Jeri in a “home”. After dinner we said our good byes and went back to the motel. That evening we talked about the day and decided that we would not go back, that it was too stressful for both Millie and Jeri. What started out to be a good idea has turned into a bad idea.
Millie has good long term memory and remembers a ton of stuff from her past, but short term memory causes her trouble. That is why she could not recognize Jeri, because she was expecting her to look like she did when she was in her twenties or thirties, not this old lady of 76.
Some of you reading this have had family and friends suffer from Alzheimer’s and know of the heart ache that comes when loved ones and friends fail to recognize you and they become lost in their own little world. This is our first experience with it. We know that we will meet again in Heaven and we can again fellowship with clear minds and perfect memories. What a great day that will be.
Please pray for Jeri because she is aware that dementia is one of the side effects of Parkinson’s and is scared she will be a victim, especially after being with her mother.
In my 78 years of life and 10 years of fighting cancer I have learned a few things. The number one, top of the list, is that God is in control, He is not concerned with our comfort, but is concerned with our character and so much of what trials we go through are there to build our character, to mold and shape us into what God wants us to be. For me, God is in control and I am just along for the ride, desperately trying to hang on and enjoy the view.