My Dad is Home, Now for the Hard Part

For those who don’t follow me on Twitter (@davidbenj) or Facebook (facebook.com/davidbenj) you might not know what I’ve been up to the last few weeks. You may also be wondering why I haven’t updated my blog since Father’s Day. Here’s the story, and like my previous blog post it has to do with my dad.

On 30 June my dad fell and broke the fourth cervical vertebrae. He also sustained some wicked cuts on his forehead and the bridge of his nose. The doctors also thought he had a concussion. For the first 12 days, he was in the hospital, then he moved to a skilled nursing facility so he could do physical therapy. It has been difficult on all of us. Eliz, my mom, and I have spent many hours at the hospital and skilled nursing facility. At least one of us was with him from around 10.00am until 8.00pm. Some days a little more and a couple days a little less. Eliz has spent more time in the car, ferrying my mom to the hospital in the morning and taking her home at the end of the day. We’ve put about 1300 miles on the car since my dad entered the hospital, which is about 35% above what we normally average for a time period.

For the first week, my dad had a very restricting cervical collar and was unable to eat or drink. Even swallowing was extremely difficult. Once he received his current collar, he began eating and drinking again. Anything he eats has to be soft or pureed. Let me tell you, pureed lasagna is not pretty. Liquids have to be thickened. At the hospital and skilled nursing facility, this, of course, was all prepared for him.

My dad was discharged from the skilled nursing facility yesterday and all of us were happy, though my dad was a bit worried. “Who’s going to do all of the things the nurses did for me?” he asked. My mom told him she would. Eliz and I lend a hand too.

The toughest part is the food. Everything has to be pureed. Unfortunately, the normal food isn’t that great at Maris Grove, so my parents didn’t want to pay extra to have “special” food brought in for my dad. So my mom gives Eliz and I a list and we go to the market for her. I’m pretty sure I’d be living on fruit smoothies and protein drinks, because things like pureed chicken just aren’t appetizing to me. We also help my dad walk around the apartment, though with each passing day he is relying on us a little less. Today, he walked from the den to the kitchen, rinsed out a glass and then walked into the bedroom. He never called for my mom to help him. The physical therapist said he shouldn’t walk without having someone close by.

We only spent a couple of hours with my parents today after running to Fresh Market and Acme for them. My dad was in good shape today and seems to be getting stronger everyday. My mom is happy that he is home and doesn’t mind blending everything. Now I’m looking for a Super Bass-O-Matic 76…

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Almost Unbelievable…

As you’ve read here over the past seven weeks, I’ve been pretty frustrated and miserable.  On the way to my my cornea specialist, Eliz and I were talking about what I was planning on discussing with Dr. Ayres.  I was going to tell him how tired I was running back and forth to all these eye specialists who couldn’t really figure out why my vision had deteriorated to 20/200 (close to my pre-surgery acuity) after I was able to read most of the 20/100 line a week after the surgery.  I was also going to ask Dr. Ayres to ease off some of the drops.  I was up to about 8 to 10 per day, and after some, my vision was blurry for varying lengths of time, reducing my vision further.

So we’re driving down Lancaster Ave. after dropping Jane at softball camp at Villanova and we turn on Preston and Steve on WMMR (Eliz is a huge fan.)  They were talking about some guy who was trying to get into the Guinness Book of Records by singing the lowest note ever.  The discussion somehow turned to the Oak Ridge Boys and their hit Elvira (warning, don’t click the link, you won’t be able to get the song out of your head…)  They were talking about how deep one of the members of the band could sing, were making fun of the song and then mentioning that one of the members was from Collingswood, NJ (it is in southern New Jersey.)  I was laughing so hard I was crying.  Tears were streaming down my face for over five minutes.  When they finally stopped, we were just passing St. Joe’s on City Ave.  I grabbed a tissue and wiped my eyes and began to look around.  Things looked clearer to me.  We stopped at a red light and I looked at the trees and buildings and told Eliz that things looked better than before the tears flowed.

We were only a minute or two away (his office is on Presidential Blvd. in the Pagoda Building, just off City Ave.)  We sat in the car for a minute or two since we were early.  I looked at the building and the trees and things still looked better.  Once we walked in, things were still tough to see inside.  We took the elevator to his office and signed in.  Eliz grabbed a magazine and started looking through it.  I glanced at the front cover, but couldn’t make out the title, so I thought my vision was returning to its current normal.  After a few minutes, I was called back to Pod 3 (which I suggested on multiple occasions to rename EyePod 3.)  Tia was the name of the tech and she questioned me about what meds I’ve been taking and how my vision was doing.  Then she turned on the eye chart.  E looked clearer.  So did SL.  I was then able to make out the L first, then the P in the OPLB line.  (As I’ve mentioned before, I know all the lines down to DAO6, the 20/60 line, so I’m never 100% sure I’m actually seeing them.)  There is no alternative 20/100 line other then the OPLB line, like there are for the 20/80 line and better, so I was given credit for seeing the P and the L.  With the pinholes, I tried both the CAV8 (20/80) line and its numerical alternative without being able to read anything.

Dr. Ayres came in a few minutes later and I told him about what happened on the way into the appointment.  He then took a look and had me blink twice.  He noticed that my eye was losing the tear film in about five seconds (he didn’t use a stopwatch, instead opting for the technical Philadelphia, as in one Philadelphia, two Philadelphia, etc.  We always used Mississippi when we played football as kids.  You could blitz on five Mississippi…)  He then explained to Eliz and I that 10 seconds is the norm for the tear film to last after blinking.  I’m not surprised that my eyes aren’t normal.  Never have been, never will be.  He also mentioned that once the eye begins to dry, the visual acuity begins to fall.  He gave me more drops, over the counter lubricating drops for during the day, and a prescription for a drop to use at bedtime.  It is an antibiotic that evidently is somewhat thick.  It is used for infections in the eye, but I was instructed to close my eye and massage it onto the edge of my upper and lower lids.  I’ll let you know how that goes in a few days since I haven’t used it yet.  Dr. Ayres also took me off one of the steroid drops (two less drops per day) and Muro 128 (four times per day.)

Can it be that at least part of my current eye issues were discovered because of Preston and Steve?  Yup!  So, thank you Preston and Steve (and Kathy, Casey, Nick, Marisa, the Oak Ridge Boys, and that guy trying to sing the lowest note!)  Now I just have to hope that the new drop works.  Wish me luck (again…)

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Second Post Op Visit

I was looking forward to my second visit to Dr. Ayres since the surgery on 15 April.  The last few days have been trying.  I began to notice that my vision was changing.  I was getting a bit nervous as I was having difficulties seeing things close to me and up to five to 10 feet away.  Some of the problems, I figured, had to do with my eye healing and changing.  The eye drop regimen also could play a part in my vision.

While we were in the waiting room, Eliz and I did the word scrambles in the Inquirer (her mother gives that section to us after she finished the crossword puzzle, so we usually have a few days of scrambles to do.)  I realized today while we were doing the scrambles that I am a visual thinker when it comes to these puzzles.  That is not good since I can’t see the puzzles at all.  I have no trouble doing math in my head without seeing the numbers, but I am slow, usually, with the words.  I do occasionally get the words before Eliz, but she is usually quicker than I am.

After completing three puzzles, we were called back to Pod 2.  I was able to read the OBLB (20/100) line, though it didn’t seem as crisp as it did the day after the surgery.  The pinholes brought it into focus, but I couldn’t read any of the CAV8 (20/80) line.  Dr. Ayres came in and had a look.  He said things looked very good.  My IOP was up to 10 (which is higher for me than normal,) but he believes it is from the steroid drops that I was taking four times a day and believes that will fall back a few notches as I lower the amount of those drops (I take them three times per day for the next week and then two times per day until I see him on 21 May.)  I hope he is correct about the pressure…

After he finished looking, we talked about what is going on with my vision.  I told him of my difficulties seeing things close to me and the trouble I had since the weekend even on the computer.  He apologized about not giving me the whole story before the surgery and said that the lens he put in was for distance.  I told him I was happy with how I could see things in better detail than before.  He explained that, like a person 10 to 15 years older than me, I had lost the ability to focus at things close up.  He hoped that the problem could be fixed with glasses, but it was too soon for that since my eye is still healing and will continue to change as it does.

I brought the pair of reading glasses I’d been using since the surgery to read on the computer and see food on my plate so he could check the strength.  I’ve used several different magnifications since the transplant in December ’08 and I wasn’t sure which pair these were.  I was also concerned, since they were less effective over the last few days.  Fortunately, they were 3.5X.  I knew that I had a pair of 4x glasses at home, somewhere.  When we got home, I found them and was relieved that they made reading my screen much more comfortable than the 3.5X pair.  I hoping I don’t need to go up to 5X, but they would still be cheaper than prescription glasses.  They will do a refraction at my next visit on 21 May.

I don’t know if it was the 4X reading glasses or what Dr. Ayres had to say about how good things looked, but it seems that I can see better after the appointment.  I only have to wait two weeks before I see my glaucoma specialist, so we’ll see how the IOP is doing then.  I’d also like to get a fields test to see how that has changed since the surgery.  Maybe I can have that done then too.  I’ll post it here on the blog if I have it done…

Generally, I’m happy with the results so far.  Eliz and I may go to the movies this weekend (her birthday is Saturday and she’s requested Mexican Post for dinner, then a movie at Regal across the street.)  Jane’s Bar/Bat Mitzvah schedule (six in the next eight weeks) may force us to reschedule…  I tried to help Eliz prepare some parts of dinner tonight, with limited success.  Shooting pictures and video is something I’d like to try soon.  I tried taking a picture a day or two after the surgery, but couldn’t see well enough through the viewfinder.  I may have to leave the lcd screen on for pics and videos to be usable…  For now, lets see what tomorrow brings.

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