Papa's not quite a stroke

On Friday, Rosa called me around noon to tell me that there was a problem at home. Mama had called her and said that Papa was behaving strangely and was confused. He was not able to answer any questions. It had started on Tuesday, and even though Rosa asked Mama twice since then if everything was ok, Mama said yes it was ok until out-of-the-blue this morning it’s not ok. This is one of the fundamental challenges to sanity in the household – the continuously changing story about what’s going on.

I told Rosa I would leave work as soon as I could, which was later in the afternoon. If the problem started on Tuesday and has not changed since Tuesday, then it was not an emergency situation yet.

When I arrived, Papa seemed ok physically. Mama said he was sleeping more than usual (he already sleeps about 18 hours a day), but that’s not a cause for concern (yet). She said he gave strange answers to questions. My problem is that I do not speak Mandarin, and even if I did, I would not be able to interpret his mumblings. He mumbles because his jaw joint has changed due to the advanced rheumatoid arthritis.

I watched him through the evening, but I could not see any issues and I felt I could not make a good assessment on his mental cognition because communication was nearly impossible. I had to wait until Rosa returned home in order to make a better assessment.

When she arrived home, we spoke with Mama and Papa. It seemed that Papa was very confused. We debated if we should take him to the hospital. Rosa had the brilliant idea about calling TeleHealth Ontario and talk with a nurse. It was nearly midnight when we reached a nurse. After about 10 minutes of discussions, the nurse said that an ambulance would be called to bring him into the hospital.

We ran around to get a few things packed for what might be a long night. The ambulance arrived and they also assessed Papa. Asking, through Rosa and then Mama, if Papa knew where he was or where he was born. His answers kept changing and were confused. They bundled him up and took him downstairs to the ambulance.

Papa in the emergency room
Papa in the emergency room

We arrived at Queensway Carleton Hospital close to 1:00am. Rosa came in her car separately. We planned that she would help with the check-in and assessment, and then go home to get sleep and relieve me in the morning.

We waited a long time – there were other patients who needed more urgent attention, including a car accident victim and a girl who had had a severe food allergy. Around 2:00am, we decided that Rosa would leave as I was feeling better equipped to deal with Papa, now that I understood what questions needed to be asked to evaluate his cognition (where are you, where were you born, what is your wife’s name). I can do this with Mama’s help.

As shifts changed and specialists were called, we saw 3 doctors in total. We agreed that he had symptoms of a stroke, so he was X-Rayed and had a CT Scan. The results came a few hours later – nothing was visible. This means that it was not a stroke. The blood work indicated a severe sodium imbalance, which might also cause the results we were seeing. So he was hooked up to an IV drip – 2 litres in the first 2 hours, which is a lot considering he weighs less than 90 pounds. More IVs were given later, but at a much lower rate. His demeanour changed and he was able to understand much better. Everyone could see the difference in his face after even the first IV.

Papa in the CT scanner
Papa in the CT scanner

However, it was decided to check him in to a hospital room for further observation. The doctors were concerned about his weight – he is literally (not figuratively) a bag of skin and bones. He also seemed to have a sleep problem like sleep apnea – he breathing would appear to stop. They wanted to take some CT Scans of his chest, as they were concerned about his persistent cough. The cough started in both Mama and Papa about 4 years ago after they returned from 3 months in China.

In the morning, Rosa and I decided that she would go to the Les Petits Ballets rehearsals – her performance is only 3 weeks away. She would come in the afternoon to relieve me at the hospital and help with any further paperwork for the check-in.

She arrived just after 1:00pm. We grabbed a quick lunch and went to see Papa. There was no room upstairs for him yet, so he was still in the emergency area. We checked with the nurses, and there was nothing we could do and there was nothing left to be done to check him in. I left the hospital to get some sleep and Rosa went back to rehearsals, leaving Mama to watch over Papa.

I got about 4 hours of sleep before they both arrived home in the evening. Rosa and I went to the NAC to see the Toronto Symphony Orchestra present an evening in celebration of Slavic composers (Dvořák, etc). I left my cell phone number with the nurses, should something come up.

Last night, I got over 10 hours of much needed sleep.

This morning, Rosa called the hospital and found that Papa would not be discharged today. I’ll go to the hospital in about 30 minutes to check in on him.

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