The Test … further continued

6 Jun

Continued from last post


The noise of the life-support machinery bothered Dawn the most. Not how her dad looked prone on the  ICU hospital bed. Contrary to her expectation, his skin tone looked good — nearly normal. A crinkled plastic tube extended from his mouth to a ventilator next to the bed. A thin, clear tube ran from one nostril to a bag of liquid hanging among many. His hair was combed neatly. His eyes peacefully shut, flickering back and forth under the lids in REM sleep. Reading a book, she thought.

The ventilator — ka-puff … wheeze … ka-puff – wheeze — combined with the beep-beep-beep of the heart monitor that graphed his heartbeats in jagged green mountains against a black background — reminded her of the Stomp concert she and Jared saw on their last anniversary. Dad gave them the tickets. It was loud. Not her cup of tea. Just like the noisy hospital room.

“He’s stabilized,” said the cardiology. Dawn was reminded of a pet peeve of her dad’s.

“Stable is not a goddamn condition!” he would rail at the TV or radio whenever the term was used. He hated those who should know better continued to abuse the terminology. “Even the network anchors — and PBS!”

“Critical condition,” the cardiologist had correctly said.

It was a wait-and-see situation.

With all of the hook-ups, all the indicators were slightly south of normal. Blood pressure on the low side. A slight recurring arrhythmia blipping on the heart monitor. Elevated temp, just under 100.5 degrees. Even respiration with regular, sonorous breaths, his chest rising and falling.

IV fluids and meds. Hanging to the side of the bed, a flat vinyl pouch with some yellow liquid — a tube running from it under the covers. Catheter, thought Dawn. She had been hospitalized as a child and had one. It embarrassed her when visitors noticed it and asked her, “What’s that?” “Pee,” she would answer, blushing.

“He’s on pain meds and others that will help him sleep. I don’t imagine he will come out of it for another eighteen hours or so,” the doc explained.

“Is he comatose, then?”

“No. Not at this point.”

“What would bring that on?” she asked.

“We are hopeful stroke won’t be a problem. Or another myocardial infarction — heart attack,” she explained.

“Is that a likelihood?”

“Well, in the way that after-shocks can be expected after an earthquake — sure. You will probably want someone with him twenty-four seven.”

“I’ll stay tonight, and I’m sure one of my other siblings will spell me. Both are on their way and should arrive tomorrow sometime.”

“And you have medical power of attorney?”

“Yeah. Are we at that point?”

“No. But I’m glad you’re local. I’ve looked his Advanced Directives over. He’s not keen on vegetating on life support.”

“Not him. He hates hospitals. His mom lingered on life support for more than seven months before she went.”


“Yeah. So it’s not the way he wants to go.”

“Are you prepared, then?”

“Who can ever be prepared?”


“I’m gonna have to rely heavily on your medical opinion.”

“I understand. Well, we’re not there yet. But that could change — actually either way — in the snap of a finger,” and he snapped his fingers.

“Sounds awfully iffy . . .”

“Nothing is a sure bet, Ms. …”

“Ellington. Dawn Ellington. I’m the eldest daughter. I have an older brother and younger sister. Like I said, they’re on their way.”

“I’ll try to give you enough information in a timely fashion for you and your siblings to make an informed decision.”

“Appreciate that. Problem is it’s me who has the final say. According to the POA.”

“Yeah, but you know that’s not legally binding.”


“Sure. Plenty of time next of kin have influenced medical decisions contrary to the patient’s desires. Probably more likely where there is no Advanced Directive or POA. But even when those are in place, things change.”

“Great! And if I don’t agree with my siblings?”

“I’d advise consensus.”

“Even if it goes contrary to my dad’s wishes?”

“The survivors are the people you have to live with when and if your father goes.”


“It’s not an enviable position to occupy.”

“Tell me about it.”


Copyright © by Lawrence S. Marsden, 6 June, 2015

One Response to “The Test … further continued”

  1. skipmars June 7, 2015 at 9:42 am #

    Thanks, Puppy Doc!

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