Damned Bloody Hiccups

Okay, I know you’re probably thinking I’ve been ignoring this blog while I pick out paint colors, plan my garden for next year, and drylock the basement in the new house.

Unfortunately, that is not the case. While I helped pick out a refrigerator last weekend and arranged movers for this Monday, Porkchop has taken over the bulk of moving-related activities while I’m at my parents.

I came here Tuesday night straight from work to be with my mom and my sister (who flew in from Atlanta) while my dad had back surgery on Wednesday. As far as back surgeries go, his was pretty simple. An easy nerve decompression in the lumbar region. As expected, the surgery went without a hitch.

The recovery period, however, has been downright horrible.

First, you should know that my dad has a history of being hospitalized for hiccups. When my dad gets the hiccups, he gets the HICCUPS and they won’t stop for 3-4 DAYS sometimes. After the last big spell about 17 years ago (geez, I can’t believe I can now recount events that happened so long ago), doctors found that baclofen (er, not checking spelling tonight) works to relax his diaphragm muscles.

Second, you should know that my dad had a bleeding ulcer about 11 years ago. He collapsed one night, and I had to call 911 and my mom and I were so scared.

So, both of these things – the hiccups and the ulcer – were apparently aggravated by the back surgery. My dad started hiccuping Wednesday night and is still suffering. In the meantime, there was a trip to an urgent care clinic Thursday evening for a prescription of thorazine, and there was a follow-up trip to the ER Friday morning. There, they gave him a shot of thorazine and demerol, and a prescription for a different muscle relaxer (because valium can cause hiccups – he was told to take valium after the back surgery).

Therefore, during the day on Friday, we followed doctors’ orders and gave my dad baclofen, thorazine, hydrocodone (for back pain from the surgery), and skylexin (spelling? this was the ER-prescribed muscle relaxer). My dad was also taking some cough syrup and mucinex.

The good news is that he would stop hiccuping for an hour or so after having a muscle relaxer or the hydrocodone. The bad news is that he started coughing up quite a bit of black sludge, which we originally thought was stomach bile, but it of course turned out to be blood.

The other bad news is that we apparently over-sedated him (surprise, surprise, considering all of those freaking meds).

I had the early morning shift today, and an alarm started going off in my head around 3:15 that something was totally not right. Not only was my dad SO groggy, but he was incredibly disoriented. I becamed clued in to this when he started pulling down his pants and underwear, as though he needed to use the bathroom, but then he wouldn’t respond when I asked if he needed to go to the toilet. I finally had to call for my brother (who was released from being on tech support call this weekend, thankfully) because my dad kept sitting up in bed and pulling off his underwear. By this time, my dad wasn’t responding at all to us (and I later discovered that he had peed in the bed). So we called 911, and two wonderful EMTs came out.

We got out to the ER around 4 AM, and after my dad was stablized (his blood pressure and heart rate were LOW) and the old meds flushed out of his system (or, rather, the effects were “reversed” with whatever stuff they gave him), he was admitted to the ICU. And that’s where we took shifts today until we were booted out at 9 PM. Visiting hours don’t start again until 6 AM, so we will all thankfully get some rest. When we left, my dad was sleeping (although still hiccuping). Tomorrow he will have a CT scan and ultrasound to figure out if there’s a benign tumor or something irritating the diaphragm nerve that causes hiccups. If not, I sincerely hope they decide to cut the nerve.

The bleeding in his stomach seems to be decreasing, as his spit-up stuff has become clearer. But there is still a long road ahead. My dad is not an easy patient. This afternoon, when I was on a solo shift, he kept trying to remove his oxygen tube, take off his oxygen sensor, remove his catheter (!!), and I think he was contemplating ripping out his IV because, in his opinion, it wasn’t doing anything (but he started to respect the IV more when I told him it was also a protonix drip…I had to tell him this like 5 times, and he acted surprised each time…so much for being more coherent and aware).

So, that’s the news from Arkansas. I hope your weekend is going much better!

(Also, send good thoughts to my dad.)

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