Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Generalized Crumbling

My step-dad got old this year.  It wasn't the gradual kind of aging that sneaks up on you.  It was a sudden, drastic change that took us all by surprise.  Last year at this time he was active, fit, tan, galivanting around Florida with his mistress.  This year, everything has reversed.

You may recall that he had some heart trouble, because he had refused to take medication to control his blood pressure.  Fortunately that problem was resolved, however it was only a few weeks after the Heart Attack Scare that he started limping badly and complaining of terrible pain in his leg.

He believed that the pain was a side effect of one of his heart medications, but changing the medication did not resolve the pain.  For a while he feared that he had permanently damaged his leg muscles with the medication - a known potential side effect which causes the muscles to turn into a gross meat jelly. This same side effect may also have indicated permanent damage to his kidneys.  Which lead us to the Nephrology* Scare and fears of being on dialysis for the rest of his life.

*Nephrology is one of my favourite words.  It is not to be confused with phrenology, the false science of determining peoples' mental health by feeling the bumps on their noggin.

Fortunately the Nephrology Scare also turned out to be a false alarm.  His kidneys were fine.  But he was still limping around leaning on a cane for support, and suffering a lot of pain.  At one point I found him shuffling along the hall, trying to carry a cup of hot tea, a sheaf of papers, and a pen in one hand, while balancing with his other hand against the wall.  He looked at me, grinned at the ludicrousness of his condition, and rolled his eyes.  He rolled his eyes so enthusiastically that his whole head rolled around on his neck, which threw him off balance.  He stumbled, and almost fell over, while the stuff he was carrying, including the hot tea, jumped precariously in his hand.  We almost had a situation, like when the baker carrying five delicious cakes falls down the stairs in the last 20 seconds of this Sesame Street video.

He stopped golfing, but otherwise tried to do all his usual stuff, including travelling.  He had just come back from someplace sunny when I saw him again for the first time in weeks.  He had a few days' worth of stubble on his face, a bandage wrapped tightly around his head at brow level, and his scalp was horribly swollen.  He looked like a homeless mushroom man.  When I got closer and saw that his scalp was covered in red blotches, I revised my mental image to a homeless Toad

The story was that he'd had a lesion removed from his scalp.  The dermatologist thought it might be pre-cancerous, so just in case she took out a pretty big patch.  His scalp was swollen up in protest.  He had the tight bandage on to keep the swelling out of his face.  After a couple of days, the bandage had to come off, and the swelling followed the course of gravity.  At that point, I revised my mental image again.  With the folds around his eyes puffed full of fluid, he looked decidedly like a Chow dog.

Let's stop and take stock, shall we?  On the list we now have high blood pressure, a thwarted episode of heart failure, ongoing and unexplained leg pain, a limp so bad that it could actually cause him to fall and injure himself further, and a lesion on his scalp.  He can't work out so he's getting tubby.  And the stress of it all isn't helping either.

Today, the latest news is that he needs a hip replacement.  The leg pain is from degeneration in his hip joint so severe that the bone is crumbling away.  No wonder he can barely walk.  I looked up some information on hip replacements online, and it's not an appealing prospect.  I guess it's better than being a cripple for the rest of his life, but it's going to be a tough road for many months after a major surgery.  I don't know if he's told my mother yet.  I wonder how she's going to feel about starting a second career as his personal nurse.

Nothing we can do but to take it one day at a time.


LL Cool Joe said...

And now I have all these symptoms. :/

I hope he's ok.

G said...

Hip replacement ain't no walk in the park that's for sure. My friend had it a couple of years ago and although she is walking with a lot less pain, she was out of work for about two months.

Good luck and sending positive vibes out thataway.

Jenski said...

On the bright side, like G mentioned, I've heard the pain disappears after a replacement. I wouldn't want to watch them do it though! Hopefully next year will be positive changes for your step-dad!

DarcsFalcon said...

Oh my goodness, your poor step-dad. It's not easy getting old, believe me, I don't relish the thought and that whole "growing old gracefully" is a bunch of hooey for the birds. Fight it every step of the way!

He must be in a lot of pain, and I'll say a prayer for his health, and for all of you trying to cope with all these health issues. Never fun, even less so at holiday time.

Which, I do hope yours are wonderful, by the way. :)

Karen said...

That happened to my great-grams. She was running around like a maniac one day and the next she was super old and sick.

Good luck to your step dad with the surgery. I'm sure he will be fine.

Sparkling Red said...

LL Cool Joe: No word of a lie - since he started having hip trouble, I started having hip trouble. For me it's just a tight muscle, but still, sometimes my body takes sympathy a bit too far.

G: Thanks! I know a woman who recovered from a broken hip and she's in her 80's, so at 72 I think he's got a great chance at a full recovery.

Jenski: Thanks! Yeah, watching him go through the process isn't something I'm looking forward to. I feel worst for my mother. He'll probably try to shield me from the worst of it, but she'll be right in the thick of things.

DarcsFalcon: Thank you! Your prayers are much appreciated. He always puts on a brave face for me, but I know it must be very hard for him to be so disabled. He has always been fiercely independent.

Karen: I've always wanted to grow old like my great-auntie Aida. She was going to dance classes twice every week into her 90's, and then one day she dropped dead of a heart attack with no warning. That's totally the way to go.

Lynn said...

That's it - one day at a time. It just shows how your life can change overnight.