So on Monday we got the call that we dread. My father is retired and lives in a luxury retirement community in San Diego. It’s an ‘independent living’ facility, but the staff watches over the residents and helps them out as needed. And on Monday they called me and said that they had sent him to the hospital. They said he had slurred speech and weakness in his right hand. The first thing I thought was that he had had a stroke.
I called the hospital and they confirmed that he was there and they said that the doctor would call me after they had done some tests. About an hour later the emergency room doctor called and confirmed that my father had had a mild stroke. The doctor said that he would probably be in the hospital for several days, but that he was already improving. I also talked to his nurse, who said that he was doing well.
When I got there, he looked rather forlorn, sitting up in the hospital bed. They had him hooked up to the usual machines. This was hard for me to see, since it brought back memories of the time when he was poisoned by methyl iodide back in 1974. He tells the story of this on his web page, but his perspective was very different from mine. At the time, I was 14 years old, and I found it profoundly frightening to see my seemingly-invincible father brought low by neurological damage. When I was little, he was strong and seemed capable of anything. He could do gymnastics, walk on his hands, and ride a unicycle. And after being poisoned, his coordination never really came back. He seemed physically just a shell of his former self.
It’s been more than 30 years since that happened, and we’ve all grown accustomed to the new Paul, but now with the stroke, he was having new problems with coordination and vision. And seeing this brought back all the old memories from seeing him in the hospital in 1974. I could still feel the fear of a kid afraid that his father might die.
The physical therapist came soon after I got there, and she gave him a set of tests of strength, coordination, and vision. She gave him some instructions for exercises to do to help regain his right-hand coordination, along with a little tub of silly putty to do hand exercises with. She found that he was having vision problems with a blind spot on the right side. She said that this is fairly common for stroke patients. After that, the emergency room doctor who had examined him when he first came in stopped by. He said that my father was improving well and that he would be able to go home soon.
Around 15:00 or so, they moved my father to a different room, since they had decided that he did not need to be monitored as intensively as before. So he was wheeled over to a room in the ‘regular patient’ wing of the hospital. Then, a short time later, his new nurse came by and said that she had heard that he was going to be discharged that day. The actual discharge order came through at about 18:00, and I drove him back to his apartment. I stayed with him until bedtime to be sure he was all right.
The next day I came back to his place and we spent the day together. He did some of his exercises with the silly putty. He was concerned that his signature was now different due to his right-hand coordination problems, so I took him to the bank so he could make a new signature card. Late in the day he tried to play the piano, just to see what would happen. He was able to do it, but had a lot of problems with the right-hand parts. But overall, he is doing very well, considering what has happened.