I guess that there’s a certain tone of voice that signals an emergency. Kay’s voice had that tone just about an hour and a half ago. I was immediately awake and then at Dad’s bedside. His dialysis graft had been bleeding — for how long, who knows? It had done so long enough that the blood had puddled underneath his arm and soaked the pull sheet and onto the bed sheet. And the pillow under his arm.
I put on gloves and took off the ace bandage — only to see blood spurt. Arterial blood, bright red. It sprayed up and across the bed and pillow. I asked Kay to give me the towel that was near — and used it to soak blood as I applied hard pressure. His arm was elevated on a pillow.
Kay called home health, who got the nurse to call. She called about 3:00 — and Kay told her what had happened and that the bleeding had stopped. I continued to hold pressure, though, for another 15 minutes or so just to be sure. By the time the nurse told Kay she’d be here at 8 a.m., I realized my back hurt from standing and leaning over the bed. Kay got me a chair so I could sit. Then she got the ace bandage from yesterday, which was still damp. A few minutes in the dryer, and it was ready — and then I was able to rewrap Dad’s arm.
At that point, of course, we still had to change the bed, and Dad’s t-shirt. Not wanting to hurt him more than we had to, I helped Dad sit up and Kay started pulling the bottom sheet off the bed. It took a long time, and Dad’s back was hurting, but we got it done. The pillow under his arm had been soaked. The pillow under his head only had a bloody pillowcase, but it was okay. Once the sheets and pillows were off, and the fresh sheet was on the bed, Kay got another pillow for Dad. Then we had to put a clean t-shirt on him. Actually, I asked him if he wanted to sleep without one, or wanted us to put one on him, and he wanted a t-shirt.
Dad is very modest, always has been. He isn’t one of those guys who walked around without a shirt on. Ever. This is one reason that changing his shorts and cleaning him up and putting fresh pull-ups has been difficult. Or was the first time or two, anyway. Now I just do it without hesitation, as quickly as I can, and don’t think about it. Bathing him wasn’t as much of a difficulty, because until last week he could stand up and help change his own shorts and pants. Now he’s like a baby who has to have it all done for him.
The whole time we were working on him, he worried that we were tired, that we were hurting ourselves. He was thinking of us.
And what did he say when we’d pulled him up in the bed so that his head was up on the pillow, and after he was covered with a blanket? “You girls are tough.” And he meant it in a good way. “We learned from you, Dad,” we said almost in unison.
And we have. That toughness is exactly what we learned from Dad — no matter how difficult the task, no matter how unpleasant, you just buckle down, set your mind to it, and do it.
So we do. It’s what he taught us. It’s what we can do for him.
The nurse will come at 8 a.m.
It’s only 4:20 in the morning now, and there are a lot of hours left in Sunday. I hope the rest of the day is without event– but if it isn’t, I’m prepared.