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Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Dad Rediscovers His Bell

We have an old school bell. I remember it being in Gran and Grandpa's house before they sold it to buy a travel trailer and travel the country. Where it came from before that I have no idea. I don't remember much about Gran and Grandpa's house, except it was big, it was on a brick street, and Gran always planted snap dragons. Gran was the one who taught me how to make a snap dragon roar, and then would get mad when I would do just that.

I loved Gran and Grandpa very much, and was sad when they sold their big white house. Though it was good for them to get to travel, and my mother received a lot of their furniture, which was good because ours was wearing out. Mom and Dad used that furniture until my mom died in 1988, and Dad just couldn't bare to look at the couch she spent most of her life on reading and embroidering. The couch she spent her last days on gasping for air due to severe emphysema.

If you never remember anything else from this blog, please remember this, DON'T SMOKE! If you do smoke, STOP! Dying from emphysema is a horrible, long, painful death. It steals away everything important to you inch by inch over increasingly painful and awful years. It is not a good way to die. And I do blame my mother's smoking, (not my mother, herself, she was lulled into smoking in the 50's when everyone was smoking, and the tobacco companies were deep into their lies and false propaganda campaigns)  for a lot of what my father is going through now. His mini strokes (TIAs) were probably made worse by my mother's second hand smoke. He may have even had a few before she even passed away that we never noticed.

Dad, for years has used the bell when he needed something after being in bed. When he was younger he was able to get up to the bathroom on his own using his crutches. Dad had great upper body strength, he had to. I even remember when I was very young, him hopping to the bathroom because he didn't want to mess with his crutches. Probably, why he ended up with a total knee replacement years later, which stopped the hopping. And a complication with his last stent placement, about seven years ago, forever ended his use of crutches. They had to go in through the artery in his arm rather than the groin, and a series of events culminated and he almost lost that arm. Dad being the ever vigilant young sailor in an old man's body not only kept his arm, but mostly has full use of it again. However, his crutches had to go, the strength in his arm was gone. Enter, the bell.

Dad used the bell to let my brother and sister know when he needed something. A drink of water, his urinal emptied, his blankets straightened. Dad has a big issue about his blankets being straight, I don't know why, but they must be just so.

Once he could no longer use his crutches to get to the bathroom, he started using a urinal at night. Makes perfect sense. Dad's house was not set up for wheelchair use. The doorways were much too small, there was clutter and junk everywhere. It just did not work out well. Plus, when you are on water pills, having to transfer from bed to wheelchair to toilet and back again in the middle of the night.... a urinal was much more practical. No matter how hard I tried, I could not convince my brother, who set up Dad's pills, that he should give my dad his second dose of water pills before 4 pm. He was determined to give the two doses 12 hours apart, which meant poor dad was up most of the night peeing.

When I would go visit my dad, I would go into his room and find three full urinals and a gallon milk jug also full of urine that no one had emptied. Pissed me off. So, I resolved that when he moved here, he would have one, and only one urinal. It would get dumped and cleaned daily. It would not sit for days and days getting stinkier and stinkier.

When Dad first moved in he used his bell a lot! Not just to have his urinal emptied, but for everything. If he thought I gave him too many socks, he would ring his bell. If he was cold, or hot, or couldn't get the TV to turn on or off, the bell rang. It drove me a little nutty, but I'd rather have him ring when he doesn't need to than not ring when he does.

Then he stopped ringing his bell. I'd go in his room in the morning and he'd say he was cold all night. I'd ask why he didn't ring the bell, I could have comedown and turned up his heater. He'd just look at me like I was crazy. I'd come down to his room and he'd say he was up all night hurting, again I'd remind him he could use his bell, and again he'd look at me like I was crazy. The other day, I walked in and his urinal was full to the top. I again reminded him, that he could use his bell. This time, for unknown reasons, it took!

I blame myself really. I didn't have to remind him of the bell. All the other times he didn't seem to know what the heck I was talking about, and would promptly forget the whole conversation within a few minutes.

I have still been giving him coconut oil. Poor Willie is really starting to notice how much in our house tastes like coconut. I really think it is helping my dad's memory though. Now, that said, I do not believe it is either reversing the damage already done, I do not believe it is changing the coarse of his disease. I do not believe it to be a miracle cure. I just believe it is helping some neurons, that are compromised but still functional, work better, for now. It is not going to keep those same neurons from dying, it is not going to grow new neurons. It is just helping energize, however temporarily, some weakened neurons to keep them a little more functional.

In the mean time, my dad is back to ringing his bell. He has a habit of tucking away his socks under his pillow. Remember, he only wears one. Then out of the blue, he pulls said socks out, rings his bell, and asks me why I gave him "so many socks."

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