Austin and I were in Ann Arbor Thursday and Friday for a conference honoring three of my mentors, who are retiring. I will write about that experience in due course. I needed to cut that trip short after getting word that my brother-in-law Vincent was in the hospital.
Medical emergencies can be overwhelming to anyone, but especially to people who are intellectually disabled. Vincent was bewildered and frightened as business-like strangers placed him into an ambulance, strapped him onto a headboard, inserted an IV, and did other poking and prodding they needed to do. He had passed out and fallen for no obvious reason. My wife Veronica stayed with him at the hospital while my teenage daughters dined on Lean Cuisines and held down the fort. I drove the 250 miles home.
A legion of tests turned out normal. We prepared to leave. Yet his walking papers were revoked when he displayed an abysmally-low orthostatic blood pressure. They’re pumping him with IV fluids to see if that helps. Maybe he’ll go home tomorrow.
Hospital stays, never fun, can be pretty awful and needlessly undignified. As I write this post Friday afternoon, I’m listening across the curtain to the severely nauseated guy in the next bed. He’s loudly wretching, while a brusque staff member peppers him with confusing and embarrassing questions about insurance and social services. Fortunately for us, Vincent is having a more humane experience. He’s getting on famously with everyone from the nurses to the muscular young orderly who carted him around.
11:15 last night, a staff member arrived from his group home to keep him company. My wife was able to go home and get some sleep. The same will happen tonight. This hospital stay will cost maybe $6000. Another $500 may be spent paid in overtime to give Vincent the security of a friendly and familiar face. That’s money well spent. Direct care workers don’t get paid a whole lot. It isn’t easy work. It’s important. We should never take it for granted.
My wife and I want to get home. Tomorrow night is my oldest daughter’s prom. There’s much preparation to do. Vincent, despite various tubes and monitors, is enjoying his Sports Illustrated, cable TV, and diet Pepsi. Asked if he wants to leave, he responded: “I stay here.”
Living large. (HAP)