Weeks before my father turned 92, doctors ordered a Covid-19 test for him. The test was administered because he entered a Broward County emergency room in Florida on Friday morning, March 20. Initial tests determined Lenny had pneumonia. Follow up tests showed he also had developed sepsis.
Fortunately, the first Covid-19 test came back negative. But Lenny did not improve; in fact, he was in critical condition, on a ventilator. A "pick line" was also placed in his arm, I believe, so he could be fed a variety of antibioctics, as well as a drug to sedate him, and keep his blood pressure steady and normal.
I am not a medical person, so forgive me if I don't get everything correct as I describe sepsis. My lay understanding of sepsis is that it is a separate infection that spreads throughout the body as a result of the preliminary infection. Sepsis causes inflammation, which happens when the body's immune system fights disease. In more extreme cases, it can lead to septic shock, which can drop blood pressure dramatically, damage vital organs and lead to a quick death.
After midnight, into Saturday morning, Lenny was transferred to a different campus of the Memorial Healthcare System, near where we both live. I am not allowed to visit him. Memorial feels this policy is wise because of the Covid-19 pandemic the world is experiencing; they don't want to take the chance that visitors can transmit the virus or catch it.
Medical people, I've talked to many lately -- doctors, nurses, three heart specialists -- reviewed aspects of my father's condition and care.
I learned that a day of antibiotics had not reduced his pneumonia. Based on numerous factors, including his age, heart aliments and temporal condition, doctors ordered a second Covid-19 test. I have not learned that result as of this writing.
Sunday morning, around 6 am, a nurse told me Lenny was "ok." But she had not gotten results from a new round of tests for the pneumonia and sepsis. He is still on a ventilator and a "pick line," getting the care the doctors believe can sustain him. His attending physician will call me when she knows what the second Covid-19 test, as well as the other tests, tell her, I was told. But folks get busy here, the nurse said, so call back at 1 p.m. if you don't hear from us.
I cling to the word "ok" and the knowledge that the nurse might not have said Lenny was ok if his vital organs were being assaulted by sepsis. Of course, I feel like a yo-yo as I get new information and prepare for what may yet come.
I am particularly grateful to the first doctor with whom I spoke on the phone at Memorial South, just down the street from where Lenny lives. That's where the emergency responders, wearing masks out of a 60's horror movie, took him.
Dr. Porter -- I hope I got her name right -- asked me if my father had any written instructions about what he wants done if the situation got worse. I told her he did, but I would have to locate the legal document and get back to her.
I found it. The "Declaration to Physicians (Living Will)", used words such as "persistently vegetative state," and "incurable injury, disease or illness." He wanted to end his life peacefully and without artificial intervention if the terms I just quoted applied.
Dr. Porter demonstrated what laymen call "good bedside manner." Compassion is another word for what happened. Busy, I'm sure, she took the time to tell me that her father took ill and was hospitalized. But he did not put his final wishes in writing. So, she was asked to make a decision, which she did based on her understanding of her father, who passed away.
The doctor also took the time to listen to me read key portions of the Living Will. She asked me to read a part of it back to her. She recorded what I told her, I believe. I also think the information was available, probably digitally on a computer, so nurses and doctors at his current hospital knew what to do if things got worse.
I also went over the Living Will with a doctor at Lenny's current medical homestead. The doctor returned my call Saturday to update me on how he was doing. She told me I may have to make a decision about whether medical professionals should apply hard pressure to his chest if his heart stops.
I reminded the doctor about my father's Living Will. She felt what I read to her did not apply to what she was asking me. I took some time to think it over, and consult people, including a family friend who is an attorney.
I called the hospital back. I did not want them to beat on his chest, and possibly break ribs, which could stab his lungs and cause bleeding and even more infection. I learned that by declining CPR, I was also declining the use of electric "paddles" to stimulate his heart. The electric stimulation, I was told, could jolt him and harm him since he is pretty frail and elderly.
Hopefully, Lenny is "ok." Hopefully his condition will improve.
(Article changed on March 22, 2020 at 15:38)
(Article changed on March 22, 2020 at 18:57)