Geoff Folsom

Geoff Folsom

I love nothing more than writing about fun things I get to do with my family, well other than actually doing the fun things like going to ballgames, concerts or museums.

Well, this week I’n writing about something not so fun — having a family member in the hospital and not knowing for how long.

My mother-in-law came from Oregon to stay with us a little over six months ago. She was planning to go back to Oregon soon but decided to get her right foot, which was turning purple and causing her pain, examined.

She went to a podiatrist and made two visits to the emergency room in great pain before doctors figured out how serious the situation was. They determined she wasn’t getting blood circulation to her foot. She would need vascular surgery on her lower body to get the blood flowing and, possibly, remove her right big toe.

My wife and I drove her to doctor’s appointments in St. Louis to prepare for the surgery. My wife’s sister even came from Oregon to stay and help for a while.

Thankfully, they determined she would not need to have her toe amputated, at least initially.

She went under the knife Friday, April 29, at a hospital in St. Louis. Surgery was supposed to start at 11 a.m. and take about two hours. Instead, it started two hours later and took five hours.

It seemed longer than that. Lots of other families were crowded in one waiting room, where they could see where their family member was in the surgery process listed on a video screen.

Since there were nice places to sit around the lower level of the hospital, we tried to move around instead of staying in that room.

It was the first time I had hospital food in many years. I was hoping it would be like an old-fashioned school cafeteria, but they updated it to look more like a buffet. I had some tasty chili and carrot cake. (I may be the only one who still likes cafeterias.)

For some reason, we thought my mother-in-law would stay one, maybe two nights in the hospital and then return to our house. But we quickly learned that was not the case when the vascular surgeon came out. She told us the surgery went well, but my mother-in-law would have to stay in the hospital at least three days.

We finally were able to visit her briefly in intensive care shortly before visiting hours ended at 8 p.m. It became clear then she would be in the hospital a while.

It was hard seeing her like that. We visited later in the day Saturday and my mother-in-law was pretty tired and ready to sleep.

Meanwhile midway through the surgery on April 29, I started feeling crummy. By the next morning, I had a really bad sore throat and stuffy head. I felt better as the day went on, but the sore throat was even worse Sunday morning.

We took one of the COVID tests the government mailed us. It came back negative, but it made going to the hospital even more uncomfortable than it already is.

I tried doing some work while in the hospital. One nice thing was the room had a couch with an adjustable desk that made it easy to type on. Unfortunately, it was difficult to concentrate with nurses and other staff constantly coming in, so if you did not like my last column, that’s probably why.

My mother-in-law was having a tough time recovering from surgery. We came in Sunday and she appeared to be hallucinating from the pain medication.

My wife’s sister likes to get involved. We once attended one of her son’s football games, and, instead of sitting in the stands, she stood behind the coach yelling the entire game.

She brought a similar approach to her mom’s recovery, often second guessing the doctors, though usually not to their faces because we hardly saw the doctors.

Unfortunately, she’s been correct much of the time.

The nurses and other staff have been fantastic, but we’ve heard very little from the doctors in the vascular department in the 10 days since the surgery.

That was amplified Wednesday, May 4, when I drove my sister-in-law to the hospital because my wife was at work. We learned from the nurse when we got there that they were transferring my mother-in-law that day to a rehabilitation hospital a few miles away.

While everyone agreed my mother-in-law needed help getting back to daily life, it was frustrating not being told about it. My sister-in-law, tired of not being kept in the loop, asked to speak to a member of the vascular team. They finally sent in a younger doctor, with whom we had briefly talked the previous Sunday.

Instead of explaining why they had not informed us what was going on, the young doctor kept defending the need for my mother-in-law to go into rehabilitation, which no one was arguing. She told us they had been keeping my mother-in-law updated, but that’s like informing a 4-year-old at this point, given the drugs and pain she was in. She was in no condition to be making health care decisions on her own.

They also informed us that we should have been talking to my mother-in-law’s case manager, who we did not realize existed after five days in the hospital.

The two brief discussions with that doctor were the only conversations we’ve had with any of the vascular team members in the 10 days since the surgery. No phone calls, no emails, no other in-person discussions. This did not make anyone happy.

I next saw my mother-in-law Saturday at the rehabilitation hospital, when she seemed to be doing better, at least physically. She still can’t walk long distances, but she moved around in a wheelchair.

My mother-in-law told us the doctors informed her she might have had a small stroke on the operating table. We had no way to verify this since we could not reach the doctors.

Visits to the rehabilitation hospital are much tougher than the traditional hospital. The room only has one permanent chair, so visitors are sitting in wheelchairs or at the foot of the bed, which is not very comfortable for hours at a time. Fortunately, her roommate was discharged, so we had the room to ourselves most of the weekend.

Unfortunately, my mother-in-law has trouble realizing she is in a facility for physical rehabilitation. She thought she was in a mental health facility.

We brought her favorite food, chicken Alfredo, on Mother’s Day. After we ate, nurses came in to do what they thought would be a simple medical procedure to remove a device implanted during surgery, but it turned into a bloody, painful mess.

So my wife and sister-in-law were planning to go back to the rehabilitation hospital Monday to talk to a doctor, since none were around Sunday.

It looks like we are still some time from my mother-in-law coming home. But we’ll see what the doctors have in store.