drunk-driving

ONE SIMPLE PHONE CALL

Changes in our lives can come slowly, or they may hit us like a ton of bricks. A severe accident can cause one of those changes. One poor decision by one person alters lives forever. My name is Deborah Schultz and I am Ann Romick’s daughter. I had just sat down to work on some uninterrupted late night web marketing, when my cell phone displayed a phone call with a hidden number. I generally make it a policy not to answer 800 or blocked numbers, but this was almost 10:30 at night, and for some reason it just seemed urgent.

“Hi Debbie, said my sister-in-law, I have some bad news.”

One simple phone call and a shattering message. My parents had been in a horrible car accident on the way home from grocery shopping.  Sideswiped by a drunk driver their SUV spun in a three quarter circle.  My dad was okay they thought, but my mom — broken neck vertebrae, pressing on arteries, possible stroke. How do you feel when you are 800 miles away with information like that? Shocked, frustrated, totally helpless. Immediately, I wanted my husband to drive me to the airport, but with a 16-year-old dependent niece living with us, several rental units and important doctors appointments,  it wasn’t possible. My siblings told me they had things under control, and to sit tight. I did call my 21-year-old daughter who happened to be driving by the hospital at the time and she rushed over for me. Again, the news was not reassuring, especially the descriptions of my Alzheimer’s father and his response to the disorientation and chaos, and the critical condition of my mother, his only caregiver.  It was a sleepless night.

The next day was a little more reassuring. There was no paralysis, no concern of stroke, but her lungs were filling because of her broken ribs, while my father, with only minor injuries was being transferred to another hospital for further tests and observation.

The prognosis for my parent’s recovery proved to be excellent, but the disruption in our lives is immeasurable. My brother’s and sister and their spouses keep a constant vigil with a family member with her at all times in ICU. My father spent five days in a hospital, back on the medications that his doctor had prescribed. Those same medications my mother had just taken from him because of the side affects she discussed in her last blog.

Except for one brother, all members of my family are self-employed entrepreneurs. We don’t get leaves of absence, or emergency family leave. We put aside the jobs that provide for us and plunge head first into what is most important: our family. Our personal lives are disrupted and our spouses make do, single-handedly running our team effort with faith that it will all work out, and so far it always has.

For the time being, and with lots of support, I have assumed the role of caregiver for my father.  Determined to keep my father at home for as long as possible, my mother has spent too much of her life working toward that goal for us not to continue supporting her.  His father, my grandfather, was placed in a care facility when the time became evident. He ended up having a heart attack three days later because a worker at the facility manhandled him into taking a shower. We do not want to go there, but how long we can keep up home care under the present circumstances remains to be seen. We know that before the accident, my father walked and fed and dressed himself and was generally in good physical health. A five-day stay in the hospital, with a catheter for hospital convenience, has resulted in a bad urinary track infection, a weakness in his legs that now requires a walker, and a new need for Depends. Will his condition improve? We don’t know, but we had to insist that he be checked out and finish his recovery at home. Who knows how much sicker he would have become had we left him in the hospital.
What caused all of this expense, pain and disruption? Selfishness. Someone sat on a bar stool and drank all that Monday afternoon. Someone didn’t think it would be a big deal to drive even though their blood alcohol level was way beyond legal. Someone didn’t consider how one bad decision could have such enormous repercussions.
My mother’s loving ability to care for her beloved husband has probably ended. But this blog will continue to go on, perhaps not about caregiving and Alzheimer’s, but about the exquisite stories of family and love which she will continue to write. Her advice comes from years of living, through both the good and the bad.  Even now she remains compassionate, caring, cheerful and determined.  Still in ICU she ran her fingers over an imaginary keyboard to make sure they still worked.   And her brain is as sharp as ever. Though she may need to rest and heal for a while as recovery continues, she will be back.

Originally posted 2010-02-28 08:18:22.

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