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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Distress Back Home

My father has been in the hospital for the past few days now. He complained of some pain in his neck and they initially thought it was something to do with gas. Once at the hospital, an ECG revealed that there were some abnormalities in the heart, so they admitted him in the ICU even though he felt perfectly fine. He had to wait there until the cardiologist returned from a business trip. The cardiologist repeated the ECG and determined that he has to undergo an angiogram to figure out exactly what is wrong with his heart.

Now, my brother and I are deciding who should should go and help our parents out and what needs to be done. At this point, nothing much is clear, so everything is up in the air. No dates have been set for any procedures. My brother is closer to where my parents live, and he already had plans to go for other reasons, so he is open to advancing his trip by a few days if that will help. But he wants to do it after figuring out what exactly is needed to be done and when, and those are answers that are not easy to come by.

I am still waiting for a final decision from him. He was supposed to have spoken to my mom yesterday and made the decision, but perhaps he could not speak to my mom, so he has not yet spoken to me.

In the meantime, my wife is getting all tensed up. She is not a philosophical person like me and gets worked up much too easily. She is also quite emotional. She was very badly affected when her dad passed away after a fight with a brain tumor. She was very attached to her grandparents and did not take it well when they passed away a few years back either.

To me, it is somewhat natural that your older relatives will start passing away at some point in your lifetime. My grandparents were all dead by the time I got married. But to my hear my wife talk about it, she expected her dad and other relatives to be by her side all the way until the end of her life. It is just not realistic or healthy as far as I am concerned. It is best to look at it scientifically and move on, as it is the way of the world, and nobody can change it. Obviously, it could also be a fundamental difference in the way men and women look at the world. I am nowhere near an expert on how others look at the world. So I would not be surprised if different sets of people have different expectations of things and different things have different effects on these sets of people.

I am also not very fond of confrontations, so obviously, I keep my mouth shut about all this when I talk to my wife. I don't want to upset her even more because it will lead to unpleasantness closer to home. As long as I can keep a pleasant atmosphere at home, I will be able to think more clearly and make better decisions than if I have to deal with emotional outbursts, accusations, counter-accusations, etc., etc.

All of this is a little more complicated than it needs to be because my mother-in-law is undergoing some minor surgery of her own towards the end of this month. My wife and kids were going to go visit her right after the surgery. Now, if I have to leave to visit my parents, that plan is in jeopardy, and that has added to the tensions caused by all this. Life is never as simple as you wish it would be!

What really surprises me about the whole situation is that my dad has been quite healthy most of his life and has no risk factors for cardiac disease. He has had other problems including a liver infection and eye problems caused by a bad cataract surgery, but no heart problems before. He is in his mid-70's so he is no spring-chicken, but he keeps active, takes walks, does breathing exercises, etc. I have always attributed my health (my general level of fitness, stamina, metabolic rate that keeps me from putting on much weight, etc.) to the genes I inherited from him.

For instance, I have very rarely seen him complain of a headache, while my mom on the other hand suffers from headaches on a pretty much daily basis. I have never suffered from a headache in my life (actually, I think I did suffer from one when I was 16 or 17. I had to excuse myself from school, go back home and take a nap. When I woke up around lunch time, I did not have any ache, so I went back to school for the afternoon. It was very weird and I have no ieda what I suffered from, why or how). My father is also leaner and thinner than my mom. So, you can guess who I think I got most of my health-related genes from. Now, to have him suffer a cardiac episode, even though very late in life, is somewhat depressing and demoralizing. I have not denied my mortality for a while now (obviously, I did think I was immortal for a while when I was in my teens!), but this hits closer to home than anything I have experienced so far. Let us see how this works out and what comes next.

I did just receive an email from my brother. Looks like he has advanced his trip by a week and will be with my parents in the next day or two. The ECG's are also getting better, it seems, and the doctors theorize that this could be the effect of blood thinners they have been administering to my dad while in the hospital. I don't know what it means yet, but hopefully this will mean that at the very least, he does not have to undergo an angioplasty. If the doctors decide he does not have to undergo even an angiogram, that would be ideal.

It does bring home to me the fact that my parents are getting to the point in their lives when they will require more and more help from my brother and I in their daily lives. Our careers have moved us to various places and now have us living far from home. I am not sure how much tension it will create if things start going downhill and require a lot of time commitment from either of us to take care of ailing parents. But obviously, there is no point in worrying myself about such things right now. My philosophy is to remain optimistic and hope that things will work out somehow as time goes on. They have, so far, so there is no reason to believe that things are suddenly going to break down and become impossible to manage. Having our own families (including wives with their own agendas) does complicate things a little, but some would say, that is what makes life interesting too...

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