The River Runs Dry – Jeannie and Les

Jeannie McKenneyby Patrice Magrath

Well, the game was up, at least for Jeannie. She, and her brood of four, Frannie, Zoe, John and Chas, spent the last few months wandering at various depths in that quiet Egyptian river called Denial. They were vaguely concerned that there were signs of dementia in the behavior of their father, Les.

They had collectively “diagnosed” him with early onset Alzheimer’s. But not to worry, if it worsened, his needs could easily be managed by Jeannie coupled with remote support from the kids. At least, that was their thinking.

But Jeanie also seemed to be having some problems herself. Her chronic back pain was worsening, she was quite often dizzy, and strangely enough, she seemed to be shrinking in her very clothes! But this paled in significance to the family’s fears about Les.

Then, unexpectedly, all hell broke loose. The river ran dry.

Jeannie took a fall, a bad fall, and was now in the ICU. What’s worse, the fall was taken near the check-out counter in the local Publix, so everybody in town now knows. In fact, it was Chas’s former high school classmate who first alerted him, who in turn alerted the rest of the family.

Frannie was quick to come home that day, and John arrived a little later.

It turned out that Jeannie’s trauma was very serious. Her X-rays strongly indicated the diagnosis of osteoporosis, showing one major new spinal fracture as well as multiple hairline fractures of various ages. Her back pain was by far her most pressing issue; she registered it to be at nine on a level of 1 to 10.

But there was more. Her blood pressure was off the charts and an EKG disclosed a diagnosis of atrial fibrillation, possibly what caused her to feel dizzy at the grocery store and ultimately fall.

When Frannie arrived late in the afternoon, Jeannie had just come out of ICU. She was in a brace to stabilize her spine, had been given a high dose of steroids, and would be starting intravenous pain medication immediately. The overall plan of care was still unclear, and given the severity of the fracture there was some discussion about possible surgery (either vertebroplasty or kyphoplasty.) Surgery could help with the pain and help prevent the deformity that often results from vertebral fractures. All Jeannie could think of was the pain and Les.

Les was home alone and did not know what was going on with his wife. He had long since stopped checking phone messages and was watching Fox.

Frannie called John to have him go directly from the airport to the house to check on Les. John found him seriously agitated, well into his scotch, and looking for Jeannie. He hadn’t eaten all day.

It became abundantly clear in a flash that Les could not be left alone – period.

A day later Jeannie was discharged from the hospital. Facing a difficult road, she will be considering surgery, pain medications, testing for osteoporosis and possible treatment options. At the same time she will need to see a cardiologist to check the underlying atrial fibrillation.

But how will she manage all this, her house, and Les too? She is in no condition to drive and is in considerable pain.

She can’t call on her kids as they all have their own lives and responsibilities.

What to do?

As an executive of a Home Health Care company, it would be trite for me to say get a home healthcare company.

But seriously, it is not trite for me, or anyone, to say get a plan, and get it well thought-out and tested before you need it.

Patrice Magrath is a principal in McKenney Home Care
Contact: 239.325.2273;
ACHA License #299994144

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