Last night I told my father in law to pee himself.
It was an experience that no daughter-in-law should ever have to experience, but life has a way of putting one in such moments.
Father in law (FIL) took a turn for the worst yesterday and SIL summoned us to the hospital. So after getting held up by the entire fleet of Brisbane City Council buses parked outside the football stadium waiting for the Grand Final crowds, we eventually made the journey from one end of the city to the other, and to the hospital.
FIL was lying in his hospital bed, bloated from renal and heart failure, and gasping for breath as he has a chest infection. The moment we arrive, SIL flees to collect MIL – I think she was just fleeing for the break, poor thing. Mr FD, gallant man he is, decides that he and I need a cup of tea after our journey and disappears to the lounge to make us tea, so I am left with a gasping old man. I am always left with the old man. He doesn’t have his hearing aid in so I start yelling small talk to him until he draws enough breath to declare that he needs to go to the toilet. Despite the oxygen tube and an IV drip he starts to scramble out of bed contrary to my instructions not to do so. Luckily, the lady across the aisle (he is in a 4 bed room and the other three beds are women!) yells that he has to call for the nurse so that halts him in his tracks. I managed to find the buzzer which was underneath him, but before the nurse arrived he insists on sitting in the chair next to the bed. I somehow manage to assist him without actually making more than minimal physical contact, especially when I see he is wearing a pair of disposable pants. Naturally this exhausts him, starts fresh gasping and has me contemplating finding a therapist.
Nurse arrives, and Mr FD, who returns NOW with the tea, and I take to the corridor. We stand outside while we hear the nurse shouting to FIL about using a bottle and having a catheter later when his family leaves.
While we stand outside Mr FD informs me that apparently it is time to discuss CPR and other means of prolonging life – or not. Health directive.
We go back in and nurse tells us FIL will have to sit in chair until another nurse comes back from her break so that we they can change the bed. So we sit, we three, FIL in his “baby drawers” as he calls his diaper, Mr FD across the other side of the bed, and I perched on FIL’s walker frame.
Every 37 seconds FIL asks when MIL is arriving, in between tugging at his oxygen tube and fiddling with his IV. After about 45 minutes we are all starting to wonder where SIL and MIL could be. Mr FD gives me an annoyed glance when I suggest they are out playing poker machines ( a favourite past time of SIL who has a bit of a problem in that area in the past). FIL is deaf to all of it, and changes his chorus to “MIL will be too tired to come”. It doesn’t relieve my tension at all.
FIL is back in bed again, gasping for breath, but eventually entire family arrives and so does doctor. Doctor is 14 years of age and beautiful. She asks family to follow her outside and from the expression on MR FD’s face I don’t have to hazard much of a guess that he will probably follow her anywhere. I would have risen from my walker seat to follow, but MIL’s wheelchair blocked my exit, and then I realized that someone should stay with FIL. Damn that conscience of mine.
Once again, like every family occasion I get the old man duty. I think twice about moving to the chair where FIL was sitting earlier for toilet duty, but it is a hospital and I assume it would have been wiped if an issue so sit there as closer to his good ear.
Not much later, FIL wants to pee again. I say I will call the nurse, however the nurse enters just then and tells him to pee in his diaper as he is not allowed out of bed again. He doesn’t hear her, so I have to put my hand out to stop him rising and that is how I came to tell my father in law to pee himself…which I can only assume he did as he stopped complaining thereafter.
Now FIL wants to know where the family is, and so I start a round of saying “they are finding out about the treatment plans for your chest infection” every 27 seconds when he asks the same question again and again. Then he starts telling me that they are moving him to another room tomorrow, and I say, not until you are well. Then he says how it will be good when they move him to the home and I agree, knowing he probably won’t make that move. We play this game for another 3 days or 30 minutes.
FIL has briefly gone back to the “they are moving me to another room tomorrow” mantra when Mr FD arrives. He is obviously upset but being brave. MIL and SIL are just waiting for some papers he tells FIL who gets a bit excited and starts to gasp for breath.
FIL recovers and goes back to his “I won’t be here tomorrow” mantra, and MR FD who hasn’t heard the “I am being moved to another room” story thinks his father is having a moment with him, and so shakes his head in agreement and starts to reply “I know Dad, things are serious …” I realise Mr FD is going in the wrong direction, for it is obvious from my painful conversation that FIL has no idea just how precarious his life thread is despite the fact he is 93, blown up like a balloon and gasping for breath, so I break in and explain brightly “he thinks he might be moved to another bed tomorrow”. Black comedy indeed.
Mr FD has a moment to recover as FIL starts to cough and hack and spits something into a handkerchief that he then wants to show us like a small child at show and tell. Mr FD and FIL have a serious conversation about the colour of FIL’s phlegm as I search for a way to open the window and leap out in the absence of Scottie beaming me up. The only thing that stops me flinging myself onto the concrete below is the sure knowledge that I would somehow survive and end up a paraplegic in a neighboring bed to FIL.
SIL and MIL arrive, as does a nurse who is asked to help adjust FIL’s pillows. MIL, 88 and in a wheel chair as she is barely able to walk, says to the nurse, “Would you like me to help you?” in all seriousness. This was the moment I lost it, I just burst out laughing. MIL is a whisper away from being in the next bed herself, and I know would secretly rather put the pillow over FIL’s head than under it, so the stupidity of life, and this family, just becomes too much.
I feel as though I am lost in some 1930s Wodehouse drawing room scene that is on repeat.