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This Has Been a Wild RIde
If Alzheimer’s is a roller coaster, then Alzheimer’s-after-surgery is like riding the space shuttle and ending up in zero gravity, where normal rules are suspended. Take off is fast and furious and then you must learn to adapt to a new world, where nothing is as it should be. Logic is suspended, time is irrelevant and virtually anything that you do as a care partner is wrong, from changing bandages to cleaning the counters. If you speak, you are distracting, if you stay quiet, “the dog and cat talk more to me than you do”. But let me back the truck up for you.
It all started a few months ago when we found that Laura needed to have some surgery that would be performed under general anesthetic. Our memory doctor spelled out the dangers and risks of the procedure accelerating Alzheimer’s symptoms, but armed with the basic knowledge that it is a progressive disease anyway, we decided to move forward.
Although Laura said she ‘was fine with the surgery’ I could tell it was gnawing at her. As the date approached her sleep patterns became more erratic and her general confusion increased. As usual, to most she displayed a thin veneer of calm and peace, but I could see that she was pretty frightened of the aftermath. We both had confidence in the surgeon but it was the effect of the overall procedure that was the great unknown, and it played havoc with our emotions.
Laura’s surgery lasted about 4 hours but the surgeon was all smiles as he came to debrief me. The procedure itself went well and Laura even came through the anesthetic with a clear mind. After making sure she was stable and awake in post op, he explained to her that he was going to talk to me. She gave him the message: “Great, tell Bill I love him and that I’m okay.” A few minutes later, Laura’s brother and I were allowed back to see her. Sure enough, she was sitting up sipping some ice water and asking about going home. All seemed so well.
On the car ride home, the veneer began to peel away. “Let’s call your kids” I suggested. “Sure, where are they?” came her reply.
“They’re at their homes but I’m sure they’re anxious to hear how things went. Let’s have YOU tell them that you’re okay.”
“Okay, but why?” Laura asked as I handed her the phone. She sounded okay as she spoke with her daughter but looked puzzled when I dialed her son and handed the phone back to her.
“Just tell him the same thing” I prompted.
“Ok, but who is this?” she queried.
“Your son – tell him you are okay”
Again, the conversation sounded normal. But when she finished, she said “let’s call my daughter now”.
“Oh, oh”, my little inner man was starting jump around and wave a bunch of red flags. I dismissed it to the anesthetic and we continued to make a little small talk on the way home.
Once home the floor fell out from beneath us… to be continued.