The Chickens Come Home to Roost

For my FIL, that is.

I spent Sunday at a hospital emergency room 150 miles from my home, with my husband, keeping my FIL company.  He was visiting a friend and had a sudden onset of dizziness, shortness of breath, and chest pressure.  His girlfriend said he turned grey and was very sweaty.  He smokes…a lot.  He was diagnosed with COPD about 7 years ago, but he not only didn’t quit smoking, he didn’t even moderate his habit.  He still smokes probably 2 packs a day.  He’s been getting progressively more short of breath, a fact that I noticed but my husband was doggedly denying.  Until Sunday, that is.

They released him and a friend drove him and his girlfriend home (we offered)  my FIL was directed to follow up with his doctor first thing Monday morning.  Unfortunately, after he got home, he had another episode of dizziness, shortness of breath, and near fainting, and he was taken by his friend to the emergency room where he was admitted and had many tests.  We were at the hospital again on Monday.

He was released late yesterday afternoon, and after I got done with my work I went to check on him.  I had a bit of a scare as he didn’t answer the door though I could see that he was home — he was in the shower, thankfully.  When he got out we talked a little.  He sounded crappy, and looked crappier.  We had a small tiff because he couldn’t even get a complete sentence out due to shortness of breath, (and I could hear him working to breathe) yet he immediately lit up a cigarette.  I pointed out that if he couldn’t breathe that probably wasn’t the smartest idea…you can guess I got stomped.

He went to the emergency room again early this morning also, but they released him just before noon.  Now he is (finally) in agreement that he should quit smoking.  Apparently he was griping to his girlfriend about the cost of nicotine patches (and I think trying to avoid buying them), whereupon she asked him how expensive he thought three hospital visits in four days was going to be??  Ah.  yes.

He may need to be on oxygen at home.  And tragically, this could have been avoided had he listened to the doctors when they first told him about his disease, and quit smoking then.  Instead, he is on a slew of medications (some of which may have caused his dizziness to begin with) and counts on them to cover the symptoms instead of taking responsibility for his own health and quitting smoking.  I care a great deal about him, but this is so very frustrating.  Personal responsibility is always cheaper than drugs and hospitals.  Always.

And on a personal gripe, I haven’t made bread, I haven’t had enough sleep,my house is still a mess, and I haven’t studied for my class tonight.  Instead, I’ve spent my time (and my husband’s) driving all over the state out of concern for family.  I suspect this may be the tip of the iceberg and my FIL may need a lot more care and we may be spending a lot more time sitting in hospital rooms in the not too distant future.  I hope not, but I am afraid it may be so.  It’s not a happy thought.

How much longer will our system be able to support people such as my FIL?  How much tragedy will our families (generally) need to suffer when it can no longer do so?  What sort of turmoil will be added to the general emotional burden of our neighbors as a result?

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