Congestive heart failure, or heart failure, is a condition in which the heart is unable to adequately pump blood throughout the body and/or unable to prevent blood from "backing up" into the lungs. In most cases, heart failure is a process that occurs over time, when an underlying condition damages the heart or makes it work too hard, weakening the organ. Heart failure is characterized by shortness of breath (dyspnea) and abnormal fluid retention, which usually results in swelling (edema) in the feet and legs.
It’s funny how one can go from pure ignorance to knowing a lot about a medical issue when it becomes personal. D’s Mom has been in the hospital since Sunday morning. We suspect that her condition has been worsening for some time, but she’s only been having shortness of breath for the last two weeks or so. By the time D’s sister took her to the ER her feet were pretty swollen. Since they gave her a massive dose of diuretics, a catheter was inserted so she wouldn’t have to get out of bed every five minutes. Add in a heart monitor, oxygen and an IV and you get about as uncomfortable as it gets. Poor thing; I certainly wouldn’t want to have all that stuff hooked up to me, and I’m not 86.
She’s doing much better now and the hospital is ready to discharge her, but they are mandating she be put into a skilled nursing facility until she recovers to the point where she doesn’t need help to do basic things. That could be one week, it could be three. D and his sister toured several places close to her home today and moved her over. Mom is pretty much resigned to letting her children decide what is best for her, but breaks my heart more than a little – it means she’s lost some of her independent streak.
In the bigger picture her children also need to come up with some sort of long-term care for her. She lives in a seniors’ complex now but they don’t have a medical facility on site or medical personnel to check on the residents. So it looks like she will be moving again soon. She has long-term care insurance and has several income streams, so hopefully cost won’t be a huge factor in figuring out where she ends up.
Even though we all knew something like this would happen eventually, you’re never prepared. D is handling it as well as could be expected, he’s exceptionally close to his Mom. He’s in “let’s take care of her” mode and numb to his own feelings. I’m doing my best to be supportive, but I fear there is really nothing I can do that will make it any better for him. I’m also worried about her, of course, I love her dearly. I’ve never really been able to think of her as a mother figure though, she seemed old and gray and quite fragile when I met her 15 years ago and as time has gone on she’s become more of a grandmother figure. Several times I’ve been asked by other residents at the complex if I was her granddaughter. She’s 12 years older than my parents, so it doesn’t quite work out chronologically, but in action and words she is of an earlier generation.
All that good news needed some tempering, I guess.
My first riding lesson went well, my instructor was very pleased and I didn’t feel like a complete idiot, in fact, I was quite proud of myself. She has a decidedly flower-child name, here I will refer to her as Willow. We decided to start me riding English, even though it’s more technical than Western. Willow said she prefers it because it teaches you to be a better rider, to use your body to direct the horse instead of the reins. They make you do everything, from getting the horse out of the stable, to brushing her down, and putting on all the tack. I was wearing brown suede chaps and an English riding helmet; a bit of a dichotomy for sure. I’m sure I looked very stylish. My horse, Angel, a beautiful chestnut thoroughbred, was true to her name, so patient and well-mannered. She was confused several times, while I was clumsily trying to adjust my feet in the stirrups or get my leg into the right position I was inadvertently giving her commands, and conflicting ones at that. She’s voice command trained, so you never have to use the reins and with just a very slight touch of your heel and a soft voice direction to walk, trot or whoa, she complies. A few times she got going at a faster trot than I would have liked, and Willow told me to take a deep breath and relax into the saddle, and miraculously, she slowed down every time. As she went faster my legs tightened against her, which of course meant, go faster! After the lesson I walked her back to the tack room where we took off all our gear, then over to the barn area for a nice rinse and then back to her stall for some lunch. My thighs were a little sore right after, but the next day I felt fine. I guess that time in the gym has been good for something.
Life’s lessons sometimes make us sore, sometimes break our hearts, but they never fail to teach us.
I had several horse-related songs to choose from to include here, I've chosen the most esoteric. If you like Kate Bush you'll love Happy. Let me know what you think.
Happy Rhodes -- If Wishes Were Horses mp3 (right click, Save Target As)