I just couldn't go to bed tonight without sharing some wonderful news that we received today about my dad. The last few months, since his time at Mayo Clinic in December/January, have been relatively uneventful. Generally he wanted to stay in bed, had no interest in the normal activities of life, and interacted very little with my mom. She took excellent care of him, helped him with grooming and made sure he was eating well, but otherwise was not really able to engage him. The occasional smile she would coax out of him "didn't reach his eyes," as she said.
[One exception that was significant to me: I had called in early March to talk to Mom one night and Dad answered the phone--something he hadn't done for months. I then talked with him about whatever I could think of, asked him a few questions, got a few one-word responses, and then told him some stories about the girls. I shared how I had been starting to feel the baby move, and to my amazement, he replied. "That must be good...to feel that sign of life there," he said. That was the longest sentance he had spoken to me in several months. I was so encouraged! But later that seemed to be an anomoly--he hasn't answered the phone or wanted to talk since that night.]
Just last week they had some follow-up appointments at Mayo again, and there was some good news--the spot on Dad's thyroid that had been suspicious had shrunk in size, so no evidence of cancer there. But another doctor who saw Dad wanted to hospitalize him, in order to get to the bottom of the difficulties Dad is having. Are his problems primarily psychological (depression) or neurological? That was the main question.
So on Monday afternoon of this week, Dad was admitted to a psychiatric hospital in Rochester, affiliated with Mayo Clinic, and the doctors began to observe him as well as do some tests. Over the last few days we've gotten some more news--the doctor who is overseeing Dad's case is quite sure of his diagnosis of abulia. Abulia is a disorder that (as I understand it) comes from damage to the frontal lobe of the brain. The doctors believe that during Dad's heart attack in January of 2011, because the heart attack was so sustained over several days (when Dad was stranded in our local small town because of a blizzard--they could not get him to the larger city to do the surgery he needed to stop the heart attack), there was a lack of oxygen to the brain that caused this damage. The frontal lobe is what controls personality, social interactions, appetite, and many other factors that match up with the symptoms Dad is having.
What does all this mean? And why is it good news? Well, first, it is a huge relief to have a diagnosis that seems accurate. We just did not feel that the Alzheimer's diagnosis, given in September of 2011, was quite right. Of course we as family are not doctors, but there just seemed to be so many things that didn't line up with that. But this is especially good news because abulia is treatable. The treatment is slightly risky in that they will try to flood his brain with large amounts of a dopamine-based drug (similar to Ritalin) that will stimulate his brain, and that will also put stress on his heart. But they will be monitoring this, and IF his heart can take the chemical stimulation safely, there is a very good chance that Dad could regain some normal function again, particularly in the area of social interaction, life management (grooming, etc) and personality. I am holding all hopes loosely, because we just don't know how his body will react, and there are no guarantees, but I am still encouraged and hopeful!
So, Dad will be in the hospital for the immediate future while they attempt to give him this "brain bath" and watch his progress carefully. We are so very thankful for the Lord's providential care until this point in time--even bringing them to this particular hospital and helping the doctors put the pieces of the puzzle of Dad's case together.
Mom is doing well and feeling encouraged, but prayers for sustaining grace and help are always appreciated! Please pray for my dad as the next few days are critical, watching how his body responds to the treatment. We surrender him again to the Lord's hands and trust His good plans. Rejoice and pray with us!