Friday, April 21, 2023

Bad Theology

Dad's still in the hospital, nearly a week in.

The diarrhea meant he was severely dehydrated, which would be a problem in a healthy human person.  But he's not a healthy human person, not by a long shot.  For the last year, we've been leaning heavily on his kidneys.  As his congestive heart failure has advanced, it's become harder and harder for him to clear fluids from his body.  The ticker sputters along, and the water builds up.  Dad would fill up like a vessel, first the feet and legs swelling, then the breathing starting to rasp and wheeze as fluid fills his lungs and the interstitial spaces in his chest cavity.  Thanks to modern phamacopeia, we can knock that back with furosemide, a heavy duty diuretic.  First forty milligrams, then eighty, then maxed out at one sixty a day.  Then we added metalozone, tiny little blue pills that are a serious pain in the ass to split, a drug whose sole purpose is to amplify furosemide, squeezing every last drop of fluid out of his body.

All of that to keep him from drowning in his own body, because death by slow suffocation is just the very worst, like being waterboarded by a relentless torturer over months.

To do that, we needed his kidneys, and all of a sudden they weren't really working.  He was, or so the various and sundry tests indicated, deep into kidney failure.  I visualized two dessicated kidney beans, suddenly hard and lifeless.

The IV fluids helped a bit, and he started eating, and we thought, OK, this is getting better.  

But on day three of the hospitalization, he woke in agony.  He could no longer move his arms and legs, or sit up without excruciating, unmanageable pain.  Mom and I arrived to find him crying out, unable to move, unable to do anything at all besides suffer.  Nurses scurried about, and the attending physician arrived.

Dad was sure he was dying, deep in the throes of mortal agony.  "Take me now," he cried.  "I just want this to end."

"What did I do wrong to deserve this," he moaned.  "I'm being punished for something."

"That's bad theology, Dad," I replied, which...given that Dad's a preacher's kid and all...managed to get through to him.  He nodded.  "Yes.  OK."

Through all of it, he was certain of death, certain that these were the final moments of physical life.

And then the doctor said, "You've got gout."  "What?" Dad whispered.  "Gout.  You're having a severe flareup of gout, because your kidneys aren't processing uric acid."  "Gout?"  "Yes."

Suddenly, Dad was calmer.  Still in pain, but calmer.  "Rich man's disease, eh?  Didn't think I was that well off."  And he smiled a little bit.

In the zigs and zags of late modern aging, it's never what you expect.