Earlier this week my dad turned 80 years old. I am now 40 myself so I guess you could say I am half the man he is.
The past month has been pretty rough on dad. He was hospitalized just a few days into the New Year with pneumonia. It wasn’t his first bout with pneumonia recently as he was also hospitalized in late June with it. In June he was diagnosed with COPD and has been on oxygen treatments since then with doctor’s orders to stay away from anyone with colds or other easily transmittable/airborne infections.
It turns out that his recent bout with pneumonia arose because he has been aspirating everything he eats and drinks into his lungs (a long delayed side effect from his throat cancer surgery 20 years ago which claimed a portion of his vocal cord and caused some swallowing issues). Although undetected at the time, I suspect his June pneumonia may also have been related to this.
Because he was now unable to swallow without taking fluid directly into his lungs, the doctors advised that he have surgery to install a feeding tube directly into his stomach. For the past month, he has not taken any food or drink orally — even his daily medications have to go in through the feeding tube. Dad was released from the hospital in mid-January and has been getting along, for better or worse, at home with mom. He was not able to celebrate his 80th birthday with any cake or ice cream, but he has kept his sense of humor as best he can. I talked to him on the phone on his birthday and told him it was 80 years ago that the doctor cut his umbilical cord, and here he was 80 years later with the damn thing back in again!
The doctors told him that once he was a bit more recovered and feeling stronger, they would refer him to a therapist to work with his throat muscles and try to “re-learn” how to swallow correctly. If that therapy proves successful, he may be able to have the feeding tube removed and eventually have his birthday cake.
I got an e-mail from mom earlier this week informing me that they finally got the therapy arranged and he was due for his first session on Friday morning (today).
Switching gears slightly, you may recall from my last post that I discussed my radio listening habits. Over the past month or so, my “listening percentages” have changed somewhat. Depending on the day and the events, I still listen to AM talk radio and Pittsburgh sports talk radio, but I’ve been increasingly listening to Annunciation Radio. My car radio is tuned to WHRQ. On my [less than half a mile/less than 5 minute] commute to work this morning, I heard the radio announcer mention today being the feast days of St. Blaise and St. Ansgar. My heart leapt in my chest when I heard that! I confess that I do not always keep myself aware of the specific feast days and had forgotten the feast of St. Blaise.
For those unfamiliar with St. Blaise and who don’t have the time to click through the above link, he is the patron saint of those suffering from throat ailments. At Masses on his feast day, most Catholic Churches offer a blessing of the throats of parishioners.
As soon as I got to work this morning, I called mom to tell her. With everything else going on and his inability to go to Mass around so many other people who might have infections — I wondered if the feast of St. Blaise had escaped their attention as well. After talking with her, she decided to contact their priest and see if they might be able to have a special private blessing of throats later today.
While it by no means guarantees that the therapy will be successful, it certainly cannot hurt!
Saint Blaise, pray for us that we may not suffer from illnesses of the throat and pray that all who are suffering be healed by God’s love. Amen.
Was it coincidence that the first day of dad’s throat therapy just happened to coincide with the feast of St. Blaise? Was it just coincidence that I happened to have my car radio tuned in to Catholic radio? Was it just coincidence that the radio program happened to remind listeners of the feast of St. Blaise during the small fraction of time that I was in the car driving my half mile to work?
I know that the answer to each of those questions is a resounding NO! — do you?