Day before yesterday, we had our first potential crisis in our new home. It actually began late last week when Kate had periodic episodes when she coughed and/or yelled “Oh, Oh, Oh!!!” Sometimes her yell was quite loud. She also looked troubled. When I asked what was wrong. She said, “I don’t know.” I asked if she were in pain, but she was unable to answer the question though it certainly sounded like she was. The surprising thing was that the problem didn’t last long and didn’t occur again for hours or even a day later.
During the afternoon three days ago, she had several of these episodes in rather close proximity. Just before dinner, the caregiver noticed that she put her hand under her left breast. We both thought that might indicate the source of the pain. She got along all right until about 10:15 that night when she woke me with her “Oh, Oh, Oh” and a cough. I gave her some Tylenol, and she was soon back to sleep.
The rest of the night went well, but around 7:00 or 7:30 yesterday morning, she had the same problem. At 8:30, I called her doctor’s office and left a message describing the symptoms. About 9:45, I received a call from her doctor’s nurse who relayed a message from the doctor that we should consider calling EMS and going to the hospital to be checked for a heart problem.
Before calling EMS, I called one of the staff who handles residents issues as they move in. Since our building is new and requires key entry, I wanted to know what I should tell EMS. Then I placed the call. Less than ten minutes later, the first crew (with the fire department) arrived. One of them got basic information from me while another checked Kate’s vitals. In another ten minutes a crew from EMS arrived.
Not too much later, the leader of the EMS crew asked to speak to me. He said all her vitals indicated that she was not having a heart attack. All her signs were normal. He wanted to know if I still wanted her to go to the hospital. I told them about the trauma of her hospital experience with COVID and said I didn’t want to send her to the hospital without more evidence of a serious condition. I called her doctor but knew they wouldn’t be able to get back to me to help with the decision. I left the message that I was keeping her at home.
When they called back a short time later, the doctor agreed with my decision and suggested this might have been a problem with acid reflux, something that has been an issue for several years until the pandemic. Previously, we had eaten out twice a day, not counting trips to Panera where she got a blueberry muffin. During the pandemic, our diet was more normal, and I had discontinued her reflux medication and had informed her doctor. Since our move two weeks ago, she has eaten heavier meals than she had previously. Sometimes the servings are quite large, and she eats everything. Two times last week, I felt she might be eating too much and suggested the caregiver not give her any more of the rice or pasta and focus on the meat and vegetables. I think the new eating habits might have brought on acid reflux.
Of course, we don’t really know for sure that reflux is the problem, but the more I think about it, the more I think that’s it. In particular, the coughing sounds more like reflux than an ordinary cough. The episodes themselves are periodic, and she appears perfectly fine most of the time. She is back on her medication, and it should take affect in a few days.
Apart from the morning, the day went well. We had a visitor from the agency that provides most of our caregivers during the afternoon, and Kate was in rare form. She even called me back this morning to say how glad she was to meet Kate and how struck she was by the way she handled herself.
So, “All’s well that ends well.” I am relieved.