Photo at left: The three sons of Reverdy Lewin Orrell Sr & Mary Martinek (Reverdy Lewin Orrell Jr., George James Orrell, Richard Francis Orrell). Photo taken during WW II.)
I’m sorry that I haven’t made a blog entry on my father’s condition in the last few days. Things have been a little hectic since the family had the meeting with the doctor on Friday.
All things considered my father and the rest of the family are doing well. This is only because of my father’s strength, not ours. Everyone is careful of what they say around him and careful not to cry in front of him.
The nurses and staff at Hopkins would fight over their room assignments every day in order to be with him. We heard this from every nurse. They’d come in his room and tell him ‘they won’. He’d get the biggest kick out of that. His standard answer when asked about how he felt was “I feel OK”. He never complained and would rarely ask for anything. You would have to ‘pull’ answers out of him. He would just say “I don’t want to be a bother to anyone”. This wasn’t spoken in a self pity tone; but rather, an honest manner.
He never has been a bother or burden to anyone his entire life. He just asked me today what time I had to get to work and why I staying here and not going home. I told him that I wanted to be close to him and make sure Mom was OK. “You don’t have to do that”, he said. “Why don’t you go to work?” I couldn’t answer the question with anything more than, “I love you and need to be here with you.”
I could give many examples of his kindness, but I give one recent story. On Saturday, after he knew he was going home, one of the nurse’s aides came in to wash and dress him. When she was finished she said, “Mr. Orrell, you have a safe trip home.” He was barely able to stand as she finished. He reached out and hugged her, then shoke her hand. He then thanked her for everything she had done for him over the last week and told her, “It’s been a pleasure to met you.” She hugged him again and started to cry, then quickly turned and left the room.
Here was a man that was about to make his final journey home. She was dressing him in his own pajamas to take an ambulance back home. He would not be coming back to the hospital again. He’s made that clear. We have an appointment tomorrow for blood work and for him to receive my plasma and blood as needed, but he has already said he doesn’t want to return to Hopkins and has prepared a DNR directive. His thoughts should have been elsewhere; yet, he knew she needed some comfort. He gave it to her.
I was able to get Nora and my Mom out of the hospital to come home and prepare for his return. The bed, oxygen, and supplies had arrived. But I needed to give my Mom some down time. I was able to spend about an hour and a half alone with him talking about his condition, the short termed future and afterwards. He was very strong and really not upset.
Tracey, the one nurse came in and talked with us for a few minutes. A wonderful woman, who my father really cared for, she talked to him in very empowering terms. She told him he was in control of everything. He was to decide what steps would be taken during his remaining time. She asked him who was going to make sure everything was done exactly as he wished.
He point to me and said, “He will.”. She then asked if he had told me all his wishes and desire. He nodded, but didn’t say anything. He couldn’t. She then asked me if I would do everything he asked, even if I didn’t agree with his wishes. I nodded. She then started saying things he had told her, the other nurses, and the doctors.
A DNR directive is in place. I was given a copy and told to tape to the front door, tape on the hospital bed, or have on me at all times.
When the final time arrived, I was not to call 911. He was to be made as comfortable as possible and allowed to pass on with dignity. I agreed knowing when that time came, it would take everything I had not to panic and call 911 and to abide by his wishes. She looked at him and asked, “Will he be able to do that?” and he nodded and said, “Yes”.
He has an I.V. which is given one a day at noon. The processes takes about two hours. Currently he is on no pain medication as he is not suffering.
I am to ask him every day if he wants to do the I.V. It contains medication to try and fight the pnenmonia. He will decide when that is to be stopped. He will decide when the other medications are to be stopped.
When he decides to stop the daily I.V., I will call hospice who will come in and start pain medication. He is aware of that.
She asked him if he was glad to be going home and he said, “Not really.” She asked why and he said, “I don’t want to be a burden to anyone.”
She asked what he feared the most and he said, “They’ll bring me back here. I don’t want that.”
She asked if there was anything else he was afraid of with going home. He said, “Jean (my mother) will run around the house and try to make sure everything is done properly.
Tracey asked what he wanted my mother to do. He said, “Sit with me as much as possible and be at my side. I don’t want her to do anything but stay with me.”
The nurse asked if he told her that and he said, “No. She wouldn’t understand or listen.” Tracey then asked if he wanted me to tell my mother his wishes and he nodded. She was very insistant that I tell me Mom exactly what he want.
She then said, “Your birthday is tomorrow. Can I call you on your birthday?” He started to cry and said, “I hope I’m not here then. I just hope I go quickly.” Tracey then told him that he always kept saying that he’d live until his birthday and that he had made a promise to everyone to stay until then. It wouldn’t be right for him to break his promise. He then nodded but repeated, “I just hope I go quickly.”
I didn’t understand what he was actually meaning. However as my wife Nora explained to me later, Tuesday is his birthday but it is also the day Hopkins has scheduled an appointment for him. I spoke to both the doctor and to the nurses about the appointment. They’ve said that even if we were able to get him to Hopkins on Tuesday for testing, blood, and plasma it would not increase his time, even by a day. The stress on him would far outweigh any treatment. He’s scared we will take him there and they will admit him again.
The ambulance arrived about an hour later. During that time I was able to talk very calmly with him about everything. His life, our loving relationship, and the immediate and distant future. He wanted to let me know that everything was prearranged and I only had to call the funeral home.
There will be one day viewing. He wants a Masonic Memorial Service and wants me to do it for him. As a Past Master, I can do it but would need special permission from the current Worshipful Master of Palestine Lodge. He asked me to get it. I told him I didn’t know if I would physically be able to do it. My ex father in law asked that I do his. I found it difficult to do, stumbling in parts and almost breaking down while speaking before everyone. Dad told me that didn’t matter that I would find the strength to do it. Here he is, near death, talking about strength. He then said everyone would understand if that happened, but he wanted me to do it.
He then told me where his Masonic apron was. The Masons have a gathering at ‘Bonnie Blink’ in two weeks. It goes by different names but is commonly referred to as ‘Corn Husking’. The Grand Lodge of Maryland gives out a Masonic ‘Penny’ each year. My father has been a member of the fraternity since 1954 and has only missed a very few years. He has all of his pennies, except two. I’ve been in contact with the Lodge Secretary and have asked him if this year’s coins have been minted and sent to the Grand Lodge.
I received word they have and that the Grand Master has given special permission to present two pennies to my father now. My Dad wants to hold a penny in his hands forever. I hope to have the pennies in hand today or have the Secretary come over to present to him “by order of the Grand Master”. This is something very important to my Dad.
The nurse arrived yesterday and showed us what to do with his I.V., which is given every day, until my father decides otherwise.
Last night, my cousin Phyllis (a RN), her parents and brothers came over. Phyllis went over everything for the I.V. Today, a close friend is coming over at 11:30 to make sure everything is done right.
My father had a good night talking about old times with his family. He was alert and spoke with a strong voice.
I slept by his side last night. He was OK most of the night, but I he seems to have a fever this morning and is clamy. He refused two of the pills this morning. They are huge and he can’t swallow them.
He seems very tired right now and I’ve turned up the oxgyen level a little bit.
Sorry for this long entry. I’ll post again when I have a little more time.