Sunday, 31 March 2013

The Comedy Festival

20th Melbourne International Comedy Festival

A bit more than a week ago my father, who lives in Israel, fell down and was hospitalized as a result. If you are into a bit of the macabre, you will probably find both the before and the after to be almost as entertaining as Melbourne's now running comedy festival.
The first joke is to do with the way no one tells me things, important things. As I gradually learned following repeat attempts on my behalf to understand what my father's problems are, this last fall was not his first. The difference is that this time his leg muscles gave up so badly on being able to rise again there was no choice but to take him to hospital.
The second joke is to do with my family's inability to figure out what's going on around them. A day after my father was hospitalized, and before his CT scan test results were delivered, Family Member A (who does not reside in Israel) informed me the problem is a broken link on the spine. However, a few days later I learned that was totally wrong from Family Member B (who does live in Israel and was present when the doctor provided their diagnosis): it's not the spine, it's a rib. When I pointed at the huge difference between a spine injury and a rib injury to other family members I was surprised to learn they could not tell what my fuss is about. Our story does not end there, though: a few days later Family Member A spoke with the specialist over the phone, and was informed the problem is, indeed, a broken L4 spine link. Thus raising two questions: how did Family Member A have the foresight to tell, from overseas, that this was the problem even before the doctors knew it was? And second, how did Family Member B and the other present family members manage to get it so wrong?
The comedy does not end with bad communications. It continues with being unable to make rational decisions. That specialist I mentioned before, he recommended my father does an operation to heal the spine up. According to him, the break is luckily favorable in the sense it is relatively easy to fix - all it would take is a simple operation under full anesthetic. That, however, is where the family can make things worse: enter overseas Family Member C, who claims that an operation under full anesthetic would be dangerous to my father. The problem, as far as I can tell, is that C does not have much beyond the anecdotal to base their anesthetics phobia on. It is clear that my father, given age and difficulties, is not going to have a walk in the park with an operation; however, what's the alternative? For a man his age, the alternative is spending the rest of his life in bed. As the hospital people would testify when they had to bring four of them to move him around, that would put my father in at a position unfit for living at his home. Hired help at home won't do, unless we hire a football team or a Schwarzenegger. Thus he would have to stay in bed in some specialized old people's place. Given the options, and based on what I know thus far (a disclaimer that has to be made given the above notes on the quality of information I have been receiving thus far), I would take the risk.
Family Member C, however, demands we consult a neurologist for their opinion. To which I will answer that nurologists are not exactly a dime a dozen; my mother already inquired and the wait is two months long. Second, I don't understand why we need a neurologist and not an anesthetist. And third, the whole affair smells like someone took too many drugs. As in, why are we having this discussion in the first place when no proof beyond "it happened to someone I know" can be provided? People I know have been hit by cars yet we still drive and cross streets. People die from taking aspirin. There is no end to it; the whole of life is one big risk management affair. Yet this family inability to fathom statistics now has the potential to have the fate of my father on the line.
Add to all of the above lots of emotional blackmailing, and the whole thing becomes a mess where the patient himself is but one of many parts. I argue, though, that the whole affair could have been much smoother if rational people were to be involved. To me this is an example of how dangerous irrationality can be, because the same failures at play with my father are playing with religion induced wars and with our handling of global warming.

As for me, it looks like I will be heading to Israel when the dust will settle enough. I never look forward to visiting Israel, but this time would be worse. And not just for the obvious reasons: this would be the first time I will be away from my son.
Still, that's life, and our parents are aging. This is going to be episode 1 of the new series on living on the other side of the world from the rest of the family.

Image by ianloic, Creative Commons license


Sarah said...

Sorry to hear about your Dad. I have read that this is another side effect of leaving becoming a parent until later in life in that you end up having to be a carer for your young children at the same time as caring for your ageing parents. I think they were called the "Sandwich generation" trapped in between the generations and left with major responsibility.

It also makes you realise that you are now well and truly the grown up in the scenario. My Dad had heart surgery last year and that brought his mortality home to me especially as he discussed that he probably only had another 10-15 years of life left. A hard concept to grasp. Hello middle age!

Moshe Reuveni said...

I think there are always challenges around taking care of the old while taking care of the young. It was only 100 years or so back when most people didn't tend to make it much beyond 40 years old.
As for the number of years left for my father, I very much doubt he has 10-15 years left in him (I think I read somewhere that only 1 in 1000 makes it to a century; he won't, but he won't be far, either). It's easy for me to speak from here, but I would value quality of life much more than length. It seems like there comes a point when that quality just plunges. On the other hand, heart failures do not tend to work that way.
Life's messy. And yeah, middle age, not that great.