I have to wonder how long this has been going on.  I wondered about it right after coming home from the hospital last November.  There were none of the usual symptoms that were different from the symptoms of the problems already diagnosed and being treated.  It seems unlikely to me that such an infection could have been going on since November, although there is a chronic version of this diagnosis.

Hospice Nurse Emily phoned shortly after lunch time today to report that Mary Ann’s urine had tested positive for a Urinary Tract Infection [UTI].  In fact it is apparently a fairly serious one.  She reported that the doctor had insisted that Mary Ann manage to get in both the morning and evening doses yet today.  We have now done so and Mary Ann is in bed.

The medication is an anti-biotic called Cipro.  It is a strong anti-biotic whose sheets of warnings and side-effects (three pages of small print) read like a Stephen King novel.  The good news is that the Hospice doctor has a current list of all Mary Ann’s meds and a chart that includes all her medical problems.  The Hospice Staff have regular Team meetings on each patient.  It is a fairly small Hospice organization, serving only about thirty patients.  We regularly get a copy of the Team meetings.  Each report includes hand-written notes by each member of the team, including the doctor.

It certainly is a challenge to discern the signs of a UTI when every one of them matches something that is normal for someone with Parkinson’s Disease, Heart Disease, Parkinson’s Disease Dementia (a Dementia with Lewy Bodies), Hypertension, Orthostatic Hypotension, Chronic Kidney Disease, Hypothyroidsim, Urinary and Bowel Incontinence, a stroke victim who has also had a life-threatening bout with Pneumonia.

Here is an interesting item on the list of those symptoms that are often indicators of a Urinary Tract Infection:  “Mental changes or confusion (in the elderly, these symptoms often are the only signs of a UTI).”  Imagine trying to catch that symptom in someone with a Lewy Body Dementia that has as its central symptom, mental confusion that comes and goes.

On the Medline Plus web site from which I got the information in this post there is a list circumstances that increase the likelihood of getting a UTI.

The following also increase your chances of developing a UTI:

  • Diabetes
  • Advanced age (especially people in nursing homes)
  • Problems emptying your bladder (urinary retention) because of brain or nerve disorders
  • A tube called a urinary catheter inserted into your urinary tract
  • Bowel Incontinence
  • Enlarged Prostate, narrow urethra, or anything that blocks the flow of urine
  • Kidney stones
  • Staying still (immobile) for a long period of time (for example, while you are recovering from a hip fracture)
  • Pregnancy

Mary Ann is not pregnant, does not have a prostate gland or kidney stones, nor is she diabetic, but all the rest fit to one degree or another.

I will admit that this diagnosis seems like good news in the sense that it provides a glimmer of hope for some positive change.  Mary Ann declined pretty dramatically after her hospital stay (during which a catheter was used).  It would be wonderful to be surprised by improvements coming with progress in treating the UTI.

Mary Ann (and I) got a pretty good night’s sleep last night.  She seemed to be doing somewhat better today but still had some confusion periodically.  There was a little more of the fainting and bowel activity.  She had a nap of a couple of hours during the mid-day.

We had a special treat today.  This afternoon Pastor Mike and Judy came to visit for a few hours.  They are warm and caring, as well as strong and intelligent people who have made their mark for great good in a central city area in Kansas City, Kansas that has had all the struggles that often come with older city neighborhoods.  I have tremendous respect for them as they have stayed engaged with and present in that community for decades.  Without fanfare or tangible rewards they have continued to serve in creative ways people sometimes gasping for air just to keep from drowning in a sea of failed attempts at trying to get by on their own.

We have known Mike and Judy since the early 1970’s.  I was a few years ahead of Mike at the Seminary we both attended in St. Louis.  Mary Ann and I have  listed Mike as the requested preacher at our funerals.  He and Judy have known Mary Ann since before the Parkinson’s.  As well as the personal fondness we have for them, they share with us an understanding of church that is deeply rooted in some core faith issues.  We have great conversations.  Judy especially made a point of talking with Mary Ann one on one, so that Mary Ann’s thoughts and words were not lost in the energetic talking of three others.

After spending time at the dining room table talking with Mike and Judy, we moved on to the deck.  It was a glorious day here, about 70 degrees and abundant sunshine.  As we sat on the deck, the pair of Mallard Ducks wandered back and forth, in and out of the waterfall, munching at the ground level platform feeder a few times.  They just sort of hung out with us, maybe twenty feet away.  The birds were singing their spring songs probably meant to impress some potential or current mate.  At one point a black Grackle (with that shiny deep blue head), Blue Jay, Cardinal and bright yellow Goldfinch were in view at the same time in the branches or on the ground in the immediate area.  A couple of Robins were nearby also, as well as the Mallards.  It always strikes me that colors no designer in his/her right mind would put together in the same space, work very well when in proximity in a natural setting. It would seem there might be some other artist at work weaving colors together.

Yesterday, our system here seemed on the verge of becoming impossible to sustain.  A good night’s sleep, some time during Mary Ann’s nap to get a few sort of recreational chores done (filling bird feeders, more weeding in the waterfall area), relaxed time visiting with good friends, has pulled us from the verge of impossible back to possible.  Since we live in a fairly small space between possible and impossible, I will not venture a guess as to where we will be tomorrow.  We will deal with that when tomorrow becomes today. Speaking of which — it is time to go to bed.

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