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Dad's Brave Battle

In better times.

 

1-29-01.. My Dad, Al Franks was hospitalized at Mercy Hospital in Council Bluffs, Iowa. He apparently had a heart attack last Friday while shoveling snow. The hospital staff says he's doing pretty well and he's beginning to look a little better. He is in the Critical Care Unit. I wish he had more appetite.

 1-31-01 They have his heart rate controlled with medication. His white count was high so they checked for leukemia via bone marrow samples. They found that he has 'acute myelogenous leukemia'. Without treatment, he would have about 30 days to live. He begins the arduous chemotherapy tommorrow. The treatment last for 7 days, followed by two weeks of blood transfusions and another bone marrow biopsy. His odds are not good. He seems really depressed..

  2-01-01, good news today, Dad's white count decreased, meaning they will get a shot at checking out his heart and maybe angioplasty if necessary. Good blood flow will increase his chances of beating his disease. His attitude is better, and he's hungry, but he can't eat until after the procedure. Figures!

  2-02-01 More good news today, although his white count went back up a little, Dad's heart was "scoped" at Bergen-Mercy in Omaha today via catheter. The cardiac specialist said his obstruction was limited to arteries so small that they couldn't be "ballooned", his major arteries are good. They sent him back to the Critical Care Unit at Mercy Hospital in Council Bluffs. His appetite is back and he ate well today. He is much better today and will start chemotherapy soon. His spirits seem really high.

  2-03-01 Dad chatted with the Chemo Doctor today, he seems depressed. The doctor told him he had about a 50-50 chance of a heart attck from the chemo. His vital signs look good today.

  2-04-01 Chemo starts today. They put the Hickman's line in this morning. That is a tube the chemo is administered through. They decided to hold off until tommorrow morning (Monday) to start chemo.

  2-05-01 Chemo started today at 10:00 am. So far so good. Dad seemed extra tired but his vital signs all looked good. He had several episodes of blood clotting and bloody sheets from the bladder catheter. They will irrigate the catheter every 4 hours now.

  2-06-01 2nd day of chemo. Dad was in good spirits. We talked a lot and I stayed until 9:45pm. Still lots of blood clotting and bloody sheets from the bladder catheter. They still irrigate the catheter every 4 hours.

  2-07-01 3rd day of chemo. Dad was extra tired when I got to the hospital. He didn't sleep much last night. His vital signs all looked good. His catheter is showing much less clotting today. His urine bag looked like it should for a change. Now we are waiting for his bowels to work. The pills they gave him at noon, still hadn't worked by 7:00pm when I left.

  2-08-01 Day 4 of chemo. Dad was in pain when Jean and I got to the hospital. He didn't sleep much again last night. Although his vital signs all looked good his catheter was back to clotting today. This clotting and pressure on his bladder made for an uncomfortable day of pain. The evening nurse flushed the catheter twice and relieved the pressure. He was then able to eat and get up into his recliner. Now we are waiting for his bowels to work. The pills they gave him yesterday and again today still hadn't worked by 8:30pm when we left. At least he was more comfortable.

  2-09-01 Day 5 of chemo. Dad had a decent night's sleep. Nausea is starting to set in though. He had tomato soup for dinner, it's all he could keep down. His catheter situation was much better. He didn't have the 'pressure' he had been feeling yesterday. He was in good spirits. Still waiting for his bowels to work. They gave him some syrup stuff.

  2-10-01 Day 6 of chemo. Dad was asleep when I got to the hospital at 4:45pm. I had some cafeteria food while I waited for them to deliver his meal. He was awakened at 5:05 pm to eat. He had nausea so he was given tomato soup again. He kept that down. They are going to switch him to a soft diet to help with the nausea. He ate and went back to sleep, so it was a short visit. He finally had a bowel movement earlier today so that was good. He was feeling a little cold and tired though. So far... so good!

  2-11-01 Last Day of chemo. Dad was nearly asleep when I got to the hospital at 7:45pm. The last chemo bag will run out at 4:00am tommorrow. He is still having nausea and they had to repalce his catheter, it just quit functioning. The replacement went right in and Dad said it felt better. He also said he felt a little better than yesterday. He had no bowel movement today however. They were giving him platelets when I left. He will get some I.V. protein tomoorow. The heart doctors are backing off the staff, his heart is doing well. He hasn't used nitro in almost a week. Still hangin' in there!!

  2-13-01 Dad is miserable. Lots of fever, chills, cold sweats, heart rate is racing. He's experiencing less nausea now. He doesn't look too good. We are hoping for the best but he's in bad shape right now.

  2-14-01 What a difference 24 hours can make. Dad is much better today. His heart rate has settled back down again. He was sitting up and talking and watching movies. The nausea is pretty much gone. The fever has abated and his spirits are high again. He was back to teasing the nurses. We are hoping he keeps getting better and better.

  2-16-01 Dad has been better these last two days. He was hand fed yesterday to get him to eat. They may allow him to get out of bed and sit in a recliner today. He has been too weak and they fear a fall may result in internal bleeding. They will do another bone marrow test Monday to see if the leukemia is in remission or if more chemo is called for. We will be crossing our fingers!!

  2-18-01 Dad is tired most of the time. When he's awake, he is talkative and in good spirits. He has been doing well and he knows it. The positive attitude really helps. He got out of bed and sait in the recliner today. His appetite isn't good but he does eat some food when fed. His arms get tired easily when he's feeding himself and with someone else willing to do it for him, he lets them.

  2-19-01 Dad has been sleeping a lot. He is looking and feeling better each day since chemo stopped. They did the bone marrow test today and the preliminary results should be available tommorrow. The doctor said his blood is in the best shape it has been in since he was hospitalized. His heart is still doing well. Dad's appetite still isn't very good and he still doesn't feed himself. He is still very weak.

  2-20-01 Bad news today. The chemo didn't work. It only got about two thirds of the leukemia cells. He is starting more chemo today, five days worth. Last chance, there will be no treatment after this. If he makes it through the chemo, if it works this time, he will need about a month to get his immunities back. He'll be at the mercy of any infection in the meantime. He is really down right now.

  2-21-01 Dad is in better spirits than yesterday. He ate some dinner and talked for a while. He knows he has an uphill battle ahead. He knows what is at stake..

  2-24-01 Dad was sleeping nearly the whole evening. They actually think he's sleeping too much. They have physical therapy coming in to get him moving somewhat. He has also been told to do some deep breathing to keep his lungs clear...

  2-25-01 Dad is sleeping a lot. They want him to get up several times a day, but he is too weak. He is doing well to sit up on the edge of the bed. He is tolerating the chemo better on this the second go 'round than he did the first time. But he is getting some nausea because they backed off the anti-nausea medicine to keep him from sleeping so much. They are concerned that he will get too much fluid in his lungs. ..

  2-26-01 Dad was more alert today, he couldn't keep breakfast down and didn't eat lunch at all. He also barely touched his dinner tonight. Oddly, he says he feels better today than yesterday. He is very weak, he can't even get up without a lot of help. He will get another bone marrow test next Monday. Let's hope the chemo worked. He definitely is losing hair this time. He didn't lose any appreciable amount of hair during the first chemo treatment.

  2-27-01 Dad had a rough day today, he ate a blueberry muffin for breakfast. He couldn't keep lunch down and didn't even try to eat dinner. He was feeling awful and didn't try getting up all day. He was sleeping most of the day. Hopefully tommorrow will be better.

  2-28-01 Dad had another rough day today, he didn't eat all day. He was sleeping most of the day and didn't feel like talking. He still feels nauseated all the time and very weak. Tommorrow may be better.

  3-01-01 Dad was feeling much better today. He ate tomato soup this morning, rejected lunch but ate some dinner. He was much more alert and talkative. He really perked up when Joe Daub, a long time friend of Dad's stopped in for a visit. He had a much better day today.

  3-02-01 They did the bone marrow test today. Preliminary results should be available soon. Dad didn't eat today, 'He didn't feel like eating'. He was more alert but not feeling too well.

  3-03-01 The day began with a scare, I was called to the hospital by my sister Diane. Dad had a heart episode the prevoius evening and another this morning. His heart rate climbed dangerously and he had a high fever, the culprit was 'septic shock'. He had developed an infection and it was killing him. They administered the most powerful antibiotic they had and everything went back to normal within a few hours. Then we got the bad news we had been dreading, the second round of chemo didn't get all the leukemia cells. They will try to get his blood count and health back to a point where he could go home. But there are no more treatment options.

  3-05-01 HOPE!! The chemo doctor said that although the leukemia is still there, 90% of it isn't. That gives Dad some time. Dad's doctor said the infections are the immediate danger, not the leukemia. He has been getting infections almost daily. He has one now that they are treating. If he can overcome the infections, if he can start eating and working on his strength (with our help), he can go home. The doctor believes he will do better at home and if he can get some strength, there will be experimental treatments to try in a few weeks. The doctor said he didn't mean to infer there were no further treatments, only that further treatment would depend on his physical health. In the meantime, he will get drugs to fight infection and build his immune system. The immunities treatment will help counteract the leukemia effects somewhat and delay it's progress. Keep the prayers coming, it may be helping!!

  3-06-01 Another chemo doctor from the same group said Dad wasn't going to leave the hospital the same way he came in. He said the viruses and infections were going to make him "very critical" in a short time. The way Dad was looking and acting today, he sounds more realistic than the other more optimistic doctor.

  3-07-01 I was beeped away from work today. They say Dad won't make it through the day. Still having fevers. Dad seems to perk up a bit from time to time, but never for very long. He sleeps a lot and seems to hallucinate a little. He won't eat, says he doesn't want to. Most of the family stayed with him until 3am. I got him at 3:30am, but couldn't sleep. Several stayed all night.

  3-08-01 I was beeped at 6:00 am by the hospital. Dad is very critical and the family should gather. Everyone was there. We took turns with him as we had the previous day (and many others for that matter). At about 3pm, surrounded by a room full of family, Dad passed away. It was more like sneaked away. Folks were talking, mostly stories and remembrances of Dad. The nurse came in and said, I think he's gone now. He was. He had died so peacefully that no one noted his passing. We had prayer with Pastor Dan. Everyone was crying and hugging, no one could believe he was gone.

  3-09-01 We made the funeral arrangements today. It would be a military funeral with color guard, rifle salute and taps. He will have a flag draped coffin as well. Visitation with the family will be at Belford-O'Neal funeral home in Council Bluffs, Ia. The funeral will be at Belford O'Neal as well, 553 Willow Ave, Council Bluffs, Ia. Directions: from I-80 east, take the manawa exit, turn left (north) onto the south expressway. You will go over a viaduct, the south expressway becomes sixth street. Turn right at Willow Ave. The funeral home is on the corner of sixth street and willow ave. Thanks for your thoughts and prayers, Dad appreciated them. We discussed several times, how many cards and e-mails he had received. He was aware that he had many friends, but it's at these times that they are appreciated most!

  Thanks for all your thoughts and prayers, I know Dad appreciated them...