Well, the pacemaker was a great success. Dad felt great and went on his Honor Flight to Washington D.C. In retrospect, I think that trip means more to him now than he thought it would. They are an aggressive group, they've stayed in touch with him, had him back to a reunion group.
Dad was never one to talk about his war experiences. All I ever heard about was that he lived on a beach in the Philippines, he had a monkey and his group had a house boy and they drank too much Tuber, the indigenous fermented coconut milk. Shades of MASH. Since then, more stories have come out, like he navigated the voyage home from the Philippines on an LST because he had gone to Georgia Tech. And instead of taking leave of the services in San Francisco, he helped pilot the craft down through the Panama Canal all the way to the Atlantic Coast. I think he left the service in Charleston. He said the cost of transportation home was cheaper and he got paid.
He went with us to Santa Fe after the New Year. It was there that he really started complaining of shortness of breath and exhaustion. I didn't pay much attention, chalking his complaints off to the altitude and cold, dry weather. It was rough on all of us.
We all had continual colds through January. None of us could breath, all anyone could do was cough.
But Dad's shortness of breath persisted.
He complained at one of his exercise classes, they did a EKG (they keep one on hand!) and he contacted Dr. Musselman, his cardiologist. They did a read out of his pacemaker and did more in depth EKG scans.
The way Dad tells the story, it was almost as an afterthought that Musselman asked him if he had ever had a TEE (Transesophageal Echocardiogram.)
Of course Dad said, "No."
"Well maybe we ought to consider one in the next few months. Think about and give me a call." Dad remembers Musselman saying.
And the next thing Dad knows, he's signed up for the test the very next Monday! He asked Helen to take him to the hospital for the test and he asked me to pick him up. He was vague about what was going on, except that Musselman had made it seem casual and routine.
Monday morning I received a message from Helen saying that the Doctor performing the test would be ready to see me at 9:30. This was earlier than Dad had suggested, so I hurried over to the hospital and got there about 9:45. I spoke to the Doctor on the telephone. She described the procedure and said that the test showed "moderate to severe" leaking on his heart valve. She described the heart muscle as severely weakened and probably too weak especially when combined with Dad's age for surgery to be an option, but that we needed to make an appointment with Dr. Musselman as soon as possible."
Needless to say I was floored.
I went back into Dad's room. I asked him if the Doctor had spoken to him. He said, "No."
I decided I was not the one to deliver such a grim diagnosis and just told him it looked like there might be some valve leakage, that we needed to make an appointment and talk with Dr. Musselman.
He agreed. Eventually he was discharged and we went across town to the Circle Grill, where people don't look like they're from Dallas (they're not, they are from Garland, Mesquite and East Dallas.) After eggs, sausages, grits and hashbrowns, we felt much, much better.
And he made an appointment with Musselman for Wednesday morning. (Feb 11)