Father’s Carbuncle Surgery With Temporary Pace Maker Device

Last week father was hospitalized for a carbuncle surgery. Until last week, I had never heard of carbuncle before. A carbuncle is a red painful cluster of boils that are connected to each other under the skin. Dad’s carbuncle was the size of a palm located on his spine. The doctor said that management of the carbuncle by antibiotic was no longer good enough. Dad required surgery to clean the carbuncle and remove the pus and abscess. Only then will the wound start to heal.

Though the carbuncle surgery was simple by itself and did not pose any complication, the general anesthesia (GA) that is required for the operation made the operation risky for him because of his age. There was a risk that he may not wake up from the GA.

We had no choice but to sign the consent sign despite knowing the risk because not doing the surgery was not an option since there was a risk of sepsis (blood poisoning should the infection spread to the blood stream) which is a life threatening medical condition.

On the day of the operation we gathered at the waiting room as dad was wheeled into the operating theater to get him ready for the surgery. However after about an hour a doctor came out to inform us that the surgery could not be done. The reason was because while preparing him for the surgery, they discovered that dad had a total heart block. So we went back to the ward and waited all day and the next for the cardiologist to come and explain to us what that meant.

The cardiologist explained that a total heart block meant that there is a problem with the heart’s electrical pulses which causes the heart to beat more slowly. Dad’s heart rate is around 40 beats per minute. Wikipedia defines heart block as follows “heart block is a disease in the electrical system of the heart. This is opposed to coronary artery disease, which is disease of the blood vessels of the heart.” The doctor likened this to a house with water and electricity supply and it is the electricity supply that is disrupted, not the water.

That is why they could not do the surgery by GA as it may cause the heart to stop beating altogether. The cardiologist consulted with the team in charge of the carbuncle surgery to discuss whether doing the carbuncle surgery using local anesthesia was possible but it was ruled out. So a temporary pace maker was suggested. The cardiologist was however concerned that the pacemaker wires would get dislodged and therefore fail to do the task it was meant to do when dad was turned around for the surgery since the carbuncle was on his back. He expressed this to the other team of doctors who said that dad would be turned on the side.

Why a temporary pace maker? About two years ago, a doctor raised the possibility of having a permanent pace maker installed when dad’s slow heart rate was discovered. However, we were told that having one installed would not be of benefit to him. The reason is because dad is bed ridden. To a person who is walking about doing normal activities, having a permanent pacer would be beneficial because even standing up may cause dizziness due to the slow heart rate. However, dad is mostly either sitting or lying down. Having the pacer installed may require extra care and management and we were informed that in that sense it may not be of much benefit to him.

So, dad was installed with a temporary pacemaker for the operation. This procedure took about 15 minutes after which dad was wheeled back to the ward to wait for the carbuncle surgery. During that wait, dad was not supposed to move his right leg at all in case the wires get dislodged. (His left leg and hand is paralyzed from a previous stroke)

Apart from the fear of the wires getting dislodged, there was a risk that once the temporary pace maker was removed, the heart would “throw a tantrum” and the heart rate would slow down even more because the heart has gotten used to the newer rate as set by the pacer and the longer the temp pacemaker is in place, the higher this risk.

Eventually, dad had the carbuncle surgery and the temporary pace maker was removed. Dad had trouble passing urine after the surgery so a catheter had to be put in place. This was in addition to the stoma (a surgically created opening on the abdomen which allows stool to exit the body), the fresh wound from the carbuncle surgery and the removal site of the temporary pacemaker plus the many injections dad had to receive antibiotics intravenously. Dad was in a lot of pain. Poor dad.

Dad vomited a few times of the second day after the surgery, he also had a fever. Thankfully, the fever cleared and the vomiting went away and dad was discharged. The doctors said we have to manage the wound dressing for the carbuncle surgery site ourselves because allowing him to stay on in hospital increases the risk of infection for the elderly and those with low immunity. The wound would have to be dressed daily for 6 months and hopefully it heals nicely without any infection.

Dad is now back in 2nd sister’s house where he stays. We have engaged a professional nurse to do the daily dressing for the time being. Thank you God for keeping dad safe. Thank you to all the doctors and nurses who attended to dad during his hospital stay. Thank you to sister in law who took turns to look after dad too. Thank you to all those who prayed for dad’s well being.

What a week it has been. Fortunately the kids were on a one week school break so I could take my turn to sit with dad at the hospital.

We are glad that dad has gotten through the surgery which was a high risk surgery for him due to his age and because of the complications of the heart and the GA and temporary pacemaker in place. On another brighter note, it has been a while now that dad seems much better mentally. It appears as though he has recovered a lot from his stroke related dementia and is able to converse with and recognize us most of the time now.

Father Has Dementia

Father Has Dementia. Father has stroke related dementia. I didn’t know that strokes could cause dementia. I’ve always related the symptoms to stroke as half paralysis but not dementia. I didn’t know it at the time but stroke can cause dementia. Cognitive decline related to stroke is usually called vascular dementia or vascular cognitive impairment to distinguish it from other types of dementia

It is hard to lose Father to dementia. Losing anyone you love is never easy. Losing someone you love slowly is never easy. Father has his good days. Some days its like having Father back again. Some days we get to see Father’s Old Self.

This lens is for my Father. Father’s Day is approaching, however, I don’t think gifts hold any more meaning to Father. In a way, this lens is sort of a gift to Father, a tribute to my father.

About Father – Before The Dementia

In his younger days, father had to look after 5 kids aged from 10 to 18 and a wife stricken with cancer who later moved on

Mother died when she was 46. I was 10. Father became a mother and father to the 5 of us. I was the youngest. The eldest was 18. Father was a policeman and the eldest son in his family. He was strict, strong and many were afraid of him. He was also a neat man.

Mother had cancer. She lived for a year from diagnosis till the time she left us. At the time, we were rather poor. There were no good hospitals where we lived. Father had to travel for 6 hours to get to a hospital. Sometimes he had to travel up and down, looking after us as well as mom.

When mom died, Father became both a mother and father to us all. He never remarried. He looked after the five of us single handedly and worked through till his retirement while making sure we had shelter and education.


When Father Started Having Dementia, These Were His Symptoms – Dementia turned my father from a strong personality to a meek and docile one

We didn’t know whether father was having Dementia or Alzheimer’s Decease. Here is a good read about The Difference Between Dementia And Alzeimer’s. In short, it is mentioned in the article that “Alzheimer’s is a type of dementia and that is the main difference between dementia and Alzheimer’s”.

These are some of the signs and symptoms of dementia that father had.

  1. He started to become forgetful. Sometimes he would leave the tap running and not know it.
  2. His personal hygiene became lost. Father was an extremely neat and tidy person but dementia took that away from him.
  3. He refused to take a bath. I don’t know why. I would ask him and sometimes he said the water is too cold. Sometimes he said he was afraid of falling. Whatever it is, he refused to take a bath. It took hours, sometimes days to persuade him. Sometimes he would get angry.
  4. He started having repetitive behaviour. Sometimes he would take rolls and rolls of tissue and roll them up into a ball over and over again.
  5. His personality changed. From a strong, proud man, he now became a meek, docile person.
  6. He started having incontinence. He couldn’t make it to the toilet on time. Sometimes, he did make it to the toilet but he didn’t know what to do next. He would look at me and ask for direction on what to do next.
  7. Sometimes he could not recognize us.
  8. He started to have delusions and hallucinations. Sometimes he talked to someone who was not there. Some days he talked about war other things. Those things were very real to him. At those times, we have learned that the best way is to agree with him. Just smile and nod our heads and listen.
  9. Time started to have no meaning for him
  10. I think due to some of the medication he was taking, he would have what we call “awakenings” where he would be just like his old self, alert and exactly like the way he used to be. On those days, he would not be able to sleep for 24 hours or more. He would be most agitated and excited. He would read the papers from cover to cover and call any one of us up in the early hours of the morning or night. After these episodes, he would sleep for 2 to 3 days as if his brain was exhausted after all the activity.

Losing Someone To Dementia Is Like Losing Them Slowly, Painfully, Slowly and Surely

It is hard to make the transition from being a child to becoming a parent to your parents

I will not forget the first time I had to help father take a bath. I felt very sorry for him. Sorry that he had to lose his dignity like that.

My Father has been through a lot. He has had another stroke. He had to feed from feeding tubes. He had a colostomy surgery and is now on wheelchair. He needs help to get up and about.

Strangely the second stroke, though disabling him, seemed to have improved his dementia a little bit. These days he is more alert and can recognize us most of the time. That is the most important thing to us. This ability to recognize the ones you love. When he sees us, he usually has a big smile when he is alert. We touch him a lot.

Touch is important in human communication. It is important to look him in the eye and stroke his hand when talking to him otherwise, he does not realize that we are talking to him especially if we are sitting beside him and not in front of him. We must look at him directly in the eye and touch him. When he has delusions, we just listen and smile and sometimes agree before we divert his attention away.

If You Think Someone You Love Is Having Dementia, You May Find The Following Links Useful – Here are some useful links to sites which offer you information abou

Happy Days

Happy Days Cake

Recently we had a family gathering. Family gatherings are getting fewer and further in between now that everyone is older and busy with their own families.

So this family gathering was a gathering for a belated Mother’s Day, belated Father’s Day, belated June birthdays and early July birthdays. In the end, big bro got a cake and called it “Happy Days”.

My nephews and nieces are so grown now aged between 16 to 26. There is a gap between their ages and those of my kids because of the gap between my age and my bros and sis plus the fact that I am a late baby boomer, marrying late and starting a family late. Makes one feel old to see all the kids grown up now.

In fact, I just turned 47 last month. The funny thing about birthdays is you stop remembering how old you are after 25-30. Before that you look forward to your 16th birthday, your 21st etc. However after that, I stopped remembering. In fact, this year I thought I was turning 48. It wasn’t till I received an sms from big sis in the morning saying “Hello little sis. Happy Birthday. So you are turning 47 today.” It was only then that I realised my mistake or the whole day would have gone by with me thinking otherwise and I would have gotten 48 candles for my cake. 😛

Happy Birthday Cake


Bah Kut Teh

Recently, we went out with dad for a meal. I still remember the day the doctor told us that he may have to go home from hospital and ‘eat’ from a feeding tube for the rest of his life. A feeding tube is inserted into the nostril (or sometimes through an incision in the stomach) and milk is poured into the tube and goes directly into the stomach. You don’t get to taste your food or experience the joy of eating.

To be able to eat is actually a blessing. How many of us take that ability to eat for granted?

I am thankful that now dad can eat normal food. Although he is in a wheelchair now, has a colostomy bag, has to be helped around everywhere, needs someone to bathe him etc, this ability to eat anything (or almost anything) he wants and likes is a blessing.

We had bah kut teh with dad. Though his mind wandered through the meal, as it sometimes does, we are happy, that dad is able to be with us, to smile and laugh and ….. eat.

How I wish I had more money

They say that money is the root of all evil and one should not wish for more money. We must be happy and content with what we have. However, I do wish for more money. Money can certainly do a lot… especially when you are old and ill. The standard of care you can get if you have money is so different.

Dad had a stroke last year which resulted in him being hospitalized for 2 months last year. He was unable to eat normally but had to have milk poured in directly to his stomach every few hours. He also had a colostomy which now requires him to carry his fecal matter in a bag. He can’t walk or bathe on his own so he has to use adult diapers.

Dad is much better now. He can eat almost anything now but he still requires help with bath and changing of his stoma bag etc. The five of us, his kids, shares the amount required to take care of dad. This includes a maid and a nurse not to mention his very expensive medication and payments for physiotherapy etc. The nurse is very good and has a wonderful personality to match. Unfortunately she is very very expensive. I am afraid we can’t continue to keep using her for long hours and daily as we are now. Slowly we are reducing her time.

Now, wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a lot of money so that we do not even have to calculate or even think of it or blink an eyelid when providing quality nursing care for dad? Yes, it is at times like this that I wish I have a lot of money. Anyway, whatever it is, I am really thankful that dad is much better now. Dad was even back in Penang with everyone to celebrate the Chinese New Year recently and that is truly a wonderful thing indeed.

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