If you like water, then you will understand when I say that one of my favourite sounds is that of bubbles. Bubbles forming and escaping to freedom through water.
As a child I remember sticking my head under water, releasing air from my mouth and feeling the bubbles with my hands as they rose to freedom from my lungs.
The first time I realised that bubbles can be caused by other parts of the body was when one of my many swim mates teased me about bubbles from my bum! You got it! Bubbles formed by farting underwater. And even though I denied it vociferously, I was teased by one and all. Now that I am older (much older!) and wiser, I realise that these swimming mates must have farted themselves in the water to know that bubbles can be created that way too!
Why Bubbles are No Longer Reminiscent of a Childhood
I also remember how natural it felt to put an empty bottle, mouth first, into a bucket of water, and tilt it slightly to release the air trapped in the bottle, to form bubbles. I was the saviour, releasing them to rise to freedom. That plop-gurgle sound is the sound of fun.
The sound that you get when you blow air through a straw into a glass full of juice or milk. Blub-plop-gurgle. Blub-plop-gurgle. The dance of the bubble tribe!
What does this have to do with Anna?
As I shared with you, Anna has been losing weight over the last 10 months even though he is eating OK. His energy levels are low. His breathing laboured after the most minimal of movements. Then the poor man gets viral fever and cold.
My sister who is here for 10 days to give me some respite from my father’s care-giving responsibilities, monitors his viral fever like a hawk. Hourly temperature is taken and recorded. Cold compress on his forehead, hands and feet is used in-between Crocin doses. Steam inhalations are done three times a day, to the tune of Anna’s whimpers of “Aiyoo-Amma”!
When I talk with the doctor, he tells me to bring Anna to the hospital if he stops eating, and that the viral will have to take its course.
The Sound of Anna’s Bubbles, Struggling to Escape
Anna’s food intake becomes smaller and smaller. A man who normally eats four idlis for lunch, eats only one and a bite. He refuses to eat roti or the peas in his upma. On the 20th, he manages to drink two half-glasses of lassi, barely enough to keep a small pet alive. So, on the day my sister leaves, I take him to hospital.
He is breathing heavily. There is no to little response to questions we ask. His BP is OK and he has a low grade fever. His lungs are congested. We admit him and he is put on an IV. After settling him down, we return home.
I just have time to have a shower and eat something, when I get the dreaded late night call from the attendant. “Please come. Anna is not doing well.”
Sanjiv and I rush to the hospital. On our way we get a call from the resident doctor telling us that Anna is critical and to get to the hospital fast. Even at this time of night, the traffic prevents us from reaching there quickly. Fear and frustration are intertwined.
I run up the stairs to Anna’s room. There are so many people there! Doctor, ER Nurse, Floor Nurse, and Attendant. The doctor tells us that pulmonary aspiration caused his breathing to become laboured, heart rate to skyrocket and oxygen levels to fall to dangerous levels.
Anna is on the bed, his nose and mouth covered by an oxygen mask, a monitor beeping his heart beat. Out of Anna’s mouth comes the sound of bubbles. Bubbles struggling to escape. Every heave of his weak shrunken chest is accompanied by a dull gurgle, and ever exhalation is the sound of bubbles pushing past thick viscous fluid.
It is a horrible sound.
Not a sound, but a horrible long lament of lungs desperately trying to take in and hold air. To just breathe.
Now the sound of bubbles do not bring me fond memories of childhood or of teasing farting mates in a swimming pool. They are no longer fun, or comforting.
Anna’s O2 fell below 60% and his BP shot through the roof.
He is on IV fluids and oxygen.
He is unable to swallow more than two half teaspoons of water.
We have been unable to wean him off external oxygen support.
(After working in corporate India for over 29 years, Sangeeta has taken time off to look after her father, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 2008. Sangeeta hopes that these authentic stories will help patients and caregivers understand and appreciate the impact of Parkinson’s Disease. You can follow Sangeeta’s blog here.)
Related Links in the Series:
How my Father, the Parkinson’s Patient, Aced the Spoken Word
From a Real Life Piku: Looking After an Elderly ‘Child’
My Anna Holds on to his Bata Sandals, Even as He Loses his Memory
Who Knew That Nutella Would Convince My Old Dad to Take his Pills?
For a Dad with Parkinson’s, I’d Get Him All the Junk Food He Wants
Pray, Why Does My 87-Year-Old Anna Need an Aadhaar Card?
When My Father’s Imaginary Doctor Diagnosed Him With Cancer
Dealing With Anna’s Parkinson’s: A Day in the Life of a Caregiver
When Anna Forgot the Words for Pain & Medicine & Suffered Quietly