This page has updates, progress and my reactions to what we are dealing with. The updates are here for family and friends, to follow Armond's battle (and helps me deal with it by writing it down and getting it out of my head). As with my racing stories, it's my view... this time from the passenger seat.
|Armond's Story <<< click here||
Latest info at the top
Today we had services at the family's church across the road from Dad's house, and laid him to rest at the cemetary, next to his father and mother.
Thanks to everyone who helped us through the past few weeks, had us in their thoughts, sent messages and flowers and helped with all the other details, large and small. We will all miss him.
Thanks to the many many people who were able to come to visit us and pay their respects to my father today on such short notice. We know that many were not able to come or didn't find out in time, and are thinking of us and we appreciate that. We saw Dad's and Mom's, family, friends, customers we knew from the store, my sister's friends and her horse training clients, and my friends and racing people, and people from work. Lots of people we haven't seen for years, some that talked to Dad a few weeks ago.
As we talked to people and reviewed Dad's life we came to realize that we never knew of anyone that spoke badly of him and couldn't remember any time that he lied to anyone. He did his work but as soon as that was done he was ready to have fun doing something.... anything where there was action. He was flexible and easy going and got along well with everyone.
Everyone like him.
Those that knew him will miss him.
He ended his life the way he always said he wanted to go..... while fully capable of having fun and with no pain. He's happy but were not... we weren't done having fun with him.
Calling Hours are 2pm to 4pm and 7pm to 9pm on Thursday 6-22-06 at:
Watson Funeral Home
631 S. Main St
Central Square, NY 13036
For Flowers you can contact:
Fran's Flowers in Brewerton at
or donations can be made to:
Brewerton Methodist Church
Brewerton, NY 13029
in memory of Armond Wickham.
Armond passed away at noon today...
Mom got a call from the hospital about 6am. They said that Dad had a difficult night and that we should get to the hospital. When we arrived, they gave us the update on his condition. His blood pressure had dropped and his breathing was very rapid. Within a couple of hours things had stabilized again. We talked with the doctor that was in charge and decided to remove all remaining support except for oxygen and the sedative. The sedative was increased and his restlessness stopped and his breathing calmed down and was slow and regular. Around noon they told us that he would be moved out of ICU and into a room on another floor. He was no longer being treated for illness and the room was needed. Mom was very apprehensive about the move because the staff in ICU has been very helpful and attentive to every need. We have gotten to be friends with a number of the nurses. The doctor from the other floor came down and talked to us and he was very reassuring.
When Dad was moved into the new room Mom found that there would not be any monitor to follow his vitals and that took a little adjusting for her. It was the only way that she was able to stay in touch with what was going on with Dad.
Dad is receiving comfort care now. As his condition declines, this will provide the soft landing that he and we need. This evening he is resting quietly. They didn't expect him to last the day but he is much stronger than they have given him credit for, from the beginning. Mom, my sister Ginny and I talked throughout the day about Dad and things and left about 7pm. We will go back in the morning.
Not much change from yesterday. He had his bad moments and his quiet moments. There wasn't much interaction today.
They will be transfering him out of ICU to a room soon.
Things continue to change and stay the same. Today he was less awake than the extended time we had with him yesterday. His vitals became an issue when his respiration rate and heart rate went up substantially this afternoon. He had a fever again... it comes and goes and they do things to cool him down. After a couple of hours his fever was down and they used suction to clear his airway and things went back to what has been normal for him. These swings keep taking him near the edge.
He did open his eyes and tried to talk a little bit but he was going in and out of sleep. He has physical strength when he needs it, like when they roll him on his side to rub his back and change bedding but it wipes him out and he sleeps afterwards.
His better moments only last for short spurts. The pneumonia (and some additional infection) are sapping his strength and clouding his abilities. He makes progress and is able to move things better or do something that we haven't seen him do before but the over riding stroke disabilities are still dramatic.
This afternoon Armond was the best that he has been since he went into the hospital. They have small tubing with oxygen at his nose (no mask) and his vitals were about the same as they have been. His breathing is steady but takes some effort. He is still fighting an infection and fevers come and go.
Today he fully opened his eyes when Mom was there and interacted with her for over an hour. He looked at her and struggled to speak a lot. He was able to make a few things understandable and told Mom that he loved her and he said 'out of here'. He was expressive with his face and eyes and you could tell when he was mad as he wrinkled his brow and forehead when he tried to say some things. After the long time he spent struggling to communicate and using his left hand to hold and touch Mom, he was tired and slipped in and out of wakefulness and went to sleep.
It was great to see him active and be able to talk to him and have him understand some and try to talk back but it is very difficult to see that improvment and know that he will never be the way he used to be and probably will not survive. I'm torn between his abilities and disabilities. Everyday makes this whole ordeal more difficult.
This morning they removed the vent tube from Dad's mouth and throat and he coughed and has been breathing fine since. Despite the pneumonia, we could tell that his respiration was strong and as we expected, he would do well without the ventilator. All of his vitals are stable and unless something upsets the present balance, he looks like he is doing quite good. He is stronger than the staff realizes.
Before they removed the ventilator, we had a visit from a long time friend who is a pastor (and race fan) and his wife. Our families had done things together for many years. He spent more than a half hour talking with Dad and reading from the bible. He is a great guy and Dad remained aware and interacted as much as he was able for the duration.
We were hoping that we could talk to Dad today and that he would respond more, but the morning events really wore him out. He would nod or squeeze your hand or reach out for your hand but mostly he slept and was much less responsive for the rest of the day. That little window into the 5% that remains just keeps sucking you back in. It's difficult to let go.
Late in the afternoon, the head of the team of neuro-doctors came in and talked with us and evaluated Armond. He helped us understand what problems were neurologically and what was due to the pneumonia and general sickness. He confirmed the scope of the disabilities so that there is a clearer picture of what remains. It is well beyond anything that Dad would want to live with.
At this point, no one knows how his physical condition will progress and we will have to make more decisions in the next couple of days.
Not much as changed in Dad's condition. His blood pressure is good as well as his other vitals. For the time I was there, he was resting and didn't wake up. The doctor feels that tomorrow morning will be a good time to remove the vent tube from his throat and mouth. His breathing appears to be strengthened and I expect that he will be able to breath fine on his own and possibly not have any problems for some time. We will have to wait and see how it goes. I'm sure he will feel much better having that tube out of his mouth.
Today we met with the doctor that's in charge of the ICU unit. He laid out the present situation and the short term and long term outlook for Armond. We have been trying to get a handle on where we were going since the beginning. We got a different sense from each one we talked to. We have gone from hopeless to hopeful to unsure, watching his vitals on the monitor as the only real measure that we could compare from one day to the next. The doctor explained that the vent tube in his throat would have to come out soon or there would be other problems, and that the only next step would be to put a breathing tube in his throat (tracheotomy) and also a feeding tube. At this point he has not proven that he can swallow and although the vent is on minimal help, he does need it from time to time. The sedation has been reduced to a minimum level and his response to us is slightly better but still not fully conscious.
The conclusion of the doctors is that, this was a big stroke and there has not been much neurological improvement. The paralysis continues on his right side, he does not have speech and it is uncertain whether he can see. They do not expect much change long term. Physically, he will probably need to be on a ventilator to continue and will need continuous care.
It is now clear that we have lost him and it is only a matter of medical support that is keeping him going. He is very sick from the stroke and the pneumonia along with a few other complications. He is not suffering but he will never recover to a level where he can enjoy his surroundings. He always said that he didn't want to end up disabled. He did not want to continue if he could not take care of himself and be able to do things and have fun. He was always active and absolutely could not stand being confined to a bed or a chair.
In light of his condition and following his written wishes, the doctor will prepare him to be weaned off the ventilator and let nature take it's course. They will spend a couple of days making adjustments to his medications to keep him comfortable. Everything is being done to prepare a soft landing for Armond and the rest of the family.
None of us are happy about this. We all had our fantasy about how we would work with him to recover and do things with him that he enjoys despite any disabilities. But we also know that if he were sitting in the forth chair with my mother, sister and I during the discussion of his condition, that he would say don't make me go through this. I've had a good life and if it's time to go then let me go. Emotions make it hard to accept that, but we know it is best and what he wants or what any of us would want if we had reached this point. Mom is handling it as well as any of us and will get through it. She is very realistic and understands in great detail what is going on. We still have some time to be with him and adapt to the reality before us.
The hospital called Mom at 1pm for permission to put in a drain in the chest cavity. There was a build up of fluid that was putting pressure on the right lung and causing labored breathing. They found bacteria in the fluid so they are treating that as well. They were able to do the procedure in the ICU without moving him and soon after his respiration was slower and deeper.
All the other vitals are about the same. His respiration is strong and they are talking about taking him off the ventilator but they are still considering a Tracheotomy to keep him from getting saliva into his lungs and perpetuating the pneumonia.
He is still sedated but less than before as they are weaning him off it. Beyond the stroke, he is really sick from the infections and weak from all the things he is going through.
We went to the hospital this afternoon and stayed with Armond for several hours. His vital signs have been very stable for the past couple of days. He is breathing on his on without any help from the vent but they are keeping it in place for help if needed and detailed monitoring for now. His blood pressure and heart rate are stable. These are the things that went out of control and put him in ICU a few days ago. At this point his vitals do not change much from hour to hour... and that's good. They have started giving him food through the feeding tube and that is going straight to his intestines so that it can be absorbed quickly and directly.
So this has been a much more relaxed couple of days. He is still on sedation so
he is quiet. We are hoping that he will progress from here and can gain
strength without any major setbacks. I know we are not out of the woods yet
and just when you think things are going well, stuff can happen.
Thanks to everyone who has called and emailed and sent cards. It is very much appreciated.
Today one of the residents in ICU talked to my mother and sister at length about Armond's condition and answered lots of questions. We are better informed and realize that, now that things have calmed down, it's time to wait for some healing and strengthening. Things look more hopeful than they have for the past few days as he has improved in several areas.
Although there is no general infection, there is a pneumonia infection in the lungs. That may take weeks to overcome. He is using less of the ventilator than he was yesterday and they have it in a 'help only if needed' mode so he is breathing on his own and the vent only kicks in occasionally. As they wean him off the vent, they are concerned about him drawing stuff into his lungs from his mouth and nose so they will be slow to remove it and may have to put in a tracheotomy tube in place of the tube in the throat.
He is off all blood pressure drugs now that it is maintaining good levels on its own. They have reduced the sedative some too but need to keep him quiet because he will pull on the tubes if given the chance.
The brain scans show that the blockage was in a main artery that distributes blood to a large area of the left side of the brain. The clot buster drug helped to restore blood flow and hopefully soon enough so that damaged areas can rebuild and heal.
Again it depends on who you talk to. Some give you hope that there is the potential for a substantial recovery and others that he may be severely disabled at best. We hear stories about amazing recoveries of people with worse conditions. Everyone is doing all that can be done and as long as he is improving, we feel more at ease. First they have to strengthen his physical condition.
The one thing that is clear is that it will be a month or more before he will be out of trouble and most of the rest of the year to reach any significant level of recovery.
We checked with the hospital this morning and they said that he had improved and was stable.
Yesterday was not a good day for him but the things they did to combat the problems, carried him through until his body could stabilize. We are learning that it is day to day, hour to hour and we have to be ready to accept any turn of events. Naturally a positive trend makes you hopeful that he can recover and when things are failing there's not much margin to work with and it seems hopeless. It's emotional.
Tonite his blood pressure is back up where it belongs on it's own and they have taken away the drugs that they were using to prop it up. His heart rate is more normal and his natural respiration is outpacing the ventilator. He is still being sedated so that he doesn't pull on the equipment but when they do let him wake up, he has a bit more control on his right side than before.
Also, the blood cultures came back negative so they say there is no infection. Although that is a good thing, it means that the reason for yesterday's critical episode was not due to infection and must have been more stroke or lung related . There is still a pneumonia issue from fluid in the lungs (not an infection) but that seems to be working itself out with the ventilator.
So there are positive signs and the trend is up. He still isn't as good as he was a few days ago but he's headed in the right direction. He's in stroke ICU right now and they are more tuned in to dealing with the vital signs issues.
This info could be all wrong or change as they get more or different information. We get different reads from each of the doctors that we talk to. Where he goes from here is anyone's guess but we are glad that he is better and we'll see where it goes tomorrow.
6-8-06 Evening update
I got a call at work about 2pm from my mother at the hospital. She said that Dad was real sick and that they were working on him. I left for the hospital immediately. My sister was on her way too.
At the hospital, they had finished their work when I got there. Mom told us what went
on. His blood pressure had dropped and they were scrambling around to get the drugs to him
to keep it stable. He had slipped further and is not getting better. It was uncertain
whether he had a serious infection or if his body was just reacting to all the changes. On
top of that, they found that the feeding tube they put in today was in his lung.
Fortunately they had not given him much before they found out but that was still one more
thing. His lungs are his strongest asset.
Other than that the staff has been working hard for him. At this point they have been able to prop up each of the problems with something, but every time they solve one problem it unbalances something else. He's weaker from all that he's gone through so far and used up most of his own body's ability to deal with the problems. We have reached the sad state where we have gone from nothing to lose, to not much to gain. We had a long talk with a resident that laid out the present conditions and how long it would be before he could possibly be off the ventilator or other support... weeks and months if things went well... but they seldom do.
He is at a point where he may not even get back to where he was a few days ago. He will probably have recurring problems and additional strokes can happen just when you have made progress. There may be more brain damage already and it is uncertain how much function he would have if he were healthy. This was a big stroke and it is becoming clear that walking, talking, or eating are likely beyond his reach.
Dad was clear about not wanting to be disabled. He wanted to go with his boots on... not have to deal with illness or recovery. We have accepted the reality that he will probably not recover and we will have to make tough decisions soon. We are not ready to let go and need some time.
We ate dinner at the hospital cafeteria and talked about Dad, old stories, his condition and what he would want. Mom had been there since 10am. We all came home at 6pm. Dad is sedated and resting quietly.
6-8-06 Morning update
Mom called me a little after midnight (6-8-06 thurs morning) and said the hospital had called and wanted permission to put in a central line to administer drugs to the blood stream and put him on a ventilator. There was an infection and his blood pressure was falling. We talked about it for a minute and decided that it was best to keep fighting right now... nothing to lose. Even though there were some risks with this, they were small and there was really no choice but to do it. When I called the hospital this morning, they said he has sepsis, a bloodstream infection that came from the lungs. They are battling fluid in the lungs, a lung infection and sepsis. They have given him a sedative because he was restless and might pull on the equipment. They gave him a broad spectrum antibiotic a day and a half ago when they suspected an infection and will give him a specific one when the cultures indicate what they are dealing with. A hospital is a great place to get sick. I guess pneumonia is an expected stage in this journey. You hear of it so often that it seems like they should give antibiotics as a precaution. I'm sure there is a downside to doing that too. Like Cindi said, watch the patient not the monitor. He had symptoms before it showed up with the high heart rate and heavy breathing on the monitor. They gave the antibiotic back then, because they suspected an infection from a crackling lung sound. They also said that they had hydrated him with IV until the fluid was just starting to build up in the lungs in an effort to support the sagging blood pressure. They stopped the IV and gave a blood pressure drug. Everything they do has some other effect that they have to respond to after it happens. It's the standard roller coaster and were are on one of the downhill slides. Ginny has a friend that went through the same things with her sister and she (81) made it through when it looked hopeless so we are factoring that into our decisions. Mom is writing everything down that happens or is said along with conditions. She is keeping good notes. It helps her remember what is/was going on and it's something for her to do. I'm sure it will keep the staff on their toes. Mom is eating during the day and sleeping at home. She knows she has to stay healthy through this. We keep reminding her.
Armond is in the Stroke Care Center for Central NY. He is in a constantly staffed area of 6 beds. Today he was very restless when I got there. They had taken him out of bed and put him in a reclining chair with a foot stool for a couple of hours. He supported weight on his good leg but didn't help much they said. He slept in the chair. When I was there he was fussing with everything. They have had arm restraints on so that he can only reach so far. He's already sick of being there and mumbled to me. The only thing I could make out was "home". He hates being in the hospital anyway.
Today a fever came on about 3pm and at 6 they had a fan on him with ice packs and added a cooling blanket. One doctor said they were giving antibiotics to battle a suspected infection. Another doctor said the fever was a result of a confused brain. His heart rate was 85 today, (65 yesterday) and his breathing was heavy.
It's something different all day. Mom stayed with him from 7:30 am to 7:30 pm. My sister and I were there this evening.
He was a little better in some ways and worse in others.
6-6 My uncle Larry picked up Mom this morning and went to the hospital about 11am. She came home with my sister Ginny and I at 8:30pm.
Dad was a little bit more responsive and could do some things that he couldn't do yesterday, like stick out his tongue when asked. He reached for my hand and mumbled to me when I asked him questions. He would shake his head yes or no to questions like are you too warm.
It's pretty bad when these simple things are what's encouraging but that's all there is right now.
We sit at the foot of the bed and watch the vitals on his monitor like Keno at a casino hoping for good numbers each time we hear the soft click of the blood pressure cuff pumping up.
They have been hydrating him with the IV and now have reached the limit. That has kept his blood pressure up but now they have had to stop it to keep from getting fluid in the lungs. They took chest xrays to evaluate that issue. The blood pressure started going down and they gave him a drug (with risks) to prop it up. They also found an elevated white blood cell count so they are giving him some antibiotics to cover possible infection.
It's like flying close to the ground at night. You just hope your altitude stays above ground level.
6-5-06 Yesterday they gave Dad a heavy duty blood thinner (TPA) within two and a half hours or so of when he went down. This was in the desired window for that treatment. The critical time is now the first 48 hours. The concern is internal bleeding from the thinned blood and other complications. So far so good on this count.
Right now his vitals are strong. Good pulse, respiration, and blood pressure. No oxygen needed. They have him on an IV and inserted a feeding tube.
He has little control of his right side but can open both eyes and pupils respond OK. When I talk to him he will open his eyes and look toward me and has answered questions like "are you cold?" or "are you hot?" by nodding yes or no enough so you can tell. He has tried to say three or four words to me by making some noise in response to a question from me but doesn't move his lips.
He is restless for a little bit and then you can tell he is sleeping and quiet. He has more energy after he has slept but after expending a small amount to squeeze a hand or respond, he is spent and can't do it again for another hour or two.
He is pretty much out of it and no one is predicting how it will go. We are in wait and see mode, hoping that he can become conscious and have some recovery but it does not look good right now.
Mom is at the hospital during the day and is coming home at night. Ginny and I were there today. I will go to work tomorrow (Tues.) and go to the hospital after.
Right now,... we just don't know.
6-4-06 My father went down in the bathroom and my mother found him unresponsive sunday morning. The ambulance took him to the Stroke Center at University Hospital in Syracuse.
When he arrived, he was evaluated and given medication to dissolve the clot blockage.