I've posted about my dad in the past, here is the link. He had a stroke seven years ago, and has many residual medical issues from the stroke. Two weeks ago, I received a call at work that he was in the emergency room, with difficulty breathing. He lives very close to the hospital where I worked as a tech in the emergency room for over six years, so when they called me, saying he was really sick and to hurry, I knew what that meant. Terrified he was dying, I closed out my computer, and rushed out of my office. One thing that is very important to my dad is that he not be resuscitated, if he coded. This is hard for me to accept, but I understand, as I feel the same way about if something were to happen to me. He is scared of becoming trapped inside his body, and of being completely reliant on others. He also worries about becoming a burden, which I argue about with him, but he does not waver. Since his stroke, I have had to help him with certain things, but he is still able to live alone and be somewhat self-reliant.
I was afraid they were intibating him, before I was able to get there, and I had been putting off his DNR paperwork. The doctor had said they needed to intibate him over the phone, but I wanted to talk to my dad first. I wanted to make sure it was what he wanted, but I also knew that if he was struggling for breath that I could not just watch him suffer.
I ran through the doors, and found someone who knew where he was. They were just about to take him to ICU, and they had already intubated him. He was sedated. I was too late. Tears pouring from my eyes, one of the nurses who I used to work with years ago embraced me. When I grabbed my dad's hand, she told him that it was no longer her holding his hand--that it was me. This statement brought more tears. She held my dad's hand until I could get there. She spoke to him gentle, and looked after him like he were her own flesh and blood. We went up to the ICU, and they forced me out of the room while they transferred him to their bed. I knew the drill--I had kicked family out to do the same, and had hated to see them over my shoulder watching every little move I made. At that moment, I understood how that felt. My mom and husband had not yet arrived, so I stood in the waiting room alone. When one of the doctors entered, I was quietly sobbing. I listened carefully to his words. They were worried about his lungs, and his heart, as not all of the tests had come back.
My mom and husband soon arrived at the hospital. My mom, who had been divorced from my father for over twenty years, came to the hospital to support me.
The next twenty-four hours were the worst. He was sedated, but toward the end of the day he was opening his eyes. He started squeezing my hand, and he tried to talk. My ex brought our daughters to the hospital to see my dad. They both spoke softly to him, and he blinked at them. I was worried about what was going through his head, and reminded him over and over what was happening. I kept thinking about what it would be like to wake up, completely helpless, restrained to a hospital bed. This thought terrified me.
The next morning, he was more lucid, and they finally took the tube out. The first words he said to me were, "what was that?"
He was diagnosed with CHF, and renal issues. He was in the ICU for four days, and then another floor for three more days. He is back home now, and on the days that the home health nurses do not check in on him, I stop by and check his vitals. I have also started helping him clean and now do his grocery shopping. Having a parent with declining health is one of the worst things to experience. There is nothing worse than watching someone you love suffer.
I also have to say a special thank you to the nurse who held his hand, until I could. She greatly touched my heart, and reminds me what it means to be compassionate.
I don't know how much longer my father will be around, but this last scare has been a reminder of many things. I was reminded of how precious time is. I was reminded that at any moment, the rug can be pulled out from under your feet, leaving you falling into the unknown. We do not have complete control of circumstances or even over our own bodies. We have to trust in those we love to take care of us, and we have to have faith. I will make sure that my dad knows that I care. I will make sure that every time he sees me he knows that I don't consider him a burden. I was helpless once, and he cared for me. He did the best he could with what he knew in raising me. It is important to me that he knows I have forgiven him for whatever he thinks that he did wrong, and that I understand. I am a mom now, and I know that no parent is perfect. True unconditional love is letting all of the faults go, and loving the person in spite of their short-comings. I will spend every day making sure that all of my loved ones know how I feel about them. This was a huge reminder of how little control we really have.
Wedding photos by, Matt Spilker and Lyndsay Rupe, Spilker Portraits
The baby picture is of me.