He Doesn't Remember a Thing
February 7th, four months to the day of hospitalization, Daddy was released from what seemed like a lifelong prison sentence. One by one, each of the nurses and doctors came to Dad’s room to give a hug, shake his hand and wish him well. Many had tears in their eyes as they proclaimed him one of their favorite patients of all time. The words “move slowly, be cautious and don’t try to do anything on your own just yet because we don’t want to see you here again” were repeated over and over by everyone. Dad, lips quivering and holding back tears, dutifully nodded his head. I knew better. I’ve already seen and reprimanded him for trying to do things without help. He even once wheeled himself into the elevator, down to the first floor to surprise my mom on one of her recent visits to the hospital without telling anyone what he was doing or where he was going.
My father went in for a successful spinal cord surgery only to succumb to aspiration pneumonia a day later after choking while swallowing two Percosets. From there, he experienced repeated setbacks after each instance in which he started to make progress. He contracted C-dif, urinary tract infections, gastrointestinal bleeds, infection in the hardware they placed in his neck, another surgery to remove the hardware and clean the infection, hallucinations and confusion, two falls (which could have and should have been prevented), stopped breathing five different times resulting in having to be intubated with a breathing tube, had a trach tube put in when the doctors told me they didn’t think he’d survive another intubation (they were actually surprised that he lived through five incidences already) and at the same time, had a feeding tube inserted.
Over the course of the last four months my brother and I have heard contradictory information from doctors, physician assistants and nurses. We’ve watched these same people stammer and stutter when confronted by their inaccuracies. We’ve experienced residents trying to brush their obvious errors under the rug. We’ve been belittled by anesthesiologist who didn’t take into account our knowledge of our father’s severe reactions to benzodiazepines (that were also recorded in his chart), yet give him Ativan anyway only to watch him stop breathing seconds later. We’ve seen a long time nurse, robot her way through the care of our father and come close to killing him by not observing him closely after sedating him. We’ve fought shrinks who gave Dad antidepressants even after he specifically said he didn’t want them. We’ve diagnosed and ended hallucinations and confusion when doctors themselves had no clue. We’ve predicted the onset of another aspiration pneumonia before even doctors recognized symptoms. My brother and I have watched my father come close to dying more times than we care to count and were even called in at one point to hold his hand while he gasped for breath on the verge of entering the next life. And now, we’ve watched doctors send Dad home with a feeding tube and trach, giving him barely an iota of hope that he won’t have these for the rest of his life, because of his record regarding his breathing issues over the past four months; almost all of them due to his hospitalization. Daddy doesn’t remember any of it and can’t understand what all the fuss is about because he feels good….a little tired….a little weak…..but good.
The last two nights were the first in four months that I slept without waking. Watching Daddy asleep in his chair at home, in front of the t.v., I find myself holding my breath while listening to his. Is he breathing too quickly? Is he not breathing deeply enough? Is he breathing at all? I’m not sure how long it will take me to let go of the constant worrying about him or if I’ll ever be able to let go of it. I hover when he needs to get up but try to balance it by not being hands on unless he becomes unbalanced. I dote but try not to smother. I’m fearful of not having him in my sight 24 hours a day but know he’s in good hands with my brother when I’m not there. I’m happy that he wants to see Mom as much as he can and encourage it but also try to instill in him that he is his first priority until he has his stamina back. I’m so fearful of screwing up and landing him back in the hospital so I’m more cautious than I probably should be. I’m sure after a week, I’ll be driving him crazy.
I look at my Dad, my Daddy, small and frail, yet so amazingly strong and I couldn’t be more proud or in awe of any one man. He has shaken hands with the grim reaper so many times in the last four months that he could pronounce him more of a friend than an acquaintance. To see him fail so dramatically only to recover just as phenomenally and to know that the reason behind his recovery and strength is his love for Mom continues to warm me. When faced with all my dad has gone through, most would have given up hope of getting well or ever seeing their beloved again a long time ago. While Daddy had his moment of despair, it didn’t last long and the fire never went out. I am grateful to God, who I struggled with and didn’t pray to as much as I probably should have, for not taking him just yet. Our family has a lot more to do with and for each other. My father is truly my hero and my mother, my heroine. That is something that simply will never change and I would do anything for either one of them.
I want to take a moment to thank every single one of you who have called to check in on Dad and to offer support or just a shoulder to lean on. A huge hug to Cathy and Christine….I don’t know what Paul and I would have done without your vigilance to our own well-being and your faithfulness at every single emergency room situation. You kept and continue to keep us sane. Auntie Alice and Uncle Louie, we couldn’t have done it without you….at all. We are forever indebted to you. Debbie, Michael, Judy, Marie and Cindy, you have no idea how much your visits meant to my parents. They’re still talking about your coming all the way here simply to visit for a little while. Milly and Tom, your visits made them smile and brought tears and for that there are no words. Carrie, Auntie Charlotte and Uncle Tom, thank you for your wisdom and being there when I just felt like screaming and venting. To Kath and Jeanie, thank you for the dinners that took my mind off of the day to day and the late night runs at the last minute to my house to take care of the kids. To Auntie Amelia, your emails were a great support. To Auntie Julia, visiting through your own suffering was extraordinary and amazing to me. I love you. To everyone who sent cards and well wishes, your gestures always came at the perfect time. Having such a wonderful, supportive group of family and friends helps us every day.