This month is just getting harder and harder as the days are getting closer and closer to the one year anniversary of losing my dad.
I am trying my very best not to focus on the harsh memories and events that happened at the hospital, my dad was so sick and suffered through so much pain it is really difficult to think about. Its also hard to think about the roller coaster of emotions our entire family went through these next few weeks.
This day in particular, I had flew into California with a one way ticket, having no clue what the next weeks would hold for our family. I felt hopeful, thankful to be able to get the time off work to be with my dad, anxious about the what-if’s, determined to advocate for my dad with my nursing knowledge the best I could to ensure he had the very best care possible. I really had no idea what was going to happen from the time my plane landed but prayed my entire flight that God would be by my side.
I remember being so happy to see my sister and nephew. She looked exhausted after the long hours she had spent visiting with my dad and taking care of Asher, emotional and stressed was thrown in the mix too. My nephew made me smile as always and was a great way to take our minds off the anxiety over everything that was going on. We stopped at Starbucks of course and chatted as we drove to the hospital my dad had already been at for a week.
I remember walking into his room, determined to have a smile on my face no matter what I saw, and actually being taken back. I remember having to catch my breath. He was sound asleep, the morphine I’m sure, and looked so thin and weak, tired and sick. His skin was yellow from the jaundice and the tube in his nose really bothered me. I knew it was there, I have seen hundreds and in fact inserted many of them myself into my own patients but to see medical equipment on your own family is just a different ballgame. His belly was more swollen than normal from the fluid build up because his liver was sick. He heard us walk in and woke up with a big smile on his face, excited to see me as always. His smile tried so hard to assure me that he was going to be ok but something in my heart just whispered different. I remember biting my lip so I didn’t cry or show him I was upset. I wanted to be strong just like he was being and had been for so long. He got up and we all went for a walk outside, it was such a beautiful day out and the sun starting to set in the sky made me feel hopeful for what the next day would hold. There had to be some answers, it had already been days and days of the same tests, same pain, no solution. He stayed light hearted, laughing and joking with us, enjoying his family and of course Asher like he always did. I cant imagine he must have felt so different though having to be in a hospital gown, attached to an IV pole and heart monitor. I wished for just that afternoon we could have taken all that away.
I remember the doctor coming in when we were all in the room, a doctor I knew from the couple years I had worked at that hospital. He didn’t sound very hopeful at all actually, he explained the problem, all the tests that had been done, ways they had tried aggressively freeing my dads intestines from the obstruction that was causing so much pain. They had been putting off surgery because they knew that it would be too much of a hit on his already sick liver and there would be nothing they could do afterwards to save him. He made mention of him needing to be transferred to a major medical center that did organ transplants because he would need to be worked up immediately so that he could get a liver transplant as soon as possible after the surgery. I knew my dads situation was serious, but it was the first time that I had ever thought he would need something as major as a liver transplant. In order for my dad to survive this ordeal, he would need an organ from someone who is deceased. It just boggled my mind. Before he left, he made a comment that really stung and I will never forget the way it made me feel. He said that he was doubtful any physician at a major medical center would accept my dad because he is so “high risk.” That was the first time that the real severity of his condition set in. What do you mean no one would accept him? He was a normal functioning person three weeks ago, in fact he was on vacation visiting my family and while he wasn’t 100% he by no means was hopeless. This was my dad this man was talking about, my best friend, the worlds greatest grandfather to my two little girls. He was the best husband of 29 years to my mom. The caregiver for my nephew. We all NEEDED him, not to mention wanted him around for many more years. How can you say so casually you aren’t sure if anyone will accept him?? So then what? No one accepts him so we just let him die right here since he is too “high risk” for anyone to do anything? I was crushed. I remember sitting with my aunt that night and actually picturing in my head taking my dad to hospice. Just keeping him comfortable with even more morphine than he was already getting and letting him slip into a coma and die. Based on what that doctor said that was the next steps I was playing through my head.
That night, I stayed with him. I made myself a bed on the chaise/chair that was next to his bed and even though it was miserably uncomfortable it was nothing compared to the pain he was enduring. He would be in agony the hour before his pain medicine was scheduled to be given, deep breathing and grimacing tossing and turning. That night I will never forget the second time my dad broke down in front of me, the first being the day he lost his own dad. He was sitting on the side of the bed, trying to reposition himself to relieve some of the pain. I was trying to rub his back and give him reassuring words, anything to make him feel better. He just started loudly sobbing and telling me that he couldn’t do this anymore, the pain was just too much. I was speechless, literally no words would even come out no matter how hard I tried to form them. I just prayed quietly while rubbing his back, telling him it would be ok and that the pain would be gone soon. I apologized over and over again, because really what else can you say? The morphine came eventually and he was able to fall back asleep. I prayed that God would use me in some way to be able to comfort or console my dad, begging him to take the feelings of being helpless and hopeless away.
At midnight we got the best news I had ever heard in my life. A physician at USC Medical Center accepted care of my dad and wanted him transferred over as soon as possible. The nurse, Goldie, was working as quickly as possible and would keep us updated as things moved along…