If you follow me on social media, you probably already know much of what I’m going to tell you in this post.
I’ve been a little uninspired to write for the past couple of months or so – nothing too exciting taking place, just being content with the mundane of things. Of course, I should have known that prolonged contentment would lead to my entire world crashing down at once, and I should have been more prepared for it, but I wasn’t. I’m still not quite prepared for what’s to come, likely sooner rather than later.
Monday, March 25, 2019 began much like a typical Monday. I had been working from home a few days over the last week due to the flu hitting my kiddo and myself. Rather than dreading an early morning, I was actually READY (borderline excited) to get back into the swing of things with my work and my residents. The day continued with a long list of “to-do’s” that awakened a desire for a glass or two of wine when the day was over.
I didn’t get to have my wine that day. Instead, I got a phone call from my dad as I was picking Cyan up from school. He sounded weak and panicked at the same time. “Calyn, I need you to come over and take me to the hospital.” What? My dad was requesting medical treatment? I knew something was seriously wrong, so I dropped Cyan off at home and headed to little ole Chetopa, Kansas to get my daddy the help he needed. When I got to his house, his condition was much worse than I expected. I had only seen him two days prior when I came to help him with laundry and cleaning, as his health had been slowly declining for quite some time.
Dad couldn’t get up off of the couch. He had soiled his pull-up and his blanket. He was in a state of severe respiratory distress. After a few attempts to get him cleaned up and standing, I realized that I was not going to be able to do this alone. I called for an ambulance. Within minutes, the house filled with first responders and people who had watched my dad play music for so many years, now only to see him in his most vulnerable state yet. Everyone was so kind. When the ambulance got there, we requested transport to Labette Health in Parsons, for financial reasons. My dad is 64 with no insurance, and he wouldn’t qualify for Medicare until November. His main concern was being able to afford everything, on top of his ailments.
I hopped into my car and followed the ambulance to Parsons, hazard lights on & doing 80 mph most of the way. When I got back to ED where Dad was being looked over, I found out that there was much more going on than a little exacerbation of COPD & CHF. They suspected pulmonary embolism. The doctor told us that with so much going on in my daddy’s frail body, he didn’t feel as though his team would be able to provide the care he needed. There was talk of intubation and a MedFlight to Freeman in Joplin, where other doctors were being made aware of my daddy’s condition.
Around 10:30PM, a helicopter arrived to fly Dad to Joplin. Once again, I got into my car and made my way across the country, arriving a little after midnight. When I got to the hospital, my dad was in ICU being studied by a nephrologist who stressed the severity of his illness. His kidneys were failing. His heart was only operating 10-15% of what it should have been, resulting in lack of blood flow to the rest of his vital organs. He couldn’t breathe. He was placed on O2 for the first time in his life. Years of drinking had caught up to him, as he also had cirrhosis of the liver. There were so many variables to his condition – where to even begin?
Over the next hours, multiple doctors came in to check on Dad. The nephrologist obtained labs and explained the process of dialysis, as Dad’s body was collecting toxins that weren’t being filtered out by his kidneys. After much thought, Dad and I made the decision to forego dialysis, as it would only prolong the inevitable for a number of months. My daddy was going to die, and without the necessary treatment for his renal failure, that time was sure to come sooner than later.
Oh, the tears. Where do I even start? We literally went from racing against time to save my dad’s life to accepting that no matter what we did, his life just wasn’t going to last forever. How do you accept the knowledge that your father’s days are numbered? How do you look at the time stamp placed upon his forehead and continue to breathe, knowing that the man who helped to create you would miss out on being a part of the rest of your life? I don’t know. I still can’t say that I’ve accepted it. Honestly, it’s been such a whirlwind – or shall I say tornadic experience – that I don’t really think I’ve optimally processed everything.
After the decision was made to withhold all life-saving measures, Daddy signed a DNR and we began discussion with the Palliative Care Team about what the rest of his life would look like from here on out. Everyone was so kind. I spoke with the social worker and we filled out paperwork for me to become Dad’s Power of Attorney, as we weren’t sure how cognizant or conscious he would remain in the coming days. We moved from ICU to a larger room on a lower floor – quieter and with an extra bed that I was given permission to sleep in. Do you know what sleeping in a recliner does to one’s back? After all is said and done, I will certainly become close friends with a chiropractor – take all of my moneys.
We consulted with Hospice, who would help to care for Dad and keep him comfortable if/when he made it out of the hospital. Have I mentioned how kind everyone was? From the honest compassion for our situation to going above and beyond to help with anything and everything, I cannot stress how kindness and love from those around us (caregivers, family, friends) made a world of difference in such a heartbreaking time.
As I said – if you’ve followed me on social media, you already know that there is much more to come of this story. I will continue to post in the coming days and weeks, or for as long as my heart can take it. Thank you for the love that you’ve shown to us on this journey. It means more than you’ll ever know.