These past 7 weeks have been a blur...an emotional blur.
About 3 months ago my dad went to the doctor complaining about severe pain in his neck. The pain didn't seem to go away, and he was given muscle relaxants t 3's and a doctor's note to take time off of work and to visit the chiropractor. A few weeks later my dad started having problems with his right arm and leg. At first it was tingling in the hand, and then it was loss of movement in the arm. Eventually the numbness went all the way down to his leg. At first his doctor diagnosed his as having a pulled tendon. She wrote him another prescription for t-3's and some muscle relaxants. I remember telling my mom that it wasn't a pulled tendon. For 3 weeks we watched him deteroriate. He lost most of the movement/feeling in his arm and his leg. The doctor put him on a wait list for a mri and ctscan,but didn't put him in the hospital. She didn't think he was a "priority".
At this point my family was beyond frustrated. My dad took matters into his own hands and dictated a letter that was written to his family doctor and our local mla. It was only after the Mla received the letter that my dad was given a bed in his local hospital. During these first few days he continued to get worse, as far as his muscle and nerve control. Originally the doctors diagnosed him as having a stroke. However;after the ctscan showed no evidence of a stroke they thought perhaps he had a brain stem injury(he had suffered a fall off of the atv a few weeks back). We were all so frustrated because all we wanted was a diagnosis. The unknown is often more scarier than the known. It was after 2 weeks in the hospital that certain members of his community pulled some "strings" and got him a bed in VGH. We were so relieved,he was finally going to get to the bottom of the problem.
He got medi-vacked to Vancouver on Tuesday and my mom followed on the next plane. After 3 days of testing he was diagnosed with having OPLL. My sister phoned me on the Friday night. Apparently the doctors had told them he should have been seen weeks earlier. They couldn't offer any guarantees,but without spinal surgery he would be a quadriplegic within a year's time. That night was brutal. Scott and I cried...and cried...I prayed so hard for some direction, peace and in the morning I woke up and told Scott that "it didn't matter if he ever walked again"as long as I had him to talk to that was all that was important.(Scott of course said, that he worried about his quality of life...he'd never be doing the things he loved to be doing).
That morning my sister phoned me and we got to talk to my dad. This was the last conversation we had with him. He told me that the doctor's said "there wasn't any guarantees" and I told him "there never is in life Dad". I told him I loved him and then had a major breakdown. Seamus spoke to him next and was equally distraught. My dad told Shay to look after his mom. Gavin got on the phone and said, "Grampa, are you okay?...Cuz everyone in our house is crying" My dad reassured him that Grampa was fine. He was in the hospital for a tuneup. Jonas spoke next and told him to "peace out...and that he loved him". Scott was the last person to talk with him and Dad told Scott that he'd be up and fishing and atving in no time. When we said goodbye we all shed some tears.
The surgery was a success. He was in surgery for 6 hours. (I believe they cut out the portion of the spine that had the "arthritic growth" in it and then put in screws for support...)This was Saturday.
Sunday: I got a call that Dad had a heartattack. This threw me for the biggest loop ever. Heart??? His heart was good. Apparently this was one of the side effects going into the surgery with him being diabetic.
Sunday afternoon he was wheeled in for angioplasty. He came out of this surgery fine. I felt relieved. He would start to get better.
Tuesday my sister phoned me and told me he had a slight infection. He seemed to be doing fine.
Wednesday: Scott, Gav and I went to go fishing for a couple of hours in Kitimat. We were planning on leaving to Vancouver on Saturday to see my dad before our holiday to the East Kootenays. Amy phoned us hysterically and told us that dad wasn't doing good. The doctors didn't think he would make it.
I got off the phone and felt my knees come out from under me. I was in shock. Scott and I held on to each other and cried.
Our plan was to go and pick up the boys and drive to Vancouver. Somewhere between Kitimat and Terrace we decided that I needed to fly out to Vancouver ASAP. We went past the airport and I bought a one way ticket to Vancouver and Scott took me home to pack. I had 34 minutes to get some things together. I did a piss poor job at packing. I didn't bring a full change of clothes, a toothbrush, makeup...it was quite comical actually.
The plane ride to Vancouver was a true test of faith. At one point I was ready to start negotiating with Jesus. You know...I'll go to church more if you give me another chance with my dad...yada yada, but I remember looking out to the clouds and just saying, "it's in Your hands. It is Your will." I gave it up to Him. This was the most difficult, yet freeing thing I had done.
I left the plane feeling scared of what lay ahead,but confident that it was God's will.
I was panic stricken when I arrived at the hospital. When I first saw my sister we started crying hysterically and I lost my contact. I am blind as a friggen bat, so we had to go and find a bathroom so I could take out the remaining one contact and put my glasses on(thankfully I brought my glasses!!) After getting my vision restored I got to see my dad...this was shocking for me. He was a strange yellowish, slightly mottled colour. He was on full life support. It was scary.
We stayed by his side taking turns and telling him how much we loved him. That night when I kissed him goodnight I wasn't sure if we'd see him in the morning.
Thursday: My dad turned 60. Amy and I sang him Happy Birthday. The nurses were telling us that he was improving. Later in the afternoon Dad responded to our voices and opened his eyes. He winked at me. My heart smiled like their was no tomorrow.
Friday: The doctor's told us that they were "cautiously optimistic". Dad seemed to be fighting the fight. He was battling the infection and doing very well. Scott and I decided that he would bring the boys to Jaffray. I didn't want the boys to see Grampa like this,and thought he was getting better. Our plan was that we were going to see Dad on our way back from our holidays.
He continued to show improvement for the next 4 days. During these days I got to tell my dad how much I loved him. He squeezed my hand lovingly and the nurses said he was the most calm when my sister and I were in the room. Even though he couldn't "speak" to us we did manage to communicate with him. We sang songs to my dad, and me and my sister gossiped about the hunky doctors or the new colours in makeup. We had hope. Every night before I left I'd hold his hand and say a prayer. My dad was never a believer in Christ or God. He often would talk that such beliefs were rubbish. My prayer was that he'd open his heart to Jesus and let him in.
On Sunday the doctors decided he was doing better. The breathing tube was really irritating him and they thought it was best for dad to have a tracheostomy. Because his heart wasn't so strong he still needed a lot of support with the breathing. We were told doing this elective surgery was one more step to recovery. At first when we told dad that they wanted to do the surgery he was angry. We had to calm him down and tell him that it wasn't permanent. The doctor talked with him and told him that this was only temporary and he would eventually be taken off of it. So he agreed to do it and my mom consented for the surgery. That night dad was the best I had seen him. He looked comfortable, clean and wasn't agitated. I kissed him goodnight and told him I loved him. He winked and squeezed my hand.
This was the last time I saw him alive.
We arrived at the hospital and missed seeing him go into surgery. The nurse was supposed to phone us and tell us when he was going in but never did. We went to the cafeteria and waited...and waited and waited. At one point I had the awfullest shiver. My mom said my body just shook and she looked to see if there was a wind coming in through the window. There wasn't.
We went back to the waiting room and waited..and waited and then we were called in to the "meeting room"....The walk down to the meeting room was long...nerve wracking and scary. I knew as soon as I saw the nurse that my dad was dead. The doctors came in and told us this was a complete shock to everyone. "Not the outcome they anticipated"...(no shit Sherlock!!)
My mom started to get angry and I looked over at the spiritual advisor and told them "it was God's Will". That's all I said.
Mom and I went to see Dad for the last time. I had never seen a dead body before. When I saw him I was shocked...not because he was dead,but because he had a smile on his face. A pure, perfect beautiful smile on his face. I told my mom that my prayers were answered and he was in Heaven. It was the most amazing sight to see. It gave me peace.
The rest of the day is a blur. I made some phonecalls. I shed way more tears than I ever thought a person could shed. That night Scott flew out to Vancouver and so did my sister and her fiance. In the evening we went for a walk. Because it was Canada Day there was a beautiful fireworks display. Those moments will forever be etched in my mind. It was such a powerful tribute to my dad....he went out with a bang.
Scott and I left Vancouver on Friday and headed to Jaffray. Our boys were camping on the Elk River with Scott's brothers and we had to tell them the news their Grampa was dead. This was the hardest thing I have ever done. It seems like a lifetime ago. We sat amongst the beautiful wilderness with the Elk River raging in the background and we all cried. That evening we went for a fish in honour of my dad and Jonas caught a big Bull trout on Grampa's rod. This was a wonderful experience. On the walk home through the bush Shay encountered a moose that stopped dead in its tracks and gazed at him before sauntering away. The last time Shay saw a moose was with Grampa in May.
We spent 3 weeks in Jaffray. Scott's family was absolutely amazing to us. We still managed to have a somewhat normal of a holiday despite the circumstances.
We got home 2 days ago and the reality of it all is hitting us hard. I spent last night at my mom's house and this was a tear wrenching experience. So many memories...reminders...a life cut so short. I miss my Dad. It still doesn't seem real.
2 days ago