Saturday, November 26, 2011

So Much to be Thankful For

The day after my last post, our family had another near tragedy.

With mom away in the rehab center, dad was left at home all alone. Deb, Kevin and I had been going up a couple of times a week to check on him and calling him several times a day. Still, he hadn't been feeling well and hadn't been eating much and kept getting weaker. Friday morning on my way to work around 7:00 a.m., I called the house and there was no answer. It made me a bit uneasy, but I thought maybe dad was out getting the paper. I waited another five minutes and called again. This time, mom and dad's neighbor, Jose, answered the phone. He sounded frantic and said that he'd found dad in the driveway; he was curled up on his side and wasn't breathing. Jose said that 911 had been called and they were just pulling up. I told him I was on my way. I called Deb immediately and she made a quick dash into school to let them know there was a family emergency and she could not stay; she headed over right away. I called Kevin and he said he'd meet me up at the house.

Of course it would be raining that morning. Of course there would be a ton of traffic. Still, I made it up to the house in about 12 minutes or so. By the time I arrived, they already had dad loaded in the ambulance and they wouldn't let me see him. I knew by the look on everyone's face, it was grim. I began sobbing, got in the car and followed the ambulance to the hospital. I called Kevin and told him to meet me at the hospital instead of the house - I lost control and just sobbed into the phone.

When we arrived at the hospital, I insisted upon seeing dad. The ER doctor did try to stop me, but I marched past him anyway. Dad was laying on a gurney and did not look good. He was completely gray and his chest was sunken in. I leaned over and gave him a quick kiss before they rushed us out to keep working on him. Someone from the hospital - a social worker I think - escorted us to a private conference room. Kevin and I sat in there not knowing what was going to happen. We were both in a panic and crying. The doctor came in and asked what we wanted him to do. He said it did not look good and they didn't know if they'd be able to get dad to hang on. We told him to do whatever he had to do to keep him alive. At this point, Deb was still driving through traffic and hadn't yet arrived at the hospital. The doctor came in once again and told us that they'd inserted a breathing tube and had set up a dopamine IV; both things were keeping him going, but he was still in grave danger.

Deb arrived and we all waited in the conference room for the next update. The doctor came back in and told us that we could go in and see dad in a few minutes. The three of us huddled together and said a prayer. After several moments, we gathered together and went in to see dad. He still looked so pale and fragile just laying there in that gurney. Deb and I each took a hand and began talking to him. He was completely out - they'd also given him a sedative - but I still think that even in that compromised state you can hear what's going on. With that in mind, we just kept talking and talking. We told him how much we loved him, and what a great father he is. We told him he was a good man who'd lived a good life. We said that we didn't want him to leave us yet, but gave him permission to do so if that's what needed to happen. We took turns talking, and then talked at the same time. On and on it went.

Finally they told us that, though he was still in danger and they didn't know what to expect, he'd stabilized enough to be transferred to the Critical Care Unit upstairs. Up we went. As it turns out, he was placed in exactly the same room mom was in just a few weeks before. We affectionately dubbed it "The Maxwell Suite". We kept talking throughout the day and into the early evening. Around 6:30, dad began to try and open his eyes. We called the nurse in and she said that sometimes that just an involuntary reaction. She called his name and said "George, if you can hear me, hold up two fingers." HE DID! For another hour our so, he kept opening his eyes and looking around at Deb, Kevin and myself. He was agitated with the tube in his mouth and, had it not been for hand restraints, would have tried pulling it out. About 7:30, they asked us to leave the room for a while during the nurses' change of shift. When we got back an hour later, they'd sedated him again and said that he'd be out the rest of the night.

We called first thing in the morning before we left to go to the hospital to see if there was an update on his condition. The nurse said that he was awake, alert, responding to commands and seemed to be doing well. UNbelievable! By the time we arrived at the hospital, they'd removed the breathing tube (to which he responded: Well, that's better!) and he was breathing on his own and talking up a storm. He continued to improve over the next several days; his only complaint was that his chest hurt from the CPR the paramedics and docs in the ER had performed.

As it turns out, the reason the fire department would not let me see dad in the ambulance is because he'd crashed and they were certain that he'd passed away. En route to the hospital, they were able to resuscitated him - only to have him crash again while in the Emergency Room. When mom and dad's neighbors heard that he'd pulled through, they were astounded; they had been told that he'd passed away. I called the fire department that Sunday to let them know, too, that dad had pulled through; they couldn't believe it.

It's been a very long and emotional six weeks for our family. Both mom and dad have had some major obstacles to overcome - and are still in the long process of doing just that. However, at this point, they are both on the mend. Mom came home from the rehab center just this past Monday. She's still having difficulties, but is enjoying being back in her own home. Dad is now at the rehab center and will, hopefully, be coming home by the end of the week. It's a long and difficult road ahead. Deb and I were saying just this morning that it sometimes feels like mom is making a baby step in progress, and then a slide to two steps behind. We're still very concerned. Dad is really doing well. He's hoping to 'get his legs under him' and gain some strength so that he can be home soon.

Thank you for all of your kind wishes, words, thoughts and prayers. God is so good! Prayers do work, and miracles happen.

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