(A small head's up - this blog comes straight from the heart without much thought paid to flow or narrative - it's a form of catharsis for me, difficult for me to re-read therefore it might be a little harder to read.)
My father passed away 64 days ago today, aged 66, after 16 days of battling with pneumonia, 2 days after Christmas, 5000 miles from my home and after a lifetime of being a wonderful Dad.
There can be no escaping the extremity of feelings that one experiences when someone so dear to you leaves this world behind and it has been no exception for me. There is rarely a day that goes by when I don't suffer moments of weeping, anger or just feeling plain old sad.
My father was an active man, having worked physically demanding jobs most of his life, he was as externally fit as one could expect; he neither drank nor smoke and his medical history was pristine. So it came as quite the shock when ,on December 11th, my mother called from a cold and wintry UK to tell me that my father was being rushed to hospital with a suspected pneumococcal infection. A few days earlier I spoken with my mum who told me that "dad had a cold" - now when my father caught a cold, despite his fitness, it always knocked him for six. It might happen perhaps once a year but he would often have to take time off work as he would be in bed recovering. He'd been that way since I could remember - perhaps he had a genetic weakness?
Whatever the propensity to acquire a bad infection annually it never crossed my mind that this would affect him in any serious manner.
As soon as I knew my father had been hospitalized I booked the next flight to the UK, leaving behind my family to man the fort. I would have loved for them to travel with me there and then but the cost of last minute flights were absolutely astronomical and, at that point, hoped that I would be gone perhaps a week at most - until my father recovered.
The next few days were and are still a blur to me. Daily visits to the Intensive Care Unit at the hospital, comforting my mother, talking about hopes and fears with my sister and sleeping only when exhaustion overcame me.
My father was given a variety of drugs to stop the pneumonia. The initial infection had now caused sepsis - essentially the body was "overreacting" to the infection and was beginning to damage his essential organs. Every day was a roller-coaster ride in which I held on desperately to a handful of medical statistics which determined if he was doing better or worse.
The level of oxygen in his blood His blood pressure The levels of toxins in his Kidneys His heart rate The amount of urine he was producing.
Cold, clinical facts that at the same time meant nothing and meant everything to me. Most of the time my father was unconscious- sedated to prevent him struggling with his breathing tubes and to ease his discomfort. On his second or third day in the hospital he was able to nod his head when asked questions and I sat there and tried desperately to tell him that I had traveled back from America to be here with him, for him to not worry about mum and for him to fight with all his strength and beat this illness. Every moment was a wish that my father would remain conscious enough to be able to hear the words I was speaking, I needed this communication - we all did.
As the days went by the doctors continued to swap one antibiotic for another, and another - some days the doctor would tell us his oxygen levels were better and that would give us hope, the next day he would fare worse but the following day, again, some of the indicators looked promising. This uncertainty, the ups and downs and associated hopes and fears signified the worst part of what was unfolding - there was just no wall against your back, no ability to know what was going to happen either way, no release from the anguish.
At this point my wife and daughter had now joined me in the UK which was a relief of unimaginable proportions. My 3 year old little girl walked through the arrivals door at Heathrow Airport and her face lit up in such a magical way when she saw me standing there and ran into my arms - tears of joy that day.
However, as the days painfully and slowly went by, my fathers overall condition deteriorated until the evening came when we were told "off the record" not to expect him to survive the night. What a night that was, awake, alive, too alive, too aware of everything - every little detail analyzed and analyzed, correlated and sorted in my mind. We waited for the inevitable in whatever way we could do best. Well he made it through the night. He was still with us in the morning and at this point I just did not know what to think. I still had hope in my heart that my father would beat this - that one of the drugs would finally kick in and he would bounce back at the last moment.
Later as the new day turned into afternoon and then evening the doctor informed us that they had noticed my father was suffering internal bleeding but they did not know why. From this point on things went rapidly downhill - I had left the hospital to head back to my mothers house when she called and told my wife that my dad, my dear dad, has suffered a heart attack and had passed away.
What did I do? I continued to drive home - I had to to get home. Once there I did the obvious thing and cried like a baby, as if that was the only way I could ever communicate - just tears and tears that just wouldn't stop - and they haven't yet.
That night was spent looking after mum, comforting her and putting her to bed. I was numb and then distraught, strong for the family then absolutely and terribly vulnerable. I was thankful for having my daughter with me who grounded me, being able to see the beginnings of life in her was and still is an invaluable tool that helps me get through the grief.
Down to the darkness, the cold, clinical facts again - an autopsy shocked us all - my father had suffered a cardiac arrest to low blood pressure caused by a drainage tube that had been incorrectly inserted into his chest causing massive internal bleeding. Bluntly put, the hospital had caused my fathers death.
The next few days of organizing funeral, paperwork, getting the house ready for visitors etc. kept my mother busy and that coupled with tended to my daughter kept my mind occupied to a degree.
Of course, I had to return to the US, we all had lives to return to and this would be the hardest part for me. Not only to leave my grieving mother and sister but to leave where my father had been, where he had walked, talked and lived his life with me as a child and young adult and go home to my life, to my world. Before I saw my father in hospital I had not seen my father for 3 years 0 when he and my mother flew here and held my Violet in his hands - a mere babe only weeks old and smiled down at her with the love I knew he felt for his children.
Three days before my father passed away the doctors had reduced his sedation for a few hours when things seemed to be doing better and he was awake when I saw him. I could talk with him and he could look at me and nod his head. My father was scared but he was also happy to able to see us all there with him. I was allowed this opportunity to tell him that I loved him, I loved him so much - this was something I had found very hard to tell him in "normal" life. I was able to see in his eyes the love he had for me, I was able to say goodbye without saying it. I was able to see my father one last time before he would be gone. I will be always grateful for that short moment that will last a lifetime for me.
And now, the days roll on by, life goes on but it doesn't. I feel like I am in free fall unable to accept that he is really really gone. Because I spoke with him mostly on the phone for the last couple of years their is an illogical but understandable part of me that expects him to call and tell me it's all OK. I know in my heart that as the days turn into months and years I will recover but with a scar in my heart and I know that my father wouldn't have wanted me or my family to suffer through this.
I have done many things in my life, I have been on many adventures, many journey's but this one was and is the hardest, the most arduous and most costly to my heart.
If you have got this far, I thank you for taking the time read this blog.
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