The weekend before Thanksgiving, November 17th to be exact, we were having Family Dinner Night at my parent's house like we normally do every Saturday night. My sister and her family was there, my fiance was there, Grandma was not there only because she wasn't feeling well. We had chili that night. It was a great night. We were all laughing and talking. Gene, my brother-in-law, bought a new gun at the Gun Show and was showing my dad. Dad, being a retired police officer and a Navy Veteran, loved looking at guns and enjoyed when Gene would show him the new ones. Dad was so happy that night. We all finished up dinner and put away they dishes. There were still some dishes in the sink, but they would just be cleaned later. Dad always hated a dirty dish in the sink so he started to wash them. He stopped washing them for a minute, we figured he got hot and went outside to cool off. He came back in and was having difficulty breathing. We rushed in and as soon as my mom, sister and my fiance could get to my dad, he collapsed. I got on the phone with 9-1-1 and my sister started chest compressions; my dad was having a heart attack. My brother-in-law snatched up my nephew and took him outside so he wouldn't see my dad. The rescue squad showed up and started working on my dad. They were able to get him stable and transported to the hospital. This was probably the longest 20 minutes of my life.
We all arrived to the hospital and were taken to a room to wait. The nurse would come in and let us know what was going on. My mom was taken back and was with him. Once they got him checked out and test run, we were all able to go back and sit with him. He was unconscious but stable. He was then flown to another hospital that would be able to care for him and treat him more advance than they could. So we then drove to Raleigh. We went to the Critical Care Waiting Room and waited for just a few minutes. We were taken back to the Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit and then sent to a conference room. None of us knew what to expect. By this time we have already all cried our eyes out. It had been a bad roller coaster ride and it was like we couldn't get off. A doctor came in and told us not to get our hopes up. Since dad was unconscious for so long, there could be brain damage, he could be in a vegetative state; things didn't look good. They were getting him settled in his room so we had to wait. They had started him on this Hypothermia Therapy where they cool your body temperature down to about 33 degrees Celsius. They do this to patients who have had a heart attack and gone unconscious to help save brain cells. We were finally able to go into his room to see him. The Dr walked us in and told us not to get our hopes up. Mom had to start answering some medical history on dad. They were behind him, and the nurse started asking questions. All the questions were yes/no. Mom would reply to the question. My sister, BIL (brother-in-law), my fiance and myself were standing over my dad just watching him when we saw his head move. We all looked at each other and thought it might have been a type of reflex to the medicine. Then the nurse would ask my mom another question and she would respond, and then my dad would respond...with the correct answer by shaking or nodding his head! We all got excited and told the doctor. So the doctor came in and asked my dad simple questions and my dad would respond. The doctor said that was highly unusual but it was a very good sign that he would have little, to no, brain damage. We had hope!
For the next few days were (my mom, my sister and myself) stayed at the hospital keeping watch over dad. We were all he had and we wanted to be there for him, whenever he woke up. I'm not going to go into the days/weeks spent in the hospital. I will just say that we had good days and we had bad days. Some of the good days consisted of dad sitting up and watching TV with us and whispering that he loved us and him making jokes or gestures. He was a very strong man and it was hard to watch such a strong man become so weak.
December 12 was the beginning of the end. He was to start on dialysis to help flush the toxins out of his body. We were all there (we never missed a day going to visit). We went in and told him we loved him and we would see him soon. He would give a wink or a smile to acknowledge. We waited and waited and waited. Finally, we went back into his room close to midnight and stood watch over him all night. We all got a couple hours of sleep, but were with him the whole time. Finally, at 8am on December 13, his cardio doctor came in and let us know the outcome. It wasn't good. At this point the only thing keeping my dad alive was the blood pressure medicine. The strong man who raised me, was still trying to fight, but grew so tired and he couldn't fight anymore. The decision was made (by all of us) to give him comfort care. It was 8:30am when the comfort care was given, all of his medicines were turned off. At 8:45am, we watched him take his last breath, and then he was gone. He gave a good fight, but in the end, it was just too much for him. My dad was 67.
It has been the toughest Holiday season without my dad. He was such a big staple in our lives. I know we all miss him, but I feel I miss him more. He was that one person who understood everything about me. I have nothing but good memories with him. One of my favorites are all the times we watched the Duke basketball games on TV (I was with him when he watched his last one). I love my dad and I will miss him every day of my life, but I do believe I will see him again. In my faith, we believe in eternal life. And it was said best at his funeral, as long as you talk about him and remember him, he lives on forever. I love you Big D! <3 little A!!
|At my nephew's 1st Birthday|
|Hanging out at breakfast a few years ago|