Tuesday, April 17, 2012

A Milestone: Facing End-of-Life

My Step Mom called Friday night, I didn't get her message until Saturday and called right away.  Dad was taken to the Emergency Room back home, he looked awful, she said, like death warmed over, he was short of breath and retaining a lot of fluid.  She had called his doctor and after a short conversation he said he needed to go to the ER.

Fortunately my oldest brother was there to take him or she would have had to call for an ambulance because she can't manage him by herself anymore.  While walking to the garage, Dad fell against the wall, fortunately my brother caught him.

The doctors found a slight bit of fluid on his lungs, he was on oxygen, his sodium was at 119 when it should be 137 and expressed concern about him not taking the water pills he was supposed to.  He would take them out of the pill box and put them back in the bottle and make it look like he took them, but didn't.  Sounds like my Dad...

We talked about Dad's will, how he does not want life support, that my middle brother and I are Executors.  I'm hearing all this and it's not sinking in.  After I hang up, I get Dad's will out and read it.  He had his will drawn up in 1985, just two years after Mom died.  I have that feeling all the blood has left my body and I'm trying to make myself breathe.

I read his will, and yes, it clearly states no life support, and there are my brother's and my names in bold.  After my TBI I asked to be removed, Dad only crossed it out and put my other brother's name in so it's not legal.  With Richard in my life I'm much more confident and know we'll do the right thing.

My Step Mom called Saturday evening.  Dad was sounding and looking much better, she said, and that they took a lot of fluid out of him, he'd be there for a couple days.  She had called my Dad's brother and sister.  My Aunt (his sister) was a nurse in WWII so she accepts everything that happens.  My Uncle said he'd fly to Seattle if he was needed.

My Step Mom called again today and let me know Dad's sodium and weight are back to normal.  He is being moved to rehab today and they don't know how long they'll keep him there.  We again talked about life support and I shared I'd read his will and his wishes were very clear.  I start shaking...I've got to keep it together.

We talked about the future and how none of us know what will happen, but we four kids have to be on the same page about letting Dad go.  It's our responsibility.  No one ever wants a loved one to die, no matter what the relationship looks like.  I'd rather have a broken one than none at all.

Should Dad need to go to a care facility we have to decide that too.  I'd prefer in-home care for him if that is an option.  We'll see.

My Step Mom tasks me with calling my brothers to make sure we're on the same page.  Gulp.  OMG!  She is going to the rehab center to meet my Dad there and get him checked in.  I get off the phone, wanting to cry but have to do this now.

I pace, and pace, and pace, breathe, breathe, breathe, surprised by how the pacing helped calm my heart.  I cry a little, I go down stairs and back up telling myself, "You were made for this, you can do this."  I let myself cry a little, I pace more until I'm ready.  I tell myself this is inevitable and I have to prepare myself.

There is still that gaping wound, having lost Mom when I was 16.  I go right back to that place of loss, vulnerability, fear, panic.

We are NOT a close family at all, I think we're family by definition only.  We grew up in the same house.  That's about it.  Sad?  Yes.  I know.  I'd always wanted a close-knit family.

I get some water, sit down, take a deep breath, call my first brother, the one who is still in the area where Dad is, my oldest brother.  He said he saw Dad yesterday, he was looking really good and laughing.  He even got himself up to go to the bathroom by himself which he wasn't supposed to do.  Sounds like my Dad.

We talk a bit, it's disjointed, like our family.  With him saying Dad was doing well when he saw him yesterday, he does not believe it's Dad's time.  We talked about potential future scenarios, but we really don't know what will happen.

I decided to not call my other two brothers at this point because it doesn't quite seem like the right time.

We must do the right thing, honor him, respect his wishes and give him our blessing too.  Love in the beginning, love in the middle, love in the end...

I still feel like the blood has left my legs, the same exact feeling when it was time to say good-bye to my dog.


Riversurfer said...

I'm terribly sorry to hear about the really difficult process you're in right now... Though I'm very glad to hear that your dad is feeling better!

Hang in there dear RH, all the best *hugs*

ResilientHeart said...

Thanks so much for your note, I appreciate it a lot. It's amazing how one event can topple us over in an instant.

It is always in our best interest to find a pathway through, one we can live with for the rest of our lives and hopefully, no regrets.


Blessings, Love & Peace,