35 days in ICU...we lost you way too quick Dad. Still in shock 3 months later
(Boca Raton, FL)
I'm a college student and I just turned 21, sucks my dad couldn't be here to celebrate. I had no idea my dad potentially had cancer. He didn't want my brother or I to worry, so he didn't tell us that he had been going in for MRI's and scans on his chest. Apparently he had an abnormal node on his lung years ago and it recently started to grow. He didn't think it was a big deal because he minimized everything. By the way, he was a smoker. Anyway, at end of January my dad skyped me and my mom and him informed me that he was going to be having a little procedure to get his lung checked to make sure it wasn't cancerous (which he didn't think it was). Well sure enough it was cancerous so he immediately underwent surgery. I was 4 hours north at college at this point so I was really worried about him. My mom had a work trip a few days after his surgery, so I came home for 4 days to take care of him. The surgery went fine and they released him from the hospital a few days after(probably too early). This was the first time I ever had to take care of my dad. It was always the other way around. I was happy to help him during this time and I really enjoyed feeling close to him and making him feel comfortable. When he came home from the hospital he was obviously in a lot of pain...lung surgery is nothing to mess with. He came home and we got all his pills...I felt so bad for all the pain he was in. He wasn’t too hungry and the next morning he even made coffee since that was part of his daily routine. I don’t think he realized that he wasn’t “out of the woods” so quick. He wasn’t gonna be able to go back to work so fast and I really don’t think he expected this. He was home for almost 2 weeks and never recovered. It got to the point where he started coughing up blood and running a fever. During this time I was up at school again. I came down when he was readmitted to the intensive care unit of the hospital with double pneumonia (both lungs) about 12 days later. It was really scary being 4 hours away having a sick dad at home. I came home the day after he went back to the hospital. I remember this was valentines day and he texted mom and I to wish us a happy vday. He was “ok” during the first week. He was definitely coherent and knew what was going on. Since dad and I were never really affectionate and close in the physical sense, I think this really brought us together. I was able to use these care-taking skills that I never knew I possessed. I fed him, washed his face, and made sure he was comfortable. I sat there for hours just talking to him, smiling, rubbing his arms and legs with lotion. I showed all the love and affection that I had for him. This was the first time I had gotten so physically close to him…and I really liked it. I was sad to have to leave for school the following Monday. Luckily my spring break was only a week and a half away from then. I called and texted him every day after that. I also called my bro and mom to stay updated and make sure they were ok. This experience definitely brought us all together. I texted dad everyday to make sure he was doing his breathing exercises. I think this was very important in his recovery. He called me “dr. rose” and told me I was his rock of inspiration. I texted him to see how he was doing every day. I called and left voicemails when he didn’t pick up. I think he could tell how much love I had for him during this time...it was clear. I left him a really nice voicemail one day and he texted me after letting me know how much he enjoyed hearing my kind words. He said “I now know that love is your religion. For real.” This really got to me. “Love Is my religion” is one of our favorite songs. Dad and I really loved reggae…..this underlying love that I had for dad was finally able to really show.
I got much closer to him during this time and I was so glad he finally let me in. I enjoyed brushing his teeth, washing his hands, and feeding him. I could tell I was really helping and making an impact. Dad wasn’t himself during his time in the hospital. The day I came back for spring break, he actually seemed to be doing pretty decent. He ate the food I fed him and he loved the foot/hand massage I gave him. I can hear him telling me how “marvelous” it was. It sucked having to say goodbye every night. There wasn’t much to do in there, except watch tv and listen to music. Half the time he wasn’t coherent enough to know what was going on, so television was out of the question. It didn’t help that his bed was facing the nurses station…so much commotion. I wonder if he knew what was going on this whole time…..He developed ICU psychosis and he thought my mom and I were trying to kill him . He thought there was a fire and he was so terrified. It hurt me so bad to see him like this, I had to treat him like a baby...
Anyway, his breathing was so bad that he constantly wore an oxygen mask. His cancer wasn't even addressed at this point because it couldn't be treated until he was healthy. Mom and I had plans for me to stay home for the summer and help him with his chemo treatments. Well, that day never came. Dad was in ICU for 35 days. On top of the pneumonia, he had hepatitis C which recently become active, along with cirrhosis of his liver. It got to the point where nothing worked anymore. He was even put on a ventilator at one point. He was so weak because he didn't eat or sleep much. I couldn't believe this was my dad. We were literally just playing basketball like 1 month before this. And now he couldn't even stand up. When he was on the ventilator, he couldn't even lift up his head. I was so scared that he wasn't going to come off of it because he was so week. Well... he did luckily, but never improved from there. He was given a feeding tube since they didn't want to risk him aspirating into his lungs until he could pass a swallow test. He never passed that and he continued to rip the feeding tube out of his nose. This was almost 30 days after he was readmitted...and I feel like the doctors were giving up. They never reinserted his feeding tube, and dad couldn't even have water! Omg I felt so bad. He didn't even know what was going on, he just wanted some water.
The worst part of all this? No one informed us that he wasn't gonna make it. Each day the docs told us he was doing a little better, blah blah blah.....well 2 days before he died the doc finally told us that he was going to stop "sugar coating" everything he'd been telling us. He told us straight up that the chances he was going to survive were slim. This frustrated me SO bad. I still had hope before this and NOW he tells us......man I'm still in shock. And it's been 3 months. Each day is different. I'm studying to go to medical school, but it's very hard to focus sometimes. We are currently in the process of moving out of the house I grew up in because dad took out a second mortgage and apparently we were going to get foreclosed in the next few months. So, I'm grieving the loss of my dad, the loss of our developing relationship, and the loss of my childhood home. Things are so hectic and I feel so alone I miss dad more than anything and I can't stop thinking about him. I'm just still processing everything that happened...it was just way too fast...