The greatest man I've ever known
by Melissa Ruff
My father passed away May 9, 2010. He was the greatest man I ever knew and although I am muddling my way through the fog and haze that the "bomb" of his death left behind, I still feel as if someone has blown a hole in my world.
I can't really say that my dad's death was completely unexpected because he had been sick with asthma and was a heavy smoker all my life. We knew he had health problems-emphysema, COPD and asthma in addition to having survived a heart attack at 38. I guess in hindsight it really should not have surprised us at all but he was a very strong man and was working up until the day before he went into the hospital.
On May 2, 2010 my mom called and said she was taking my dad to the hospital because he was sick and having trouble breathing. Not a big thing to us because he would often have asthma or COPD episodes where he would get a cold or upper respiratory infection that required that he go to the ER for steroids and breathing treatments. So I said ok and asked my mom to let me know what they did.
Twenty minutes later I got a rather panicky call from mom saying they were intubating my dad and that he had agreed to it because he was struggling to breathe and his oxygen was low. Even then as scared as I was I didn't believe it was life threatening. I called my brother to let him know what was going on and then I waited at home with my daughter and husband for word from my mom. It was a restless night because we were all worried but still didn't believe he wouldn't get better.
That night turned into a period of seven days during which they put my dad (who had never regained consciousness since they sedated him to intubate) on a ventilator. During this time my mom called my dad's brother Jeff who flew out from Oklahoma "just in case". This should have proved that dad was dying or very seriously ill (our family doesn't just come out for nothing) but....it didn't. My brother and I both kept thinking dad was gonna pull through it.
I knew in my heart that the odds of a recovery for someone with my dads condition and a ventilator weren't good (I'm in the medical field) but I just couldn't think that this strong man that survived so many other health issues could die. It was unreal to me. Then the doctors told the family that dad had pneumonia and a staph infection and wasn't progressing like they wanted. He essentially made no changes from the time he came in other than getting worse.
They started talking about a tracheotomy and nursing facilities. This is when it snapped for me...NO WAY was my dad going to a nursing facility. This strong proud man that I knew would NEVER want to be in a nursing home...not for nothing. So while the family was debating on what to do...I cornered a doctor when he was talking to my mom and asked him...what are the odds of my dad going back to work, what are his odds of a recovery and normal life? Of course the doctor tried to dodge answering this question, for fear of being sued if he was wrong.
But I finally got him to admit that dad's lungs were not likely to ever function on a level good enough to support any semblance of a normal life. Dad would never be able to do what he loved (hunting, or woodworking) ever again. Mom and I talked to everyone in the family and we all agreed, this is not a life my father would want to live. He had told my mom a month prior that he never wanted to be dependent on someone else. This strong man would never want to have someone have to clean a trach for him, never want to be unable to work or provide for his family. So as heart breaking and horrible the thought of losing him was...we made the decision to turn off the machines and let God's will take over.
They took dad off the ventilator on May 8, 2010. He struggled to breath on his own and the hospital kept him comfortable. We all knew at this point that he wouldn't survive but at every jump in pulse ox, we were hoping they were wrong and he'd beat the odds. As his vitals dropped we all said our good byes. I couldn't bear the thought of being there when he died. I wanted to remember him alive and full of life.
So I kissed his forehead, told him I love him and that he was the best dad ever. I told him that I would always miss him but that I would take care of mom and Raven (my daughter) and that he could go to heaven to be with his brother and other family members. I left the hospital and went home. I still don't think at this point...that I really knew what saying goodbye meant.
Mom stayed by his side as she had from the time he went to the ER. Dad passed away the next morning, May 9, 2010.
It will be seven months in two days since my dad passed away and it still hurts like hell. I still think he's gonna walk back through the door and I still wonder how it is possible that I may live another 40 years without the greatest man I've ever known. But somehow through the pain and the tears...I'm still here even when it feels like it might kill me...I'm still here and life does go on.