Monday, 12 March 2012

My Father

So much to catch up on. I mentioned back in January (yeah, it's been like that) that my father was in the hospital. While Chris and I were on our honeymoon, my parents made their annual retired persons pilgrimage to Somewhere Warm* and it was a Mexico year. My father got the flu, was very sick, and after about a week allowed my mother to take him to a hospital where they x-ray'd his chest, diagnosed him with pneumonia and treated him accordingly. My mother called Kaiser (their HMO) and arranged for him to be medevac'd to their closest hospital, in San Diego**. Because this was an international, privately chartered flight, it took a while to set up and get him transferred.

Once at Kaiser, they wanted to do an MRI but my father was in too much pain to lie down so they concentrated on sedating him. Meanwhile a nurse helped my mother check into the closest hotel she could think of and sent my mother to eat something and try and get some sleep. That night my father had a heart attack. They revived him, which is to say got his heart pumping, and finally got him in for an MRI where it was discovered that he'd ruptured his oesophagus and it wasn't his lungs that were full of liquid, it was his entire chest cavity.

My mother had left my father's iPhone as her contact information, but hadn't thought to turn it on - not that it would've made any difference as my father had racked up a $600 (data) phone bill using it in Mexico and AT&T did the reasonable thing under the circumstances and shut off service. Fortunately the nurse remembered which hotel my mother was at and the hotel sent someone to knock on her door.

My father had a couple of surgeries: repairing his oesophagus, adding stints to drain the foreign matter (food and liquids) in his chest and fluid from his body going septic, placing a feeding tube in his intestine. My brother Johnny got leave from the Army and flew down to San Diego to be with my mother***. He was able to get my email address from his wife and let me know (disjointedly) that our father was in a hospital, in a coma.

A week later, there had been no improvement. Johnny had had to go back to work after a few days so my mother's brother, Jim, drove out from New Mexico to be with her for a few days, then her sister, Kathleen, flew down from Alaska. My father had signed a DNR but Kaiser in Southern California doesn't share records with Kaiser in Northern California**** and my mother wanted him revived when they thought it was pneumonia. But it had been over a week and my father wasn't responding at all, not even to being poked with pointy objects, so my mother asked a neighbour to get the copy of the DNR out of the safe and fax it down (not that, as his wife, she needed it) and she had the feeding tube removed and the breathing machine disconnected and he passed away the following morning, on February 9th. He was 71 years old.

~ * ~

* In their retirement they invested in a time share, the kind where you have points and can pick from a number of destinations on the Pacific side of the US, Mexico and Canada. They've gone to Hawaii or Mexico once a year since.

** Over 500 miles from my parents' house, car, and support network.

*** Johnny pretended to be my father (John) when calling AT&T so my mother could have a working phone - apparently there was a $30 roaming bundle my father could have purchased to prevent the $600 in fees which they kindly applied retroactively. Johnny also taught my mother how to use the iPhone enough to read (but not send) emails and make phone calls.

**** Not keeping them in the same database makes sense - that would be huge to the point of unweildy - but not being able to access them at all?

1 comment:

  1. I'm so sorry, Jennifer. I only met your father a few times, and he always had a smile. You are in my thoughts and prayers. May he rest in peace.