Goodbye, Dad

So where were we? Oh yeah, the toilet had exploded on 12 DEC 2005. Shortly after attempting to mitigate the flooding coming out of the bathroom (if you have recently moved, you have lots of cardboard boxes, which make great carpet runner to cover up wet, shit soaked carpeting on a temporary basis), I called the property management hotline and left a scathing message. I thne returned to the computer room to attempt to set up the wireless network once more. Just as I got there the phone rang. An old friend of the family was on the phone and asked how I was doing. I was about to relay the story of the toilet, when she interrupted me and said my dad was in the hospital. The first thing I thought was car accident, but instead I was told he was sick all weekend and went into the hospital that morning. He was apparently in the ICU and getting blood transfusions due to internal bleeding. Mom's cell phone was dead and there wasn't a phone in the room, so the family friend was tasked with tracking me down.

Long pause as brain readjusts to the change in reality.

Thanks to the internet and the entire US government-industry partnership in aerospace, I was able to procure a ticket back home to Chicago leaving at 0630 the next morning. Spent the next little while packing, emailing boss and coworkers and worrying without useful data. Emailed my mom to let her know I was heading into town. Emailed my network of Chicago based friends to let them know what was happening. Worried but had no data to either calm myself or confirm my worries. Got a couple of hours of sleep, then drove to the airport.

Side note ot airports everywhere: If you are open for business (airplanes taking off and landing), your coffee and food vendors should be open for business as well. I do not function well on 2 hours sleep with no coffee. People near me are at risk of getting their heads chopped off with a single blow from the edge of my hand. This is the real national security issue facing our air transport system today.

Back to me having a bad day. Normally, I do not tend to sleep well on airplanes or in cars. I just have fundamental trust issues when someone else is in control of the vehicle. If you have this problem, may I suggest avoiding all but a couple of hours sleep and skipping caffeine intake for the day? I was unconcious for most of the flight.

Got to Chi-town, picked up the rental car, drove at best speed out to the family office where my mom was waiting (difficult in morning rush hour traffic). More disturbing news. Dad had received on the order of 4-5 units of blood over night. He was still unconcious. One of his doctor's phoned my mom and told her to rescind her request for extraordinary measures. Apparently, Dad had been diagnosed with cirrhosis of liver and the doctor said 5 years was a great run. No doctor had seen fit to mention this to my mom over the last 5 years. It is amazing how a portion of your brain can sit and be extremely angry, but also totally compartmentalized so you can function normally.

So we make the journey to the hospital and I get to see my Dad for the first time in several months. It's bad. It's about the worst thing I have ever seen. Dad looked already dead. He was plugged into about 3 iv pumps for different drugs as well as saline solution, all aimed at keeping his blood pressure up high enough to maintain life. He had a tube coming out of his throat that was sucking blood out of his stomach and dumping it into a small bucket (I am sure there is a fancy medical term for this, but let's just call it a bucket of blood). It was full. They had him on a respirator to help him breathe. It was set for about 14 breaths per minute and it registered about 28, so some part of Dad was still alive and trying to breath on his own, but it was very labored. His skin was like ice and his limbs were stiff from the effects of the blood pressure medication. Heart rate was low (below 60). Blood pressure kept dropping and they tried to up the dosage on the drugs, but they were near the maximum dosage. I never saw a single one of his doctors, or any doctor for that matter. I guess those fuckers were playing golf or something and did not have time to visit one of their oldest patients as he lay dying. Doctors suck. They are dead to me.

We stayed with him for a few hours. Do you know that nurses seem to be incapable of saying that someone is dying? They used some really stupid euphemisms. His soul is trying to go to heaven. Huh? Are we in a hospital or a church? Is heaven on the 8th floor near radiology? What the hell is wrong with these people? This crap is not comforting. All we needed was a straight answer (yes, he is dying, no there is no hope, I am sorry). That way we could get our heads around the problem, accept it and try to deal with the emotional fallout. Eventually, we left for a while. It was obvious he was dying, so we made arrangements with a funeral home and a church. Started calling relatives to get them ready, etc. We remembered to eat, which was good. Then we went back to the hospital for the death watch.

I have stood watches on a warship at sea. I have sat in a hospital awaiting the birth of a child (and watched and helped out as much as a man can in such circumstances). I have waited on the results of job interviews and school exams. Nothing compares to waiting for someone you love to die while knowing there is nothing left to do but watch. Dad never regained conciousness. Part of me is still convinced that his brain and mind were gone sometime the previous night. We asked the nurses to stop giving him the blood pressure medication. His blood pressure dropped so low that the automated sensor had trouble measuring it. His heart rate was getting so slow that the machine kept calling out a code that the nurses had to cancel. His breath rate dropped to the setting on the respirator. It seemed that was all that was keeping the body going. We asked the nurses to remove the respirator. They told us we had to speak to the chaplain. Apparently they do double duty as lawyers. It turned out we needed some sort of living will or durable power of attorney, which we did not have. Now, if any of those fucking doctor's had shown up, they could have written orders to remove the respirator, but it was now night time, so no doubt they were out having a few drinks somewhere instead of helping one of their patients. We were stunned. Dad was only hanging on because of the respirator. How much longer would we have to watch? All of the sudden, while we were arguing the insanity of the situation with the hospital chaplain, the nurse pointed to the screen and said he was gone. We all looked. Flatline. Just like on tv and in the movies. A straight line for the pulse sensor with an annoying extended beep. I almost expected to hear someone yell out "Charge paddles to 20, clear!". The nurse turned off the monitor and we left the room while the pulled out tubes and electrodes and everything else. After he was cleaned up, we went in and said goodbye. Then we filled out paperwork and went home.

The rest of the week went by in a blur. We waked him on 16 DEC 2006 and held his funeral on the 17th. I was a pall bearer, even though some told me that I was supposed to stand with my Mom. Somehow, I couldn't let others carry my Dad in my place. Since it was winter, we just delivered his coffin to the graveyard chapel. Too bloody cold to dig a grave. At least without heavy equipment. I stayed a few days to help out and then flew back to Texas.

I should mention that my pregnant wife came up with our 1 year old son to help me through the week after Dad died. Amazing what women will do for you.

I should also say that my best friend, known in this realm as Equalitist, stood by me through the death watch and through the week that followed. All of my friends came to the wake and funeral. Thank you all for your support.

I miss fighting with my Dad on the phone....

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