Monday, October 20, 2014

The Last Day, Part II

This Is My Very Favorite Photo of My Father 
Finally, about 2:30 he fell asleep, with Maggie and Raymond heading home.  He slept, tossing and turning, most of the night.  He woke up about 4PM, going to the bathroom, no problem walking, then went back to sleep.

Around 7AM he was up, again, going to the bathroom, no problem. He went back to sleep, a little, then said he needed to go again.  My mother helped him to the bathroom.  It was now about 7:45. 
He began passing blood, hemorrhaging.  It was dark rusty blood, indicative of a long-term internal bleed.  Nearly 12 years earlier, he had nearly died with bleeding ulcers.  We had monitored his health since then.  It was that kind of bleed. 

While she called Maggie, I did my usual, I don't know what to do, hand wringing.  We called Cathy.  On weekends, due to her extremely busy restaurant, I try not to contact her, unless it is an emergency.  When she didn't answer, I called the main phone, and had one of her servers tell her it was an emergency.  She agreed we needed EMS.  We all knew, once he was transported it was the beginning of the end.  I felt so sorry for my mother...

First I quickly dressed, then called 911.  An ambulance needed to come from town, which was unusual.  By this time, he was up, sitting on the edge of the bed, down, up again, and his color was growing paler and paler.  We had noticed the past month or so, that his complexion was taking on a jaundiced tone.  We were also very well aware he was in the final stages of prostate cancer.  This happens in any late-stage cancer. 

By the time EMS arrived, I was outside, waiting.  The first thing I noticed was how young the guys were. They reminded me of my nephew, Dustin, who is now EMS.  So far, it has been the only part of the process where I've really shed a tear. 

They recognized it was a bleed out, and wanted to take him to Roswell for additional treatment.  We said no, take him to Ruidoso.  He had a medical directive.  My sister and I have medical POA for both parents.  Our mother made the call.  Just take him there and make him comfortable.

I followed the ambulance, working the phone the whole time.  By the time I was able to be admitted to the ER (where thankfully we knew the nursing team), he was extremely weak, his coloring even worse.  His condition had deteriorated, that much, in just 45 minutes or so.  The nursing team realized who he was, matching him up to my mother.  For the past 5 Saturdays, this was my 4th ER visit - the other three with my mother - so they knew me.  When she arrived, a half hour later, they were working on establishing a couple lines.  Since they were familiar with her condition, chairs, oxygen, and eyeballing of her status began. 

An hour later the attending physician called my mother and I over to talk. He helped her into a chair, telling her he was bleeding out.  If they were to stabilize him, it would take a good 3-4 pints of whole blood, then they would transport to either Roswell or Las Cruces for more tests.  That was not an option.  He agreed with us.  If it were his father, he would make him comfortable. 

I called Cathy, then made more calls, going outside to tell Maggie to just go home, and not wait for us.  She had driven my mother into town.  A half hour later, after making more calls, and I went back inside the ER, the attending told me the end was going to be much quicker than we thought it would be. 

More calls. 

By 2:30, the put him in a private room.  Fr. John Penn did last rites and a final communion for him.  Josie stayed with us until after 9PM.  She force-fed my mother a fried chicken sandwich from Sonic, then took me for a quick supper.    When friends began arriving, I skipped out, to change, do laundry, and brush my teeth.  Once I was back at the hospital, it was nearly 8PM.  They lock the front doors at 8.  Josie made a Sonic stop for me, getting me my usual iced tea, and some electrical tap to repair my MacBook Air cord.  When she left, my mother and I settled in for the long wait.  By this time Cathy and Rachel were nearly in Fort Smith, driving as quickly as possible.

His breathing became more difficult and labored around 10:45 or so.  I called Cathy to tell her it was reaching that point.  I went back into the room, to prop up my feet.  Neither my mother or I had slept - more than a few hours -  since the previous Thursday, with one night's exception.  I was so tired the bottom of my feet hurt! 

We were talking about what sort of service my mother wanted.  I watched his complexion become paler and paler. Finally, she checked his breathing.  Coward that I am, I fled the room. I called Danny and Terri Flores, asking them to help us get through it.  While he was being pronounced dead, I called Cathy.  I still can't imagine how hard this was for her, still 500 miles away, knowing he was dying.  I think she had the roughest time of any of us.

It was after 1AM before we could leave the hospital.  Danny and Terry stayed with us the whole time.  My mother cannot get over how well we were treated.  The attending checked on her, constantly.  Techs from various departments, who knew her, dropped in, constantly.  The nursing staff was incredible.  I can't get over the care and compassion. As we were leaving, the ER doc stopped me, telling me how sorry they were.  He said they had been praying for us - the entire evening.

The service will be late Wednesday afternoon.

His final hours were quiet and peaceful.  His final moments were at peace.  It was a time of peace. 
He had gone home.

All rights reserved, SJ Reidhead

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