Some Time Away

Greetings everybody!

It has been a while since I posted anything here.  I figured I would take the time today to write a post about what’s been going on and how things are going these days.

Let’s start in August of 2018. It was near the end of the month and a nice Summer day outside, not too hot(70 some degrees).  I had just gotten done working outside in the yard when I felt my phone vibrating.  It was my Mother.  I was all sweaty from just getting done cutting grass, trimming the bushes, and other outside activities(RE: chasing the stupid groundhog with a hockey stick) so I let it go to voicemail and I took a shower.  I came out of the shower and my Wife was on my phone talking to somebody.  She then handed me the phone and said she was going to grab me some clothes.  So I immediately knew we were leaving the house.  I got on the phone and it was my Mother.  She said that my Father had fallen outside, and was going to the hospital.  He was ok, but his arm was really hurting.  Now, if you don’t know, my Father is my best friend in the world, so I immediately got dressed and drove as fast as I could to the hospital.  I saw Dad in the ER and he said his arm was sore but he mainly was embarrassed since he couldn’t get himself up on his own when he fell. I told him it was fine, and that he hurt his good arm, now he would need to work on his other arm. I sat with him until they took him out of the room for tests, then I called my Sister and let her know he was ok.

My Father had been on dialysis for his kidneys at this point for about 8 years.  He has what is called a fistula in his arm.  When he comes back from the test, the orthopaedic doctor was with him. He said he had a spiral fracture in his upper right arm, but they couldn’t cast it due to the fistula(the port thingie ma doodle in his arm for dialysis).   So they had to put this splint/plastic armor on him.  They kept him for a few days and did some therapy with him on how to get up with his other arm, how to balance himself with his other arm.  He was not allowed ANY weight bearing on the fractured arm for 6-8 weeks.  Well, I knew how hard it was going to be for him, and he’s not that active anymore I figured he needed a new chair to help with this.  My Wife and I found somebody that was selling a fairly new lift chair after her husband passed away, so we picked it up and took it to my parents house so my Dad could use it when he got home the following day.

He arrived home, and sat in the chair and saw that it had a remote and I swear I thought he was going to wear the motor out that day.  He kept making it go up and down and showing everybody just how easy it was.  He was having the neighbors come in so he could show him this “magic chair”.  Seeing that he was in good spirits I told him to take it easy and I’d be back to check on him in a few days and to call/text me if he needed anything.  Things were going well the next few weeks, he was going to his appointments, getting around comfortably, all was looking good and we were thinking, “Ok, Dad is gonna be alright, just need a couple more weeks and things will get back to normal”.

Mid-October rolls around, and I get a phone call while at work that Dad had fallen again.  He was ok, but was still being taken to the hospital just to make sure he didn’t break anything else.  I thought to myself that he was ok, and I would go see him later after I finished work.  I called my Wife and let her know that I would be heading straight there after work so that she could either eat something without me, or come with me and we could pick something up on the way home.  She was not feeling that well and decided to stay home.  I got there after work and found him joking with his Nurses and telling them about how he fell while cooking breakfast.  He saw me come in and shook his head at me and said “I told your Mother that fried eggs were gonna be the death of me some day!”.  I laughed, gave him a kiss on his forehead and asked what the Doctors had said so far.  Nothing new broken, but it looks like the fracture wasn’t healing as fast as they had hoped and he still needed to keep the splint on for another week or so.  I told him that he was lucky that he didn’t break it again and told him he needed to start being more careful.  He gave his normal side eye and salute(it was our way of saying “yes boss” to each other).  I asked what happened and he said he didn’t know, it just felt like his legs were made of rocks that day.  He thought once he got up and moved a bit it would help, and maybe they were just asleep.  I spoke with his Doctor and they had him scheduled for an ultrasound and some xrays and he would call me and let me know the results.

They do not see anything with either test and think it was just from Dad being too inactive.  They wanted him to get up a few times a day and walk around the house just to keep the blood moving more.  So I bought him a new fancy shmancy walker(he called it the Cadillac of household travels) that he could use to walk with and if he needed to sit, he could fold down the seat and sit down as well.  He even “upgraded” it and added a small basket so he could carry treats for the dog.  He continued to do pretty well until Thanksgiving day.  I was at home getting ready to start cutting up vegetables and such when my phone rang.  My Mother said that Dad couldn’t get out of his chair and was really having a hard time moving his legs.  I went over there as fast as I could because I heard my Dad getting really frustrated and I didn’t want him to try anything and hurt himself even more.  I got there, and even with the chair fully extended he could barely stay on his feet.  I told him that he needed to go to the hospital, something was wrong and they had to fix it because he couldn’t keep doing this.  It was a sad day.  He really wanted to come to the house for dinner that night.  I think he knew it could be his last Thanksgiving and he didn’t want to miss it.

Things at the hospital seemed fine for the first week.  They were getting Dad up and moving around more each day, but he was still having so much trouble with his legs.  They finally did an operation where they essentially gave the arteries in his legs angioplasty.  He was out of it for a day or two but it seemed to start helping.  On Christmas Eve, my Wife and I went to visit him and by now he was on the rehabilitation floor, and he was laying in his bed with a hospital gown on.  This struck me as odd since on the rehab floor they wanted patients to wear normal clothes as it was a good exercise for them to dress themselves.  I could also smell something I also recognized very well, gangrene.  I walked over to his bed and I saw the bandage on his hip and groin where they did the surgery.  He had developed a sore on his side that either was missed for days, or he didn’t complain about until now.  Either way, it was looking pretty bad and smelled awful.  I spoke to his nurse and his doctor and they said they just saw it this morning and he was already getting IV antibiotics.  They also gave him something to keep him comfortable since he was in a fair share of pain.  I went to his bed and gave his forehead a kiss and told him I’d be back later that night or first thing in the morning.

I came back on Christmas morning, I brought him some pancakes, bacon, and such and my family brought their presents for us to the hospital too.  We wanted to bring Christmas there for Dad so that he didn’t miss out.  We were there for 5-6 hours and I had to go to my In-Laws for their holiday celebrations.  The entire time I was there though I kept thinking about Dad being at the hospital alone.  I got a call later that evening from my Mother who said they were transferring Dad to another hospital so that they could perform surgery on his hip wound since it was so badly infected.  I picked her up and we went to the hospital ER and waited until we were allowed to go back and see Dad.  They had already given him some fentanyl so he was pretty out of it, but we told him what was going on and that he would probably have surgery in the morning but they would call us and we would be there when he woke up.  I told my Mom I wasn’t leaving, I sat in his room with him, held his hand while he slept and stayed right with him up until they took him to surgery.

The surgery went well, they were able to clean out most of the wound.  It ended up being an area close to 6×9 and about 3″ deep.  The only complication was that Dad had to be intubated and they were having issues getting him off of it.  My Dad was a smoker for a significant part of his life, so this really did not surprise me that his breathing was a little behind where they wanted it to be.  They did a bronchoscopy on him(sucked all the gunk out of his lungs) and that seemed to improve his numbers for a while, but they then began to fall again.  They then tried a sleep apnea style mask for a few days and that was working pretty well.  They had to go in and do another surgery to clear out more of the dead/dying skin to keep ahead of the spread so he had to be intubated once again.

The entire time this was ongoing, I never left the hospital for more than 4-5 hours. I didn’t want my Father to be alone and unable to talk.  It was so hard seeing him struggle to communicate and getting angry that we couldn’t understand him.  He got so frustrated at some points that he would remove his tube. They finally had to restrain him and put on these white mittens that kinda resembled boxing gloves.  So now not only do I have to see him hooked up to all of these machines, I couldn’t even hold his hand.  Well, the hell with that I said and took the one mitten off of him and held his hand.  Nobody said anything to me about it, but even if they did, I wouldn’t of put it back on unless I was not in the room.

Dad’s breathing never improved to the point where he could be off of the intubation.  After staying on the Trauma Surgical ICU for more than 3 weeks, they said they would need to do a tracheal intubation.  I knew what this meant, I would never hear my Father speak to me again.  It hurt, ALOT.  I cried.  I am still crying. I explained to him what they wanted to do, and he nodded yes. I made sure this was what he wanted, and he said yes.  They performed his tracheal intubation, and he was transferred to a long term care facility a few days later.

It was mid-January now and winter in Pittsburgh can be rough at times.  My Wife does not like to drive in snow, so I had to make sure I was able to get things that were needed for the house when I wasnt at the hospital.  The company I work for was very understanding and allowed me to work remotely during the entire time.  The nurses would allow me to use their conference room if I needed a quiet space for a phone call as long as the room wasnt being used for anything else.  The most important thing to me was to be there with my Dad.  I wanted him to know that I was with him and wouldn’t let him be alone, or surrounded by strangers.

January 31st at 0645, my Father passed away. He went peacefully with me sitting there, holding his hand.  The doctors say it was a massive heart attack, but I knew.  His body was just so tired of fighting. So 2 days after we celebrated his birthday with him, he passed.  I’ve been having such a hard time with things since.  You see, he was more than a Father/best friend to me.  I feel as if my arm is missing.  The days after his passing were a blur. I remember them with no problem, but everything just happened so fast that I think to what the date is today and I just say to myself “Wow, its been 2 1/2 months without him and I still want to text/call him every day the way I had for the past 15 years”.  I suspect I will do that for a while.

His passing has been pretty rough on me. On top of losing him, we found out something happened with his life insurance a year or so ago and he never told us about it, so there was nothing but a $200 death benefit.  We found this out AFTER all of the funeral planning and services.  Shortly after finding that out, there was a pretty severe storm that came through our neck of the woods and ended up tearing off about 3/4 of the roof to my house.  It seemed as if I was being knocked down over and over again and I was really struggling to pick myself up anymore.  My Wife made sure I stayed in front of feelings and drove me to my appointments with therapists, psychologists, doctors, etc.  She knew that the family was going to need me to help them get through everything.

After all of the events that transpired in these few months, I was forced to do some things that were necessary.  My video game collection took a large hit as I had to sell games to help cover the costs of the roof/funeral/medical bills and such.  I had to start going through all of my Father’s things to find what we were keeping/donating/throwing away.  Make sure my Mother was ok at home alone.  She will be moving in with my Sister before next Winter, but for now, she is still living in their house.  It’s been a rough few months but we are finally starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel.  A good friend of my family, he and I have been best friends since we  were like 3, owns a bar with his Wife.  They are throwing a spaghetti dinner fundraiser for my family on May 5th and donating all the money raised to my Mother to help pay any outstanding bills, help update the house a bit before sale, and to show her how much my Father really meant to so many people.  It is going to be a great event and I am so looking forward to seeing everybody in person and thanking them.

So folks, that brings us to today.  I am still pushing on and doing what I can, but some days are harder than others.  I still struggle most days just getting out of bed, but do the things I must do to keep my family together and moving forward.  I plan to start a video blog series eventually(I bought a new camera specifically for this purpose).  When that launches, I will make sure to let you all know!  With all of this said, I will leave you with these thoughts: Please, PLEASE, if your parents are still alive..give them a hug, call them and tell them you love them.  Make sure they know how much they mean to you.  This goes with any loved ones!

*** UPDATE ***   If you are interested in donating to the spaghetti dinner, you can find the event here.

THANK YOU FOR ANY AND ALL DONATIONS!!!

Readers Comments (1)

  1. Jim, prayers are with you as you adjust to this new situation. I wish you continued strength and comfort. Losing parents is one of the most difficult times of our lives. I lost my mother when she was only 53, my first wife at 35, and my father when he was 66. About four years ago my second wife was twice given up for lost by doctors, but she has survived as a DBK amputee due to the same situation with gangreen due to mis-diagnosed kidney stones.

    You are correct that we must move one, treasuring the good things and being thankful that these people were parts of our lives, and looking at the good parts that bless us so much.

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