March will never be the same

Sometimes our lives can take a turn that we’re simply not expecting.  My life did just that this month.  On Friday March 5th, I telephoned my dad to let him know that my husband John’s hip replacement surgery had gone well.  When I asked, “and how are YOU?” he replied, “not so good”.  He went on to say that he had been to his doctor and was told he had pneumonia.  Well, that’s all it took.  I was officially worried.  A 95 year old with pneumonia… it doesn’t take a nurse to know that that’s a bad combination.   Immediately the “worry wart” in me became activated.   But wait.  I’ve still got a husband in a hospital bed with an IV, surgical drain, and a brand new hip to worry about!  Okay, lets double the worry… why not?

On Saturday March 6th I was in a physical therapy class with hubby, trying to be a good “coach”, learning all the exercises he needed to do, when my brother called.   He said he’d taken Dad in to the ER, that he was now admitted to the hospital, that they’d drawn blood, that he had nearly no platelets, no white cells, and they thought he had acute onset leukemia.   We’d gone from pneumonia to leukemia in less than a day.  I decided it wouldn’t be smart to give this bad news to my dear husband who truly needed to focus on his own issues at that moment.   So… I glued on my happy face and walked the hospital halls with John, all the while praying fervently for both of my “special guys”.

Sunday March 7th was discharge day for John.  He was coming home, but not before we both attended his discharge class at 9am.  By 2pm I had my surgical patient loaded into the car, headed home.  Later on that afternoon after he’d been made comfortable on the couch, properly medicated, TED hose on, and awake from a little nap, I told him about my Dad.   John was shocked to learn that Dad had taken ill and even more surprised that I’d been able to keep it to myself during his hospital stay.  When I was finally able to “spill the beans” I also spilled a few tears.  Tears I’d been stoically holding inside for a couple of days.  My precious (and amazingly tough) husband said right away, “You’ve got to go be with  him!!”  I knew he meant it but I also knew I couldn’t leave just yet.  Who would change his dressing and watch for signs of infection in the wound with 28 staples?  Who would help him in and out of the shower?  Who would put on the TED hose religiously and wash them out each day?  For goodness sake, who would help him pull up his underwear and get dressed and put on his socks and take his temperature  twice a day and prop up his leg on pillows and make sure he took all the right pills at the right time???  Who would drive him to town every day for his blood check?  Who would feed our kitty Jinx when “Daddy” couldn’t bend over to even put food on the floor?  The answer: My WONDERFUL neighbors.  Oh how I love and am thankful for them ALL!!!

I left on Tuesday March 9th – John insisted I fly to avoid 4 hours on the freeways.  I hated to leave my dear husband, even for a minute — just FOUR days after a major surgery, but I knew I needed to get over to see Dad.  It was a blessing that I did.  Dad was totally coherent, albeit sleepy at times, but I think even then he knew his days left on this earth were few.   We talked a lot those two days I was there.  he told me he was so happy that I’d found John .  That it made him so pleased to see me content and secure.  He said he was glad I had a great “traveling buddy” 🙂  We chatted about my boys – his only grand kids.  And about all sorts of stuff.

When I left on Wednesday March 10th I told Dad I’d be back the next week, and I was.  Only this time the diagnosis had changed — and so had his condition.  Now Dad was in kidney failure.  The docs tried several things to kick his kidneys in gear, but in the end nothing worked.  Each day I watched as Dad got increasingly sleepier — the normal bodily reaction to built up toxins in the blood that would normally be filtered out by the kidneys.   My amazing husband – less than two weeks post op was with me every step of the way.  I thank God for giving John the strength to support me when I truly needed it the most.

My wonderful Dad went to Heaven to be with Jesus and my mom – the love of his life – on March 23rd.  He was kept comfortable and had great care from all the nurses.   What respect and admiration I gained for the nurses who come to work every day and face these sad situations.  Made me feel like such a “wimp” of a nurse – having chosen the “easy” part of nursing — babies.

Losing Dad is SO sad.  It’s devastating.  He was such a big part of all of our lives!  There is an empty space now that nothing can ever fill.  I’ll miss him and think of him every day for the rest of my earthly life … and then… one day we’ll all be together again.

Next time, a bit more on the upstanding man that he was.

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