What a fool am I
All I know is that I have never known emptiness like this. Five short days ago he was alive and I was taking him to the hospital after much begging on my part to get him to agree to go. He signed himself out 3 hours later against medical advice. Two hours later we went back when the doctor called home and told him he was in very serious condition. My brother, Charles, sat there all night with him in a chair beside his bed to make sure he didnt leave again. This was my Dad. The most stubborn man I ever knew. He would always get so angry with me and say, "Gail, youÂre so stubborn!" and I would say, "Well, where do you think I get it from?!" The next morning I got off work and went up to the hospital to spend the day with him. My mom was already there "babysitting" him. He was cranky about being there but we spoiled him the whole day and waited on him hand and foot to take his mind off of leaving. My Dad was well-known to all of us to have a reputation for signing himself out against medical advice at every occasion. He has suffered a massive stroke just a few months earlier and had to be taken by paramedics to the emergency room. As soon as he was lucid, he put his shirt on, tied up his shoes, pulled his IV out, and signed on the dotted line. I yelled at him every time he did this. I begged and pleaded for him to stay. He never did. I got to the hospital and was informed that my Dad was in very critical condition. His potassium levels were critical. The doctor explained to my Dad that this is the stuff they use to stop your heart for a death sentence by lethal injection. They pumped him full of sodium bicarbonate and glucose to try to lower this. His blood pressure would not stabilize and at one point was 50/32 but he was still awake. His bloodwork showed that he had suffered a heart attack sometime in last 24 hours. This was not his first heart attack. They put him on dopamine and lasix and a few other medications that I didnÂt catch the names of. We brought him heated blankets and a bacon cheeseburger and any other bribe I could think of. The day that he stayed in the hospital this last time I believe he only did it for my mom. My sister, Beth, came to the hospital in the early afternoon so I left to get my kids off the bus and take them to violin lessons. My Dad assured my Mom that he would not leave. I said goodbye and walked out the door. I went back that night around 8:30pm when I got back and got the kids settled in bed. My brother who had stayed up all the previous night agreed that I would go and stay this night and he would go in the morning. When I got back to the hospital I was told that they were transferring him to the Intensive Care Unit at the Memorial Hospital in the cardiac unit. My Dad was refusing to go. After much sweet-talking he agreed to go. The paramedics transferred him about 10pm. I wasnÂt allowed to stay in his room once we got there. They have different visiting hours. This made me angry but I was tired and I did want to go home. Here was a man who had a history of signing himself out, who was critically ill, and they wouldnÂt let me stay and I was feeling selfish. What a fool I am! I waited until they settled him in and went to visit him. On the way in the nurse told me that he wanted to sign a DNR and that the doctor would explain it all to him in the morning. He was talking about leaving. His belongings, his wallet, his clothes, were in a bag near the bed. I told him they wouldnÂt let me stay. He didnÂt look nearly as sick as when I brought him in the night before to the emergency department. His breathing was better. He seemed in better spirits. Looking back on it he did seem very tired. Worn out. He was dozing off and he barely woke up when another nurse came to take his blood. She put a tourniquet on his wrist and he winced when she poked him but didnÂt really open his eyes. When she took off the tourniquet the blood kind-of gushed out of his hand and the nurse panicked when she realized how thin his skin was and that it was an error to use the stupid tourniquet in the first place. His skin actually exploded and I was pretty angry when I saw what she had done. He barely even registered what happened and I chalked it up to having a long day or maybe some medication. Now I realize that it was his body giving out. Why didnÂt I see it then??? One of the nurses brought him a little TV to watch. I stayed about 15 minutes. I told him I had to leave but that I would see him in the morning as soon as visiting hours started and I would bring the crib board to beat him at a few games. He smirked. He told me he wouldnÂt leave. I said, "Bye Dad" and started walking out of the room. He said, "Goodnight". I stopped and went back for a second. My Dad never really says things like this. I said, "Goodnight, Dad, IÂll see you in the morning". I went and told the nurses that if he started saying he was leaving they should call me right away. I left. It was about midnight. I got home and didnÂt go to bed. I was tired but I sat there watching TV with the phone beside me. At about 1:15am the phone rang. My husband answered it. It was the hospital. My Dad was signing himself of Intensive Care! I couldnÂt believe it! My brother ran upstairs to watch the kids and we jumped in the van. The whole way there I was praying that the nurses were stalling until I got there. What was I going to say to make him stay? Please God let me find the words. We got there and ran into the hospital and the taxi was already there outside. There was my Dad, dressed and being pushed to the exit doors in a wheelchair by the nurses, to the exit and the waiting taxi. I ran over. I begged, I pleaded, I bargained. I told him I brought the crib board and that I would stay up all night playing crib with him if he would just stay. I yelled so much. I wanted him get back to his room and back to the medicine. He couldnÂt walk upright. He was staggering out in the freezing cold as he made his way to the taxi. I ran after him. I was crying and screaming. The nurses had said something about being able to make him comfortable. It was hitting home that he really might die. I held the door of that taxi open and yelled at him. I told the driver that he could die in his taxi on the way home hoping that he wouldnÂt take him. Finally, the nurse came up to me and said he was a grown man and could do what he wanted. I was crying and I yelled hysterically at her, "But heÂs going to come home and heÂs going to die!" She looked at me and something like, "So, what is so bad about that?" I couldnÂt believe this nightmare. We followed behind the taxi. There are no words to describe all the emotions I was feeling as I watched him get further and further from the hospital. I was screaming as I had never screamed before. I was pounding the dash. I thought I was going to be sick. I said some things that I wish I could take back. This one thing haunts me so bad I canÂt even believe IÂm writing it. I screamed at the top of my lungs, "God, if You want him so badly, then take him now! Just take him because IÂm tired! If he wants to go so badly then just take him now!" I will never know if He heard me and did what I thought I wanted. I donÂt even know if I meant it. I didnÂt want my Dad to die. I wanted him to stay in the hospital. I wanted him to live and feel better. I donÂt know why I said it. I was beside myself. We got home and I was so angry and scared and I didnÂt know what do anymore. My brother met us outside. My Dad got out of the taxi and couldnÂt even walk up the stairs. As soon as he walked in we started yelling at him. How could he have left?! Why does he keep signing himself out?! Does he want to die because he was going to?! I wasnÂt sure if he has signed the DNR or just discussed it. He didnÂt want to go back. He didnÂt want any more hospitals or doctors and he didnÂt want the paramedics. If I called them he wouldnÂt go. I was torn. Here was my father unable to walk, breathe or speak and he needed medical attention but had refused it. I wanted to do the right thing and I was angry. He had managed to stumble to the stairs going down to his apartment and was sitting on them. I was standing at the top of the stairs berating him and yelling at him and my brother was at the bottom of the stairs giving him crap. My brother yelled at me to stop yelling at him and my Dad just keep waving me off and saying, "You donÂt understand." I stopped yelling alright. Instead I slammed the door a few times and yelled curses to the air. That is the last time I saw my Dad alive. Sitting on those steps while I berated him. That is the kind of person I am. Someone who screams at their dying father as he sits on the stairs with his heart giving out. I filled the sink like I was going to do dishes because I couldnÂt think of what else to do. My husband left to go get my sister Beth to try to convince him to go back. I guess he thought there is power in numbers. I called my friend Melanie. I was hysterical. I was sobbing like I never had sobbed before. I couldnÂt think. My brother came running up and told me he was dying, he was having a heart attack, he was sweating profusely, he was having trouble breathing, and he wanted me to call 911. I asked him if my Dad had finally come to his senses and asked for me to do that and he said no so I refused to call. I said that he wouldnÂt go. I wouldnÂt call. My father was dying and I wouldnÂt call 911 to help him because he wanted the DNR, because he said he wouldnÂt go, because I was trying to do what he would want. Because I was angry and selfish and didnÂt see the terrible truth of the situation. Because I never really thought in my wildest dreams that this was really going to happen, that my stubborn Dad was really going to die. He was probably down there freaking my brother out because we were so angry and if he really needed the ambulance he would want to go. He would say that he wanted to go. Then I would know that it really was serious. It would be a sign that this was it. It would be something that would knock some sense into me. Of course I would have time to say goodbye when the end really came. And since I was upstairs and my Dad was downstairs and I certainly hadnÂt said goodbye, this couldnÂt be the end. Of course IÂm not that stupid. Of course I would see it coming. He was just eating a bacon cheeseburger from WendyÂs 6 hours ago. This is not how people like my Dad die. Of course I would have time to say "I love you" and "IÂm sorry" and "How do I live when youÂre gone, Dad?" and "You are the best Dad in the whole world" and "IÂll miss you". Of course I would be able to ask "How about that game of crib that IÂve been putting off for 3 weeks?" or "How about we start writing that book of yours?" There is always tomorrow and tonight there will be the next half hour at least. In my heart and my head I really believed these things. I am a fool. Then my brother ran up the stairs again and said that he had agreed to the paramedics. I picked up the phone to call and it was dead. I couldnÂt believe it. This nightmare would not end. I ran downstairs in time to hear my brotherÂs frantic cries for my Dad not to die. That has to be one of the worst things I have ever heard. My little brother, that I had abandoned, begging for our Dad not to go. I will always remember the exact pitch, the exact tone, the exact decibel, of those words that he cried out to the Lord that night. It registered that my Dad was sitting up on his bed when I hit the last step and this meant he wasnÂt dead right? Dead people donÂt sit up unassisted. I was screaming at him, "Where is the other phone?!" and finally found it. I called 911 just after my father died. He was sitting with his head resting on his chest, sort of slumped over on the bed. It hadnÂt registered that he was dead. I rubbed his back hard to rouse him as I was yelling at the 911 operator. He didnÂt respond. We laid him back and his face was turning gray and lips were turning blue. His eyes were open and dead. My brother was frantic. I yelled into the phone, "HeÂs not breathing! I gave them the address and then threw the phone. I always thought I would not panic if I had to really call 911. That I would be calm and give them all the information in an orderly manner. My brother was holding his hand and crying and yelling "Dad, please donÂt die! Dad, please come back! DAD! Gail, do CPR!" And I did. I tried to breathe life back into him; I tried to get his heart to beat again. I was telling him to hold on. I was telling him to come back. I was telling him not to leave. Where were those paramedics?! Those couple of minutes felt like a lifetime. They went on forever. My DadÂs lifeless eyes, that were as blue as the sky, staring unseeingly into eternity, and me counting 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and 5 and 6 and 7 and 8 and 9 and 10 and 11 and 12 and 13 and 14 and 15 and breathes and breathe. There was a terrible rattling sound and a sigh that would escape him after every breath. Like he was alive and feeling me forcing that air into his lungs. I will never forget this sound. I had hope though. He was sighing. My brother had run upstairs to wait for the paramedics and I was yelling at them when they got there. They were walking into the house and down the stairs! WALKING!!! I was so angry. I was so angry at them. I was so angry at me. If it was their Dad IÂm sure theyÂd be running. When they moved him his head just lolled and whacked the bed rail and I was so angry off when I saw this. I said "Watch his head!" I thought heÂd be needing that head and he wouldnÂt be too pleased about having a bump on it. He would say, "See Gail. ThatÂs why I donÂt let you call the paramedics." They put the defib pads on him and I saw a heartbeat and it looked good. I was so thankful and full of overwhelming hope. I saw the heartbeat! I wasnÂt imagining it! I called in time and I didnÂt kill my Dad. They intubated him. They told me I had to leave. I was begging to stay. I told them I would be good, I wouldnÂt get in the way; please please please let me stay with my Daddy. They made me leave and I came upstairs just as my sister and my husband got back. She could tell right away what had happened. The firefighters, the paramedics and the police all parked outside my house. There is no emotion that is named that can describe this feeling. I watched through the window. I watched them doing CPR on my Dad. I watched them trying to bring him back. I watched his chest being compressed so much better than I had done. I was thinking "Why arenÂt they shocking him???" They did not shock him because his heart was in an unshockable rhythm. Pulseless electrical activity. It does look like a good beat. But it is the most hopeless of all right up there with asystole. The dispatch called and said that the Memorial Hospital had told them there was a DNR. But then there was confusion about whether there was a DNR or if he had just told the nurse that he wanted a DNR and the doctor still had to discuss it with him. So they ignored the DNR issue and worked on my father. I was numb. Another part of me had taken over. My sister and my brother and I were hugging and bawling. Finally, the paramedics came upstairs. As soon as I saw them I felt my world fall apart. Before they even spoke. Before I even heard them say those words. "IÂm sorry for your loss. We did all we could do". I was unable to cope and thought I was going to collapse. We cried and held each other for a while. I went downstairs. My Dad was still intubated and he was lying with his arms straight out from his sides. He looked to be asleep. How unreal. This was my own personal hell. I said goodbye. The police took a statement. The coroner came and decided that an autopsy wasnÂt necessary. The funeral home took him away in the black bag. Somewhere during all this my husband took the kids to MelanieÂs. They did not know that their Grandpa had died. Today we went to my husbandÂs parents for supper. It was so hard for me. I envy my husband that he has a Dad. That when he says goodbye to his dad, his dad answers back. His dad wanted to play crib. I can never play crib with him again. Crib was something I played with my Dad. And I never seemed to find enough time to play very often. My little girl was calling him Grandpa and this was almost too much to bear. She should call him that. ThatÂs what he is. But heÂs not the Grandpa that thought she was the most special, most wonderful, most beautiful, of all the little girls ever born. My Dad doted on her. She could melt his heart. He always beamed when he saw her, when she spoke; he loved her to the ends of the world and back. She had just won a modeling contest the day before he died. The first thing I had ever entered her in and she won. She came home and ran downstairs to show Grandpa her trophy, her crown and her certificate. He was so proud and not the least bit surprised. He said he already knew that she was the most beautiful. And now he will never have that joy. I have lost so much. I open the door that goes to his apartment all the time just to look to see if this nightmare has ended yet. I can still smell him as soon as I open the door. The gauze pads and needle wrappings still litter the carpet in his living room. I cannot throw them out. They have parts of him on them. His hat that he wore everyday is on his TV stand. I have so many regrets. So many what ifs and couldÂve beens. So much guilt. I shouldnÂt have yelled at him. If only IÂd known he was really going to die I would have told him how much I love him. I could have taken his bag of belongings from the hospital. Maybe he would have stayed with no jacket to wear and with no wallet to pay for the taxi. He told me was going to stay. I trusted him. I would have called 911 right away if I knew he was going to eventually agree to it but too late. My phone would have been fully charged so those precious 10 seconds would not have been wasted. My Dad has been gone almost 5 full days now. I have never known such grief and utter despair. When I cry it comes from a place so deep inside that it feels like IÂm crying out of my soul. I weep and I feel nauseous and my sobs are from a place so gut-wrenching that I donÂt think that the well ever runs dry. I talk to him constantly. I talk to him before I fall exhaustedly into a fitful sleep. I beg him to come back. I beg him to turn back time and stay in the hospital. I come home and the house is dark and thereÂs no hockey playing loudly downstairs and I see my flag flying at half-mast and I know that I must face another second and another minute and another hour without my Daddy. HeÂs the only one I had. HeÂs the one thing I want. HeÂs the one thing I know I can never ever have. I beg him over and over again to forgive me. I say "Please, please Daddy, forgive your little girl. I am in so much pain, Daddy, please help me carry this grief." I need him to forgive me. I feel this is my fault. All my fault and I can never say IÂm sorry. I can never take any of back or make it better. HeÂs gone and IÂm here. This is what I am left with. This is the guilt and the sorrow that I have become. How will I ever find any comfort? I pray. I speak to God. I beg Him to help me carry this burden. It seems so unbearable. I ask Him to tell my Dad that I love him.