“Hope provides us with the psychological and emotional energy to accomplish what those without hope often considers the impossible.”
The journey of dying has many stages – I have heard it called check-in stations. I know that some people bypass some of the stages/stations. Some people take their time and linger. Some people die quickly and easily, like my beloved Dad and best friend Marlene.
My dad suffered with a terminal illness called Alzheimer’s. It was dreadful seeing that proud, dignified man’s brain slowly degenerate. He lived with us for the last 18 months of his life.
After a year we decided to employ a full-time caregiver to keep Dad company and to assist him with daily tasks such as showering etc. On the 28th of April we had a wonderful day with all the kids – our annual Easter Egg Hunt. Dad played with the little ones and at the end of the afternoon abruptly got up and walked off. We let him be – he got tired of people and confused after a while.
An hour and a half later we walked one of the kids to their car and found Dad on the little bridge outside his flat. He had fallen and was unable to get up by himself. I remember thinking that I would have to move the bridge. Obviously my Dad’s balance was deteriorating. I also remember thinking that it was such a pity about the bridge – it was such a pretty feature in the garden…
On the 2nd of May 2011 Dad’s eyes are clouded over and he slept all day. He recognized no-one and his legs no longer received the walk commands… Every time he got out of bed he would fall. I was sleeping on the second bed in his room so I could hear him get up. I would put my arm across his chest so I would wake up when he moved.
On the 4th of May 2011 Vic was admitted to hospital for operation number 80. On the 6th of May Vic spent 6.5 hours in theatre with her colostomy reversal. The first time ever Brendon Bebington did not use the dreaded words – “I am cautiously optimistic” However in true Vic form Vic went back into theatre on the 7th of May for another 3 .5 hour procedure. Richard, the anesthetist, inserted the needle into the wrong vein when they mainlined her… Vic had asked him to try and avoid getting her hair all elastoplasted. Even the pain of the Elastoplast in her neck is too much post-op. Apparently it is not a common error but it happens. With Vic’s blood clotting problems is was a dangerous little exercise getting the needle out of the artery…
By the 9th of May I was absolutely exhausted. I had been unable to spend any time with the boys. And they really needed me. Between Vic/hospital/work/ Dad and the boys I was absolutely torn.
That night I did not hear my Dad get up during the night. He fell again. We managed to get my Dad back into bed but at 12:30 the next day Dad fell again and this time he was hurt badly. Dad was admitted to hospital and due to the need for 24/7 care was admitted to ICU. Whilst Dad was being admitted I had a phone call from my best friend Marlene’s mother saying that she found Marlene in her room, she thought Marlene was dead. Thank God Danie was with me and he stayed with Dad when I rushed off to Marlene’s.
My dearest friend was dead. She had simply had a heart attack and died! I had tried to phone her from the hospital to tell her about my Dad whilst she was dying herself!
The next day I met with the medical team. Dad appeared to be in a coma. The physician said that Dad had pneumonia. The Neurologist confirmed that Dad was in the Severe advanced stage of Alzheimers. The Specialist surgeon wanted to operate on my Dad’s aneurysm.
I made the heart wrenching decision that there would be no aggressive treatment of the pneumonia. There would be no operation. The Physician agreed with my decision.
On the 13th it was my dearest Marlene’s funeral. The next day I discharged my Dad from the hospital and brought him home. We had received the Hospice bed and Hospice had evaluated and accepted dad as a case. On the 16th Dad had a lucid visit with Ester and Yuri and Hospice started administering Morphine, Dormicum and Serenace subcutaneously. Dad battled to swallow and I was pretty distressed about his liquid and food intake. Dad’s core body temp had dropped to 34.5 degrees C. Hospice said that Dad’s body had started shutting down and not to worry about his food or liquid intake. On the 17th my beautiful father cried during a lucid moment because he could not articulate his thoughts and he was mumbling …
I played his favorite classical music and tried to keep him comfortable. I treasured every moment that I sat and listened to his labored breathing but I was at peace. There was nothing unsaid between the two of us. Yet I was so sad…I did not expect it to happen that soon.
On the 20th of May my Dad lost his battle against Alzheimers when he forgot how to breathe. Twenty three days after his first fall…
Why the detailed timeline in this post?
Some people take their time and linger. Some people get it over with quickly. For some dying is hard work. But all of us are heading towards the same destination. Passing through our physical stages of dying. Into death…
For a long time Marlene wanted to die. She did her best and yet only when it was her time did she go. Not on her timing, terms or conditions. But when her time came it was quick and hopefully not too painful. Marlene wasn’t ill. She was sick of life!
If I could ask my dad I think he would have been surprised at how quickly he died. Do I regret my decision to not allow aggressive treatment? No! I hope that if ever I am in the situation that my Dad was in someone would afford me the mercy to allow nature to take it course!
Vic has lingered for 10 years… It is really hard work for her…