A favourite quote and a way by which to approach life.

Today is the tomorrow that you worried about yesterday.

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

End times

Dad died the day after I wrote my last post. I asked the doctor if I there was any chance that I could go and say a last goodbye, but I wasn't well enough or stable enough. I know the consultant was right, but it's still impossibly difficult that I didn't get to say goodbye.

The last time I saw Dad was a couple of days before I came into hospital, although up until then I had been visiting him every day. I got a virus and didn't want to risk giving it to Dad so I stayed away, but when I last saw him I'd fully expected to see him again. Alive. I didn't know that the seemingly innocuous sore throat that I woke up with on the Tuesday was suddenly going to turn on me and have me almost dead by Thursday.

I woke up confused, not knowing whether to see a doctor or not, so I put it off so as not to be a nuisance. My mum phoned me in the afternoon, said I sounded awful, and I told her my dilemma. She said that if I was in doubt about whether or not to see a doctor then I needed to see a doctor - "That is the rule," she said.  So I rang the surgery, apologising for calling late in the day (3.10pm) when I knew it was unlikely they'd have any appointments.  Much to my surprise I was given one for twenty minutes later.

I waited fifteen minutes beyond my appointment time before being called through to the doctor, but almost as soon as he saw me he was calling for an eight-minute, blue light ambulance. In my confusion I was surprised. It frightens me that I am so poor at realising how ill I am, however many times it happens.

The paramedics ignored my calm demeanour and misleading numbers, correctly reading the calm as a sign of a life-threatening asthma attack, and the numbers as a tiring asthmatic who is too used to the scenario and is on medication that affects some of those numbers. They bundled me into the ambulance, miraculously got a cannula into a vein in my arm, and gave me hydrocortisone, adrenaline,  chlorphenamine, and several nebulisers. They strapped me firmly onto the stretcher, then tossed us through the streets with flashing lights, screeching sirens, and blaring horns. The journey to the city centre hospital took no more than five minutes, during which time the paramedic called ambulance control to give the A&E department warning of our imminent arrival.

I was taken straight into resus, where I was greeted by the waiting doctors and nurses, and was there only minutes before the ITU team were being called. An aminophylline infusion was started, blood gases were done, bloods were taken, an x-ray was done, the anaesthetist arrived, they all hoped the aminophylline would start to work quickly, but it never does. It works, but with me it takes a while, a long while. Hours. Time wasn't on my side and I was taken to HDU, but only in passing, because as soon as the anaesthetist consultant saw me he had me moved to Intensive Care.

I spent a week in ITU on BiPAP, all the while receiving texts about my dad's decline. The nurses rang the home for me to enquire how Dad was, but they never told us anything useful, and the real information came from Dad's wife - the news that his respiratory nerves had started to fail, he was breathless and distressed, time was running short. I was useless. I was struggling myself to keep breathing, and I couldn't be with him when I wanted to be.

I was moved to my usual ward, teansferred by ambulance from the hospital in the city centre to the one in the outskirts. Moved to the ward that is my second home and the staff are like family and friends. I was closer to Dad than I had been, but I still may as well have been a million miles from him. I so desperately wanted to be with him, to hold his hand, to say goodbye, to see him one last time, to see him as I had expected. It didn't happen.

At 12.25pm in the afternoon of Sunday 22nd February I received a call on my mobile, while I was lying in my hospital bed, to say that Dad had died just five minutes beforehand.

I hadn't been there. I hadn't been able to say goodbye. I hadn't been able to hold his hand. I hadn't been able to see him again as I'd been sure that I would. I still wasn't well myself.

More than a week later, I am still in hospital. My lungs are much better, but I am not coping terribly well with Dad's death, my own near-fatal asthma attack, my time in ITU, a whole host of emotions, and trying to think about Dad's funeral. I have a room on my own, and I'm ever so thankful for the privacy, but I still don't have the space to grieve. My day is dictated by the functioning of the ward, and all the while I'm here I'm watched. I need now to be home, except that I'm also fearful of going home, of the suddenness of my decline (again), and to be alone with my grief for the first time.