Thursday, May 7, 2009
My dad passed away Tuesday, May 5th at 4:45a. He was diagnosed with cancer April 16th. That is not a lot of time. I remember the sadness and fear I felt when he told me. The dr. gave him 6-12mo to live- which seemed like such a short length of time, and then suddenly like a long time. I was able to spend some time with him on Sat the 18th and shared the gospel of Christ with him, which he said he would consider. A few days later, he had his first apt with the radiation oncologist, I don't remember when in that short time span, but he had a brain MRI which showed the cancer had also spread to his brain. So, melanoma...which metastasized to his lungs and brain. WOW. So Tuesday he meets with Kathy-the most wonderful PAC ever, and she tells Cami to get all of Dad's affairs in order, he is Very, VERY sick. Panic begins to set in a little, this is all happening too fast. I head over Wednesday to spend time with Dad and see about 'those affairs' that need to be in order. We went to dinner at 13 coins- he had chicken parm and I had some kind of chicken with artichokes and Dijon; It was pretty good. The next morning, we went through some papers, met with Cathy from California Closets-did I mention Dad decided to re-do his closets?- the day went by fast. We planted some dahlia's, went through some more files, and I asked him about his wishes, what he wanted us to know, where to find things.....I met some of the people in his building, they really seem to care about my dad a lot.
Cami came and off to Group health for Dad's first radiation treatment. My brain was on information overload. We picked up some new prescriptions, including Chemo, and headed back. We all had dinner with Dad- he wanted a shrimp salad so that is what we ate. After dinner, Cami headed out and I asked Dad if he had thought any more about our conversation. He didn't remember what conversation, so I reminded him. Basically- Jesus wasn't for him. That was hard to hear, but no more words could come out-hopefully that was God shutting me up, not me being a gutless wimp. I left at about 8p ish- the bridge was closing at midnight and I wanted to make sure I was across before it closed down for the next 6 weeks. The plan was for me to come back in about 10 days to give my sister a little break. Craig was flying in Saturday and would stay til Monday, so Dad would be in good hands.
The next morning, Cami called after Dad's 9:30a radiation appt. Dad now was on oxygen 24hrs a day and needed someone with him 24/7. His balance had gotten worse Thursday and I was worried, but man-24/7?! He would take morphine as well to help with his breathing which had started to be an issue Tuesday. Cami arranged for Bill and Pedro and Lee to be with Dad until Sat morning- then Marty confirmed he could come and then Craig would be there and we would be okay for a few days. Cami was off to Portland for the weekend and I could be comfortable Dad was in good hands.
When Craig arrived at Dad's-Dad wasn't Dad. He wasn't able to answer all of Craig's questions- he wasn't 'all there'. Dad's feet were swollen-that had been addressed at Thursday's apt, but had Dad made the medicine changes? Then Craig noticed the pill box Cami had filled up Thursday night- There were pills in the boxes that should have been taken already. The next thing I knew, Craig had called 911 and Dad was being taken to the hospital. The next few hours were horrible, Cami and i were hours away and didn't know what was going on. We had to just sit and wait for Craig to call- which happened at about 1:30a.m.
Dad was stable, but possibly over medicated-and-he had blood clots in his legs-which could move to his lungs and take his life. We waited to hear what we needed to do. I got all of my Cubbies stuff ready, made the phone calls, got Mom to take the kids and Korey and I headed around the Canal to head to VM hospital.
The dr. waited until we got there to take a CT of his legs to determine where the clots were and if Dad was a candidate for a procedure where they insert an umbrella to catch the clots so as not to allow them to reach his vital organs. So dad was taken to CT-if the clots were low- the procedure was supposed to be done. So we waited. When dad came back, the dr. wanted other physicians to look at the CT b/c dad was a difficult case. Heard that story before.
Things are already beginning to be blurred from my memory, those few days felt like weeks and a few minutes all at the same time. Dad wanted his will updated and we did everything we could to make it happen. Craig contacted dads attorney and she would fax over a will for Dad to take a look at and if all was a go, she would make the trip from Sequim and come over and make sure all was signed and ready if the worst happened. The worst was happening. Dad was having more and more trouble taking a breath and was sometimes cognitive and sometimes not- most likely the morphine, but possibly the effects of the tumor as well. We all left the hospital Sunday night and Dad slept well. Craig got back on Monday at 8:30a and Dad was still sleeping- great, he needed the rest. There was a group of doctors who were supposed to meet at 9a to see if Dad could have the procedure. At some point dr. Lim came in and said the clots were in a place that the procedure could be done. Praise the Lord! good news!! Dad said let's do it-and Dr. Lim asked him about resuscitation-what if his heart stopped-did dad want all measures taken to save his life? Dad answered yes- which surprised us. All of us had talked with dad about this and he had told each of us on separate occasions that he did not want extreme measures taken....but he was fighting and this was good. So they would squeeze him in later that afternoon for the procedure.
dad;'s friends started coming by and family. Aunt jo and Tara and Eric came by- Eric talked to dad about Jesus waiting for him, just needed the go ahead from him.... Dr. Calahan came by(oncology) and talked to dad about what it would look like if his heart stopped on the table during the procedure. 2/100 hearts that restart are hooked up to machines and it is left for the family to decide when to pull the plug. I was not there when he came in and told dad that- Eric was and he relayed that to Korey and I. That was around the 10:00a hour. Within the next few hours, his room was full of family and dad suddenly said to get the kids out of there. We had Ellie and joel go out with Korey or Josh and asked Dad what was wrong. I remember him saying he was just done. He didn't want to do this anymore. Cam and I were crying, trying to understand exactly what he was saying. He said his heart hurt-he was in emotional pain in his heart and it hurt to breathe. By this time he wasn't saying a lot, breathing was labored. Cami had him clarify-he did not want the procedure- he was done. He nodded and said yes. So we called and had the procedure cancelled. Dr Lim came in and spoke with Dad and heard him say the same thing, but wondered if it was the morphine talking- was this really what Dad wanted?
Shortly thereafter Dr. Nate Green, Dad's cardiologist came in. what an amazing, compassionate man. Dad lit up when he saw him. Nate talked to Dad for awhile and was so clear as to what would be happening if he was truly done with everything. He was kind and really helped Dad see it all for how it was and how it would be. He even spoke with Dr. Lim to let him know that Dad had told him last year before his open heart surgery that he did not want to be given CPR-he had dad given the no code status-which Dr. Lim was hesitant to give him. So, at that point, we knew Dad's wishes would be carried out. We feel like God brought Nate down to see dad at the perfect time- his life would be over soon and Nate saw to it that his wishes would be carried out.
So now, 'comfort measures' were being put into place. A social worker came in to let us know what our options were. We were able to stop Dr. Lim and ask him how long did dad have...his answer was shocking- a few hours to a day or so. Oh my goodness, this just could not be happening. The social worker said he would be difficult to transport b/c of his morphine drip and b/c his time was so limited she recommended he stay at the hospital. My head is spinning just remembering-information overload. What did we need to do.....the will. Dad wanted his will updated and Craig was on that. We needed witness-Craig was on that. The next few hours were full of so many tears. His friends came in and told dad how much they loved him. They told us how much dad loved us, that he always talked about us. Most of them knew exactly who we were the minute they saw us, they had watched us grow up in pictures and with stories and had been watching our kids grow up with pictures and stories as well. Nate Green said the same thing. He saw dad a couple times a month after his surgery and he always had stories about his grand kids. It was very evident how much my dad loved us-everyone had a story to tell about dad telling them stories about us. It was so neat to hear.
By this time, dad's breathing was labored. It took a lot of effort for each breath and was hard to watch. His eyes stayed closed and we gave him the min. of morphine waiting for the attorney to come so dad would be lucid when he signed his will. He definitely wanted to get that done. It was amazing how cognitive dad was- he seemed very determined to get his will updated. Now I understand how much effort that must have been for him. The morphine had been making him loopy the days before and now he was totally aware of what was going on, but his body was tired. We now knew that there were clots in his lungs. The clots were the reason he was having difficulty breathing, it wasn't the cancer. His body was being starved of oxygen, he was unable to take deep enough breaths and it would get more and more difficult as the night wore on.
His attorney got here around 6p Monday night. Deb and Marty and Roger had stayed a long time to be the witnesses required for dad to have his will updated and legal. They are very good friends and obviously loved my dad very much. After the will was signed, we gave dad's friends some time to be with dad and we caught a breather out in the hall. Jenna, dad's nurse was amazing through all of this. Compassionate, caring, authoritative when necessary-just phenomenal. We asked her what to expect through the night and she lovingly let us know what would take place. It was really hard to hear, but I still kind of felt like dad would pull through- he always had before.
Korey had taken Ellie and Joel back to Cami's, josh was working on getting home and aunt Joan was heading to Cami's so Josh and Korey could come to the hospital. Those few hours are a bit of a blur. Cam and Craig and I were alone with dad by 10p. We made sure he was comfortable and didn't have to struggle too hard to breathe. Jenna had made sure we got another great nurse, Andrea, who was great with dad. She gave him the necessary meds and just helped us through it all. I dozed off around 11:20 and woke up around 12:30. Cami and I stayed up while craig caught some sleep. At 2a, dad's breathing changed. It started sounding raspy-like Jenna said it would. He was struggling with each breathe. His whole body contorted in an attempt to get the oxygen he needed. Andrea came in and gave hims some kind of steroid/muscle relaxer so his diaphragm wouldn't work like it was. Dad was in and out of sleep, aware we were there. He let us pray for him at some point, but I don't remember when-earlier I think. We cried, it was hard to watch dad, it was hard to believe we had all been together the week before with the kids and GG and enjoying each other. Dad looked so frail and weak, not like dad at all. He would suddenly wake up and want to sit up, so we would help him do that until he couldn't keep himself up anymore. I remember putting my head to his chest and just crying-this could not be happening.
I started counting the seconds between each breath. First 3 seconds, then 5 seconds, then 8, then 11 seconds. I would hang on every breath waiting and hoping he would take it.
At some point, I dozed off again. I don't remember how long, but Craig put his hand on my knee and said it had been 20 seconds since his last breath. I sat up and grabbed his hand. It was cold. He took the tiniest of breaths- and that was it. He was gone. It was horrible, more horrible than anything else ever before. My dad was not dead, it wasn't possible. It didn't seem real. It didn't seem fair. We took off his oxygen mask-it didn't even look like my dad-it wasn't my dad. IT was an old man-not my dad. That wasn't what my dad looked like. I still can't remove the image of his body out of my mind. WE stayed with him for a long time, until it suddenly seemed morbid. Then I wanted to leave-until I was at the door. I realized I would never see my dad again. I didn't know what to do. It just seemed surreal, he was gone. It couldn't be-just couldn't be true. It was numbing walking down the hall. What did we need to do now-with dad. We hugged Andrea, told her thank you for taking good care of my dad and we went to dad's house.
Bert welcomed us with his purrrr and meows. We gathered up what we thought we should take, took the hide-a-key so no one would come in and touch anything and headed to Sequim to tell GG. We thought we should all go together to tell her.....
Posted by Mikie Smith and family at 2:40 PM