He was alert this morning. His face still showed that grey palour of sickness but there was a pink tinge to his cheeks that had been absent for so long.
Within seconds though, it was evident that the confusion that descends every time my dad is hospitalised had arrived.
Hours later and the alertness has diminished and the confusion increased. He has now been prescribed medicines to help but history has shown us that these take some time to work.
“No dad, you’re in hospital.”
“We can’t give you tobacco dad.”
“Dad, you’ve got to keep the mask on.”
Yesterday we were here from 8am til 4pm and then we returned in the evening. The grim reality of the situation is never far from our minds despite the slight improvement last night and this morning.
“He’s not out of the woods yet.”
The Non Invasive Ventilator (NIV) we have been told is keep him alive is doing its job. His carbon dioxide levels have improved. This morning though we have been told dad has refused to have it on – no doubt fueled by his increasing confusion. As the day wore on, it was clear to us that he was deteriorating again.
The mask has just been put back on.
It’s hard to process this roller-coaster of emotions and feelings. Hope to despair to laughter (fuelled by dad’s jokes when alert) to fear when his chest wheezes and his face pales.
It’s hard to see him suffer. It’s hard to think that he may still not make it. He has a ‘do not resuscitate’ order in place. He is not eligible for Life Support. And I really don’t want him to suffer. Then I feel bad because then it sounds like I want him to die. I want him to live in comfort. I want him to be happy. And I don’t think that is going to be possible, even if he survives this time.
I’ve taken to noting things down. Like how he told us yesterday that we were “the best four daughters [he] could ever wish for” before the confusion set in. Or the winks he gave me when he saw the tears I was desperately trying to hide.
The clock is ticking. We’ve been told that he can have the NIV for a maximum of four days. If his lungs haven’t sufficiently recovered by then we would need to consider end of life care. I get the impression that this would not take long. Without the NIV, we’ve been told his organs would begin to shut down.
Why am I writing this down? Why am I telling you all this?
If this is the end of my wonderful dad’s life, I want to remember it. All of it – the painful bits too. Because this is all I might have. These last days and hours might be it.
We picked up a booklet today on ‘Coping with the final stages of a long-term lung condition’. It is hard to read but really helpful and informative. Reading it, I realised that Dad is showing many signs that he could be at the end. Even if he survives this time.
When he survived the lung cancer four years ago, and the prostate cancer only recently (the cancer is being controlled by drugs meaning that it is not life threatening at present) I thought this could mean, if I was really, really lucky, that I had another ten years with him. He has older siblings that are still alive and one that lived til she was 90. I didn’t think about the others that have all died under 70.
My Dad… My generous, funny, loving Dad is dying. I can’t believe it. I can’t believe it.
For however long he is here, be it hours, days, months or years, I will cherish him. The best dad I could ever wish for.