Thursday, September 30, 2010
Last year on this day, was a day filled without unexpected and emotional tolls.
On the 29th, I drove from my house over to my grandfathers, it was about an hour drive and I spent the night there because I was taking him to the doctor thenext morning. The first week of September that year, just a few short weeks ago, he had been diagnoised with lymphatic cancer. The oncologist told us it was non-aggressive and very slow growing. Grandpa and I walked into that meeting and out not really thinking anything about it, except that he wanted to fight it.
When I arrived at Grandpa's house that Tuesday night, I was in for a shock! His stomach had puffed out so much that he could not wear any of his clothes, in fact someone had went out and got him a pair of sweatpants and a hugh shirt just to wear to the doctor's tomorrow. Even worse, he was completely wheelchair bound! Just three weeks ago he was walking just fine, now he didn't have the strenght or the ability to walk anymore?! This was not right, something was going on.
Early on the 30th, we walked into the Oncologists office, I guess I should say, I walked in and rolled him in. The nurses were all confused. They remember him walking in the time before and now he was wheelchair bound. They were concerned. The oncologist on the other hand did not seem concerned and said that sometimes the cancer has a growth spurt. He wasn't concerend but if we wanted to try the chemotherapy, we could do it today, if it worked that would be great but otherwise he wouldn't try anything more than that. I was a little shocked. I thought this was nothing to be concerned about, a non-aggressive and slow growing thing, but now he is saying we have one shot at chemo and that is it?
So the nurse's set up the chemo treatment, and we spent the whole day in the room with them. My grandfather is my Dad's Dad, and yet my Gandmother, who is my Mom's mom (and yes that set of parents are divorced from when I was in third grade) called me and offered to go to the hospital with me that day. After the shock in the doctor's meeting, I was glad she was there. She and I and Grandpa sat in the room, with a couple of nurses coming in and out al day, and it was a relief to have her there to talk to and to help me when I needed it.
Throughout the whole day, while Grandpa was having this chemo treatment, if he needed to use the rest room, we had to pull him out of the chair, wheel him over, and literally pick him up and sit him down. It was awlful for me, not that I minded doing it, that was not the problem, but this is the man I thought was superman growing up, who never slowed down. He retired from working full-time, only to tae a job as a "part-time" gardener for a doctor he knew, which was really more full-time than part-time. The man who still planted millions of flowers in his own yard and tended them everyday with care and compassion, the man I never thought anything would happen to. I couldn't believe he was so weak and in such a short time, I was not prepared.
The nurses were great! They helped me get him to the restroom, they helped me get him food, and they were concerned that he was so week, in fact they did not want me trying to take him home, and to be honest I was not sure i could handle taking him home. Over the course of the day, he had gotten more and more weak and I was actually getting scared. The nurses pleaded with the oncologist to admit grandpa to the hospital for the night, but he refused. Finally the nurses told me that if they were me, they would just go ahead and go down the hall to the emergency room and let them admit him, because they did not feel like I could care for him at home, and I was feeling they were right, but at the same time I felt funny about walking ut the cancer treamtent rooms and down the hall to the emergency room. It just didn't seem right, but in the end, with the nurses and my grandma all encouraging me, I did do that. We walked straight down to the emergency room the minute we were released from the chemo.
We got to the emergency room, and before they head anything I had to say they took grandpa straight back into a room. I then talked to the nurses and told then the whole story of this month, how he was fine, walking and talking and being himself at Labor Day and how by the day before he was wheelchair bound, and today the chemo and how much weaker he had become in just this day, to the point that he really wasn't even talking and seemed kinda out of it. They ran a number of tests and scans and told me that he was sick, bery sick, but they weren't sure what was wrong but they were defintely admitting him.
Now, we got to the hospital at 8am that morning for an appointment with the oncologist. By 9am we were in the chemo treatment room, and it was almost 6pm when we headed down to the emergency room. It had been a long day and I was getting more and more concerned. by 8pm they had moved him into a room, and he actually seemed to be doing alot better. He was actually talking and some family had come in ad visited with him and he was resting. By 9:30pm he ordered me to go home and rest. I talked with At some point the nurses and they told me that they felt he was extermely sick but that they were going to take care of him and that I should go home and get some sleep. The plan was that I would be back bewteen 6-7am to talk to the doctors.
At some point in the evening, while we were in the emergency room my aunt came by and she took my grandma back to the house to get her car so she could go home. I was so glad that she was there and that she sat with me all day, but I really needed her to go home and take care of herself, and I figured I would be alright.
At 9:30 I left the hospital and went by the Subway and got a sandwich. Just as I was gettingback into the car my phone rang, it was the nurse at the hospital. She wanted to let me knw that she had gotten Grandpa moved over to ICU,because that way he could have a personal nurse that could devoted more time to him than she could, and she felt he really needed that. I asked her if I should come back in, but she said there was no reason,it was ok. So on the driv home I called my husband to fill him in on the events. Now realize that I had called him off and on throughout the day, in fact he also was encouraging me to take Grandpa to the emergency room to be admitted, so it was just the lastest information. I got back to Grandpa's house and walked in when my phone rang. It was my Aunt, my phone had been busy (talking to my husband) so the hospital had called her. Grandpa was getting a little delerious and asking for his brother and so they wanted us to come back. So I stuck my sandwich in the fridge and heded back, only two blocks away.
By the time I got back and got over to the ICU they wouldn't let me near his room, he wa coding, and they took us all into a family waiting room. I called my Dad and tried my husband, but he wasn't answering, by this time it was around 10:30pm. The ICU doctor came in and asked the story and I told him everything, then he said something that sent cold chills down my spine. He said "lymphatic cancer is very agressive, I have seen people die within days of diagnoise". He then told us that Grandpa had coded and they had to revive him and right now they had him on the ventalator and did we want to try to revive hm again, before I could say anything, the nurses called him and he said to think about it and that he would be back. I was in the room with my Aunt (Grandpa's oldest brother's daughter) and Uncle (Grandpa's younger brother) and I told them that I needed to hear what they though before I could make that decision. They were in favor of not making him suffer more and letting him go, and I was okay with that, but he was the last living brother my Uncle had, and I knew that I needed to know he was okay with it before I told them that. The docotr came back in andasked and we tol him the decision and then the nurses called him and told him that grandpa was coding again, this time he took us out there and we waited outside the room.
Even though you arn't suppose to use cell phones in the area, I was. I had to call my Dad and get him there. I had called him on the way back to the ICU and got a message, and his wife had called me back and I just told her to get him here as fast as possible. As I stood outside the room as they were working on Grandpa, I tried home again, this time my husband picked up, he must have been away from the phone earlier, and I told him what was happening, there was no time for him to even get there! The doctor came out of the room, and looked at me, and you could tell he didn't want to say it, but he had to tell me Grandpa was gone. They still had him on the vent and would leave him on it until my Dad could get there, but it would go off on it's own as he slipped away, but for all purposes he was gone.
I had held it together all day, but I lost it then. I dropped to the floor crying. This wasn't suppose to happen, he was suppose to be around for a long, long time, how could this happen so fast? I wasn't ready!! The nurses cleaned up everything in the room and allowed us in to sit with him until the vent went off. I sat beside him and held his hand. My aunt came in and said her goodbyes and went home, my Uncle came in to say goodbye and then he headed home too. My Dad finally arrived, he was in another town about 30 minutes away, and he was devasted! It happened so fast, and I had no idea it was happening until it was too late to get him there any sooner. I felt awlful, but he understood. We both sat there and cried with him, and tried to say goodby, until the vent went off, and the nurses said he was gone....at 11:59pm on September 30th, 2009.