My Dad died on January 28th, 2017 due to complications after a fall. He would have been 85 years old in September. He and my Mom would have also celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary. This is the first in a series of articles written about his final days.
Article 6, Dad’s Death – 10 Life Lessons: https://goo.gl/SXh5NX
Article 5, Dad’s Death – The Aftermath: https://goo.gl/6YILxK
Article 4, Dad’s Final Days: https://goo.gl/k4PH63
Article 3, Dad’s End of Life Dreams and Visions: https://goo.gl/x2zvqA
Article 2, Dad’s Recovery: https://goo.gl/80ZBAc
Article 1, Dad’s Fall and Surgery: https://goo.gl/M7Xm65
Dad fell on Wednesday January 4th, 2017 and our lives were forever changed. He was taking the last Christmas wreath down off the back door and missed a step. As a result he fell backwards onto the concrete driveway. I was just finishing up at work when I got a phone call from my sister. She said Dad had fallen and could not get up. Unable to move him herself, my Mom had called the paramedics. I knew I needed to get home right away. I called my youngest daughter (who was still home on Christmas break) and told her what happened. I headed home. It was lunchtime, so in typical Los Angeles fashion there was traffic everywhere. I prayed the whole way home that Dad hadn’t broken anything but my gut told me something different.
As I was drove up our street, I saw the ambulance and fire trucks in front of our house. There must have been 6-8 firemen. My Dad had already been loaded into the ambulance. I spoke to him and he was in good spirits. I ran into the house to see how my Mom was doing and she was not doing well at all. In fact, she seemed to be in worse shape than my Dad. She said Dad had called her from the driveway once he fell. Thank goodness he had his cell phone with him and had been able to make that call. She went outside and he told her he thought he had broken something. My Mom asked him why he had taken down the decorations when everyone had told him NOT to do it by himself. Of course he didn’t listen. As he lay there, Mom called the paramedics who seemed to have arrived in full force. Many of our neighbors were also outside. One of them was in comforting my Mom. My youngest daughter drove up and stayed with my Mom. The paramedics told me they were having a hard time finding a trauma hospital with an empty bed for my Dad. After about an hour, they were able to find one at St. John’s Hospital in Santa Monica. It wasn’t the closest hospital but one we were familiar with. As I watched the ambulance drive away, something inside my head told me “he won’t be coming home.”
THE EMERGENCY ROOM
Once I got to the Emergency Room, I was allowed to go into my Dad’s room. He already had xrays and was waiting for the results. They were in the process of giving him some pain medicine. He was in decent spirits and able to converse. He felt bad about falling. He was worried they wouldn’t know all the medications he was taking. Coincidentally (or not) I had just put an updated list of his medicines in my wallet the night before. As I tried to talk with him and keep him calm, the Doctor came in to tell us Dad had basically “obliterated” his left hip, as well as the surrounding muscles and tendons. He said it was bad. He asked who we wanted to do the surgery and we gave him the name of my Dad’s orthopedic surgeon. He had already replaced my Dad’s other hip (and one of his knee) and was on staff at St. John’s. He was one of, if not the best orthopedic surgeons around. This brought Dad some comfort. Now all we had to do was wait for a room to open up for my Dad on the orthopedic floor.
While we waited, Dad was moved into a larger room in the ER. I think he finally realized that his fall had been worse than he thought. I could see the worry starting to form in his face. I told him to let go of any worry and to do what he could to relax. Telling my Dad not to worry was like telling the sun to never shine but I said it anyway. I knew if I was calm it would help him to be calm. While we were still in the ER, my youngest daughter called and said she wanted to come by. She was leaving to go back to college the next day and wanted to see her Papa. I told her she didn’t have to make the trip to the Hospital in work hour traffic. When she insisted I told her to head over. Her insistence confirmed to me that she thought this might be the last time she saw him. I didn’t push the issue with her and respected her need to be there.
When she showed up my Dad was happy to see her. He so loved being Papa to my three children. He loved them so much. His smile when he saw them always lit up the room. We all chatted and had a couple turkey sandwiches the nurses brought us. In typical Dad fashion, he complained about the sandwich being too dry. I thought it was good and was happy to have something especially since I hadn’t eaten since breakfast. My daughter stayed until her parking meter was about to run out. She gave her Papa a hug & kiss and I walked her to her car. I hugged her and thanked her for being there. I never brought up her insistence about visiting. Besides, her visit kept Dad in good spirits.
By late evening, Dad was moved into his own room on the orthopedics floor. We were told that he would be having surgery to repair his hip the next day. Luckily, his usual orthopedic surgeon was available to do the surgery. I stayed until I knew he was settled in. I kissed him goodbye and headed home. Little did I know how the next few weeks would change everything.
On Thursday January 5th, preparation began for my Dad’s hip surgery. Because it was an “emergency” they had no idea when they would fit it into the Doctor’s schedule. Dad, in his infinite lack of patience mode, asked a lot of questions no one could answer. I tried to distract him with other things to keep his mind occupied. By early afternoon, the nurses came in and said the surgery would be happening within the next few hours. I called my sister so she could head to the Hospital. By the time Dad was moved to pre-op he was joking and seemingly doing okay. The anesthesiologist came in and introduced himself to us. He said that having emergency surgery was less than optimum for someone with my Dad’s heart conditions but it was doable. Since my Dad was on blood thinners, they would have to give him a transfusion before and after the surgery to help his blood to clot better. With the type of surgery he was having (rod and pin insertion vice hip replacement) they didn’t think there would be a lot of bleeding. That sounded like a positive.
When everyone was ready in the OR, they took my Dad back for his surgery. My sister and I kissed my Dad, wished him luck and began the process of waiting. After about 2 ½ hours, Dad’s orthopedic surgeon called and said Dad had done well. He indicated it would be a slow and difficult recovery and that my Dad would need to be patient. I thought “Dad patient? No chance of that happening.”
My sister and I continued to wait for Post-Op to call us. It seemed as though it was taking a long time for them to call and deep down I began to worry. I called Post-Op to check in and the nurse said Dad was having a tough time. His blood pressure was high but hopefully we would be able to see him shortly. After about an hour, they said one of us could see him. I was “nominated” to go and headed pack into Post-Op. I have to admit Dad did not look good at all. To me he had the coloring of someone who was not going to make it when I walked over to his bed. He was nowhere near coherent. The nurses said Dad had communicated to them after surgery. In fact he told them to leave him “the hell” alone. At least he still had some spunk. Since it scared me to see Dad looking the way he did, I suggested to my sister she shouldn’t go back to see him. We needed to give it some time for his body to react to the drugs they given him. Maybe by then he would be more stable.
Within a few hours, Dad was stable enough to be moved to his room. My sister and I waited until he was settled in and then left for the evening.
Sending you love, comfort and peace!