Pocketful of Grief

I carry my my grief along with the river that runs through me; And woven throughout out it are deep pockets. My grief catches me off guard when I’m unaware. Casually, I’ll be reminiscing and there will be; My well of tears floods over. I’ve found myself reminiscing in endless circles as snapshots and memories of the last five months ripple through my mind.

I’ve been so caught in the waves of emotions, I’ve forgotten too many times to take medications; With less medication to help me cope with my losses, my sorrow deepens in strength. It is choking me up within its current. I remember moment after moment, as my father became ill, got better, then had no appetite; His struggle to eat..; The enormity of his situation keeps coming back to haunt me.

I had always been capable of turning his health around, saving the situation, advocating on his behalf before. I have always been the purposeful force making sure everything was done well for him. I just cannot comprehend what changed, There were moments when we were right on the same path, clicking along; Yet at other times, his temper would get the best of him and he would strike out against my need to help. Maybe he took me as trying to be authoritative. Yet his clarity of thought was just as crystal as it always had been. In the hospital I’d feel like as I tried in vain to communicate with him, he would tell me, “You don’t understand”, and he would shake his head from side to side. I was sitting in a hospital recliner and I felt so powerless, helpless… I felt like a little girl all over again. “What dad, what is it I don’t understand?” … but he fell silent & just kept shaking his head from side to side.

It was like, I was losing time with him. I didn’t want to lose him along with losing time. Disagreeing, arguing was going to cheat us of precious time. I chose to step back from the fight, disengage from a power struggle; Instead, I chose to talk to the doctors and help dad as much as I could without triggering conflict; Accomplishing this task was so much more complex than in reads on paper. He was so very ill, he needed myself or one of my sisters by his side as close to 24 hours a day as possible. I asked my sister to take days, and I would take nights. This was the first time my little sister had ever taken on a task like this for Dad was sick like this to the point of needing hospitalization. She tried so hard to do everything perfectly, paid attention to details, and I felt in many ways she was a bit too trusting of doctors without question.

And as time wore us all down, my sister & I argued more & more. My father tried to eat. The paperwork, testing and daily routine of the hospital became a grind. I would take care of his home, his little dog, Trixie who was also geriatric; She was almost 17 years old. While he was in the hospital, Trixie fell seriously ill and refused to eat. She lost her mobility of her hind legs. She sank into a depression. I would carry her around and take her on little walks. I would talk to her & tell her that Dad was coming home soon. Nothing helped little Trixie. She died softly and finally with no pain one early morning at an animal critical care unit. My baby sister & I were at her side.

Dad overcame acute renal failure, pneumonia, surgery on both lungs to remove fluid, he overcame atrial fibrillation in his heart …. and overcame and overcame. Then he caught hospital contracted C Difficile; It was really bad. He lost weight. He had even less appetite. As he stayed in the hospital, we would watch people come into the hospital and leave in good health. Then they put him in a quarantined room. That was an experience marking another change. If we felt helpless before, what would the word be to describe the profound feeling of isolation. Yet as they wheeled him into his quarantined room, we also recognized that over half of the rooms in the critical care unit were quarantine. Alarms go off in your head when you’re in a hospital with so many rooms marked for quarantine. Anxiety and panic washed over me. No, this could not be happening.

Dad tried to gain in appetite. He had difficulty swallowing. He had a Hyiatel hernia & Barret’s Syndrome, so it wasn’t easy for him to eat in the first place. It was easier for him to swallow on his left side than his right side. When the hernia acted up, he would hiccup as the food would pass down his esophagus. Yet he tried and he swallowed endless medications. He had endless breathing treatments. He laid in that bed and he tried to get out of that bed. He tried to walk even though his feet had edema. He tried.

The hospital released him to a skilled nursing facility 4 days short of a month. He had refused a feeding tube or a peg tube against all our hopes. Then, when he finally considered a peg tube for feeding just to get some nutrition into him, through this tough time, the surgeons informed him that his blood was too thin. I was incredulous. How the hell did his blood become too thin?! They were supposed to be running tests on that every day. No, my sister said. They were running those tests every OTHER day. The more I thought about it, the more I tried to make sense of it, the more I became infuriated. The nurses put up an emotional wall … and then ensued the dreaded ‘avoidance of eye contact’.

My Dad was they kind of person who felt that he was fighting against becoming an invalid. He did not want to go there. He was determined to beat this. He arrived at the skilled nursing center and choked down more medications. They crushed them in applesauce, puddings and jello. He became to detest anything sweet. He did not want ice water. It needed to be tepid room temperature water to assist his swallow. They brought in nutritional supplementation drinks, first like Ensure, Glucerma and then the hospital strength drinks. They were all too sweet. He came to hate milk.

He was at in a facility which was considered for it’s great food. It was a five star facility. He loved the food and he began eating … a little bit; And then, he finally beat the C Diff. We celebrated, for we believed we had rounded a corner. I would bring him turkey, cheese and olives. He loved that. He would ask night, “Did you bring some turkey?” … I would say yes, and then he would say, “maybe I’ll have some later.” We would keep olives in the drawer just in case he had a taste for them. We kept a cooler with turkey just in case he had the taste for it.

He had his daily activities; He had recreational therapies. He was doing really well. Then the speech therapist requested he have a modified barium swallow. The hospital had requested this test the first right after he had the double surgery; I felt it was too much. I felt it was extreme to shove a ventilation tube down his throat to begin with; because he had a history of having difficulty swallowing & complications with Barrett’s Syndrome and GURD.

A barium swallow is a procedure where they require you to drink a metallic infused substance as they Xray you as you are swallowing it. The substance wreaks havoc with your stomach & your digestive system. This seemed as it was one intrusion after another; So six weeks after he was originally admitted into the hospital, they finally got permission run their barium swallow test. Two days later, the C Difficile came back with a vengeance; It distended his intestinal track, his stomach and ripped away whatever appetite he had left. Because his intestinal walls were so thin to begin with, it added to his problems. To make matters worse, they put him on pureed foods, then liquified foods, taking every appetizing aspect of the wonderful five star quality food away. If he wanted a straw to take a drink, they refused it to him because apparently straws make a swallowing problem worse.

He became more dehydrated. They IV hydrated him but they had to call in a pict team in to put in the IV because …. his veins were all used up and thinned out from a month of IV hospitalization. Two days later he went back to the hospital. It only got worse. Then Sepsis came to visit. Shortly after the arrival of Sepsis, it seemed his intestinal wall was breached or punctured by infection. He took his last breath and died at 7:05 on a Wednesday morning; October 26th, 2011.

Do you know I’m grieving deeply? I’m finding fault with the hospital, the doctors, and myself. I’m going over each days notes, the hospital notes and the interactions I’ve had with the the doctors, nurses and techs. I’m angry with myself for not taking the days like I always did before, to take care of every detail.

And I do much better when I don’t forget to take my medication. It’s been 72 hours without sleep. Last night, Ambien did not work against the grieving. Two Ambien did nothing to bring relief or rest.

There is nothing, I’m bereft.
I’m inconsolable.

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