I know that this is a family based blog and usually we talk about fun days out with happy smilie kids, but life isn’t always like that. After 1 year has passed I felt it was worth sharing my experience, even if there are elements that may be grim.
My Dad (also named Alan) had been into work to see us on the Friday morning. He’d started a routine of visiting us on a daily basis mainly to keep himself occupied. At 82, he’d been retired for many years, but always remained very active. People were surprised he was as old as he was. You could say he was a young 82 year old!
He was a good listener. I would visit my parents on a weekend and just chat for half an hour. I would get things of my chest and my Dad would offer his advice. Usually I would ignore the offerings, but at least I had a place to vent.
Although my parents weren’t actively in our face as Grandparents to Imogen and Abigail. Whenever we went around my Dad would create daft games and stories to entertain them. Despite having a knee operation he’d end up sitting on the floor playing with holiday souvenirs and creating a strange connection story. It was amazing to think a story would connect a fishing Chinese Man, Spanish Bull, Eiffel Tower and a Scorpion set in acrylic from Arizona.
The Heart Attack!
As Catherine switched on her phone at 7:30am, while I got ready for work, a text message came in saying that I had to go to the hospital. My Dad had had a heart attack. Continuing to put on my uniform as I thought it would be a quick visit to his bed side and see his recovery. Catherine told me to wear something else. It never occurred to me that this may be the end.
I joined my Mother, Brothers and their wives in a quiet waiting room. Helping ourselves to coffee. They hadn’t seen him since the paramedics took him from the house. The paramedics had managed to get his heart beating, continuing on from my Mam’s chest compressions. The conversation was light and not really talking about the issue we were here for.
After a while a doctor joined us in the room and informed us that he was in a medically induced coma. He also pre warned us that there was a lot of tubing and wiring connected to Dad. Various questions were asked before we were taken to the intensive care unit to visit him, while he was sleeping.
As we walked in the room he lay there breathing fast asleep. The amount of monitoring and drug related equipment took over most of the wall by the bed head. One machine monitored the oxygen in his blood and the Carbon Dioxide being breathed out. Another monitor showed his heart beat and heart rate. While I stood there, I worked out that a heart rate and breathing was a good sign. We asked all sorts of questions about the equipment. What each part did, what was this fluid. Is this a good number etc. All the questions were to distract from the focus of the room. It was a bit too much to take in, so didn’t stop long.
Later that day he received a CT scan to check for brain activity. Sadly the heart attack had meant that he’d stopped breathing long enough to starve the brain from oxygen and his brain wasn’t responding. His breathing was supported with breathing apparatus. It was only at the point that I realised that he may not pull through. Although never really thinking he could die here.
In my mind a heart attack either killed you instantly or you could be saved and would recover with a slight limp. The situation we experienced was a heart attack that removed the brain and soul of my dad, but left a body that didn’t want to give up.
The hospital turned off his breathing apparatus and he kept on breathing. Apart from the rare eye movement, he wasn’t responding to our presence. One night I sat at his bed side stroking his hand, probably from over an hour. Knowing that the end was coming. The hospital was very clear that it was up to us how long and how often we could visit. I started to accept what was coming and only feel I was prepared for it by spending the quiet time with him here.
Over the following six days his body gradually shut down and eventually gave up. It was horrendous to watch this happen, not because he was in pain, but due to not knowing when the end would come. We knew it was coming, but with out knowing we were always poised to race back to the hospital.
At around 10:30pm we received a call that the hospital thought we should return as his condition had changed. By the time we’d driven back in to town and parked up he has passed away.
One Year On
When you experience a “sudden” death, it knocks you back a bit. It makes you realised just how fragile we are and how we take so much for granted. What was there one day is so quickly removed the next.
For about 6 months I would question “Why?” and bump into situations where “I’ll ask Dad”. Seeing a Car like he used to drive would make me for a split second look at the driver. Or a man on the side of the high street dressed similar. I guess I was in denial and hoped it wasn’t real and he would walk back into our lives again, as if he’d ran away from home for a break.
Now that the year has passed, it seems as though it has gone quickly. The months have disappeared faster than I thought. My conclusion to this is that I have focused on keeping busy and spending the time creating memories with our Kids and Catherine. This blog sprung up as part of a diary concept to be able to look back on when we’re older or the kids have grown up. Keeping a record of the fun we had and things that we’ve done. Photographs are great for jogging a memory, but how often do you do anything with your photos now. They never seem to get printed off and just sit on a computer hidden away.