Hello beloved reader. I haven't written to you in a while and for this please accept my apologies. My dad, Captain Dave, passed away on August 30th. Today I want to take you back to August 29th and share what transpired.
It’s so easy to talk about the "benefits" of having a plan in place, but until you experience it, it's hard to describe what it looks like lived out in the world. In fact, without my partner, Steve, by my side, watching me make these tough decisions without a moment of doubt or indecision, I'm not sure I would have recognized exactly how prepared I was to make such decisions. I can tell you now, in hindsight knowing precisely what my dad wanted, and what he didn't want, was truly a life saver… at least for me.
Imagine my surprise when I got a call from the hospital less than hour later asking, "Where are you?"
24 hours before dying, Captain Dave's vitals were fine. I know because we left the hospital on the 29th and dad had been diagnosed with a UTI…a urinary tract infection. He had never had one before, but these things happen, so I wasn't too concerned. He had anti-biotics and great care, and we continued on with our lives, happy that dad was going to be feeling better soon.
12 hours later I received a call from his group home. Dad had become very ill and was vomiting, they had called 911.
I met the Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT's) at the house. He was not in extreme duress, but they believed he may have aspirated some vomit. When asked if I was following the ambulance to the hospital, the EMT saw my hesitation. She assured me that he would be in great care and that if I could not make it over immediately not to worry about it. I agreed.
You see, I had been in this same scenario dozens of times with my dad. Usually following the ambulance meant a minimum of two hours waiting. That's just the nature of the process and I was torn. I had always followed the ambulance and I always ended up waiting and dad was always fine. I made the executive decision to get my kids taken care of, call my sister, get into comfy clothes for the ER…etc., etc., etc.
Imagine my surprise when I got a call from the hospital less than an hour later asking, "Where are you?" At my worried response I heard, "Hold on, you need to talk to the doctor."
You see, my dad's body had gone sepsis during the night…meaning the infection had reached his bloodstream and was inflaming his body. In addition, he did indeed aspirate his vomit…meaning there was bile in his lungs, and a lot of it.
The priority was the aspiration. Dad had a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) on file. Under these unique circumstances what did the doctor want me to do? Insert tubes into his lungs to try to remove the bile or do nothing? She needed to know right then and there so she knew how to proceed. Without hesitation I told her to put the tubes in.
You see, dad and I had the discussed his DNR at length and what it meant to him. The bottom line was, if there was a good opportunity to recover, to "Rally" as he called it, he wanted that opportunity. I saw the tubes as an opportunity for that "Rally" and because I was his Power of Attorney (POA) for his healthcare decisions, I was the only person who could made that call.
Steve and I rushed to the hospital. After experiencing the tubes being put in (and the incredible 5-person team it took to do it), after seeing the amazing amount of bile being removed from his lungs, after the realization that his body was systematically shutting down from being sepsis, I knew there would be no "Rallying." Dad had had enough. His body was shutting down. I called my sister to let her know what needed to be done, then asked the medical team to stop everything and remove the tubes from his body.
Hours later I was able to be with my dad and hold his hand as he passed peacefully from this world. I was able to do it with no worry and no regrets about any decisions I had made. In fact, I never gave my decisions a second thought.
It was Steve. Steve my business and life partner who was by side, my physical and emotional support during that time, who shared how during this time of crisis and emergency, my non-hesitation on the decisions being asked of me was an amazing thing to behold.
While I would love to credit this to my super-amazing-on-the-spot decision making abilities, I cannot. I credit it to the many conversations I had with my dad. So many times we chatted about his life until I felt secure and crystal clear on what he wanted, so when the time came I was not crippled with indecision.
Thank you, dad, for talking to me. Thank you for trusting me to carry out your wishes. Thank you, so very much, for planning your story.