Dad is coming towards the end of his journey now. There is no turning back. The alarm clock dial has been turned. Who knows how long that journey will be is anybody’s guess but he has started to walk the path now and so far it is a hard rocky road…. for all of us but hardest of all for dad. It is not easy to know how hard it is for him because he does not complain much, nor even moan. In great pain, all he would say is “Aiyoh, can die from this pain.” without much moaning or groaning.
When one of the nurses said “Come on, be a man” during an extremely painful bowel movement, he said “Why don’t you try to sit here and see?” When the doctor said “You must work harder. Work hard.” he said “It is easy for you to say.” He says all this as a matter of factly without getting emotional. That is the spirit of dad.
Dad is strong, brave and his mental will is there… but will his physical body keep up? We don’t know. A stroke followed quickly by an invasive medical procudure under ga, so much bleeding in between and a few blood transfusions and then followed by a surgery under ga all in one month. How much can the body withstand? An elderly body?
The other night when dad was bleeding a lot and the nurses were in a flurry calling the emergency at night, dad asked the nurses “Do people die this way?” and “Please call the doctor quickly”. Since it was night and a public holiday, I think, it took a while and dad mumbled “Don’t worry, God will take care.” When still no doctor was in sight, dad said “God is so slow. Nevermind, if its time to go then its time to go.”
The next day, he was back to his old self, making everyone laugh. He had to fast in case of the need for an emergency surgery which he eventually had. He was parched but he could not even have a drop of water. All he could think about was coke and ice-cream and anything else thirst quenching. When we asked him what he was thinking about, he said he was trying to decide which is better “durians or pineapples”. When we asked him which was better? He said “coconut” much to the amusement of everyone.
The nurses like him because he is very funny. When they come to change him, he was talking to them about having coke and chocolate and vanilla ice-cream.
I could kick one nurse though. She was so insensitive. We were not sure whether to tell him he had to go for another surgery but she came and said loudly “Uncle, you are going for operation now hah.” and then right in front of him she started telling me about how long the operation will take and “touch wood lah if nothing happens, you should expect to wait 2-3 hours.”
After that, dad started mumbling about wanting to eat, then sleep, then wake up to eat and sleep again and everything depends on luck. I said to him “daddy your luck is good so far” and he said “No.” Then he continued to say “Coke is the best” and I pointed to his nose and said “No, you are the best.” but even that could not bring on a smile. I have not seen him smile very much in this one month.
Dad is now recovering from a colostomy surgery. I hope that he will make good progress and be able to eat again soon. One step at a time. First, we have to stop the bleeding and get the bowels moving properly again even if it means a colostomy. Then, we get back to teaching him to swallow again (which was derailed by the impacted stools and bleeding problem), then only we get him to learn to use his limbs again. One step at a time. We dare not even think about going home yet even though dad has been at the hospital for a month now, from 2nd floor to 3rd floor to 5th floor, to 4th floor, to 6th floor moving around from ICU to normal ward, back to ICU, to normal ward to HDU (high dependancy unit), to OT back to HDU. All we can think about now is one step at a time.
Eldest sister is a bag of nervous energy. When she had to sign the consent letter for the surgery, she was shaking all over. It is certainly not easy at all. How do you sign a document that may take your father away from you? She and 2nd sister has been spending the most time with dad. There are 5 of us plus 2 sisters-in-law and a maid. We take turns making sure dad is not alone at any time so we can catch any emergency early. We have a record book so anyone who sits with dad will record any important things down and the next person continues. It is very useful indeed.
One day at a time. May we all have the strength to walk this final journey with dad one day at a time. Who knows maybe the days will turn into years. We are grateful for any time to see and touch him.