I decided to start posting here again because it is nice to put my jumbled thoughts into words.
Where do I start?
As you may know, my mom passed away suddenly in January 2012. Now since my last post, my dad passed away suddenly as well - on November 8th 2012.
My dad in July 2012
It all happened on the evening of November 5th 2012 - Barry and I were sitting at home watching TV, with our phone ringer turned off like normal as we receive a slew of telemarketer calls. I looked over and saw that the phone was flashing with a voice mail message - one that I will never forget. My dad's friend Karen had called from my Dad's cell phone -- "Tara I am with your father, he was driving and thinks he has had a heart attack or something. The ambulance is here now - I'm headed over to your place!' I nearly went into a state of shock, thinking to myself 'Not again, not now.' I quickly called his cellphone back and told Karen we are heading up to the hospital and will meet her there.
Upon arriving at the hospital, we are told that my dad is being put into the ICU immediately but are given no further information. We waited in the sideroom outside the ICU for what felt like hours, unable to accept that something could truly be wrong. Once the doctor came out, I could tell it was bad. I've seen that look before from a hospital doctor and knew right then that my life would be changed, again, forever.
He explained that my dad didn't have a heart attack - he had a massive stroke, the bleeding kind of stroke.
When we went into the ICU and I saw him there, it was almost like nothing was real, like time stopped again.
My dad was awake and was talking to us. He said to Barry, "I never want to feel like that again." which was painful to hear how much pain he had experienced. He kept saying that he had to get out of there (Karen and him were supposed to leave that weekend for Florida to spend 3 months there before my wedding). He kept being stubborn and trying to get it up, we actually had to hold him down a few times, but besides that, he seemed to be himself.
We left the hospital that night around 1am - I was still pretty positive at this point that with months of rehab, he would be okay, even if he ended up being paralyzed on one side.
The next morning, we headed right back up the hospital and he was even more awake. The nurse told us that after she was having him do hand exercises for the 4th time throughout the night, he would hear her come in and just start doing them on his own and laugh - that was my dad, haha. We talked to him about hockey, football, getting better, going to Florida, etc.
Things quickly changed that afternoon, however, as we were asked to leave the room while the doctor checked on him - we did, and went to get something to eat. I ended up at the hospital alone later on, and wasn't let back into the ICU for over 4 hours. I knew something had to happening for them to do that, but no one would provide any answers. When they finally let me back in to see him, the doctor was waiting and advised that the bleeding had become worse and he would need to be put on a breathing tube fairly shortly. Everything that was happening was so similar to when my Mom passed away.
That night, they put him on the breathing tube and reached out to several nearby hospitals to see if anything could be done. The closest major hospital wouldn't take him, however, Ottawa hospital said they have a procedure that could be done if he was flown there immediately. Ottawa is about 3 hours drive away from us - so, off we went to Ottawa, while my dad flew on the hospital chopper.
Arriving in Ottawa, I was still optimistic, at first. The doctors there explained the procedure and advised that there was different degrees of how it could end up - worst case scenario, he would essentially be hooked up to a feeding tube, unable to move at all on his own - best case scenario, he would be paralyzed on his one side. And, there was the possibility that even if he is able to speak again, he may not have his memory or know who anyone is. As the power of attorney's, they advised it was my 2 brothers' and my decision.
My one brother did not make the trip to Ottawa, so it me and my oldest brother who were told we had to make the decision. My dad's brother was also there, and my mom's sister as well. We argued about it. I was determined that this had to be done, no matter what, that we couldn't lose both of our parents in 10 months. It wasn't fair, and the best case scenario could work. Ultimately, no one else agreed with me at the time and emotions were running high. It wasn't until an hour later, I was in the room with my dad and he started to have a seizure right in front of me. Seeing him like that, I knew that it wasn't right to be selfish. My dad was the last person who would want to be kept alive like that, he was stubborn and it would not make for a happy life for him, even if the best case scenario happened. We agreed that we wouldn't proceed with the surgery.
Ultimately though, it didn't matter what we decided. The head surgeon had looked at my dad, and his latest brain scan, and explained that he wouldn't perform the surgery anyway, it was too much of a risk and there was too much bleeding.
We were shown the scan at this point, and you could clearly see the bleeding had covered about 25% of his brain by then.
I still had hope - our family had been through so much, we deserved to have a miracle happen, didn't we?
Unfortunately, the answer was no. After the head surgeon made that decision, they made arrangements to fly my dad back to our hospital here so we could spend whatever time he had with him, and off we headed back home.
I managed to get about an hour of sleep that morning, before the hospital here called and let me know that he was back.
I had been signed as next of kin, so I had to come up and sign the forms required for the breathing tube to be removed.
After that, he was moved to a private room for us to have more privacy with him. I never left his side for the next 2 days. I held his hand, told him I loved him, told him to keep fighting, and watched the clock to time how many breaths he was breathing on his own. He continued to breathe by himself over what the machine had been set at, because of this, I STILL had some hope.
It wasn't until early Thursday that I started to lose hope, I received a text message from an Uncle that said, "Tara, tell him it's okay to let go." At first, this upset me, but as I looked at my father laying there, fighting so hard, I realized my Uncle was right. I gave my dad a kiss on the forehead and whispered in his ear, "I love you so much, and you are the most amazing father in the world. I know that you are a fighter, but it's okay to let go, just make sure to say hi to mom for us!" He continued to fight his hardest, but passed at approximately 7pm on Thursday, November 8th 2012. I held his hand as he took his last breath, just as I did 10 months earlier for my mom.
Five months later, I am still struggling. Our whole family is. I find that I am almost numb sometimes, overcome with anger at other times.
Barry and I thought about postponing the wedding (April 20th), but in the end, we decided to stay with our original plans as our family needs a celebration. We need it. Besides, my dad went with me in August to see the venue and he absolutely loved the idea of having the wedding there - he was so excited. And, he did get to see me in my wedding dress a few weeks before he passed away, which makes me smile when I think about it.
I wanted to write this all out so I don't ever forget how I felt, how I said goodbye, and how I am dealing with everything now.
It almost seems like, because I was there when both of my parents passed, that whenever I try to think of them - that's what I see, and I don't want to see that. But, because I do, I try not to let myself think about them -- this scares me, because I don't want to forget the 26 years of good times, amazing conversations and celebrations. I just don't know how to cope with that aspect of it all.
Now, in my next post, I will post about happy things, like our wedding in one week tomorrow (!!) and our engagement pictures!