X is for Xtreme
No, I’m not cheating by changing extreme to “Xtreme”.
I saw the word on an ambulance today. See? Here’s proof:
This post isn’t about Xtreme Care Ambulance service– although they do seem to be a decent, caring company. This post is about where I was when I saw this ambulance.
I was at a skilled nursing facility visiting my dad.
My dad is dying. He has been at death’s doorstep many times over the past few years, but he always managed to recover just enough to stay alive. Notice I didn’t use the word “live”. There’s a difference between living and being alive, I see that now.
What makes this time different from all the other times? First of all, they recently changed the type of care he is receiving to palliative and/or hospice. My understanding is they will make him as comfortable as they can while nature takes its course. No extra measures to keep him alive other than the basic needs.
Most of all, I think this time is different because he thinks he’s dying. He seems to have lost his will to fight. He doesn’t have cancer or some other quickly moving, obvious disease. His body just seems to be shutting down on him. He’s only 74 years old, which really isn’t that old these days.
Over the past few years he has had a minor heart attack, a minor stroke, back problems, an unsuccessful back surgery, an aortic aneurysm, an unsuccessful double hip replacement, an incurable infection (VRE) acquired during the hip replacement, and most recently, a rip in his colon which resulted in another infection (the surgeons did not expect him to survive at that time). He was transferred to the VA Hospital from our community hospital, where he was delusional most of the time.
On top of all that, he has been unable to walk or care for himself for nearly five years. That is why he had back surgery and hip replacement surgery– they were trying to get him mobile again.
Now he’s back in the nursing home because the VA Hospital can do nothing for him that a skilled nursing facility can’t do. It hurts to see him the way I saw him today. I have become used to him not being aware of my presence from time to time, but in addition to this lack of awareness he has started calling out, “Help me, help me!” over and over, to nobody in particular.
I can’t help him. I don’t know how to ease his suffering. I can’t make things better for him. I can only watch him and wonder if this is the last time I will see him alive. I can only hope that somehow he knows I came to see him because I love him.
I try not to cry… I don’t like people to see me cry.
My body is still recovering from the surgery I had three days ago, so I couldn’t stay long as the painkillers are still making me somewhat loopy. When I did leave, I put my hand on my dad’s shoulder and said, “Good-bye, Dad.” In response, he barely opened his eyes in my direction, but I wasn’t sure if he really saw me.
Then I added as I was starting to walk away, “I love you.”
To my surprise, he said, “I love you, too.”
I’m not sure where that came from, but it made me smile.