Scene 1: The beeping of the monitors amidst the intermittent flashing red and green lights brought me back to this moment from a place so far away in my mind I had run to again… Hoping that the further I’d run, the more this wasn’t happening.
Just days before, my dad had brought my mom to the local hospital ER suffering from chest pains. I had talked to her then in the midst of all that was being tested… But now two days later there was no more talking… None.
The miles of endless tubes seemed to go on forever, no beginning… no end making up the life support now.
My mind raced in disbelief as I tried wrapping my mind around how we the family had gotten here so quickly. Hadn’t we just talked? It all seemed a blur.
Now gently sitting at her bedside I was trying to sit tall as if all the info of the past day would make more sense if I did.
“She has a 50/50 chance of surviving the night.”
Still reeling from what felt like an explosion in the aftermath of my emotions, questions and thoughts, all over the place in millions of tiny pieces it seemed.
So many emotions… So many played out in vignettes of all the years doing life together as mother and daughter. Emotions flooded the forefront of my mind as the dance between us had not always been as graceful as either of us would have hoped. Trying to put it all in order in my mind in those fleeting moments seemed so very impossible… and yet the ICU in the large hospital she had been transferred to now was a strange comfort.
Knowing someone else was taken care of her seemed to take the enormous load off my heart and mind and those of my family. And I knew instinctively she was being taken care of by more than the doctors and nurses. That “knowing” would ring more then true in the coming days, weeks, and months.
Before the transfer on day one, my sister had noticed the nurses has missed something in the daily charting pointing to renal failure and septic shock. My mom was fading fast, not responding much most of the time. She then insisted more help was needed than a local hospital could provide…
Miracle number 1. The medical book said no treatment equals death. Almost certain death was avoided in that moment with that decision.
The doctor agreed…Miracle number 2.
The next few days seem to weave in and out of daylight and darkness. Three days after the doctor’s 50/50 prognosis, I arrived at the hospital and was greeted with the biggest blue gray eyes I’d seen in years. The tubes were still engulfing most of her body, but she was awake!
50/50 chance of survival… Miracle number 3.
Finally the day came when my mom took her first steps from her bed.. life was slowly coming back to her… she was walking forward.
Statistics show septic shock is the leading cause of death in the ICU… But not this day… Miracle number 4.
To make this even more incredible, my mom’s immune system had been compromised all her life with 13 surgeries behind her at 62 now…one lasting 13 hours…changing so much of how she would do life from then on including having only one kidney…. Functioning at 25%… Miracle number 5.
My mom would survive the septic shock and renal failure and she’s still here 12 years later.
Statistics…. Only 30% of septic shock patients in the ICU survived the first year. Miracle number 6.
Scene 2:. Enter, my dad.
By now he, along with many others had made many trips and long hard nights into the hospital. Once my mom was able to talk and have a chat in her room about a week later, she suggested my dad go to the ER downstairs to check the ringing in his ears he had been concerned about.
Our family was breathing a little deeper and sleeping a little sounder now that mom was out of the woods so to speak. Little did we know… more sleepless lights were not much further down the road.
Dad obliged and went to check his ears. The next I saw my dad he was wearing a regulation green hospital gown joining us for coffee at the Tim Hortons in the basement. The ER had admitted him promptly as his blood pressure was way… Way… too high. Now under doctor’s care two days later, we all visited mom in this way.
Then came the call…
It seemed like we were entering a nightmare we were just crawling out of.
“Your dad has had a massive stroke… He’s on life support… In the ICU…”
NO!!!!…. I yelled in my head or so I thought as I heard my voice.
Running down the now familiar hallway I had almost lived in only a week before, I caught my breath as I pushed open the door to the ICU.
My mind caught the familiar beeping and red and green blinking lights… again… my eyes adjusted as I saw my dad laying motionless in the ICU bed… right across from my mom’s ICU bed..
Didn’t this only happened in the movies?? A million tubes or so it seemed making up the life support…. All so very painfully familiar.
Hadn’t the family just come up from nearly drowning in what life had dealt us?? I felt as if a giant heavy foot was pushing me back mercilessly below the surface leaving me struggling with what seemed like no air at all.
A few hours earlier the nurses had found my dad’s seemingly lifeless body on the cold hospital floor in his room. Where was the miracle now?
My dad had already been at the hospital when the stroke attacked his body. Miracle number 1.
As I gently sat at the edge of my dad’s bed feeling like I’d been here before… I hardly recognized him..his face swollen and motionless.
My dad had always been invincible to me. Among many other things, he had driven us as a family through many a bad snow storm over the years and I never worried…. But now he was not the driver… And the storm felt like a white out…I couldn’t seem to see past my own mind.
So many emotions… So many vignettes of days lived with my dad. My mind was flooded with my emotions as the dance we had done hadn’t always been as graceful as either of us would have liked it and I knew somehow in that moment… we had nothing between us…and in that moment, I experienced a strange peace in the midst of it all still perched on the edge of his bed.
I hadn’t had such peace with mom as I felt with Dad in this moment. I had unfinished business… But here and now I felt nothing but peace.
I always knew I loved them both dearly, but the dances had been different with each of them.
Over the next few days the prognosis of my dad’s massive stroke sat heavy like a massive rock. Three days in, the doctors relayed news of things not looking good if he didn’t wake up soon.
And so began session after session of decades of Johnny Cash songs tried by some of us as a doctors suggested familiarity. I think I still know every word to every song from every decade. It’s not like we didn’t try. That was as familiar as it could get… It was my childhood… on vinyl records.
Then came the call… How many calls could we finally all handle…
my sister’s voice at the other end one night broke the news….
And so it began again.
Miracle number 2...
Most stroke victims don’t end up in ICU. They either die or walk out of the hospital days later.
My dad stayed in the ICU for the next few days. The stroke had been merciless but he recognized us! He spoke of days gone by, oh how we talked! The stroke may have broken into my dad’s body and robbed him of much…but we could talk!!…. Miracle number 3.
“Tube fed the rest of his life” they said to a man who enjoyed his food as much as I did. It may as well have been a life sentence.
One day weeks later, my dad being quite low about being tube fed, he emphatically instructed one day he would eat bacon and KFC chicken. The occupational therapists were taken aback but my dad insisted. So facing the x-ray machine onto my dad’s throat with extra support on hand just in case … My dad proceeded to eat… And eat he did as the x-ray showed the chicken and bacon happily making its way down his throat to his happy stomach… Miracle number 4.
Time was not so kind to my dad as he endured one and a half years in the hospital, Rehab and Care home. When Rehab informed us there was nothing more they could do, my sister set up private physio who taught my dad to transfer… his ticket home. Miracle number 5.
Most level four stroke patients never live at home again.
It was no easy feat having my dad make home his home. Self-managed government Home Care was established and much training on every level of need was addressed from having to be hoyered to bathing and personal care and feeding for a time.
Much was experienced over the past 12 years since that time, too much to mention, but what I experienced with taking my dad to the dirt track races (as he had done with us growing up) with they’re handy van, many hours of reading to him as his eyesight was now partially taken, slideshows in the evenings of all the pictures he had taken of our family travels and family gatherings… Mom’s homemade bread wafting through the air as I’d walk in the door, and most of all mom and dad still being able to live together after all these years as the God sent home care was hired by the family… who became family… Miracle number 6.
Reading statistics of massive strokes just recently I was shocked to find that only 1% of massive stroke patients survive and if they do live possibly live another year. My dad is going on 12 years now… Miracle number 7.
In all of what has happened to both mom and dad over these past 12 years, it happened to all of us the family in varying ways.
Relationships changed, conversations were had, good and bad times we’re had… All in the new normal.
But as much as it may not have been perfect, I believe for me and some others, it’s been a chain of miracles in the ICU dance and all of life lived in the past 12 years.
My dad hasn’t walked on his own again since that day 12 years ago among other things and Mom has continued to struggle in various ways herself.. and they themselves I know would say this is what they wish and pray for and we as a family along with them.
Yet I want to say in the pursuit of a certain outcome we have had our miracles on this 12-year Journey that we can’t ignore if we open our eyes a bit wider.
So in all of this I see, we still have hope for, stand for, pray for, speak for even better, but along the way I want to continue to remind myself and those around me;
Don’t miss your miracles…
and the hand who gives them on the road to even better♥️♥️