Thursday, January 14, 2010

Crash Story...The End

We were able to bring Dad home just under a week after his accident. He was sore and slow but recovering really well considering what he had been through. Mom and I took turns staying with him the first few days but then had to leave him on his own at home while we returned to work. Dad was scared. He was afraid that the police were going to show up at his door to arrest him. His blood alcohol level made it back to us and it was high. It wasn't 'one or two beers' high...he had been on a binge. His internist had come to see him at the hospital and really ripped Dad a new one. With his liver function as poor as it was he had made a promise to his doctor that he wouldn't drink. His doctor, who has been working to save his life for over a decade now, was reasonably pissed. After looking at Dad's current state, his doctor decided that it was time to get him ready to go on the list for liver transplant, but Dad's little stunt set him back a year because they require a minimum of six months alcohol-free, with a preference for one year before they'll consider you.

We all continued to wait for the other shoe to drop. When I looked in Dad's wallet for his license so that I could pick up some medication for him, it was gone. So we knew that the police had taken it. But for what purpose? About a week later we got a letter in the mail from the City of Marfa, the town near where Dad had crashed. Inside was a blank piece of paper with his license taped to it. No information...just that. We became hopeful. With this being Dad's third offense he was a candidate for prison time, which would be a death sentence...not that he didn't deserve it for driving drunk. But we tend to want different things for our families than for all those other evil beings who commit thoughtless crimes.

After a couple weeks of Dad cringing and practically running to hide any time the mailman or a neighbor came to the door we finally got word. A ticket for an open container came in the mail. That was it. He had gotten lucky beyond measure, and he knew it. A call to the judge, a $200 fine, and it was all done. He got not a second, but a third chance at life all in a matter of weeks.

Our life has gone on the way it always was. We only occasionally mention the unpleasantness of the accident, like when Mom went to buy a new car and got a cheap Hyundai SUV instead of her beloved Lexus. She was furious, but at the time didn't know what kind of legal fees Dad would be incurring, what the cost of the debacle would be, and she wanted to play it safe. Every time we see a Lexus SUV you can hear Mom groan. She loved that car. But amazingly, like the strong woman that she is, she has gone on to care for Dad the same as before. She still cooks him every meal, washes his clothes, escorts him to countless doctor's appointments, cleans his home and does his dishes. She asks for little in return. And she goes on loving him, no matter how much pain he has caused her and how broken he is in body and soul.

They had planned to move to Nashville in the coming months, but have changed their minds in the last couple of days. Dad is fearful of changing doctors during this time. He will find out on the 25th if he is even a candidate for liver transplant. There is a difficult treatment that he has to take in order to qualify, but his seizures may increase due to that medication. His neurologist is measuring the cost vs benefit. They have put it to him that he can decide against it and live a better quality of life for the time he has left, which is the option he is leaning towards. Last night when he and Mom sat down to weigh the pros and cons of moving he told her of his fears, of finding new doctors at the end that don't know him and aren't concerned with this new patient. But the saddest thing of all is that he told Mom that he wished he would just die. He feels like a weight, like he is stopping our plans and our progress as a family, like he is a lodestone. That breaks my heart to hear, but I understand it all too well. There are countless times when I have thought that my whole family would be better off to just plan a funeral, bury me and be done. I have blogged about that thought coming up when Cade was young. As depression and exasperation at the inability to change have come over me in waves, the thought comes like a gasp for breath before the next wave pulls me under. It gives my breaking mind a place to hide, an escape from reality. But to hear my father say that, when he is already so close to going, breaks my heart. I want him to be the man that vows to live life to the fullest in the time he has left, not the guy who gives up and melts away.

Dad told me a few days ago that he relives the nightmare of the accident any time he starts to think of taking a drink. He said that it was as scared as he remembers being in his life. He goes round and round in his head thinking of the confusion and the blood and the feeling of being trapped with a long drop off the side of the car. I guess he needed the experience so as not to drink himself dead now that he sees that the end is nearing. I hope that he will choose to be with us and not take matters into his own hands. I imagine, at this point in his life, the end seems like quite a comfort.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


It's a Tuesday night and though the week has just begun for me, I am exhausted! Patrick is gone for the week for business so I'm going it alone again for a while. The single mothers out there will know (and probably want to punch me for whining about one week) how hard this is. The whole way through the holidays Patrick was working nonstop, so I was pretty much doing it all by myself then as well, but he was home at night and I could snuggle someone. There is a lot to be said for snuggling.

My new schedule includes at least 45 minutes of working out at night so I wake up bright and early, get myself and Cade ready, take him to school then myself to work. I'm working with numbers all day long (mentally exhausting) then pick Cade up, come home and play and cook and clean a little, do homework with him, tuck him into bed, come out to the living room and work out...and then a moment of rest. Really, I don't know how people live like this. My guess is that they have much higher energy reserves. I'm used to naps at least every other day. I can't imagine being a single mother who has to live like this.

With Patrick and I having put so much thought into divorce, it's times like this that I wonder how on earth I could function without him here. With lupus, I have to be very careful not to over-stress my body. Too much stress, too much pressure, and my body turns on itself and starts to break down in one organ or another. I have to wonder, could I actually handle something like divorce or separation?

While I would hate to be dependent on a relationship for the sake of my health, I'm grateful for times like this week to get things in perspective.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Crash Story (Part Two)

(Not Dad's car, but the general idea is the same)

I waited alone for Dad to get out of surgery, occasionally fielding calls from my mother in Dallas and my brother in Nashville. Both were working out plans to get here as soon as possible. About three hours after Dad went in, the doctor came out to let me know that he was all done. The damage had been extensive and he had repaired Dad's spleen and taken out a section of his bowels that had been mangled by the seat belt. Dad had lost a lot of blood and they were transfusing him still, but he would be moved to ICU after recovery where I could be with him for a time. Again, the doctor made no promises about a recovery. He reminded me that Dad was still very unstable and while they had repaired the damage, at a ripe old 62 years old, they couldn't be sure how his body would take the trauma.

I was eventually led to ICU where my daddy lay in the bed, still asleep, intubated...the machine doing all of his breathing. As he began waking up he was confused and couldn't talk because of the tube down his throat but he tried to relay to me what he could with his eyes and squeezes of my hand. The fear in his eyes broke me down. To this point, I had stayed very strong and in charge of my emotions, but seeing him so scared and in pain absolutely broke my heart. I kept begging the nurses for morphine or something to sedate him until he could get the tube out, but they were still scrambling to maintain his blood pressure which was fluctuating dangerously. They finally told me that I had to leave and when I told Dad his eyes went wide and he began shaking his head violently back and forth. I prayed with him for peace, the only thing I knew to do. Then I walked away, leaving him alone and scared.

When I came back for the next round of visiting hours I had my mom in tow, a rather angry Mom that I kept begging for patience and kindness with Dad. At this point, we still didn't know if alcohol was involved in the accident so we were hoping for the best, but experience taught us to expect the worst. My brother was driving all the way here from Nashville, a nice 14 hour drive, because he hadn't wanted to wait until morning to catch a flight. He and Mom were going to head to the mountains to retrieve what was left of her car and the things inside. While on the road my brother was doing all the helpful stuff like contacting the insurance company and the Department of Public Safety for accident records. Because it was such a small town where Dad had his wreck my brother actually got in contact with one of the officers that worked the scene. The version of events were quite different from what my father remembered.

He had actually had his wreck at around 5pm that afternoon. He had most likely had a seizure (which he suffers from but is medicated for...when he drinks he forgets his medication) and drove off the side of the mountain. Fortunately, the car hit some boulders and then plowed straight into a tree. There were three DPS vehicles and two firetrucks working the extraction, since he was in a culvert of sorts and had to be brought up. They took him to the nearest hospital where they took his blood alcohol level because they had found one opened beer and the remainder of a six-pack. At that hospital, after a couple of hours of trying to stabilize him, they realized that he was too critical (rarely gaining consciousness) so they decided to call Careflight. Due to low clouds they had to use the plane instead of the helicopter, and it was only then that they contacted us. The parts that Dad remembered were the only times that he was awake for the whole ordeal. It's amazing how his mind worked it all out.

Over the course of the next couple days Dad was released from ICU and transferred to a room for recovery. Once Mom learned that Dad was drinking she completely checked out from taking care of him. Dad would beg me not to leave the room when she was there. He was scared to be alone with her. By this time I had slept so little that I was delirious, but my brother was simply in town to take care of business and my mother, so I was left to care for Dad. I did my best and we bonded in a way that we never have. We both realized that it may just come down to the two of us. If Mom left him, which she had every right to do, then I would be left to care for this helpless man.

The doctors came for the follow-up and had contacted all of his regular doctors from which he received medication in order to let them know that he was under their care. My dad has many's a miracle he's made it this far. He had a blood transfusion in a Louisiana hospital in the 80's that left him with hepatitis C, from which he now has cirrhosis. He has seizures for some unknown reason. He has type 2 diabetes and heart disease. We were aware of all of this, but his internist saw something on the x-rays of Dad's liver that he didn't like. He started looking further and realized that Dad had moved into early stage liver failure since his last check. As Dad was healing from the accident, a whole other issue was thrown on our plate.

Wow. I can see that this story is a little longer than I had intended. I'm afraid that it's not the slightest bit interesting to most of you, but it always seems to help me to get these stories down. I should probably find another venue, but if you will bear with me, I'll be on to more interesting matters in a couple days, I'm sure. As for the rest of this...I'll finish tomorrow. And then once it's out I will work on writing shorter narratives to catch you all up on where I've been! Deal?