Sunday, June 15, 2014

Third Life's A Charm

The Headlines:

Friday my Dad almost died.  Again.

Today HE gave ME a gift… his life.

This Father's Day holds a whole new significance to me.  I already wrote earlier this week about how much my Dad means to me and how today has long been important to me, as it should be.  I explained that on this day nothing is greater than than the gift of words because life is too precious and unpredictable.  But at the time I didn't know what lied ahead.  I had no idea, in fact, that my own words would be tested and put into action.

Me and Dad
Let me start at the beginning.  It won't take too long.  After all, I used to put whole life stories together with a total run time of 1 minute 33 seconds!

It was one week ago today when my family and I "Face-Timed" my Mom and Dad in California at their home.  From the outside,  everything seemed completely normal with my Dad but, unbeknownst to me, there was a sort of Volcano bubbling beneath his surface and it was fixing to erupt.   Monday we spoke again and again he seemed fine.  He mentioned nothing but at the time, when he coughed or sneezed, his head hurt.   We didn't speak on Tuesday.  Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday morning I wrote my blog post.  On Wednesday, when I called him, he finally fessed up.  He explained he wasn't feeling well and was headed to the doctor within the hour.  He told me of an ache that was slowly moving around his head and becoming unbearable with any pressure.  I'm no doctor but right away that seemed ominous.  I let some tears out that night and I told my 7 year old daughter about the situation.  We all prayed.  Can I say that I knew it was bad?  Fearful of the worst… I truly thought it was a brain tumor.  I wanted to be wrong.

The next morning I woke up with a queasy, uneasy feeling.  I was worried.  I posted my blog and as I did, the irony of the situation was not lost on me.  My Dad had a horrible night.  He couldn't sleep at all, had the chills and felt generally crappy.  But he was headed to an MRI late morning.  What would they find?  Apparently not much.  I spoke to him right after and he sounded bad.  He was slurring his words and forgetting things and almost "losing time"… getting confused in our conversation.  But he said they let him go and were bringing him back on SATURDAY, almost 2 days away, for a CT Scan.  I asked if he could wait that long but decided they wouldn't let him go if he couldn't.  Right?  Well he  has an allergy to the Iodine dye they needed to use for the test so he needed proper "prep" time for it.

The next day, Friday, I called as I was driving my 3 year old to an indoor play place, my Dad answered and he sounded no better.  "What are ya doing?" I said, "running errands" he replied.  For a second I was relieved - he was better?!  Hardly.  My Dad was in the ER.  Mom made them go because she didn't think he could stand it any longer.  Something was clearly very wrong and waiting was no longer an option.  That morning his doctor confirmed my initial thought, the MRI showed he had a large bone mass.  A brain tumor.

In the car, driving my son, I heard the words brain tumor and I almost ran off the road.  Isn't that like one of the worst things you could ever hear?  I imagine there are a few "worse things" but a brain tumor is certainly on the list.  When I hung up, I cried while sort of hyperventilating and as I did my son from his carseat exclaimed, "Moms don't cry!"  But this mom, at this time, did.

It's funny when you get bad news how you react.  What are you supposed to do?  There's no telling.  I called BP (my husband) who was in a meeting of course but answered my call due to the situation.  He jumped into action, "what do you want to do?  fly?  drive?  when do you or we leave?"  But my parents didn't want me to come right away, they wanted to learn more first.  So, I decided we would leave the next day.  In the meantime,  I went to the jumpy place with my son tearful and puffy eyed.

We didn't stay long and my son fell asleep on the way home and all I could think of, alone in my thoughts was life without my Dad.  Since I was born,  he has meant the world to me and I'm not ready to let him go.  I'm not sure I ever will be.  I told God I wanted him left here for me, my children and my Mom but if it was his time I would understand.  I packed, picked up my daughter from camp and told her the horrible news.  Grandpa had a rock in his brain.  That was easy enough for my children to understand.  Then we called him again.  He sounded better.  They had given him something for the pain and he was a new man.

I hung up and my Mom called me back 10 minutes later:

  The rock wasn't a rock.  It was a BALLOON.

Again, that's how I described it to my kids.  They had mis-diagnosed.  The mass wasn't a tumor, it was a slow bleeding brain aneurysm.  That, they said, was easier to fix.

My Dad was taken into surgery and they were able to "coil" the aneurysm.  Basically, contain it.  My doctor friend explained it to me like this (hopefully I get it right, it's been a long couple of days):  the arteries in your head are surrounded by a series of layers, if one layer seeps, there are others to keep it, somewhat intact, but if they all burst then you have a full aneurysm and death is imminent.

The doctors fixed my Dad's head but they are keeping him in the ICU to make sure the "fix" holds.  They are calling him the "Poster Child of the Hospital!"  Apparently, he is making a stunning recovery and they believe he skirted death, again, by hours.  If he would have waited for that CT scan… he probably wouldn't be alive to see Father's Day.

I spoke to my Dad on and off all day Saturday and again this morning - he sounds almost like himself again.  As it stands now, his brain seems unaffected.  But one doctor put my Dad's recovery like this: once you get a cut, often a scar remains.  His brain may have a little scar.  If that's all, we can live with that.  He can LIVE with that.
Dad and Daughter at American Girl Store 

As with everything in life - there are lessons.  Here, I have learned, once again, that life is so fleeting - it can be taken at any moment.  I have also been reminded that you have to be your own advocate when it comes to medical issues.  If something isn't right - speak up - before it's too late.  Then, once again, I  was reminded that words are king.  Say what you mean today.  Because tomorrow doesn't always come…
Groggy Gordon & Sleepy Son
My Dad lived a blessed but sometimes bumpy life.  Then he had a heart attack 2 weeks before my wedding.  He survived because he had more to see.  In 10 years, he walked me down the aisle,  almost completely tore down and rebuilt his house, traveled to Europe and met my children.  He then had a brain aneurysm and was almost taken 2 days before Father's Day but survived because there is still more to do.  This third life he has been given back is sure to be a charm.  What else can we call it?

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