Surviving in a Male Dominated Household

Snakes and snails and puppy dog tails...

Sunday, November 14, 2010

One Year Ago...My Dad's Brain Surgery

This is lengthy and from memory...but worth the read.

It was a year ago yesterday when I saw the strongest man I know, cry. I remember it like it was yesterday.

I was sitting at my desk at Principal and it was late afternoon on Friday the 13th. Nothing bad had happened, yet I never considered myself to be superstitious. I was thinking about our plans for the weekend while sending emails and doing research for clients. A lot of my co-workers had left early for the weekend and it seemed a lot of my clients did as well. The phones were unusually quiet.

I had planned to go to the store after work, for the essentials (milk, eggs, bread) and had a growing list on my desk of items we needed. My phone rang and the caller ID informed me it was my mom. I answered and I could tell something was wrong. Just in the way she said, "Ra" with a sniffle.

She informed me that she was driving my dad to Methodist hospital in Des Moines. My dad NEVER gets sick...except for the time I brought home the chicken pox in first grade. She continued to tell me that he'd been "acting funny". She caught him losing his balance the night before and insisted that he see the family doctor the next day. He reluctantly agreed and the doctor wanted to schedule a CAT Scan for the following week. Mom pushed back and insisted one be done that day. She drove him to another hospital, 30 miles away for this to be accomplished. During the scan, they found blood on the brain and sent the scans to a neurologist in Des Moines. He said that Dad be transported to Des Moines right away. Mom convinced the doctor not to send him by ambulance and she drove him herself.

I tried to process all of this information. I remember tears welling up in my eyes as mom was explaining all of this to me. I think my mouth was hanging open while she was talking. A few co-workers walked by my desk and slowed, as I could tell they knew something wasn't right. I told mom that I would meet them at the hospital. It was going to be two hours before they got here and that gave me time to get the groceries and drop my pumped breast milk off at home.

I spoke with my leader and explained to her what was going on and that I'd be leaving a little early. I informed my co-workers what was going on and told them I'd update my facebook as soon as I knew more. I grabbed my reusable grocery bag I was using as a purse, since mine had broken earlier in the week and I didn't have a chance to buy a new purse, and left work.

I learned that day NOT to go grocery shopping when I'm not in the right frame of mind. I started thinking that family might be staying at our place so I should buy some "quick fix" meals. I ended up buying some Hamburger Helper (which I rarely do) and for some reason, a random can of pumpkin.

I got home, dropped off the groceries and the expressed milk for Sean, cleaned my pump parts and repacked the bag. I kissed the boys goodbye and rushed to the hospital, which happened to be right across the street from my office.

On my way there, I called my mom to let her know I was on my way. She said they had checked into the ER and were waiting for the Doc. I called my brother to let him know I was going to be at the hospital and he could call me if he needed anything. He told me that he "knew about dad's condition for a while now" and that "mom and dad didn't want to tell me to make me worry". I was FURIOUS that my parents had hidden this from me.

When I got to the ER, the nurse was hooking my dad up to an IV. I told my parents that I had talked to my brother, and what he had told me. I asked them how they could have kept something like this from me. They informed me that they didn't know what he was talking about, that this all had just happened and he did not know anything prior to this. The nurse told me, "If you're going to be a distraction, you need to leave." I couldn't believe the way she was talking to me. I apologized to her, mom apologized to her and we realized it was one big misunderstanding.

The Doctor came in and informed Dad that he had a subdural hematoma, blood on the brain. He was going to have to do surgery that night--as soon as all of the blood work came back. The Doctor left the room and my mom started crying. I tried to console her. I tried to tell her that everything was going to be okay. Dad saw how worried mom was and he started tearing up. I assured him that everything was going to be all right. I was trying to be brave for both of my parents.

I called my brother and informed him of what was going on. I called Dave and filled him in. I asked him to call his folks and see if they could watch the boys the next day, as he was scheduled to work. He agreed and told me to keep him informed.

The Doctor came in and said they were ready for him. Mom and I walked with Dad as they wheeled him in his bed down what seemed like an endless maze of hallways, the walls filled with bad hotel-esque paintings. Hallway, doors, turn. Doors, turn, hallway.

We came to the final set of doors. The anesthesiologist introduced himself and informed Dad of what was going to happen. "We'll shave the head.." Dad interrupted and inquired, "Shave the head," and made a gesture of just a small patch of the effected area. The Doctor laughed and said, "We'll see. I'm going to head in to see if they're ready."

I set the bags down and leaned over Dad's bed and gave him a hug. "We'll see you when you get out, okay?"
Dad nodded, tears in his eyes.
"Don't cry, Dad. You'll be fine. You're in good hands," I said while nodding my head.
He nodded. "I know."

I stepped back while Mom leaned in, tears rolling down her face. Dad reached out to her and they hugged. I knew my parents loved each other, but I had never really seen just how much. She said something to him, he responded and they kissed. Tears were now in my eyes.

The doctor came out. "We're ready for you, Mike."

Mom stepped back. I looked at Dad, "You'll be good, Dad. You're good. Even if they do have to shave your whole head. And way to go, Friday the 13th!"
Dad laughed, "I know, right?"
I reached for his hand. "You'll be fine. I love you. See you in a bit."
Dad squeezed my hand, "Love you too, Rah."

I let go of his hand and stepped aside. He reached for mom. "I love you."
"I love you too."
Mom stepped back and they started rolling him through the doors. "See you in a bit, Dad" I said, waving. Dad waved back. The doors closed.

Mom turned into me and started crying. I held her and cried. "He'll be fine, mom. He's good."
"I know, Rah. I know."
"Let's go to the waiting area. Maybe get some food, okay?"
"Okay," she said, wiping away the tears.

Mom and I went to the surgery waiting room and she decided to head down to the cafeteria to grab us some dinner. I agreed to stay and wait with the bags and wait for any news. As soon as mom was around the corner, I let the tears go. I called Dave and my brother to fill them in. And then I attempted to zone out to Wheel of Fortune. Mom returned with food and we ran into another person from Glidden who was there while their in-law (another Glidden resident) was having surgery. It's a small world after all...

After a few hours (but what seemed like forever) the Doctor came out and said Dad was doing well. They were going to wheel him up to the ICU and he'd stay there overnight. We were allowed into the surgery wing and they opened the door to his room. Dad lifted his head when he saw me and gave me a thumbs up.

That evening was scary. I stayed with mom at the hospital in the ICU waiting room. When we couldn't handle the waiting room and the Doctors and Nurses wanted to check him over, mom and I walked around the hospital, window shopping at the gift shop (they had some cute purses, and I needed one, after all) and calling family and friends. Mom sent me home around Midnight. When I got home, I nursed Sean but could hardly sleep. My in-laws had agreed to watch the boys and Dave had called work and requested time off, so he could be at the hospital with me and Dad. This way, mom could go home and get some rest.

The next morning, I got ready, packed milk for Sean while he was at Grandma and Grandpa Bowman's house and went to the hospital. Dave dropped the boys off at his parent's house and joined me and mom. We had to take turns visiting Dad, as they only allowed two visitors in the ICU room at a time. We were all there, however, when they removed Dad's head bandage. They had shaved his WHOLE head. Dad was always very proud of his head full of dark hair. We packed up his things and after they moved Dad out of the ICU, I sent mom on her way for some much needed rest.

Dave and I spent the day visiting with Dad, watching TV and watching him nap. Dave helped Dad to and from the restroom.  At one point, Dad agreed to go for a walk with one of us on either side to stabilize him. Dave looked at me, about half way through the walk and directed me to look at Dad's right foot. He was bringing it WAY up and then back down. I brought this to his attention and he had no idea he had even been doing it. He had been over compensating for so long, he was used to having to work harder to pick up his leg.

When we got back to his room, I asked him to think back. Were there any other red flags? He started in, "Well, on Tuesday, I went for a haircut and I just couldn't get the words to go on the line when I was writing the check."
I started laughing hysterically. Dad looked at me and said, "What? What's so funny?"
I said, "You paid for a haircut on Tuesday? I hope you can get your money back."
We all had a good laugh. Dad sent us home for the evening for him to rest. And for me to rest. I was so tired, physically and emotionally.

The next day, Sunday, the Doctor said he could go home. My Aunt and Cousin came by to visit and see how Dad was doing. Later in the day, mom and dad sent me back home. They said they'd stop by on their way out of town, as Liam (he was three, almost four) was really worried about his Papa.

A few hours later, there was a knock at our door. Mom and Dad were there with a blue grocery bag for me that said, "Iowa Methodist Hospital" and Mom joked that I needed a new purse. I chuckled and Dad handed me the purple purse I'd been eying at the gift shop. I started crying. They said it was a thank you gift for spending my whole weekend with them and taking care of Dad. I explained that I would have done it anyway. He's my Dad.

Liam was so glad to see Papa. We had explained to him that Papa had an owie on his head and the Doctors fixed it. But he had to be careful with the staples.

It wasn't until a month later that I found out I was already 12 weeks pregnant, with what ended up being Brendan, so I was 8 weeks pregnant when this occurred. After all of the stress and lack of sleep, I'm so thankful I didn't lose him.

My miracle dad and miracle baby. One year later, I'm still so thankful to have my dad in my life. My boys love their Papa. I love my dad and I saw how much my husband cares for him as well. 

Friday the 13th isn't all that bad. I saw how in love my parents still are, after 31 years of marriage. I learned how quickly things can change; what seems to be important, in the grand scheme of it all, really isn't. And how you can't take life for granted. In a minute, your whole world can change. Tell your loved ones that you love them. You never know what's going to happen.