Wednesday, 3 September 2008

unexpected emotions and thoughts

A day of unexpected emotions and thoughts.
Mid morning my mum called, my granddad had been taken to hospital, she was waiting to find out which hospital. In the meantime she had an appointment to see her consultant about her knee at 1pm. She would call me later to let me know which hospital grandad was now in. If it is the ‘Super Hospital’ which is more or less on my way home, I would visit him after work.
A short time later another call, he is in the Super Hospital would I be able to take her to visit him, with her bad knee she can’t walk from the car park it is to far.
What time do you want me to pick you up?
Now!! the hospital, have said I should come now, it might still be too late.
Abandoning my work saying I may or may not be back later I rush off to get my mum, 35 minutes later I have dropped her off at A & E whilst I find somewhere to park. A quick call home to let the boys know where I am, and off to find my mum. I am ok as I make my way across the car park and along the road passing buildings still under construction, but as I turn the corner towards A & E it hits me the last time I was here. But more about that later.
I was directed to where granddad was laying on a trolley surrounded by medical staff. A doctor was talking to mum. As soon as I arrived granddad seemed pleased to see me, holding out his hand and trying to say something. I took his hand in mine, for a few moments I really thought this is it, he’s going to die right here right now, while I’m holding his hand. He was trying to talk but I was not able to make out what it was. Already he had pulled off the oxygen mask, he is very weak, but his grip is firm. After a minute of stroking my hand he relaxes back against his pillows. My wild imagination convinces me that he is happy he has his daughter and granddaughter with him, now he can let go.
But I was wrong; he still has too much fight left in him. My granddad is 94 and has never been ill in his life until he caught pneumonia 18 months ago. This now is his third bout of pneumonia. The doctor explains that one of his lungs is now very bad. Mother and I follow as he is moved to an assessment ward. Still he fights off every attempt to give him an oxygen mask, even when one is successfully put in place it is not long before he has taken it off.
My granddad is lying in his hospital bed looking like a tiny white haired frail man little more than a skeleton. Drips and wires trailing fro his bed, his breathing a laboured rattle. He sleeps fitfully, we sit quietly by his side wanting to be there for him but knowing that he is past being aware of us. We are both becoming hungry so regretfully I left mum sitting there as I went in search of the shop for a sandwich and drink each. It didn’t take me long to find the corridor where the shop used to be, but it had moved. Ten minutes later back on the ward as we munched our sarnies the physio explained that she wants to try to shift the fluid from his lung by pushing a tube down his nose and into his lung. I can’t help feeling that this is wrong.
I don’t want to lose this man who I have loved all my life, the man who took us children on long country walks with his dog, always having mints in his pocket to hand out to everyone. The man I was slightly afraid of but loved anyway. The man who even after he retired was always up by 6am every day. The man who told me in 1983 when my gran died that he wouldn’t be here in 10 years time. The man who a year later was embarrassing me by asking my advice on how to keep an erection when he was with his new partner. The frail man who looked after his partner on his own until she was admitted to hospital with cancer in 2005. The man I would drive every weekend to visit his partner in Bournemouth Hospital until she died. The man who continued to live alone until he became too weak to manage and moved into a rest home in September 2006 aged 92. The man who in February 2007 began to tell us about his time in the second world war when he was on secret missions travelling into Southern France, going into hiding from the Germans until he could be rescued. Things he had never mentioned before, because he had signed the Official Secrets Act. But now he wanted his family to know about it and he felt that it wouldn’t be a security breach now.
I shall be sorry when he is not here any more, but I feel it would be so much better for him if he was just left in peace to fade away. At 94, unable to dress himself, feed himself or do anything other than watch the tv which he can’t always hear, this lovely man who is still in possession of an active mind has nothing left to hang to for.
We left the hospital late afternoon, he was sleeping, he hasn’t tried to speak since I first arrived. Tonight they have moved him to a room on his own. Mum and I talked on the way home and over a cup of tea at her place. We are both feeling a little sad although not upset. We both feel that this time he may not make it. We are glad that we were there for him this afternoon. If my mum gets a call in the night to say that he is going I shall of course rush to get her back to the hospital. I don’t feel that I must be there when he dies, if I am needed by either of them I shall be there but I feel like I said my goodbyes to him today. If he pulls through I shall be happy, but this time I think he will give up. But having said that, I have been surprised how firm his grip was and his determination to rid himself of all gas and air masks. So there is still fight in him even if that is just instinct.
As things stand at present, I shall go to work as normal tomorrow. Life goes on it has to, but I shall be paying closer attention to my mum and how she is.
I mentioned earlier the last time I was in the A & E department. It was September 2005, SF had during the night threatened me with a carving knife in front of JA (9yrs) then when JA became distressed, he took an overdose of his anti depressants, I called an ambulance, took JA to my mum’s the older boys wanted to stay at home so they could get themselves off to school etc in the morning. When I arrived at the hospital SF was being assessed. Hours later it was evident that he had only pretended to over dose. SF was then seen by the mental health team before he was discharged.
This was one of the lowest points for me, I had already begun divorce proceedings. Today brought back the vivid recollection of sitting on the ward being told by these people that I had to give him another chance, he needed my help, I have to make allowances for him in his poor mental state. I just sat there and sobbed and sobbed, they had no idea what they were asking of me. When I said to my mum today that walking around that corner had brought back memories of the last time I was here, she knew exactly what I was thinking about. It is one of the things I had shut out, very rarely talked about, best forgotten. But today I was back there, back in that place 3 years ago. But it also made me think about how far I have come in the last 3 years. There is no going back ever!!
Earlier I read Miss Understood’s purse meme which included a post she had written several years ago Russian Doll. I am linking to it here as reading it seems to apt considering this last part of my post. Do read it, Miss Understood makes a lot of sense.

1.45am just been called to go to hospital now


Vincent said...

I feel for you in this situation and everyone else too who is trying to do the "right thing".

The situation you describe is very reminiscent of my own grandfather's last days, again at 94: but it was 30 years ago. And I know several old men who will be facing the same scenario - including my own self though I'm a mere 66 and in rude health.

The old man's instinctive fight for life (and the instinctive wish of his loved ones not to let him go without a fight) is by no means the same thing as the health service's tubes and masks and trolleys and A&E bustle. They are diametrically opposed.

What your granddad wants is to maintain his own strength and independence, not just stay alive. This of course is not possible. But the question is, how to resolve the situation, because the prolongation by hours or days or weeks with the accident and emergency paraphernalia doesn't make sense.

In the last few months I have acted as volunteer handyman for Age Concern and am called to frail old people who stay at home and can't do everything they want to. The need for compromise is already there because their living situation is often unsatisfactory & undignified.

To me there is a problem demanding solution. I may be wrong. How can I leave my widow to thrive and live with dignity till she dies with dignity? What if she goes first? Where do my children and grandchildren fit into this?

Why can't I go off to the woods, metaphorically speaking, like a wounded animal, and die in seclusion, bothering no one? After saying goodbyes, naturally?

I don't believe in all this assisted suicide stuff. I just believe we can stay alive a while with the will to live, and die rapidly when we lose that will to live. With the combination of the two, perhaps we can schedule the bowing out & save everyone the pain, including our own.

Lady in red said...

vincent thank you I have just returned from the hospital wide awake with no sign of sleep coming for a while yet.

My grandfather had already passed over peacefully by the time we were able to get back to the hospital. We were told that he died peacefully, he hadn't 'faded but just died in the way we would always wish for our loved ones.

I feel sad for my mum as she has now lost both parents her husband and her only sibling, but I also feel that it will be a great relief to her that the burden of caring has now been lifted from her shoulders.

Trixie said...

Oh sweetie, so sorry you had to go through that.

As you said, he's now in a better place.

I haven't had a chance yet to post about my family's deaths a couple of weeks ago. My mother's mother died at 89, then her sister died a few days later. Sis M was most upset, not because they died (as we hardly knew them) but none of us were there in Oz to be there for mum. My Dad's dad also collapsed the day after his 103rd birthday (the day mum's mum died). We expected to get back from Spain to find he passed on as well, but he's still kicking.

Miss Understood said...

I'm sorry, LiR. I'm glad he didn't suffer at the end and that both you and your Mum got the chance to say goodbye. He is in a better place now, with no pain. x

I'm going to my uncle's funeral this afternoon. He passed away last week from cancer. Most of the family were wanting him to keep battling but I just wanted him to slip away, which he did. When there is nothing left for them in this life but pain, why on earth would people want to prolong it? I'm happy that he died and for me it was a relief, not a tragedy, He lived a happy life.

Mei Del said...

I'm sorry you lost your wonderful granddad xx

DJ Kirkby said...

Thinking of you honey.

Mel said...

*thinking of you as well*

And sending peacefilled, warm thoughts.

My condolences to you and yours.

(((( LiR ))))

MarmiteToasty said...

I read this post a few hours ago, just before I had to nip off to 'the hospital' for 2 hours of gruelsome pain LOL..... its at the QA and as I parked me car, I thought of your dear old Grandpa, and you and your mum, and my heart and love goes out to you all......

Sounds like he had a fair good innings.... you are blessed to of had him for so long...

much love


Lady in red said...

Trixie I am really sorry to hear of all those sad loses in such a short time, it must be really hard for you and your sisters being on the other side of the world at this time.

(((Trixie))) (((sis M))) (((sis k)))

Lady in red said...

Laney I am sorry you lost your uncle in this way and I completely agree with you, when there is nothing left but pain we should allow our loved ones to go when they are ready not force prolonged agony on them for our own selfish reason of not wanting to be without them.

I feel a huge sense of relief for my grandad who was a very proud man, who had to rely on others for even his most basic needs. Also for my mother who has had to run around doing her best to look after him and his needs almost since she retired. Now she will be able to have her life back (once her knee is sorted).

Lady in red said...

Mei he was 94 and I consider myself lucky to have had him in my life for such a long time.

Lady in red said...

dj thank you, I thought of you was we were walking along deserted corridors in QA at 3am, will your work be transferred there once all the building work has been completed, I hadn't been there for a while and the transformation is immence

Lady in red said...

mel thank you for your warm thoughts

Lady in red said...

marmie thank you, I think of you too when I go to QA or Haslar these days. I hope you don't have too much trouble parking there. My mum can't walk from the car park as its too far for her. Having said that we had to walk miles along corridors in the basement along tunnels from the main building to another up and down slopes and stairs.

How is your physio going is your knee getting better this time? mum has a date in October for her next operation.

Anndi said...

I ended up here at random but something told me "read it". I'm glad I did.

I am very sorry for your loss and your mother's loss. I was reminded of the vigil I sat for my mother in the last month of her life.

May your memories of candies and the times spent with him keep you warm and fill your heart with peace.

Anonymous said...