Would you prolong a life of suffering?
What if you were making a decision for your family member. What would you do, and what do you think he or she herself wishes to do? What if things are so painful for them, and that they’re only holding on because they don’t want to abandon you or your family? Is he tired, does he want to let go and leave peacefully? What if they feel bad about the prospect of leaving, that they’re leaving you behind? What are you supposed to think when they’re even unable to translate any of what they feel during the last period of their lives?
For my family, we’d wanted everything that could be done to keep Daddy alive to actually be done. Just keep him for a day longer, god. It’s not his time to leave yet, please don’t take him away. Exhaust all treatment options, alright? Daddy wants to live too. I saw that determination is his eyes that very last day I could hear a proper coherent sentence being formed by him. I know he’s in pain, but he’s putting up such a strong fight, just for us.
I can act like life is completely normal now, but the period of hell we went through during the darkest period of my life just 7 months ago is something that I will never ever forget. How scary things were, how the feeling of fear came and left and haunted us like a cloak of despair that would never evaporate. Spending the nights outside the terrifying ICU for more than 2 weeks almost killed my soul. It’s hard to describe it all, but I think I’m finally ready to document this out especially after everything hit me like a truck all over again while reading an article.
It also scares me that I’m beginning to lose memory of certain events that transpired during the last days of Daddy’s life (like what he said, or did), so writing it out is a definite must now.
You wouldn’t understand how it feels like to have your Dad drive into the hospital one morning for his scheduled checkup, get admitted for observation, and then all within a month and a few days later realize that he’d never come out of that place alive.
Whenever someone close to you passes on after struggling with their illness, the first thing you’d tell yourself (or what most people would tell you to comfort you) is that they’re now free from suffering. Free from the torture of pain, from all aches and discolored veins impaled from the infinite number of tubes.
The Morning He Left
I’d tell you now that seeing someone die is a distressing conflict of feelings – it is so very painful to know that you’d never hear their voice again, but at the same time almost cathartic and relieving to know that this is over. Did I want Daddy to go? Did I want him to die? We were by his deathbed for almost 4 hours and a half before he left. The last 2 hours of it all, we just kept telling him to leave peacefully with the knowledge that he had led a glorious life while alive. We were literally telling him to die, to put it simplistically. It felt so fucking ridiculous to me at that time and when he finally left, I was incapable of feeling.
Mummy, the brother and sister cried so badly and her “I am only 14 years old but I have no father” was the only thing that tore me at the seams. It was the first time I’d ever seen my grown up brother cry that badly. I didn’t cry, I couldn’t even make myself cry even though I wanted to. There was just this irritable, dull sense of existence but that was it. Was I unfeeling? Were my relatives thinking that I don’t love Daddy enough? We went home to grab some of Daddy’s favourite clothes, his favourite pen, some of his favourite casettes from decades ago, some Father’s Day & birthday cards we’d done for him through our adolescent years – all to put into the coffin within, and I never cried through it all. The only time it really sunk into me like a tonne of bricks was more than hours later.
Let’s just say that I have yet to resolve my feelings from that day. Everything had been too much for me and I hated the limits of the healthcare system then. How they’d taken so slow to get the medical diagnosis right, that of which eventually prolonged treatment. When it comes to such a type of illness, timing is of incredible importance because each second that goes by is a second lost to the extremely crippling monster. And how absolutely ridiculous certain analogies the doctor used were when trying to describe his condition. It’s like sending the best soldier to war, but without any ammo. Dude, I get it. Didn’t help too that I didn’t like him at all. It would’ve helped if he could have explained to us better, on how we should be more mentally prepared. That treatment options were really exhausted. The last few days were a drawl because we were told there was a 0.01% chance of survival, and we all know how the figure 0.01% knocks all air out of one’s pathetic lungs when you hear that.
I think I’m completely missing the point I’d intended to put across when starting this post, so since I’m getting so carried away with all this let’s just fuck that.
The Last Day before he was admitted into Intensive Care
That was the very same day he was given his diagnosis a few hours earlier on. I have never seen my Dad as weak as he had been in the 21 years of my life then and it shook me. We were told that there was a discovery after an agonizing 2.5 weeks, and my dad turned to me and said, “It must be serious. That’s why they want us to go to the room outside to listen.” He looked pensive and I told him that that was just “routine”, that they just wanted us to listen properly so we can understand it fully. It was a 4 person ward at that time because Daddy got sick of staying in a one person room – staying in bed all day and being unable to get out of the room can really exhaust you mentally. Company from others helped make him feel less alone.
Just me, my dad and uncle were there to listen while the 2 doctors had come around to explain. We were broken the news, and I had to be the one conveying it to my mum and brother over the phone. Things were explained to be serious and Daddy was recommended to begin chemo the next day. The doctor said that if chemo didn’t start he might not walk out of the hospital alive. Serious being serious, I was still hopeful, calm and settled then even after clarifying with the doctor on the unpromising prognosis (I didn’t let Daddy know this). Daddy, even up to that point, was still mincing everything to my mum although I felt that she had to know everything prim and proper by then. I stuck to his wishes though and played things down while explaining to her. I was determined to patiently get through this with Daddy, and had repeatedly told him then that he should give the burden of listening and worrying to us, and that he should just focus on recovering. I just kept telling him the doctor said there was a chance of recovery and that he would be fine. He is always so concerned about burdening us, not wanting us to worry about anything.
That night, however, Daddy’s condition took a sudden turn for the worse on that very night and they had to give him a much higher amount of oxygen to keep him breathing. His condition was stabilized and everyone else had left while I insisted on staying through the night. I was secretly scared by then and held his hand while he rested, not wanting to let go. He told me through the oxygen mask, half-smiling (I know he was, even though he must have been so scared himself) that he was fine and that I should rest, but I said it was alright and that I’d just hold his hand while resting. I told him that it’s just us 2, the sheep (our zodiacs) that were left there tonight and that’s why I had to hold his hand. He was thirsty and hungry, but was ordered not to drink anymore water from then. He asked for water and I gave him abit before denying him of anymore while he was still intensely slurping. If I’d known then that that was gonna be the last time he could drink properly (even from a straw) I would have given him more. I totally would have yknow, Daddy. I am so sorry I didn’t.
A very nice female staff came around and did some checks on him before telling us that he will be transferred to the ICA (Intermediate Care Area) which is one level above normal wards & one below the ICU. And then I was left scrambling to pack everything he had in the cupboards while they transferred my dad’s bed to another block. This was 11.30pm, and I was left behind struggling to push the scaringly noisy tray they had given me from one block to another all by myself. I was scared, panicky and the extremely deserted looking hospital grounds at that time did not help to calm me one bit. Not a situation I’d ever wish my worst enemy to be in. I just kept myself numb and went head into everything trying not to think.
And when I was finally reunited with Daddy at the ward, I couldn’t hear anything he was trying to say by then because of the oxygen mask that was forcefully and tightly strapped onto his face. I felt so bad, you know? I couldn’t get it, I really couldn’t. I just kept telling him that he can tell me when he has recovered, and that I will be there outside, in the waiting area through the night, and that he shouldn’t worry or feel alone. Visitors are not allowed to hang around the ICA area so I couldn’t stay by his side, although I desperately wish I could. His eyes kept enlarging while he tried to put his message across before giving up. I told him to stay with me because he promised to bring me to Scotland to see sheep someday and that he had to keep it. He nodded his head and I was desperate. Luckily, my aunt and uncle came around later around 2am and told my cousin to stay with me in the resting area outside. I am so incredibly thankful because I didn’t want to worry my mum and sister, while the brother was still stuck in army.
The next morning, we had waited painfully for the doctors to do their rounds before informing us of the situation. Mummy had cooked porridge for Daddy (like she religiously did every day before that, as well as his other favourite soups) except that he was completely unable to ingest it by then. I was once again the person speaking to the doctor, who told me that my dad’s condition wasn’t too good and that he had to be transferred to the ICU. “What do you mean? Does it mean he’s in critical condition?” I asked. “Actually, I would say that his life is in extreme danger.” Okay, I replied, Okay. He asked me if I had anymore questions and I told him no. I didn’t feel scared then, just that same old determination that we were going to get through this.
It was only when everyone else arrived, when my brother came and my uncles aunties cousins came, that I decided I was no longer able to carry on being the one listening to the doctor. It was too much, just too much. I prayed, prayed so immensely hard that entire day. I held the book the entire day and just kept praying. I am eternally grateful and thankful to all my relatives, because I’d never knew then how support from your family is so incredibly important and helpful when you’re seemingly at the crappiest dungeons ever of your life. My brother was so helpful when he arrived and took over as the one listening to the doctors with my uncle, even though he’s younger than me. Each act of support from the extended family will forever be cherished close to my heart.
The Days In Between
Truthfully speaking, it hadn’t really occurred to me then that Daddy might really leave us in the end. Even though the doctor said he was in extremely critical condition, there was still a tiny hope in me that believed things would be alright in the end. The ICU is a nasty place, and spending multiple nights outside at the waiting area was a nightmare.
I would go on about this, but I’m feeling really exhausted right now. An abrupt end, but I’ll continue this either tonight or tomorrow…