Bringing my dad to the hospital

Bringing my dad to the hospital

Regret is not quite the right word for how I feel about bringing my father to the hospital to die, but it comes pretty close.

My father was a burly, no-nonsense man who wasn’t really crazy about leaving the house to visit anyone. Children should come to him, he thought. That’s how he was raised. He liked to be in his home. He avoided doctors and hospitals.

It was good I was there that night, I guess. I was sleeping over his house because my mother was away, and he was very ill from pancreatic cancer. He had kept his diagnosis to himself for many months, and I — and I think he — didn’t realize how close to the end he was.

We watched a movie together. He was coughing the whole time, and while I don’t want to go into the medical details, the cough became increasingly worse. I had been asleep for about an hour when he came into my childhood bedroom to wake me and ask me to bring him to the emergency room.

After some waiting and forms, my dad was taken down the hall for a test. While he was away, a doctor came by and asked me if my dad would want a DNR–would he want to be let to die rather than have extraordinary measures taken to extend his life? I said I didn’t know.

My dad came back and I asked him.

“I don’t think I’m going yet!” he said. The look of surprise on his face has stayed with me across the years.

“Oh, I think they just ask that to everybody,” I said.

We chatted about other stuff. After a while, he said that, no, he wouldn’t want to be resuscitated. So I guess he did know how close to the end he was.

He never came home from that night. After a few days, a nurse told us that his body was struggling to process the fluids from the IV, so we agreed that they should stop giving him fluids. Even then, I didn’t clearly understand what the nurse had said. They had stopped providing him with food and were waiting for him to die.

This is the plan for terminally ill people? Stop feeding them and wait for them to die?

I could have been better informed. I could have asked more questions. One thing I had to do was bring my dad to the emergency room that night. But I just wish I could have brought him home.

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About Marcy

I blog about trying to get out of my comfort zone, completing 101 things in 1001 days (and beyond), and writing my memoirs. My book: Timid No More.
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21 Responses to Bringing my dad to the hospital

  1. Rahmath says:

    I am so overwhelmed after reading this post that I don’t know what to say Marcy.


    Loved the second pic from your wedding day. The way you are looking at him.

    Take care

  2. Mandy says:

    I’m so very sorry for your loss and the way it happened. I think that’s the most tragic and traumatic result of a disease like cancer. A dear friend passed away after her battle with lung cancer. We were all in shock the closer it came to the end. How can something like that happen when no one is ready? How can we help her when we don’t understand what’s happening ourselves?

    Beautiful piece.

  3. Great piece. What a terrible moment to bring to paper. Talk about unintended consequences. Thank you for sharing!
    barbara @ de rebus recently posted..choices and consequencesMy Profile

  4. Shannon says:

    Aw, this is heart breaking. There is something about losing a parent, no matter how old we are. (I lost my father a few years ago under somewhat similar circumstances a couple months after he had a stroke.)
    Shannon recently posted..{this moment} — And an Easy Way to Help DogsMy Profile

  5. Marcy, my heart goes out to you. I’ve been there, and I mean it literally. My father died two years ago, and we were forced to make some of the same types of decisions. It’s gut-wrenching.

    You wrote about it beautifully, though. How long ago was this? I hope you don’t still feel regret or guilt over bringing him to the hospital. It was the only thing you could have done, and you stayed with him. Surely that brought him comfort, and I hope eventually it will comfort you, as well.
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    • Marcy says:

      My dad died in 2003. I have some guilt about bringing him, or more a sadness. I know I had to, but I know that he wouldn’t have wanted to stay there. I wish we were more proactive about getting him home care, but it happened really quickly, and we weren’t prepared for it. Thank you for your kind thoughts. I’m sorry for your loss.

  6. angela says:

    My heart is heavy for you, though I don’t think you could have made any other choice that night. It’s so difficult to think about those types of choices with the people we love, especially when things are happening so quickly.

    I have to say it made me smile to see him in his grass skirt!
    angela recently posted..Expectations of the JobMy Profile

    • Marcy says:

      Thank you, Angela. That grass skirt picture is one of my favorites! He was always the guy that some performer on stage would call up out of the audience. It was so funny. I gave him that picture for Father’s Day one year.

  7. Lucy says:

    Hi Marcy,
    You did a beautiful job with your post today. As a daughter myself I have been in the same place… sort of. I have had to place my mother in an Alzheimers home and the poor thing was so confused. She kept asking to go home. She was pretty angry at me and kept calling me “that girl that put me here”. I know she doesn’t know what she is saying but it still is tough. No one ever told us what to do when these moments happen. We just do the best we can.
    Thanks for sharing.
    Lucy recently posted..I have no choiceMy Profile

  8. Beverly says:

    Marcy, What an honest and tough story to share. I am so sorry that you didn’t get to take your Daddy home and that none of you had time to really process and prepare. I have thought at times that I wouldn’t want to share with everyone until I had no choice but things like your story make me realize that ultimately if ever in that situation I should. I found you through SITS Share and am going to link up a story of mine 🙂

  9. Stopping by from SITS ShareFest. I just love the pictures of you and your dad. A beautiful, heartfelt post. You made the right choice but that doesn’t change how difficult it must have been.
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  10. We did that to my uncle. He got to come home though, but we did that to him all the same. I can tell you that while it was probably what he wanted, I didn’t want to enter his house, especially his bedroom, after that. It’s going to be a hard decision to make when it’s my father’s turn.

    In heartfelt sympathy
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  11. Oh Marcy, your post has made me cry. Sometimes letting go is the kindest, most loving thing you can do. I had to do it for my own Dad. He experienced multiple organ failure and after many attempts to save him I had to give permission to allow the doctors to turn the life support machines off. It was the hardest decision I have ever made. I won’t pretend I don’t ever regret it, or question myself, but in my heart I know that there really was no choice. My Dad had told me when he was ill that he did not want to go on if there was no hope, and I know that he would be proud of me for honouring his wishes and having the courage to let go. Your Dad would be proud of you too.
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  12. Mama Mary says:

    Thank you for linking this story up on the hugs for the holidays linkup. I am so sorry you’re in this crummy club and I hope you find some solace and comfort this holiday season.

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