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.