Children are often berated for asking annoying questions. Why is the sky blue? What does that day? How does that work? At 45 years old, I discovered that asking the right question made a massive impact on a situation.
Four months ago, while my Dad was in Pembury Hospital after being shipped off by blue light a few weeks before, I received a phone call from a Doctor on the ward. When I picked up the call I thought it was going to be the physiotherapy department organising his discharge home visit, instead it was a time stopping moment I will never forget.
The Doctor was extremely polite and told me that my Dad was now critical and I should get the family to the hospital straight away…to say goodbye. He rambled on about a ‘Do not resusitate’ thing and the only other words I heard were blah blah blah. I have seen this moment on films and on TV shows but for that instant, time really does appear to stop. There was one side of me that was about to do what I was told and get the family round, then there was the other side that didn’t want to acknowledge what I had just heard. Somewhere between a rock and a hard place…via a volcano.
When I walked into the ward, I made a decision that I wasn’t ready to let my Super Hero leave me yet, and I told him as much, then he told the Doctor that his baby girl wasn’t ready to lose her Super Hero and I cried. The Doctor looked uncomfortable and left us to hang around Dad’s bedside and say anything we may want to before he wasn’t here anymore.
The next morning when I went back to the hospital on my own, my Dad smiled at me when I walked in the room and told me he had nearly given the Doctor a heart attack as he had made medical improvements overnight, I laughed.
Ten days later, on a Monday morning I went to the hospital as early as I could with the intention of speaking to a Doctor to find out, ‘what would it take to bring him home?’ The ward was depressing and people wouldn’t make eye contact with me. Once I was there someone came in and swiped his medical files and I heard a conversation outside the hospital room that angered me, but it wasn’t the time to be angry, it was time to try and get Dad home. I didn’t expect him to be dropped off by ambulance three days later with no care plan and only a newly installed oxygen tank for company. What happened over the next three weeks was horrific, but I was happy he was home. The first weekend he was home, I felt like a failure. My Mum is paralysed and reliant on 24-7 care for all her needs and I could feel myself sinking deeper into a place I was unfamiliar with. Two weeks before he was receiving 24/7 medical care and now he only had me and my better half to look after him, with no plan, massive bed sores from being in hospital and no little red button he could press if he needed assistance. To say it was hell is an understatement. Without the support of my close friends I think I would be in a very different place right now.
When you are in a situation like this, caring for family members, people don’t understand why you can’t just drop everything and go places, attend events or even have a weekend away. They don’t realise that everything you do takes planning and a lot of preparation just to have an evening out. I’m used to this but I have definitely been ditched from invite lists as I am no longer able to be the spontaneous party girl I once was. I’m not bitter, my parents gave me such an amazing childhood and have supported me all the way through the era of my life where I am supposed to be an adult! I am lucky in so many ways. I have had conversations with my parents that many children never get to have. I have spent time with them, which I feel is priceless. I have snapped at them when I am caught up in my own world and then nearly cried as they have shown me understanding and compassion. I have drunk too much with my Dad, which isn’t good for his health, but we have giggled and then laughed from deep within our bellies. I have learnt a lot about stuff a child really doesn’t want to learn about when it comes to their parents, but for me, it’s now a part of everyday life.
The ONE thing I DID do that I will never regret is that I asked questions, the best question of all, ‘what needs to happen to get him to come home?’ – who knows, if I hadn’t asked it, I wouldn’t have just cooked him dinner and chatted through what happened over the weekend over a chilled glass of fizz…