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New Here...just Lost My Dad

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Hi there,

My dad went into the hospital on September 13 for gangrene in his toe. His health hadn't been great before he went into the hospital, but it was all manageable - he was driving in August with no problems. His health history was extensive (Type 1 diabetes, multiple melanomas, stage 3 chronic kidney disease, congestive heart failure, neuropathy, a broken hip, etc.), and yet he always seemed to dig his heels in a little harder and say "Bring it on".

Over the course of this last admission, he had 3 surgeries on his leg, culminating in an above the knee amputation, which was doing well. At 81 years old, he was working his therapy, and was planning on returning home.

After 41 days in the hospital, unfortunately we realize now that we made the wrong choice in rehab facilities. He was at the first one for 9 days before ending up back in the hospital with some pretty severe issues. It took another week, but they finally got him strong enough to transfer to a different rehab facility - one that we were much more pleased with.

He had a week there, when one day, they had a hard time waking him up. They called for an ambulance, and back to the hospital he went. When I met him at the ambulance bay, he was alert and oriented, but since he was scheduled for a debridement surgery on his other leg (that had developed a pretty nasty wound from when he tried to remove a protective boot while having a reaction to morphine), they decided to admit him overnight.

The next morning, we got a call that his blood pressure was dangerously low (60/40) and that we needed to get there ASAP. They moved him to the ICU, and he progressively got worse each day. All told, his congestive heart failure was getting worse, he had aspiration pneumonia, and his kidney function had progressed to the failure stage.

He fought hard, but Monday night, he was having a hard time catching his breath and was extremely anxious. They wanted to try a few things, but all of them involved a mask (he's very clastrophobic), and since he was a DNR/DNI, there wasn't much they could do. He looked at my mom and I and told us he was done...that he was tired, and just wanted to be comfortable.

After being awake with him all night Monday, everyone realized on Tuesday that things were not going to improve, and it became a question of quality of life. We contacted HOV, and they moved him to a palliative care unit at about 4:30 yesterday afternoon. He passed away just before midnight.

I'm grateful that he didn't struggle, and that he wasn't in pain.

That being said, I don't know what to do now. I moved back in with my parents when some of these health issues started cropping up. My mom had esophageal cancer surgery in June (and the stress of Dad's issues have made her lose more weight, but all in all, she's managing), so I became the errand runner, wound care 'nurse', and anything else either of them needed me to be. I wouldn't have changed any of that for the world.

But to be honest, after her surgery, I've been their caretaker (and working a full time teaching job) for the past couple of years, and I'm not sure what is next. My mom is dealing the best she can. My emotions are all over the place. My mom is one of my best friends, but I was a major Daddy's girl. I'm feeling so lost right now, especially as it's Thanksgiving tomorrow. There is a lot to celebrate, but I'm so sad, I'm not sure I can even begin to enjoy it. Mom was supposed to see her oncologist yesterday for the results of her latest follow up PET scan, but had to cancel - so there's that hanging over us until she can get another appointment.

The memorial service will be next week, on what would have been their 60th wedding anniversary -- another reason to celebrate, but I'm sad he won't be there to celebrate with us.

I haven't gotten to any emotion other than sadness right now. I guess I'm just looking for advice, or something that I can grab onto right now and not feel like I'm drowning.



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Dear Tracie,

Your journey has certainly been riddled with challenges, loss and sadness. I am so very sorry. You are at the right place as all of us are grieving here, non judgmental, and embracing. I lost my husband recently and this group has been a lifesaver.

It sounds like you might need to just slow down a bit, get through the memorial service, and be as sad as you need to be. Be gentle with yourself. Looking ahead right now probably is not a good way to go. You might consider getting some space every day with a long walk or drive....just to be by yourself for a while. You are far more exhausted than you know. I suggest you just get through the memorial service and holidays, come here often for support and then in January perhaps consider the next step.

Does your mom have friends and support of her own? If so when the memorial service is over, getting some of them to help support your mom might give you a breather and time to grieve on your own a bit. Any siblings?

We will all help you.


Mary mfh

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Hi Tracie. Well, almost all of us here have have endured the passing of a family member. It's really not so easy for me to give advice, as I negotiated those first weeks of mourning with considerable difficulty. I was just so wound up it took months for me to calm down and regain good focus within my own life. Anyway, I agree with the general advice that mfh has offered. In short, treat yourself kindly! Have patience with yourself and others. Ease your burden of responsibilities when you can. And find time for yourself and the things you care about. A lot of us feel numb in those first days and weeks, but eventually we gather our thoughts and feelings into some sense of renewed purpose.

Ron B.

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Thanks, Mary and Ron...I appreciate your replies.

Tomorrow is Dad's service, on what would have been his and Mom's 60th Anniversary. A bittersweet day, to say the least.

I went back to work today, and was more emotional than I thought I would be. I know everyone says that we grieve in different ways - I guess I'm just surprised at some of the things that I have felt, especially the anger at things not really justified. That one kind of threw me for a loop.

I'm trying to be better at taking care of myself, but it's hard. I'm so focused on Mom right now. She had a follow up visit at the doctor yesterday, and was 'scolded' for how much weight she's dropped since her esophagectomy in June. Since Dad went into the hospital in September, she's down about 12 more pounds, putting her at about 5'3", and 114 pounds. She's really trying to eat and take care of herself, but it's hard with all of the stress. She doesn't have a lot of friends, other than family or couples that she and Dad used to hang out with. I'm definitely trying to let her lead, and when she feels like going out somewhere and doing something, I try to make myself available.

She's told me that she doesn't want me giving up my life for her, but right now, she is my life. Being single, I don't have a spouse or kids to support me in all of this -- which may be why it's hard to put myself first. I'm somewhat used to being the caretaker -- and not the one being taken care of. I know it's not ideal, but right now, it's the best I can do. I do have one older brother, who is married with three kids of his own. He's trying to be supportive, but I know he's dealing with his own grief in losing Dad.

One hour at a time...starting with getting through tomorrow. Then I'll try to focus on putting one foot in front of the other, and making sure I carve out some time just for me. I'll try.

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