-Martin, the son-
Yes, I was confused. And I felt guilty. I always knew this time would come, but life had drawn me north to Leeds, and it was not realistic for me to move back down to support Mum and Dad in their final years. Perhaps, if I had, this confusion wouldn’t have occurred. Perhaps, if I had been more involved in their care, there would have been more certainty.
The confusion I felt was because Mum rang me that night, after having spoken with Dr Green, in an agitated state. She said they were refusing to help Dad, that they didn’t want him to go to the high dependency ward, didn’t want to give him the mask… she made it sound like they were leaving him to die. I tried to calm her down. I knew, having met his lung specialist once, and knowing that Dad was already plugged into the local hospice team, that he really didn’t have long to live. So, Mum’s words were on the one hand distressing – how could they not treat him? – and, on the other hand, perfectly in keeping with what I knew. He was dying. We had to face that. And now this infection was clearly going to speed up that process. It may sound cold, but I had been thinking about this for months.
I got in the car and drove south, to their local hospital. As long as they keep him comfortable, don’t go too far, I thought. Hopefully they’ve got all the notes, so they know what kind of state he is in. I wasn’t confident that Mum would be able to tell them everything.
When I arrived on the HDU (evidently, they had changed their minds about him going there) I was genuinely appalled. Dad was sitting up, propped up really, with one arm stuck out to the side on another pillow, a bruise spreading from his wrist to his elbow. You could see the swelling where the blood had gathered. He was having a break from the mask, but the pressure had made a groove on the bridge of his nose, and there were pressure marks elsewhere on his face. He was barely conscious. A nurse had drawn up a trolley with a stomach tube on it, intending to put it in through his nose. It was not what I expected.
Following the conversation with Dr Harvey and Dr Green, Dad was moved to another ward. He lived for another 6 hours.
Do I regret what happened? I regret that his last day was filled with urgency and not a little panic, though I don’t think the things that were done to him were cruel or way over the top. He was barely conscious, as I have said, though who knows what he was hearing and thinking. I hope everyone was kind to him. He was a very intelligent man.
So yes, the last day was not ideal, especially for a man whom anyone, any doctor, any relative, could have predicted was not going to live very long. We didn’t plan for that final day. I wish we had. Nobody told us to plan for it. If I had been around more, during those admissions in the lead up to the final one, I might have pushed him and Mum to discuss it together. But what words do you use? It is so very… negative, depressing, almost tempting fate. Yet Dad’s fate was written long before, by the cigarettes, the long disease. I should have been braver. And I will.
If, when, Mum gets ill, I am going to find a way. We will face the final day well before that day arrives.