Thursday, May 18, 2006

The death of a dear, dear man...

Several of you have expressed concern regarding my cryptic post on Wednesday. I'm so sorry to have worried you all so. It's been a rough week with the unfortunate climax on Wednesday night. I was trying to get to quickly get the info out there that I wouldn't have the time, energy, or motivation to get something uploaded. I guess I wasn't thinking too clearly. So, now, I'll try to tell the story...

My dear friend, Raina's father died on Wednesday night. This is sad enough, in and of itself, but the truth is, it is so much worse than that. As some of you know, Raina lives in Florida and she was just here a few weeks ago visiting her mother in the hospital. Raina's mom, Sandy, has been in ICU for almost two months now. Two weeks ago, Raina got the call that it was time to come back as Sandy was in trouble, so thankfully, Raina was in town and able to be here when her father died.

Sandy is a diabetic who hasn't always taken the best of care of herself or her body so she was in fairly poor health to begin with. She had lost part of her foot to diabetic complications and was undergoing wound care for that. In January, she started complaining of terrible pain in her neck. She was taken to the emergency room on two different occassions because the pain was so bad that Don, Raina's father, could not get her into the car, she had to be taken by ambulance. Each time she was released with some vague statement about arthritic episode. Don kept on the doctor's until finally one of them agreed to admit Sandy to the hospital for some other reason so they could hopefully figure out was wrong. Finally, a neurologist was called in and thought her condition looked like meningitus. They ran some different tests and found she had a staph infection, apparently from the wound debrisment of her foot.

As it turns out, the staph infection had settled in Sandy's neck and had been eating away at the muscles and tissues in her neck, including her spinal column. Her neck started collapsing on itself so they did emergency surgery to insert a metal rod to stabilize and fuse her spinal cord and a trachiotomy for the respirator. A few days later, she was fitted with a metal halo to prevent her from moving her head until it had a chance to heal. Sandy was partially paralized from the neck down - she had no movement ability but could still feel everything. She could not talk because of the trachiotomy and respirator. She had no way of getting the nurses attention when she was in pain or hot or cold...

Don was her savior. He spent all day, every day at the hospital being her "nurses call button". She could make a small, kissy noise when she needed his attention and then he would read her lips to find out what she needed and could let the nurses know. The ICU staff fell in love with Don and were amazed by his dedication and grace under pressure. He never forgot to be kind and thoughtful to those around him - he brought them donuts and cookies almost every day. He never failed to have a smile and a kind word for everyone, even when his own world was crumbling further each day. For two months, Don spent almost every day in the hospital with Sandy, only leaving when visiting hours would end. Only one shift did Don miss during all that time. His van had broken down and he needed to repair it, so I spent the morning shift playing call button while he had a mechanic friend helping him. It was tough to see Sandy like that and tougher yet to read her lips, but the toughest part was how hard it was to leave her and her just wanting Don to be there. He was her rock, her safety net.

So, fast forward to Saturday night. Every Saturday for years, our group of friends has gone to dinner at a local Thai restaurant. Raina and John, her husband, and their son, Ian had come to Thai food to see all their old friends. They had driven her dad's van and he had taken his motorcycle to go back up to the hospital for evening visiting hours. He probably would have driven his bike anyway since it was nice weather and gas prices being what they are. He rode it quite frequently because of the long drive to the hospital anyway. On his way home around 8 pm, an illegal alien lost control of his truck on the highway causing a 7 car pileup. Don was in the middle of the accident. He saw the beginning of the accident and had time to lay his bike down rather than hitting head on. If he hadn't, he probably would have been killed instantly. Instead, he suffered a shattered pelvis, foot, ankle and wrist on one side. He was alert and doing OK considering his age and injuries. The only problem was he was worried what Sandy would do because he would be in the hospital himself for three months recovering from the pelvic reconstruction.

Raina got to spend Sunday with him, talking and going over details of what she needed to do to help out while he was going to be in the hospital. She had just gotten home when she realized she had forgotten to get his pin number for his debit card so she could pay his bills, etc. When she got back to the hospital, she walked into his room to find a team of people working on him. He was being intebated because a clot had apparently been knocked loose from the impact and had settled into his lungs. The next morning they did surgery to install a filter in his main artery leading to his brain to try to prevent any further damage. He was kept in a medically induced coma because they had placed him on a "rocker bed" to keep his blood flowing in such a way that no clots would move to his vital organs. Circumstances were such that he was just unable to recover from it. Raina and her half brother, Brian, got the call that he was going and were able to be at the hospital when he passed Wednesday evening.

I just spoke with both Raina and Brian to get their permission to post their story and the scrapbook page I made for Don. They both said they would be honored to share his memory this way. Sandy hadn't been told the severity of Don's accident yet based on her doctor's recommendation. They wanted to make sure they had a new feeding tube in place so they could administer anti-anxiety/depression meds in such a way that the original feeding tube would not allow. That is now in place and so, today they are going to tell her. Please keep them all in your prayers and thoughts, its sure to be a rough day.

I've decided to use my page for Don as my week three entry in the ultimate digiscrapper contest. I had already done two other pages this week to decide between, but this page means so much to me and has been such a healing experience to create that I want to share it with as many people as possible. Raina and Brian both agreed that Don would think that was pretty neat. Due to contest rules, I can't post the page anywhere but the contest gallery, so if you would like to see it, click here.


Lu said...

so sorry to hear about your friend's father. i will pray for the family.

sally said...

I'm totally bawling here...thanks for sharing this story. It truly reminds me to appreciate my family and Don inspires me to reach out to others! Praying for all of you...

Victoria said...

Thank you very much Lu and Sally! Your comments mean a lot to me.

Sally, you are right, Don was an inspiration to many in that he was always loving and you never ever doubted that he cared about whatever was happening in your life.


Maggie said...

Hi Vicki:
Lighted a candle for the family at church service tonite.
I pray the Lord give her strentgh to get thru this.