I signed the papers with a heavy heart and a head full of questions.
Will he make it?
Will he be in a coma?
Will I have to make a decision to pull the plug?
Will he ever be close to the same?
Will he be mad at me for signing the papers?
Will he have quality of life?
I remembered the night Dad woke me in the middle of the night. He never even said hello. He said, “Promise me something”. He asked me to promise him to never put him in a nursing home. He told me to take him into the woods with a gun. He told me he wants to be cremated. He told me to give his ashes to his best friend. He said Ed would know where to spread his ashes.
Come to find out, Ed isn’t really sure.
Since the morning my father fell off a ladder and sustained a traumatic brain injury (TBI), that phone call from a few years ago has materialized in my head. I go over our words. I think about our beliefs. I consider our values. I get angry at the irony.
The emergency neurosurgery lasted about 4 ½ hours. I sat in the trauma ICU family waiting room holding my breath. I barely spoke to anyone.
I wanted to run. I wanted to run like hell. I wanted to run away from that hospital as far as I could. I wanted to run away from the day. I wanted to run away from the tragedy. I wanted to run more than anything.
I didn’t run. I knew I couldn’t yet.
We were allowed in to see him in the trauma ICU once he made it out of surgery. He was in a medically induced coma. He was on a ventilator. There were tubes coming out of his head draining blood. The left side of his skull was removed. I later learned they placed it under the skin in his stomach. This is a common procedure to keep the bone viable for later placement. His vitals were out of control. Constant flashing of a heart-rate beating too fast, blood pressure that fluctuated dangerously close to death… the list goes on. The beeping never stopped on that machine.
I wanted to throw that machine out into the hallway. I wanted to smash it. I wanted to scream at it.
God, I hated that machine.
One nurse told me to ignore the machine. I laughed at her.
I knew what those numbers meant.
I walked out of that ICU room one day when his systolic blood pressure hit 225. I looked at my little sister and said, “I’ve got to go”. I ran.
I ran to my car out in the parking lot.
I don’t know how to do this. I don’t know if I can do this.
But truthfully, life didn’t care if I knew how to do it or not. It didn’t care if I wanted it. It was here and it was happening. I was in the middle of the biggest shit storm of my life. Yeah, that’s real. I’ve been through some challenges in my life previously, but nothing like this.
Can I be strong for my little sister? Our mom died 10 years ago. She needs me to be strong for her. She needs me to be strong for Dad.
Can I be strong for my brother? He lives out of state. There’s only so much he can do. He needs me to be strong for Dad.
Can I be strong for Dad? He needs me now. He needs me to fight for him. He needs me to believe in him. He needs me to push him.
He wants me to be strong.
I’m not even a fan of the word ‘strong’. “Oh, you’re so strong” – what the hell does that even mean?
And those people who…without batting an eye testifying their own strength, “I am strong”…. Please, they drive me nuts.
I’ve appeased others and gave them those words when they needed the reassurance that I too was “strong”, but truthfully I am scared. I will keep going. I will do what needs to be done. I’ll probably make some mistakes along the way. I’ll probably break down. Hell, I already have.
I’m not strong. I’m not weak.
I’m only human.
I’m just me.. Christine…
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