What do you do in difficult times, when your family is in crisis? Be distracted by a four year old kid. While my father has been lying in ICU, paralysed, and fighting for his life, we have also been suitably distracted by a little boy who just wants to play and have fun on the beach.
We left off last time on Tuesday 28 July.
On Wednesday Nicky and I went with my friend Aletta and her kids to Bayworld. I had promised Nicky since the time we had arrived that we would see the penguins and the time had come for him to collect on that promise. He was beyond thrilled to see them. We went to see the show which started at 11am. We saw the seal perform and then were also taken to their enclosure and the penguin pool. I think this was definitely the highlight for Nicky because after we had seen everything he insisted on going back to look at the penguins again.
I have to say, though, that Bayworld is just not as it was. As a child watching the dolphin show and seeing the huge aquarium with sharks etc, this place was just a fraction of what it used to be. Bring back the dolphins!!
The museum and snake park are still around though. Nicky got to touch a snake. He was predictably drawn to anything to do with vehicles at the museum. He was fascinated by old fashioned carriages. He also liked all the dinosaurs.
On Thursday we went to the beach with DH’s sister Debbie and Nicky could play with his cousins. They are 13 years old and did some pretty impressive sand sculptures and Nicky enjoyed that. They did an octopus and a crab, among other things. They ran around in the water and had fun.
On Friday we went off to see my friend Aletta who lives on a plot outside PE. It was really cool for Nicky to see all her animals. She has goats, turkeys, ducks, ponies and a lot of dogs and cats too. So Nicky enjoyed that. Although being a rainy windy PE day, we were glad to be inside, have some tea and some lovely muffins she had baked.
I think that it has been good for me to have this time with friends and family in the midst of this tragedy.
Friday was also an awesome day for my sister – first time seeing him more conscious. Very precious to watch them just staring at each other.
On Sunday we went to Something Good (a roadhouse turned into a restaurant) and Nicky had a lot of fun on a go cart. He initially wanted to drive it himself and was very disappointed when he couldn’t. He didn’t want to go on the baby seat at the back. So in the end we found the perfect position: sitting on my lap and steering while I peddled. He was thrilled to go around and around, making sure each time that we stopped at the traffic light and then went when he decided it was green.
On Monday I got Aletta to look after Nicky while we went to an appointment with the doctor. This was a very depressing meeting. He used phrases such as “zero quality of life”, “poor prognosis”. and “best case scenario Christopher Reeve”.
(After this I did a lot of reading up on Christopher Reeve and actually found it pretty inspirational and read some to my dad too).
Athough this news had hit me in the gut, my mom kept saying it was nothing new to her, but honestly it was very blunt and depressing.
On the positive side my mom and my sister had some financial meetings and the guys at Sasfin are helping. My sister also managed to get into his computer and find passwords which was helpful.
On Tuesday the notable event was that my dad had a “trachy” inserted by the ENT – a device which would allow him to breathe through his neck and not his mouth. Thus the discomfort of the terrible breathing tube would be removed. The big collar had already gone.
Also on Tuesday I went to the police station and got the case number as well as the name and number of the detective working on the case. Yes, I did get shunted around, and so I now understood why my mom did not want to go, but in the face of so much that we could not control, this felt like something I could.
Every time my dad had some kind of op or anything it tended to take him a lot of time to recover, so of course there was more sedation after that.
On Wednesday I managed to sneak in a meeting with Eleanor (from JustEllaBella). She was the one who also made a lovely Christmas stocking for Nicky. Again, so good to just chat with someone while Nicky sprinkled lego all over the coffee shop.
Nicky had to hang in there at the waiting room with various babysitters while I promised him a trip to McDonalds with Aletta and her kids again.
While my dad battled on, the influx of visitors continued, with the result that we decided to close this up for now, and limit visitors to immediate family. It was a tough but necessary call to make.
Nicky was very excited at the prospect of a place to play. The weather was awful but the McDonalds play tubes kept him busy, even while the rain fell and Aletta and I chatted away. While this was going on I found out there was another doctor meeting and I had to extend her babysitting duties. Thank God for people like her!
I was not looking forward to this after Monday’s depressing one, but off we went.
What a crazy thing. The man was singing a different tune. He showed us how my dad’s lungs had cleared and stated that within 48 hours we should give him a chance to breathe on his own. He also became a bit more hazy about how things were going to turn out.
Mom, my sister and I chatted outside after this meeting and it very emotional. I kept saying that we couldn’t see the whole picture. With this kind of thing it is a bit of a rollercoaster and what you feel on one day you may not feel on the next. But it is hard.
Oh well I’ll take a bit of positiviity any day and off I went to fetch Nicky. He fell asleep on the way back of course (this was after 5pm) so I was lucky, he slept the whole night through.
Thursday was a milestone day because the sedation was finally wearing off. But I could see he was in a lot of pain and angry. He indicated to us that he was having pain, in the back and and somewhere else. He was mouthing words, now that the tube had gone. (Major thrill: he asked for chocolate ice cream!) He also moved his shoulders in frustration. My mom was able to get the doctor to add another pain med and he was also on morphine. He was also desperate to sit up, but because of the delicate nature of the broken bones being kept in place, this was not to be. I think this was a very frustrating morning for me to witness and was glad to go and fetch Nicky from DH’s sister’s house. His brother also came through and Debbie and Liesel prayed for us.
I’m so glad Nicky had this chance to play with his cousins and I had a chance to connect with family on this difficult day.
Friday was my last day and I was determined to spend as much time at the hospital as possible and my sister volunteered her babysitting services. They went off to the beach and had a blast. I am so glad he got to spend some time with Aunty Liz. Nicky had a lot of fun building, getting full of sand and fell asleep early on the way back home.
At the hospital things were much better. I felt like finally I could actually see my dad. The sedation was off, the pain was less (I hope) and there was some kind of communication going on.
There was a microbiologist going around and apparently my dad had some kind of bug and needed to be isolated. After everything he has been through, this seems a pretty minor thing. All it basically meant is that he was shifted to another room in the same area. You have to put on a blue gown and gloves when you enter and take them off when you leave. The nice thing about it was that he had his own light we could turn off at night so that he could perhaps sleep better in this environment.
My last night with my dad he was mostly very tired so it was just a case of being there. He was a bit anxious about some paper or document in his study which he insisted I phone mom about. The nurse was lip reading the number “35”. We have no clue what this is about or if we are event getting the message right, but anyway. I said goodbye and, feeling like he was more stable, was confident this was not the last time. We blew each other kisses as I de-robed the blue gown etc. At least I left him in the good care of an excellent nurse. (The nurses in this place are just incredible.)
I packed up and we left the next morning. Nicky was excited about the plane but once we were airborne kept asking about when we were going to land.
Back at home I am finding my feet and getting ready for going back to work. We are having a cute new routine of phoning grandpa to say “Night night” and I am keeping in touch over the phone.
But my heart is still in PE. And I’m still hoping that the peace I felt on Friday sitting with my dad will prevail, and all is going to work out in the end.
And whatever difficulty lies ahead, I can always go and play with Nicky and allow that happy nature (not unlike his grandpa) to wash over me.
UPDATE: TUESDAY 12 July: My dad was breathing by himself for two hours today!