Breathe In, Breathe Out
February 02, 2009
My phone rang on Saturday at the exact wrong time for the phone to ring. Screaming baby, whining preschooler, misplaced shoes and house keys and that stupid plastic Piston Cup that has suddenly become the most beloved and cherished toy in the world, although apparently not beloved and cherished enough to NOT CONSTANTLY BE LOST. I let the call go to voice mail.
When Jason's phone rang a few seconds later, I froze.
"It's your mom," he said. But I already knew that.
I grabbed the phone and fumbled with it for a bit -- my palms had gone completely clammy -- and heard nothing but my mother's sobs. The room began to spin and my heart dropped into my shoes and I took two stumbling steps towards the step between the foyer and living room. I'd been standing next to a nice upholstered bench, but for some reason the step looked like a better option. Like if I heard the news while closer to the floor there would be less of a chance that I'd hurt myself when I went into a full-on slide-to-the-floor meltdown.
The news was bad, but it was not That Bad News. He was alive, but the pneumonia was life-threatening. His heart was out of rhythm again. He couldn't breathe. He was strangling and panicking. He needed a breathing tube, a ventilator, but he was refusing it and the hospital said they were accepting his refusal. No ventilator.
The next few hours were blurry -- I got very shrill on the phone with my mom, unable to fathom the idea that my father was lucidly refusing essential and life-saving medical care. No, I said. He's sick. He's been deprived of proper oxygen levels for too long. He's doped up. He doesn't know what he's doing. They can't let him do that. You go in there and you tell him that I'm telling him to get on that ventilator and let his lungs fucking heal already, only leave out the f-word. I know it bothers him.
But my fucking lands, really.
My brother and I talked too -- endless gallows humor and a debate over competency and stubbornness over who could rearrange their life this week to go to Pennsylvania and...and...I don't know. Do SOMETHING. Fix SOMETHING. Grab the nurses by the collars of their scrubs and impress upon them that we KNOW he's being a difficult patient but he is NOT a difficult person -- he is kind to children and pets and waitresses -- and he is OUR FATHER and we NEED HIM and look! He has a new grandbaby! Look at the baby!
SERIOUS BABY SAYS SAVE HIS POP-POP, SERIOUSLY.
In the end, my mom called back and said that he'd written a note and agreed to accept the ventilator...IF he had another serious gasping/strangling attack. Which...he wasn't having, at the time. But. Okay. Thank you.
He never needed the ventilator. On Sunday, his lungs looked the same. Which was actually kind of huge, because it was the first day where his lungs hadn't looked WORSE.
Today, his lungs look better.
Forgive the lazy Internet expression here but: !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
(In my head, that is not actually pronounced like anything but must always be accompanied by a wide bug-eyed, open-mouth expression, and then you shake your head -- just a little, like if you were a cartoon and someone just put a bell over your head and whacked it with a mallet -- once for every exclamation point.)
It's not over, oh, no. It's not. He is still very, very sick. The pneumonia is very, very bad. But it's getting better, finally. The medicines seem to be working. He's off the not-a-ventilator-but-not-a-simple-oxygen-mask machine and back to the simple oxygen mask, which he can pull off and talk to my mom for the first time in almost a week. His heart's rhythm is good, his breathing is better.
I think we're all breathing better.