A few weeks ago (August 14th, to be exact), my dad was taken to the hospital because he had fallen in his apartment and couldn't get back up on his own. He's 88 and lives in an old folks' home, but in an independent living apartment of his own. He isn't in great shape: he gets winded walking down a long, level corridor, something he has to do three times a day to get his meals in the cafeteria downstairs. Anyway, they worked him up and didn't find anything in particular, so they guessed it might be a urinary tract infection. After a night in the hospital, they moved him back to his apartment complex, but kept him downstairs in the nursing ward.
He seemed to be getting better, and I would visit him after work in the evenings. Then, August 31st, he was taken back to the hospital, complaining of abdominal pain. It turns out he picked up a C. difficile infection on the previous trip, probably as a result of the antibiotics killing off all the competing good bacteria. This is a painful diarrhea-producing intestinal disease, which can be fatal in elderly or immuno-compromised patients. They moved him around a couple of times, then settled on a cardiac telemetry ward to keep him in. He's in "isolation", which means you put on a paper gown and rubber gloves every time you go into his room. This bug is pretty contagious.
Anyway, on Wednesday the 4th, my brother called to suggest that I take off Thursday, because Dad wasn't doing well. So, my brother and I sat with Dad Thursday and Friday, during the day. At night, I went home to sleep, and my brother, who lives two hours away, got permission to live in Dad's apartment for the duration. Then, Saturday the 7th, Dad's breathing was bad enough that we decided to stay with him during the night. Dad didn't sleep more than two minutes at a time because he was so apneic. He would gradually doze off, then stop breathing for fifteen, maybe thirty, seconds. Then he'd rouse himself and struggle, throwing off the bedsheet because he thought it was that and not the fluid in his throat that was choking him. So, of course, I couldn't sleep either. My brother, who's a nurse, could manage to sleep briefly, but we still thought Dad could go any time.
Yet, when morning came, Dad was still with us. In fact, with a change in his pain meds, he seemed to be sleeping relatively comfortably. So, around noon, my brother decided he had to go home to his family, and I went home to get some rest. I had been awake for something like 26 hours without any sleep, and besides three hours on the couch in the patient lounge, was up for something like 37 hours. Both my brother and I decided we would have to return to work this morning, and continue to visit as we can.
So, this morning I went by before work, and found Dad propped in a sitting position, weakly feeding himself some breakfast. That's the first food he's had in four or five days ... His breathing is better, but there are still a lot of things wrong. He could still go at any time, and no one's really fighting that hard, because he has seemed ready to die for some time. Yet when the time came, he didn't give up. Who know? Someone suggested that he still has something he has to do here; the trick is figuring out what it is.
We'll do our best to be with him, whatever he needs.