Big John (wackdaddy) wrote,
Big John
wackdaddy

It's been exactly 1 month...

...since my father-in-law died.

I don't know if any of you are on marsidotes's FL, but I'm sure she posted about it.

Poppy almost made it to his 91st birthday, so he had a pretty decent run here on Earth.
He had only been living with us for about 9 months, and it seemed like we were finally getting used to each other. He was a tough old guy, very strong for his age. His nickname was "Larry the Bull" and it suited him perfectly, not only because he was stocky and muscular, but because he was also quite stubborn.

We thought he would live to be 100.

But Poppy had been complaining about pain in his legs. He always had some sort of pain in his legs and butt, mostly because he sat on his ass all day and didn't get enough exercise. His idea of moving around was using his walker to go from the TV to the computer.
One Thursday morning though, when he woke up, his foot was a dark shade of gray. Not good. We thought, "Oh, boy. Now he's going to have even more trouble getting around!"

We took him to the Emergency Room. They determined that he had a blood clot in his leg. A very large clot. It was clogging an artery in his leg from his knee to his groin. The doctors determined he needed surgery immediately. But there was another problem we weren't aware of. Poppy's heart rate was high, and his blood pressure was low. We didn't know if it was stress-related from the clot, or if this was something he always had. He'd been to the doctor several times for check-ups and other health-related issues, but no one had picked up on it.

The ER docs went so far as to say to MaryAnn, "You know, he's 90 years old; he might not survive the surgery. Perhaps you should say your goodbyes."
MaryAnn freaked, but the doctors didn't know Poppy that well. One little surgery wasn't going to kill him.
They put a direct line into his artery so they could pump it full of clot-busting drugs. That procedure went fine. But his heart rate was climbing and his BP was still low. They planned on a second surgery for the next day, with the intention of finding another artery to replace the damaged, clotted-up one.

Day 2: Poppy's heart rate was still high. It should have been below 100, but was more like 125. They started the second surgery but had to cut it short. They reattached the newly-cleared-out artery and hoped for the best. Pop's BP was dropping and his heart rate was climbing again. They upped his medication to stabilize his heart.
It was Friday evening now, and heart rate kept at about 140. That's about what it should be when you're exercising, not lying in bed. They told us that, especially at his age, the human heart can only keep that up for so long. We were advised to have any local family come and say goodbye before it's too late. MA's daughter and her family are practically around the corner, so they came right away. We all snuck into the ICU (even the kids) to say goodnight, not knowing if Poppy's heart was going to give out before morning. It was the last time most of us saw him fully conscious.

Day 3: More family came from NJ and RI, but during the night, Poppy's condition took an unexpected turn. The reattached artery apparently caused internal bleeding in his lower leg. By the time everyone got to the hospital, he was in for a third surgery. He made it through the procedure, but didn't fully come out of the anesthesia. We all took turns going into the SICU to talk to him, and he would occasionally squeeze our hands or nod his head to acknowledge us, but he was he had a tube down his throat to help him breathe, so he couldn't talk. All the while, his heart rate kept climbing and his BP slowly dropped some more. They maxed out the meds they were giving him to help regulate it.
By the afternoon, Poppy's heart rate was hitting 155. It was like he was running a marathon for 3 days straight. The prognosis was bleak. The muscle tissue in his leg was dead. The doctor said that he would need a below the knee amputation, assuming he could withstand another operation. We knew Poppy did NOT want to lose his leg. His kidneys were failing and he would need dialysis in the near future. Pop did NOT want to have to be hooked up to a machine for the rest of his life. His heart would need IV drugs for the rest of his life. He did NOT want to have tubes hanging out of him for the rest of his life.
So by Friday night, we had a "family meeting". Although it was technically MaryAnn's call, we agreed that we should stop the meds and let nature run its course. As far as we knew, his heart could give out at any moment anyway. After a huddle and a group hug, we told the nurse our intention. She told the doctor on call. He got a hold of the surgeon. The surgeon asked to talk to MaryAnn on the phone. MA got on the phone and the surgeon reprimanded her. "Why are you pulling the plug already?!? I wouldn't have bothered doing the surgery this morning if I knew you were going to just give up! You have to give him time to stabilize!" The staff were all wonderful up to this point. MaryAnn felt awful enough already. Now she felt like the surgeon was accusing her of being a butcher, someone who was trying tio get rid of her father.
So we gave the surgeon his extra day, not expecting Poppy to survive the night.

Day 4: By noon, Poppy's condition hadn't changed, at least not for the better. The meds were maxed out, his heart rate was fluctuating (going from 110 to 160), and he no longer responded to our presence. So once again, come afternoon, we restated our position. The staff did some final note taking. The chain of command, as it were, were notified of our decision, and they stopped the meds for his heart. They kept him on the ventilator and morphine, so he wouldn't suffocate or feel any pain.
He passed gently and quietly, surrounded by family. The doctor came in soon afterward, and we were all waiting for him to officially call the time of death. Maria spoke up. "Poppy had to have dinner with Nanny at 5 o'clock. She was waiting for him." The doctor shrugged his shoulders and said okay. So that was kind of cool.

Poppy's wake was on his 91st birthday, so we made it like a party at the funeral home. We brought balloons and played music. There was more laughing than crying, reminiscing about Poppy's impact on our lives (both good and bad).

The funeral was the following day. Pop was a veteran, so he even got a pair of honor guards as part of the interment ceremony. That was nice.

Yes, it's been a month now, and it feels strange not having him around. It's almost like he's on vacation or something, and he'll be back in a few weeks.
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