Growing up we always look at our parents as indestructible, invincible. Like they can never die. As we get older, we slowly realize that our parents are not invincible. This past Wednesday, that realization hit me right between the eyes as I stood in the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit with my mom and sister looking at my dad, who was attached to a ventilator. That morning, my dad had gone to Loyola for his second heart ablation, a procedure he had had done two and a half years ago. Back then, he had been on the table for 8 hours, and when his doctor came out to talk to my mom, his exact words were: "I burned the s**t out of his heart, but he will still need to have this done several more times." It was a rough recovery, taking a good 3 months before my dad started to feel like himself, and he had to work up the courage to have the second one done.
When they called us back, it had only been 4 hours into the procedure, so we had high hopes that he was done. As we waited and waited, there was no sign of a doctor or a bed with my dad in it. My mom began to worry and so did Jaime. I tried to keep them calm. Eventually the doctor appeared and told us there had been a complication. He was very careful with his choice of words, so as not to terrify my mom. He explained that a hole had been made (more specifically towards the back by the Right Pulmonary Vein) and because my dad was on blood thinners during the procedure he began to lose quite a bit of blood and he called for an open heart surgeon to evaluate the situation. He explained that they had to put a drain in my dad's chest so that the blood had a place to go instead of accumulating around the heart. His hope was that my dad's blood would begin to clot so that they wouldn't have to crack his chest open to sew up the hole. Then he left to go back with my dad. Jaime immediately began to pray. She is a prayer warrior. I am not. I have been angry with God lately, so I let Jaime pray and I said silent prayers in my head and yelled at God at the same time. The doctor came out every half hour or so and gave us an update on how Dad was doing. Just as the surgeon was about to crack him open, Dad clotted. He had lost 2.5 units of blood. They moved him upstairs to the Cardiac ICU, and we were finally able to see him.
Mom got to see him first, and she came back in tears, but she let us know he was alright and we could go back to see him. Seeing your hero attached to a ventilator is not an easy sight. Jaime started to cry and hyperventilate, and I took her hand and helped her into the hallway to calm down. Then we went back into the room and talked to him a little bit. He was not awake. They had him heavily sedated, but he would respond to your voice if you asked him a question, and sometimes he would squeeze your hand. There was blood on his face, and that was hard to see and he was attached to so many tubes. They are very strict in ICU and when visiting hours are up they make you leave, so we didn't get to see him for long. It was later when we left. Mom went to a nearby hotel. Jaime and I had driven together, so I drove her home and then drove myself home.
Thursday morning, I picked Jaime back up and we went back down to Loyola. If everything had gone normally, Dad would have been going home that morning. Unfortunately, he was in ICU. When we got there, he had been disconnected from the ventilator and he could talk to us, which was a nice surprise. They wouldn't let him eat anything, so we bought him a strawberry smoothie from the coffee place in the lobby. He was in a lot of pain, but he was trying to pass it off that he wasn't hurting (FYI, Dad, we could tell). Since he wasn't super critical they were a little more lenient with us and the visiting, but not much- they still kicked us out. In the afternoon when Jaime and I left, Dad's heart went into atrial fib and his blood pressure dropped. Normally after an ablation you are put on blood thinners, so that if you go into atrial fib, you won't throw a clot and have a stroke. Because Dad had the hole, they couldn't put him on blood thinners (because he would bleed out), so now they became concerned that Dad was going to throw a clot and have a stroke. The doctors began trying different meds to get his heart back into sinus rhythm, and they were trying to aleviate his pain. Since Jaime lives closer to Loyola she went back to be with Mom during this and then they were both kicked out when visiting hours were over.
On Friday, I went back to Loyola. There was actual talk of Dad being kicked out of ICU finally. His heart had converted to sinus rhythm and he was having a little less pain. By the afternoon on that day, he was moved to 5 Tower, which is the regular cardiac ward. That meant that he had his own room, with a couch for Mom to sleep on (no more hotel room for her), no more beeping machines for him and no more puking roommate for him either.
On Saturday, at 6:25 AM, Noah walked right up to my side of the bed and said, "Momma, it's morning time. Let's go see Grandpa now!" He was already dressed, and had his backpack packed with things to do at the hospital. He had been dying to visit Grandpa at the hospital, but you have to be 12 or older to visit in the ICU, so he had cried on Friday when I told him he couldn't come with me. When we finally got to see Grandpa, I think Noah felt better to see him face to face. Jaime brought Rori & Liam with and we spent most of the day visiting and exploring the hospital- since Grandpa was very popular with the doctors that day.
I woke up on Sunday morning to an interesting text from my mom. It turns out apparently one of the cardiologists tried to kill my dad Saturday night by ordering Heparin, a blood thinner. My dad was on it for 6 hours and he could have bled out if not for the nurse and my mom. Another reminder. I talked to my mom in between services at church and it really hit me that my dad is not invincible. At that moment, I wanted to do nothing more than to jump into my car and drive to Loyola. I had to wait to do that though. After lunch, I think I did about 80 down the highway, but I felt better once I saw my dad.
Which brings us to today. Today is Monday. Because my dad's heart had been in atrial fib for over 20 hours, the only thing left to do was to shock it back into sinus rhythm with the paddles. They did that a couple hours ago, and his heart converted. Unfortunately, his heart won't hold that forever, so there's a nasty little drug that he has to take for 3 months called Amiodarone. Potential & permanent side effects include: turning your skin blue, going blind, and hardening of the lungs. Another reminder. My dad was adamant against taking this drug, but now his back is against the wall and he has no other option. He is not invincible.
But, you know what? You're still my hero, Daddy. I love you very much.