On April 15th my parents, my sister and her husband and kids left for a weeklong trip to Maui. My father has been undergoing chemotherapy for a rare (yet highly treatable) type of bone cancer for the last 8 months. This has left him exhausted and weak most of the time. Chemo as you likely know compromises the immune system significantly. The day my family was leaving for Maui I was visiting them, and whilst everyone else was scurrying around doing last minute checks for their essential items my father sat at the kitchen table with his hands over his face, his arms literally holding his head up from otherwise hitting the countertop. Everyone assumed this was just exhaustion, but my sister and I wasted no time trying to talk my father out of going to Maui and staying home. Not wanting to "disappoint everyone" he decided to go anyhow. It turns out that he already had pneumonia, but no one realized this. After the first night on the island, he was weak and only slept. He had mental confusion, symptoms that seemed viral and then his breathing became a constant wheeze. A trip to urgent care only resulted in a misdiagnosis of the flu and prescribed Tamiflu pills.
On the 17th my father was barely breathing and was taken to the M.M. Hospital and put in the ICU.
The pneumonia had lead to severe sepsis, and by the time he entered the hospital is was septic shock. An infection had spread throughout his blood and was effecting almost all his organs, leading to further acute infection and kidney failure. He was put on life support as he was not breathing at all and few functions were being regulated by his body at this point. He had several surgical procedures and only narrowly escaped having to have several ribs sawed in order to reach an extremely difficult "pocket" of infection within his already full lungs. And - there were too many other complications to attempt to list). My family told me I was fortunate not to have witnessed all of the pipes going down his throat, the endless machines, and the wires and IVs embedded in his skin. Due to timing I avoided 50% of this sad sight.
After being stuck in my head and alone on the East coast, I flew down to Maui (14 hours, on 2 flights) on the 22nd. The doctors were saying that he had a 20% chance of survival. My brother-in-law had to leave, taking my 3 yr old niece with him, and after we discussed it, my sister decided to stay on to continue to offer support to our mother and in the hope that having both of his children present could play a role in any possible recovery. It didn't help that my 6 month old niece stayed in Maui with us, and I spent many a hours sitting in the car or driving around with her waiting to switch with my sister.
(And if you want to have a good time by the way - try taking two flights in one day holding a 6 month old. Thank god my sister and I kept swapping, it was stressful going an hour without pretzels and plastic cups of soda)
So, when I first saw my father he was breathing with the assistance of an oxygen tank and face mask - a major improvement as his lungs although full of pus were working. There were so many ups and downs and nightmares during the following week that I cannot list them, the "ups" were mostly fleeting - at least for a while.
This is getting awfully long, so I will fast-fwd quite a bit and let you know - and I almost believe in miracles at this point - that my father not only survived but was able to make the flight from Maui after being in hospital beds for 23 days followed by local physical therapy. The therapy is ongoing, and he is walking, although only short distances as he remains weak and breathing is still an issue from any exertion.
These days I spend as much time with him as I can, outside of working. Still he sleeps much of the day.
I was finally feeling that I could return to the blog/the 'net with a bit of enthusiasm, and enjoy myself.
Then on May 15th I learned that one of my dearest friends had died in her sleep the night before. Truly too much to bear, I resisted a breakdown and continued to focus of my family and being a better son, brother, and human. There is a Yiddish word, "tsuris" which means grief or distress. Truly this is what I need a vacation from!