Final Memories of My Dad

18 Jun

I watched the Sir Terry Pratchett documentary last week, about Assisted Suicide.  It’s a very emotive subject, which brings very strong opinions to the fore, and which reminded me of my Dad, just before he died.

Dad had heart failure, and he died on 18th June 2008, but, if he’d had his way, he would have passed on a week or so earlier.  He was admitted into hospital at the start of May. Yes, he was finding it difficult to breathe, but he’d had that problem for a few years, been admitted, given medication, and released.  However, this time was different.  His kidneys had started to fail too, which meant his legs and feet would swell up, with fluid retention.

So, towards the end of May, Dad was moved into a side room, and we were told that they didn’t expect him to live for much longer.  They couldn’t say exactly how long he had.  It could be a couple of weeks, or a couple of months.  The doctor asked if Dad was to be resuscitated, should something happen.  We had to decide there and then.  I knew what the doctor meant, but I’m not sure that Mum did, or Dad for that matter.  Or maybe they didn’t want to understand.  They both sort of muttered, and, in the end, it was left to me to say “do not resuscitate”.  The doctor repeated my words, and we all agreed.  So Dad knew that he was going to die sometime soon.

Mum and I spent most of each day with Dad.  I would arrive at about 10am.  He wanted me to wash and shave him, which I gladly did, although my shaving skills left a lot to be desired!  I also massaged moisturising lotion into his lower legs and feet, as the skin looked very dry and stretched.  Mum arrived at about 12.30pm and I would then go home, to give them time together, and come back to pick Mum up, when Dad was getting fed (although he had no appetite and wouldn’t eat anything) at about 4.30pm.  We would have something to eat at my home (I lived closer to the hospital than Mum and Dad did), and then we’d go back to the hospital at about 6.30pm, until 8pm when visiting finished.  This routine went on, every day, for a couple of weeks.

As time went on, Dad seemed to get more and more tired every day.  We managed, though, to talk about what kind of funeral he wanted, and that helped Mum and I a lot, when the time came.  He went from sitting in a chair, to sitting up in bed, never able to get comfortable enough to breathe easily.  He kept nodding off.  You know how you do when you nod off when sitting up?  You just fall asleep, and your head falls forward, and you waken with a start.  That’s what Dad kept doing, except he would waken up with blind panic in his eyes.  It was awful to see.  It was like he thought he’d almost died, but realised he hadn’t.  It was round about this time that, when the doctor came round, Dad would ask the doctor to “just give me the big needle”.  Dad was ready to die, and he wanted his release immediately.  If, in the last 2 weeks of Dad’s life, I could have arranged for a doctor to grant Dad his wish, then I would have.

My Dad could hardly breathe, wasn’t eating, couldn’t get out of bed, but, worst of all, was that look of panic when he woke up.  We wouldn’t let a dog suffer the way Dad was suffering, and I said as much to the doctor.  I managed to get Dad palliative care, which meant that Dad slept all the time, and eventually slept away peacefully.

But which is more humane?  To die before your time, in a peaceful manner, or to suffer like my Dad did, against his will.  I know which I would rather have.

Had anyone said to me a year earlier that I would have wanted to help my Dad die, I’m sure I would have disagreed.  It’s a situation that you have to go through personally, I now feel, before you can decide whether or not Assisted Suicide is a good thing.  And, of course, Assisted Suicide would need laws, and safeguards, put in place to protect the vulnerable.

I think about you every day, and I will always love you Dabdy.

 

 

N.B. Dabdy is not a typo, it’s my pet name for Dad.

 

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8 Responses to “Final Memories of My Dad”

  1. Ron 18,June 2011 at 14:07 #

    I’m in a not too dissimilar situation to Tricia’s Dad with, perhaps, a year left – 2 if I’m lucky (for a given value of lucky). I know what’s coming, and I have made arrangements for my own exit from this world when I deem it appropriate – which is when I become an intolerable burden to myself. And hopefully before being admitted to hospital for the last time, which would seriously compromise my plans.

    I was not, lest you think otherwise, depressed when I made that decision, and put together my exit strategy – suicide kit – call it what you will. I am, admittedly, prone to depression – many people with chronic, incurable, illness are from time to time – it would be a miracle were we not, but not at this time. And not now.

    I have no family to be mortified by my decision,and friends should understand it, and will be notified when the time comes.

    Assisted suicide, while desirable/justified in some circumstances, as with Tricia’s Dad is, perhaps, too open to abuse, and to interference by officialdom, though in a hospital setting, with the agreement of patient and family, I can see no valid objection. DIY, if one is able to plan ahead, is possibly more reliable.

    There was a time, though, when a caring doctor, with a terminally ill and clearly suffering patient, would discretely tip him/her out of the world, especially if they seriously wanted to go and, as was the case here, the family were in agreement. I suppose, since Harold Shipman, doctors have been increasingly reluctant to do this, lest they wind up on a murder charge. Which is a great pity – putting an end to suffering, especially when begged to, should never be a crime.

    • meinsideandout 18,June 2011 at 18:39 #

      After reading your Comment Ron id firstly like to say Im sorry to hear of your situation
      Id also like to wish you all the best with the decision you have made…you are a very brave man and have my respect!

      • Ron 20,June 2011 at 10:04 #

        Thanks for that. I’ve written about this situation on my own blog, too, both from my won perspective and in more general terms and, given the subject matter, it’s been remarkably well received.

    • Tricia_TD 18,June 2011 at 19:17 #

      I hope you don’t suffer like my Dad did, Ron.

  2. meinsideandout 18,June 2011 at 18:36 #

    I am so sorry how your Dad suffered hun!
    Its one of the worst things to go thru seeing a loved one suffering…
    Your Post is something I can relate to as 3 close loved ones have suffered…the memories of those times will never leave me!
    Great Post Tricia x

    • Tricia_TD 18,June 2011 at 19:19 #

      Thank you. I’m so sorry that you’ve had to go through this 3 times, and I sincerely hope you won’t have to go through it again. x

  3. Foxy 18,June 2011 at 18:52 #

    Your story has left me in tears. For once, I’m lost for words. I’m sorry for your loss. I’m sorry that your dad’s last time on Earth was full of suffering. I’m sorry that there is very little dignity in waiting to die.

    I hope you find writing as helpful as I do.

    Lots of love,
    Foxy

    • Tricia_TD 18,June 2011 at 19:22 #

      Thank you Foxy. Although Dad suffered, I found being able to look after him, for his final weeks, helped me a bit at the end. x

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