Thursday, November 17, 2005

In my father's house

Published November 17, 2005

I want to thank the readers who responded to the last column I wrote regarding my Dad’s major surgery, which took place November 3. Unfortunately, he is still in the ICU after two weeks and has had some serious complications including blood clots showered during surgery and renal failure after surgery. There have been some tense moments in the last two weeks where we thought we were losing him. I appreciate your thoughts and prayers and will respond to your emails when I return home. I haven’t left his side in two weeks. Mom and I walked a seemingly healthy man into the hospital and now we are fighting for the best possible treatment plan for a critically ill patient. I have to say this has been an unexpected turn of events.

In the midst of ICU burn out, I spend the nights in the house I grew up in, my father’s house. I sleep in my sister, Tricia’s old bedroom. I’m trying to watch over my mom, who has had one emotional trauma after the next while getting ready for my Dad’s surgery, during and after. We were jolted awake a week ago Monday, to a middle of the night phone call from the hospital saying that my Dad was back on life support because he was getting pneumonia on top of all the other complications he had. It was a sheer panic to hear the phone ring that early, one that shot me out of bed immediately and in doing so, I cracked open my hand on the dresser next to the bed. I could hear the sense of urgency in my mother’s voice and we immediately left for the hospital. My husband summoned our family priest and he came from Sacramento and administered the sacraments of the Church. It was a dark day; Dad was comatose and we weren’t sure if he was going to come out of it.

The day Dad woke up was four days ago. As suddenly as he slipped away from us, he woke up and within the hour was brushing his teeth. His neurological status seemed to improve in response to kidney dialysis which he desperately needed. As he continues to remain in grave condition, we stay at his bedside to advocate for him as shifts change, charts get larger and those taking care of him tend to write rather than read what’s been going on. One thing I have learned from all this, is that people in the hospital need someone to be there for them, to speak for them, to testify for them and protect them. There have been so many patently untrue statements made about my father in my presence from staff who think they have good history, but in fact, have had historically inaccurate information relayed from one shift change to the next, and like gossip, rumors start, even in the ICU. “Your dad was a diabetic”. “Your dad has been in and out of hospital”. “Your dad has been sick for a long time”. No. No. Again No. My dad is healthy, an avid golfer, softball and tennis enthusiast. He loves his football pool, his grandkids, his daughters and his garden. He likes to carve things, and take walks. I heard every preposterous thing coming from well meaning health professionals.

Listen people; get your powers of attorney done, so that people who know you and love you can direct your medical care. We had to call conferences with the team of doctors because a lot of communication gets lost between us and them. As of this writing, we’ve had to be either on the telephone making sure orders are followed up on, or in conference with “higher ups”.

This hospital is a top notch trauma center and I am glad my father is in a hospital with a good reputation. However, every day, is different. The doctors’ differing perspectives, nursing staff shortages and personality conflicts can all affect the continuity of a patient’s care. No one loves your family member as much as you do. One needs to be there for everything. I’ve waited two weeks for a list of drugs. I have power of attorney. I will probably have to call another family conference to get them.

Before we drove to the hospital November 3, I was showing my Dad a book I picked up at the library “In My Father’s House” by Boede Thoene. It’s a great work of historical fiction, well written and researched. As I read about the battles of WWI and WWII and the eternal bonds of family, I see the correlation of the battle we are waging to save my Dad’s life right now as he lies in the ICU. There is nothing more singularly important than family. Nothing more precious than love and the bonds between husband, wife, parent and child. I have spent a lot of time sleeping in my father’s house, waiting for him to come back to us. As I continue to hold vigil, I pray in my Father’s House, going to daily Mass and reciting the rosary with my family, knowing that my father is in His hands, and but for faith, there would be nothing.

Tammy Maher is a resident of El Dorado Hills and bi-weekly columnist for the Mountain Democrat. You can reach her at

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