Sunday, May 31, 2009

All in 24 Hours

Yesterday morning I would have never guessed that mine and my family's lives would change so much. He started off the day so well. Both my grandparents went to the fairgrounds to work. My grandma stayed for most of the day, while my grandpa went back to the house around 11. He started feeling dizzy, but didn't think anything of it. Over the last several months, he had a lot of problems with getting his medication right. He didn't think it was anything but a bad reaction. Around 1:30 pm he couldn't move the left side of his body. He tried calling my uncles and grandma, but he couldn't get ahold of anyone. At 1:45 he called me. Why it didn't occur to me that he needed to call 911, I don't know. He told me he didn't feel well, that he couldn't get ahold of anyone, and that he couldn't get off the couch. He didn't ask me to come out and help him, but I told him I was coming as soon as I could. At the time I had bread baking in the oven and couldn't leave it. I turned the oven up to make it cook faster and left as soon as I could, not realizing the severity of the situation.

I drove as fast as the cars in front of me would allow, hoping that a cop wouldn't show up. I was almost to the house when my uncle called and told me a helicopter was coming to air lift him to the hospital. I saw it flying towards the house. When I got to the driveway, there were so many cars there. My uncles had arrived about 15 minutes before I did. They found him on the floor where he had rolled off the couch and couldn't get up. Immediately they called 911. I am so thankful that they got there before me, because I wouldn't have known what to do. When he heard my voice, my grandfather wanted to see me. It hurt to look at him and watch as the EMT's worked to help him. I went over and let him know that I was there, and then I had to call me Mom and let her know what was going on. The helicopter flew off to Strong Memorial and we all left for the hospital.

We arrived at the Emergency room, not sure what to expect. We knew that he'd had a stroke, but that was all. For 5 hours we waited in the emergency room, waiting to find out some answers. Because there were no rooms available, and because of his state, my grandpa stayed in the trauma unit of the ER most of the night. The doctors heavily sedated him and put in a breathing tube because he couldn't breath on his own. In two's, we were allowed into the Trauma unit to see him. He couldn't talk to us but they said he could hear. I only went back once. It was so awful. He was helpless and I didn't know what to do or say to him. It felt weird talking to him and I wasn't sure I was allowed to touch him because of all the machines he was hooked up to. So I just stood there and watched him. After 5 hours of waiting to hear something and being told nothing, we all left the hospital hoping that he would get better through the night. We would find nothing more out until the neurologist came and looked at him.

My grandma didn't really sleep much last night, and mine was a restless sleep. I heard the phone ring early in the morning and was awake right away. The doctor had called and said we needed to get there as soon as possible. At 6 o'clock in the morning we headed for the hospital again. This time every family member that was in the area came. We waited again in the hospital for 3 hours, this time upstairs in the ICU, to hear what exactly was going on in full detail. Finally we were told. My grandpa had a blood vessel burst in his brain, which caused the stroke. Due to the fact that he had an extremely high level of kumodin (?) - blood thinner - in his system, the hemorrhage that had occurred was not able to clot and stop bleeding. The doctors had put a shunt in his brain the night before, and at first he had been reacting to it very well. He was alert and able to communicate somewhat with those around him. But sometime in the early morning, things had gone very wrong. The shunt stopped working and his brain became filled with blood cause pressure in his skull. He became brain dead and so they put him on life support. Now he could no longer hear us, feel us when we touched him, or know what was going on around him at all. We had a choice to make - go through with a surgery that would only have a 50-50 chance of working, or pull the plug. If we went through with the surgery, there would be a very high chance that he would stay paralyzed the rest of his life on his left side and he would need assisted living or a nursing home. Grandpa had clearly stated when his mother was going through the process of dying that he never wanted to be in a nursing home, he would rather be dead.

My grandpa was a very independent man. He was involved in many activities and couldn't sit still for very long. He liked being outside going places. For the next two hours, we debated if the chance that he would be ok was valid enough to try the surgery. Throughout this whole process I had been calling my Mom frequently giving her updates on what was going on since she and the family live in VT. family members kept going in to see him, but I couldn't. It was too hard to see him hooked up to everything and have that as my last memory of him. It was bad enough seeing him the day before the way he was.

The hemorrhaging got worse and his condition was failing fast. We had to make our decision. They gave us a conference room and we sat down with the doctor to sign the paperwork. We decided to take him off life support. It's what he wanted, and as hard as that was, it had to be done. The paperwork seemed to take forever. Everyone was trying hard not to break down and hold it together. The family said their goodbyes and the doctors asked them to leave. After they shut the machines off, it was only a matter of minutes. At 12:26 pm on May 31, 2009, my grandpa, Clarence Preston, died. I stayed in the conference room drawing and hoping that he would be able to live in Heaven. Just as I finished my drawing, my cousin came in and said he had died. I drew him a house with a picket fence, a garden, a tree with a tire swing, a mailbox, a dog house, and a dog. It may seem silly, but I hope that is what he has to live in if he's in Heaven.

Then came the hardest part of the whole experience. I had to call my Mom and tell her, her Dad was dead. She knew it was going to happen, but she didn't know when. I thought I would be able to hold it together for her, but I couldn't. As soon as I said he was gone, I broke into tears with my Mom. Together we cried on the phone because that was the only comfort we could give each other.

Everyone said their goodbyes to each other and headed for home. Everything felt so surreal as though I was in a dream and all I had to do was wake up and it would be ok. I couldn't handle staying with my grandma at the house, so I left as soon as we got back to the house. I know I should've been there with her and the family, but I just couldn't. I felt sick to my stomach and had the biggest migraine ever. I just wanted to curl up in my bed and go to sleep, which is what I did when I got to back to Brockport. It still feels like a dream somewhat. Like none of it really happened, but I know it did. My aching head and sleep deprived body won't let me forget it.

I wonder if he could have been saved if someone had got to him sooner. If I had told him to call 911 when he had called me. His death is very similar to his brothers. When my great grandpa Preston died a long time ago (I was only 3 I think), my grandpa's brother Larry died 4 months later of a brain aneurysm. My great grandma Preston died a little over 5 months ago. Now my grandpa is dead because a blood vessel burst in his brain causing a stroke. Their deaths are very similar, except Larry was found dead in his house.

Tomorrow we are going to the funeral home to make plans. My family will be here Thursday, and the funeral will be sometime after that. My sister Erica is in India and has no idea what is going on due to the fact that she is in a city right now where internet and phone service are unavailable.

How our lives change in just 24 hours.

1 comment: