Saturday, February 27, 2010

Spirit vs. Body

Untitled? - Sometimes, in fact, often as I write these entries, I underline some words, phrases - something that looks like it might be a good title, something catchy. Today, I was finding it hard to find anything that worked.

My father has been ill. Seriously ill, as many of my friends already know. He fell at his and my mom's home a few weeks ago and hit his head. This was the fall we'd been fearing for years. Why he fell?? Honestly, we're not totally positive. He's had balance issues at times but he's been pretty good with his walker over the past years. Did he fall because of something going on internally? (i.e., did the fall occur because of internal bleeding? Did he just slip, hit his head and then cause the internal injury? We don't know. What we do know is that the result was severe internal bleeding, which led to a "nasty" (as his neurosurgeon, Dr. Whitfield put it) blood clot on his brain. "Most folks don't survive a surgery like this one," the doctor told me a few days later. "Especially someone who is 85 years old."

But survive is what my father is apparently in the process of doing.

"Spirit vs. Body" - "His spirit is fighting back against his body," is what my dad's aid and now friend, Innocent, said to me just a few days after the surgery. This was before Dad even came close to opening his eyes. Innocent is Haitian, we think in his early 60's, although we're not sure. To tell you the truth, I'm not so sure Innocent even knows his own age. What we do know is that Innocent is special and I know Dad loves having Innocent at his bedside along side us while he is going through this challenge.

Those words, Innocent's words, have stuck with me for the past few weeks.

"Spirit fighting body."

Every morning I walk into my father's ICU room at the Cleveland Clinic Hospital in Weston, FL. I put down my backpack, walk over and kiss my dad on his forehead, hold his hand for about five minutes and then change the date and nurse information on the whiteboard which lies in front of Dad's bed. I'm usually there at 7:30 or 8:00 or so, doing my best to get settled so I can catch the doctors, perform my information intake so I then can pass along the info to my mom and siblings.

"It's hard to see someone you love so much going through something like this," is what my brother, Stuart, said to me last week. The day-to-day experience - it can be draining, emotionally and physically. I mean, I'm struggling with it on a daily basis so I can't come close to imagining how my almost-78 year old mom is handling this. After all, Mom and Dad have been married for almost 60 years now. My dream was to be partnered with a woman in life that same way. My folks have accomplished it - so it must be incredibly challenging for Mom to be going through this. I am sometimes awestruck when I watch how she's handling all of this.

Taking A Breath - That has been a key, at least for me. Which is a funny concept only because I'm writing this entry while listening to the hum and squeaking of the ventilator machine to my left. I hear the machine's "breathing" and it reminds me to stop, think and take in some deep breaths as well. And I feel better once I do that a bit. I do it while looking at my father as he rests. The tubes from his mouth have now been replaced by a "trach" and "peg" (feed) tubes in his throat and stomach areas respectively. I've been told and the staff here has assured all of us that these two procedures have helped to make Dad more comfortable, which they seem to have done. Until he can speak to us again, we can only hope he's doing okay. He seems to be resting comfortably and we're all thankful for that.

The good news? It looks like Dad will be moved out of ICU tomorrow and transferred to new location where they specialize in weaning people off ventilators. He's breathing but he's doing it with the assistance of the machine that's whispering over my shoulder. The goal is to get Dad back to where he doesn't need this contraption's help any more.

Wish us luck.

BTW - I've been hesitant to post things I've been writing over the past few weeks as I've moved my way through this experience. Most of it is what I'd call private - cathartic to write, for sure - but, private. Some of what I've written has been important for me to get out of my system and I may choose to post a few things on here, if anyone is interested.


Jim Murphy said...


So sorry to hear of this - believe me Ray is in my prayers which as of late have been more frequent..


Hollis Baker said...

Alice and my prayers are for your Father and the family.

Tom Tracy said...

Your gift to your Dad AND yourself is just being there... keep taking those breaths, they are very healing. Thinking of you all. T.T.

Unknown said...

"Spirit Fighting Body" - how true.

Prayers for you and your family, Harry. Stay in touch.

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