No matter how much progress I make every day, when I lay down in bed and close my eyes my mind takes me back to the hospital, back to that week. For the first few nights after my Dad was gone I would sit up and ask Josh, "We did the right thing, didn't we?" He would assure me we did.
I guess I need to go back to Wednesday of that week. We had been told Tuesday night that we should hear from the neurologist what the results of the CT scan were on Wed. I won't even pretend that I wasn't scared. I was having my fair share of denial, but I knew the fact that he was still unresponsive was not good. Wed. morning came and no news from the neurologist. I was pretty sure there was a note on the chart that said, "Patient's daughter obsessively asks for neurologist." Finally, my Mom talked to the neurologist on the phone. ON THE PHONE. My dad had been unresponsive since Saturday morning and this was Wednesday and we only got a phone call from the neurologist. Maddening. That's the only word I know to explain it. She told my Mom she wanted to wait until they did the EEG and ANOTHER CT scan before she talked to us. Good grief. I have to tell you, patience is NOT a Strickland trait.
We went home to have lunch during the break between visiting hours. Bro. Randy had reminded us that our family members could stay out at the air force base if someone could sponsor them. My sister and brother-in-law went out to help set up those accommodations and Uncle Reggie called to let us know that he had set up an appointment with a patient advocate so we could discuss some of our issues with Nurse Ratchet and the fact that we still had NO answers 5 days after my Dad being admitted to the hospital. My Mom, Uncle Jamie and I met with the lady they sent to us and I began explaining that while we had been very happy with the care my Dad had received, we were upset with Nurse Ratchet and our lack of answers. She tried to get ahold of someone else we needed to talk to and we told her we would be in Dad's room when that person was ready to meet with us. We finally talked with that lady and it was not long after that we found out Dr. B., the cardiologist, was coming to talk to us. The nurse took us to the conference room. You DO NOT, I repeat DO NOT want a dr. to take you to the conference room. Trust me.
We waited nervously. Dr. B came in and explained that the CT Scan showed some ischemia (damage or deficiency in the brain). He also explained that the neurologist was waiting to read the EEG along with CT Scan. I thought I would remember word for word what he told us, but I don't. In fact, I'm pretty sure I was not comprehending it at all. I asked him what that meant as far as how much damage was done. He gave me a sympathetic look, I started crying uncontrollably and he nodded. Too much damage. At that point, I knew how things were going to end, but I just couldn't accept it until we talked with the neurologist and heard the official report. Before we left the hospital I ran back to my Dad's room to grab my Mom's purse or something. I wish I could tell you I was filled with peace and ready to accept whatever God's Will was. I wasn't. I begged my Daddy to come back.
My cousin Katie and Aunt Trish had fixed us a great supper and I stopped by my mother-in-law's to pick up the kids and some spaghetti she had made. We went out to the base to have supper with everyone and then it was time to head back to the hospital. I had asked on Facebook that other believers pray at 8:30 that night as I was planning to have a special prayer over my Dad at that time. Well, when I stepped off of the elevator 5 of the people we had gone to church with in Panama City we're waiting. Bro.Randy and his wife Mrs.Kathy soon joined them. They joined hands with me, my Mom, Jenny, my Uncle Jamie and Aunt Kat and my cousin Marla had asked that we call her on speaker phone and let her be a part. We cried out to God. It was one of the most amazing times of prayer I've ever experienced. Of course, I don't know if there's ever been anything I've been so consumed with as I was in that moment. I knew what the tests said. I knew that God can heal, but doesn't always choose to. I knew that I just needed to lift my Dad up to Him no matter what. I knew God could choose not to heal him, but it would not be for a lack of prayer on our parts!!! I have to tell you, I know that God's Presence was so real to me because I was so desperate for Him. Psalm 34:18 says, "The LORD is near to those who have a broken heart, And saves such as have a contrite spirit." My heart was about as broken as it could get and I know that the rest of my family felt the same way. Even those friends that didn't even know my dad well seemed to share that broken heart. As someone who is in ministry I have to say that something I realized that night is that there are no amount of programs or activities we can dream up that invite the Presence of God. We most often find him when our hearts are broken...
The next day was Christmas Eve. The date on the calendar was the only reason I knew that. It certainly didn't feel like Christmas Eve. We were again called into a conference room (actually, there were so many of us we took up a waiting room) and waited again to talk with Dr.B. He pretty much told us the exact same thing he had already told us, but a little more officially. He told us the neurologist would be in that afternoon to talk with us. Finally the neurologist came and at first he was just going to talk to us in the hallway. I got excited. The nurse suggested the waiting room again. I sighed. He was going to give us the same news again. He did. Three times. I told everyone it was like a nightmare having to get the worst news of our lives 3 times. Once was quite horrific enough. The neurologist told us that my Dad was in what they called a "vegetative" state. He was brain dead. The machines were keeping his heart pumping and his lungs breathing. We knew what that meant. No chance of recovery. I'm sure you have seen a TV show or heard news shows talk about taking a loved one off of life support. When I worked for Hospice my primary job was to discuss that very topic with patients and explain how all of that works. Again, so totally different when it is your Daddy. While it was hard to accept that he was gone, it was not hard to make the decision to take him off of life support. He had worked as a nursing home administrator for over 20 years and witnessed enough cases like this that he had made his wishes known to all of us verbally many times. We discussed if we should wait until after Christmas, but decided if we were going to do it we should not make him suffer anymore.
I walked out of the room and was afraid I might fall. My legs were jello. I felt like I was moving in slow motion. It was real. It was official. My Daddy was gone.