As many know who have been following me on Facebook, my dad has been in the hospital for four weeks. He got very sick. As in septic shock sick. As in almost died sick. He was in ICU for about a week, and he has been in a regular ward for the past two weeks plus.
All this time, my mom has been spending the night at the hospital, camping out at a couch at one waiting room or another. Us three children have been taking turns keeping and eye on mom and dad. Apparently, this sort of family presence and vigilance is not common.
One of dad’s doctors told my mom that, if it wasn’t for the constant presence and attention of our family, dad most likely would not have made it. We were surprised to hear him say it, but we knew it all along in our hearts. Here’s why:
Mom was there when she noticed dad not getting better but worse after his routine surgery the first week. Her insistence got them to figure out what was wrong. His newly reattached colon had burst and his organs were under attack by the infection caused by the bacteria rampaging through his body.
We were all there while dad was in ICU, continually asking questions of the RN’s and the specialists: his neprologist (kidney doctor), cardiologist, and his gastro enterologist.
We have been there mostly 24/7 while he has been up in the main ward on the 4th floor, asking the RN’s for statuses at the end of most shift changes. How is his heart rate? Is he on meds for arrhythmia? How is his BP, his O2, his ostomy? How is the PT/OT going? Is he able to eat on his own? Any pain? Any discomfort? And so on.
And he is getting good care because his family is around and we care. Dad is 86. Mom is 84. Us kids felt it necessary to be here with mom, because the staff most likely would treat an old woman shuffling around with a certain measure of patronage and condescension, assuming she is senile when she expresses worry over dad receiving a transfusion. Instead, she has a squad of kids in their 50’s and 60’s constantly asking the medical staff questions. We are a force to be reckoned with.
The reason dad is improving is because the medical staff knows we care and it is human nature to want to be a part of something positive. So they care because we care. They know we’re not going away. They know we are holding them accountable. They are on board and are doing everything they can to help dad recover.
This is in stark contrast to the majority of patients on the floor, especially the elderly. They spend long hours without people visiting them. They get typical professional yet nominal care. This is not to denegrate the medical staff. They are skilled and compassionate. But they’re most likely thinking this: “These people are old. They’ve lived a long life. Let’s do what we can to make them comfortable.”
People care when other people care. They care about things that other people care about. That is the wonderful thing about community. To borrow a famous quote from Hilary Clinton, it truly takes a village. Thank you all who have prayed for dad’s recovery. The fact that you have cared touches me deeply and I will always be grateful.