Four little words

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Four little words

500 Words: Endings

https://open.abc.net.au/explore/72334

The trill of the phone broke into the early morning bustle of our kitchen. The making of breakfast and the filling of lunch boxes stopped as I took the call.
My father was in the local hospital.

I got there within the hour to be told my father had suffered a minor heart attack.

He was observed until lunchtime when we were told he had suffered a major heart attack.

He was transferred by ambulance to a bigger hospital, 40 kilometres up the highway. He was placed in the high dependency unit where a hushed silence lingered, punctured only by whirrs and beeps of the machines that the handful of patients were hooked up to. My father wasn’t responding well. He was disoriented and confused. The diagnosis was now a major heart attack and kidney failure. His beautiful face was swamped by an oxygen mask, in an attempt to make him more comfortable.

The heart specialist had been called.

To determine the extent of damage, an ultrasound of his heart was needed but this country hospital didn’t have the machine. Unbelievable. Disgraceful. Shameful. My father continued to deteriorate. The diagnosis was now massive heart failure, kidney failure and fluid on the lungs. The conversation turned to whether the patient had ever discussed being resuscitated.

More questions were asked about my father’s quality of life and home situation. My mother and I tried hard to contain our confusion, anger and bewilderment as we explained that my father led a happy life amidst a family who loved him. The man who regaled his grandchildren with the colourful stories of his childhood and flirted with all the checkout girls at the supermarket was our everything and not an elderly patient with no family support who might, in the medical system’s opinion, be better off being left to slip away. The heart specialist took me aside. My father’s condition was very dire. Time was of the essence.

He could stay in this unit but his survival was tenuous. A transfer to better services at a bigger city hospital, hours away, could be arranged. I was torn – should I be responsible for submitting my father to all this trauma?

I asked the specialist if we could give him the weekend to stabilise. Perhaps our prayers would see him recover before the new week began? The specialist was non-committal.

We agonised over which decision to make. Time was running out. My father’s condition continued to worsen. This hospital could do no more for him. I could sense panic. We gave the go-ahead for the transfer.

It took hours to arrange. Finally, a Sydney hospital agreed to admit him.

The ambulance drove the 40 kilometres back down the highway to the airport. I managed to get my mother a seat on the air ambulance. No time for her to pack a bag.

As they wheeled my father toward the plane, I held his weakened hand and kissed him on his lined forehead. My plan was to travel to Sydney in a few days and bring both my parents home, once dad was better.

“See you soon, Dad!” I said feigning cheerfulness and believing in what I said. I had no idea that I would never see my father alive again.

 

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