Monday, May 14, 2012

"Pain is a Reliable Signal"


(I am stealing this title from a high school classmate of mine who put out a very good album with the same name. You can listen here.)
On Friday morning, while he was packing for a trip to Duke to watch my sister graduate from her nursing program, my dad suffered a serious heart attack. He said that he felt perfectly fine one second and the next he felt a pain so excruciating that he knew he needed to get to a hospital immediately. This from a man who almost died in his own bed from pneumonia and pride. Twice.

We were lucky. My mom got him to the hospital quickly (though we learned that the thing to do is call 911 because the EMTs can begin treatment immediately en route) and he was able to get a stent placed immediately. It took a bit of testing to determine that he had suffered a heart attack; his initial EKGs revealed little at first and left my dad apologizing for the trouble he was causing the same hospital workers who, fearing he would not survive, were asking him about a living will.

My mom called me when I was on the road taking Andrew to school. The kids were listening to my side of the conversation. "Who is in the hospital?" Andrew demanded, and then added passionately, "It better not be Papa!"

Dad looked really bad when we got to the hospital to see him and the staff was predicting he would not be discharged until Wednesday. We even saw him eat a banana, which was truly alarming. He wondered at first what the heck kind of hamburger it could possibly be. On Saturday evening, Brigham and Agustin gave him a blessing. The next morning the doctor felt he had made huge improvement and could go home Monday. He looked perfect today, back at home, and he says he feels just as he did before the heart attack. He will undergo bypass surgery in a couple of weeks.

When we were in the hospital, (the boys donned their marine corp costumes from Halloween to rally him: "He will say, 'Oh, I am proud of myself, I am a marine!'" predicted Andrew happily as he got ready. It was totally their idea) I noticed the Wong-Baker Pain Scale.
My dad had reported an 8 on the pain scale upon admittance, which means that a normal person would have reported a 10. I obviously noted, because I am obsessed, how perfectly the pain scale analogizes to Motherhood, with the children substituting for pain, and realized that I am often at an 8 (children interfering with basic needs--sleeping and eating) and some other number, even 0, simultaneously. I thought about how it was lucky my dad's pain was acute enough to overcome his pathological insistence on avoiding aid of any kind. I thought about the panic I felt at possibly losing my dad. I kept thinking all day Friday about how much my life would change, how much I would miss him, how much my boys would miss him, if he were taken from us.


Papa is such a huge part of our lives. He loves his grandkids so much and would do anything for them--and basically does, the only exception being that he will not deviate from his daily 10:30 am brunch appointment at McDonalds, but he will invite any grandkid along and pay for their hot grease meal. (Post heart attack he is open to trying out Arby's or Wendy's; he suggested getting hotdogs at Costco on the way home from the hospital today. This is actually a positive evolution in the man who thought butter had protein (2001--we had to get out the nutritional label to convince him otherwise) and that rice was a vegetable (Andrew set him straight).) Even when the kids are causing me to register at a 10 on the Wong Baker scale, they somehow never seem to bother him (probably because any tendency to be annoyed is overpowered by a satisfaction and amusement in knowing that he can just look on while his daughters have to deal with it.)


From the reading of depressing poetry about bunnies caught forever in traps and men who will never recover from WWI to the ever-willingness to jump on the trampoline, go on walks, fail to rub in hugely excessive amounts of sunscreen slathered on your face, obsession with hamburgers and television and Civil War maneuvers and conservative politics, life would just not be the same without Dad.



11 comments:

Ie Li said...

Oh Alexandra! How scary! I love your Dad! I'm so glad he's better. What a special grandfather he is.

Ashley said...

That is truly terrifying. I am sorry you all had to go through such a scare. I think he and I would get along very well--I LOVE that he has a mandatory 10:30 am at McD's--I was just there for breakfast today. He sounds like the best grandpa too--it is rare for a grandpa to be so involved with the little grandkids. Good luck with his upcoming surgery!

Jenny said...

We're keeping you all in our prayers!

Allie said...

Your dad is a trooper for sure! I am relieved to know he is already out of the hospital and seeming to feel better, all things considered. How scary. I loved the pictures. You have one of the greatest dads I know.

Sarah said...

Oh no! I'm so glad your Dad is OK! What a miracle that he got the treatment he needed in time. Your boys are so lucky to not only have such a terrific man for a grandpa, but also to have him so close. They obviously idolize him. I love that they donned their Halloween costumes for him at the hospital. We'll keep in in our prayers.

Momo Cannon said...

So glad he is doing better. We will include him in our prayers as well. What a good man!

Erin said...

So sorry to hear that. I can't imagine how scarey that was. He is a sweetheart and I will keep him in my prayers.

My father and mother in fact, are the same way. It would take something like that to get them to the hospital. And they won't wear helmets when they bike?? It's interesting.

Troy and Nancee Tegeder said...

I was so shocked when I read the beginning of your post and scared for how it might end. I was very relieved that he is alright. Please keep me posted on his progress. I know I only lived with you a short time, but it was enough to see what a great man your father is. He was so kind and wonderful. The world is a better place because of him.

Alisha said...

I am so glad to read the good outcome of this experience. I am sorry you had to suffer through the stress of it. I'll pray for his upcoming surgery to be a success.

Michelle said...

Allie! I am so glad that your dad is okay! I am constantly jealous of how often your boys see their grandpa, and wish so badly that my boys had that same relationship! He is such a fantastic grandpa, this was such a great post about him!

Eliza said...

Alexandra, I can't believe I've seen you at least once since this happened and hadn't caught up on your blog so I didn't know! This is major!! I am so glad he's OK! I am like you--although unfortunately my dad is on the other coast--I LOVE my dad, would do anything for him, can't imagine life without him. I'm actually getting a little misty right now thinking about it. Parents, stop aging!! I'm so glad he's OK. I said that already. Really lovely post about your dear dad.