My dad is on life support.
Last Monday, he was admitted back to the hospital for suspected pneumonia (fluid on his lungs) & blood cloots in his legs and his lungs. On Thursday, they went down his throat and took samples of the fluid in his lungs, which tested negative for pneumonia. But the fluid, it just keeps building and building and building in his lungs, literally suffocating him.
I went to see him on Friday, and it was the worst he's ever been. He was exhausted and agitated, and his breathing was so shallow . . . panting like a chubby old bloodhound laid out on the porch in the summer sun. He still had the high-flow oxygen cannula going into his nose, but his oxygen levels were dropping and his blood pressure was skyrocketing.
At one point, he looked at me and said, "I don't think I can do this very much longer".
As it turns out, he was right.
My mother and I went to see him on Saturday, and he was on a bipap breathing mask. Instead of only taking oxygen through his nose, the mask covered most of his face and allowed him to breathe it in through his mouth, too. And it did help, for a few hours. But then he began to feel claustrophobic and got more and more and more upset. They gave him anti-anxiety drugs, but they did little to ease his upset. He felt like he was drowning, he'd say. He just couldn't breathe.
So the doctor came in and explained that if he had another difficult night, they wanted to put him in deep sedation and begin placing him on life support. His blood pressure just kept climbing, but his oxygen levels had tanked even with the mask and his CO2 levels were skyrocketing. And he just couldn't rest - hadn't really slept in days, and he was exhausted and starting to show signs of confusion and delirium.
And we agreed. We agreed to put him on a ventilator. At this point in time, it's the best thing for him.
I've always been a staunch advocate of advanced directives and Do Not Resuscitate orders. It seems cruel, almost, to keep a person on life support when their time has passed and their spirit is gone. But honestly, from the bottom of my heart, I never, ever thought about a ventilator as a means of therapy. A tool, almost, to let a person rest and help them in their recovery. But in this case, for my dad, that's exactly what it is. Or so we hope. But had we signed a DNR order, the hospital may not have been able to put him on the ventilator, and he would have died.
He would have died, gasping for air while his lungs filled with fluid and strangled him to death.
Early Sunday morning, the decision was made. On Saturday night, they gave him a massive dose of anti-anxiety meds to help him sleep; and he did, finally, for a few hours. But early Sunday morning, he woke up in a state of panic, and ripped off his oxygen mask and started pulling all the IV lines out of his arms. He tried to jump out of bed, and started screaming when the nurses & respiratory therapist tried to restrain him. He was delirious and hallucinating, and the combined lack of sleep & lack of oxygen made him come unhinged. So they took him to the operating room and inserted the ventilator tube into his lungs.
And so it begins.
I went to see him earlier today; and although there were a few positive signs, he's still in extremely critical condition. The steroids they've been giving him for over a week now aren't reducing the amount of fluid his body is producing, and they still don't know *why* his body is having this reaction.
So tomorrow morning, he will be wheeled back into the operating room for an open lung biopsy. They're going to cut him open again, 3 weeks to the day after his lung cancer surgery, and take some samples from his remaining lung tissue. Hopefully, the biopsies will be sent to the lab & they will be able to tell us exactly what he has, and what he's fighting, and if there's anything else they can do.
He may not survive the surgery. Even with the ventilator, he's very, very weak and endured another 5-hour operation just 3 weeks ago. It's a lot to put his tired old body through. But we have to try.
I haven't lost hope yet. But it's just so hard, to know that the end could literally be in his next breath.
And then the questions come. What if they can't find what's wrong with him? What if his body just keeps producing the fluid? He can't stay on a ventilator forever; but what do we do if his lungs give out while his mind is still active????? I can't even type this without sobbing; but what if we have to make the decision to end his life, even though he should still have a lot of life left in him? What if his lungs have just given out? I don't think he's ready to die yet; but what if death is the only way to give him peace? I know him and we talked about his life, and I know he doesn't want to be kept alive by artificial means. But once all hope is gone, do I really have the strength to be able to make that decision? And encourage my mother, she who believes that any life is valuable at any price, to do the same?
The coming days are going to be so, so difficult for him and our family. Please, please friends, keep us in your warmest thoughts and prayers.