Sunday, November 26, 2006

More on Where I've Been

My brother got out of the hospital today, which is remarkable, considering we essentially were planning a funeral a couple of weeks ago. This is the same guy who got hit by a car while riding his bicycle earlier this year. It might seem, at first consideration, that the guy has some kind of dark cloud hanging over him. On the other hand, you may start to believe in guardian angels. Look at it this way: he's been struck by a moving motor vehicle and has drowned in a swimming pool in 2006 and lived to tell about it. Hey, at least he's trying to take care of himself.
He may be sprung from his stepdown bed, but he might still be a candidate for a stint in the loony bin. He's still a few bricks shy of a load, as the construction guys say. For instance, he has asked me every day, sometimes two or three times, where his wallet is. I tell him every time that I have it and it's safe, and his response is always the same: "Well, I didn't know." The hardest part about his elevator stopping a few floors short of the top is the fact that he doesn't realize it. He thinks he's fine. He wants to go back to work this week. It will be tough to convince him that he doesn't have sufficient judgment to drive. Even if he can work, how can he get there? This will be a new life experience.
All of this came on the heels of an emotional disaster in our house. One of the teenagers knew someone who commited suicide. We had a week of significant parenting activities there. That was the week after my father, who is 80, had a biventricular pacemaker with an internal defibrillator carved into his chest. The days leading up to that and the subsequent recovery period were a little stresser for everyone, too.
(For those reading carefully who might be confused about the fact that I wrote in an earlier post that I am my brother's only living relative, here's the deal: we have different fathers.)
So, I hope everyone can understand why the blog has been neglected. Daddy D has plenty of stories to tell. It's just that not many of them are fun to write. I'll try to get back into the swing of things. I've seen Borat. I took in a Hootie & the Blowfish concert. I also saw Racal Flatts. I took five 14-year-old girls to Dallas for a Christmas shopping expedition. I went to the LSU-Ole Miss game. There has been a lot to say, just not a lot of time to share it. I may even try to write like a writer again soon. I've had three significant family events in the last month to six weeks which have derailed normalcy. Maybe now we can get back on track.

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Friday, November 24, 2006

Here's Where I've been

To the the vast yet ever-contracting Daddy D readership, I apologize for the extended absence. The last few weeks have been challenging.

If you have a family member with a "living will," take the existence of that document seriously. The idea that you may have to make decisions based on its contents is easy to embrace. If the execution of those wishes slaps you in the face, reality stings. On a recent Sunday afternoon, I was sitting on the sofa watching football when my cell phone rang. The call was from a nearby hospital; the person on the other end was looking for my brother's nearest relative. He is divorced and has no children, so that distinction falls squarely on my shoulders. The voice on the phone said, "we need you to come here right away."
I arrived at the emergency room to receive the sobering news that my brother, who had been swimming laps in a nearby pool, had been found unconscious on the bottom. He was blue, he was not breathing and his eyes were fixed. He had been pulled from the pool, and a physician who coincidentally was swimming nearby administered CPR. Now, an hour or so later, he had been revived but was considered "extremely critical." There was significant concern that he would not live through the night. If he did, the damage to his brain could not be determined. He was not breathing on his own and there was no way to determine if he would regain the ability to do so.
The next morning, we were engaged in active discussions about organ donation. I called his lawyer and got the living will. There it was, in stark black and white: the decision to withdraw life-saving measures belonged solely to me. For days, my only brother lay motionless in an intensive care bed. The condition of his body and the status of his brain were in considerable doubt. We all grew up Roman Catholic, so a priest was summoned. He administered the 'last rights," and told us my brother had been absolved of all his sins and was ready to make the great journey.
The days passed and slowly he began to breathe a little on his own. He cleared a major hurdle and it became clear that he would not die, but the level to which his mind would function remained very much in doubt. The only way we would know, we were told, is by having a conversation with him. We could not do that until the beathing tube was removed, and that was several days away.
I'm happy to report that he is presently awake and alert and speaking in complete sentences. His congnitive abilities clearly are improving every day, but still he is obviously impaired. The rate of his progress is encouraging and now there's reason to hope he will make a complete recovery. However, he clearly cannot go home alone. He will need rehabilitation. He is able to participate in the decision-making process, but the days ahead will be challenging as we determine together how he will spend the next few weeks.
He doesn't remember what happened, but he has been told time and again how serious his condition has been. The man who saved his life has visited him several times. The nursing staff has expressed amazement at his progress. He doesn't remember seeing a light or anything like that, so you have to wonder about all that absolution. You have to have faith, that there is a journey to make when your time comes and faith that a second chance at life will not be wasted. I'll keep you posted.

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