“My foolishness and Dad’s last 13 days”
Today, I read a lot of messsages and snippets on the occasion of Fathers Day. Most were about what Dads did for them. But read this and know what I didn’t do for my dad. I am a doctor and, his second son.
Back then, a few months short of five years, my dad had developed Hepato-Renal-Syndrome, secondary to rapidly progressive cryptogenic cirrhosis of about ten months duration. In short, first his liver was failing him for no good reason, then his kidneys.
End stage liver failure led to “low levels of protein production in the system”. This induced bowel swelling, and on a background of a previous 20 year old problem of postappendicectomy adhesive subacute intestinal obstruction, the food contents were not freely passing through the bowel lumen.
Doctors declared him unfit for any kind of transplant. Not even for a adhesiolysis surgery, a surgery that could have at least reduced his periodic episodes colicky pain and vomiting. I am a plastic surgeon; so I knew it, but so did he. The end was near, with lots of suffering.
He felt his life suddenly turn saltless and thirsty. This he learnt to adjust to. But the plight of abdominal pain made him choose laparoscopic adhesiolysis to relieve of bowel obstruction, inspite of warning him that there would be only a 50–50 chance of coming home alive.
I assisted the GI surgeon in the surgery. A few minutes later, I nodded in my approval for converting it into a mini laparotomy, which means an open surgery. With a background picture of weak coagulation profile, the surgeon gave a futile expression after a brief struggle . I agreed to abandon the surgery in favour of seeing my dad live for few weeks more, rather than see him bleed to death on table.
The next 10 days were tiring and moving fast.
Post Operative Day 3.
He went into coma. Kidneys totally failed. He was put on alternate day Dialysis. The GI Surgeon asked for relatives to be informed. Two of his surviving elder sisters came from his native village, travelling more 350 kms and, so did many our friends and relatives.
Post Operative Day 4 to 7 was good.
His sisters were jubilant, as he opened his eyes to their conversations. They credited themselves for this. Sometime later, he spoke to me softly. My mom couldn’t bear to see him suffer, which he was well aware of. He was keen to pay the bills for surgery and let me know the whereabouts of it. He reminded my mom of his vision of distributing his properties amongst us. He wanted all of us to live like one big family.
He wanted only me to do the cleaning and shaving, not the hospital staff. I did these as a privileged doctor-son. My brother was a non-medico but helpful spectator. My daughter and nephew were scared and concerned. So was my wife.
Post Operative Day 8.
He motioned me come near him and called softly asked for “Salt, Sambar & Rasam”, a salted spicy lentil soup. He didn’t want bland diet anymore. I falsely promised him that, but didn’t provide it. I was selfish for him to live longer. Later, my senior would scold me for this. A foolish decision of mine which I regret it to this day.
That night he became unconscious, forever.
Post Operative Day 9.
His bleeding tendency increased, as INR values was going out of control. So were many other parameters. Visitors were dropping in numbers.
Post Operative Day 10.
We didn’t want him to suffer anymore. We knew the end was near but didn’t know when. But he wouldn’t care and lay on the bed oblivious of our concerns.
At 1915 hrs, I sent my reluctant Mom and Aunt home. My brother was sitting in chair beside my dad, looking at the ECG and SpO2 monitor.I was lying in the couch staring at the same monitor.
In less than 10 minutes, monitor became silent. The line went flat. My brother looked at me. I kept staring at it for a full five minutes. Then, I got up, went near my dad and did the customary checks. Only then did I inform my brother that dad is no more.
He was wild at me for my delayed response. I did it because I didn’t want dad alive anymore, for he had suffered enough.
My colleague on-call was called to do the declaration. Once that was done, I went in to the loo.
For the first time in a decade, I cried intensely and briefly for less than a minute. No one could have predicted that when I came out, but for my blood shot eyes. Intuition had made my Mom and Aunt wait longer than usual in the hospital lobby and now I saw them weeping.
From then on, I was back as Dr Rajan.
“Food is so basic, that even with death at hand, we might desire it! …………..Well……. No more preaching”
Now, many weeks at a stretch, I don’t think of my Dad. Why? Because, he has left enough for us. Usually people curse their parents each day for not doing enough for them. Not my Dad.
He was a hero for me. A role model. He set the rules. Provided all the basic comforts and, education. He allowed me to dream wild and, provided the means to achieve it.
I tell this true story when ever people preach me tempering my diet.
Happy Father’s Day.
PS: Encouraged by the response of my friends on Whatsapp, I am writing this story again on Medium.