A daughter’s tale….

| Caregiver Support

Michelle and her dad

A daughter’s tale….

My dad has always been strong both physically and mentally. Dad loved riding motorcycles and took many trips across the country with his friends. Dad was married to my mom for 20+ years and was the guy you called upon to help install your new toilet and fix your plumbing, or install your pool, or build a garage – he could fix or build anything. He was an avid fisherman and enjoyed camping which we did a lot as a family when we were small.  One of dad’s greatest joys was being a grandpa.

This all changed on the night of January 24th, 1996. I had just put the kids to bed and was settling down to watch TV and enjoy the quiet…when the phone rang and it was mom. “Dad’s had a fall and bumped his head while roller skating. The roller rink sent him by ambulance to the hospital for examination as a precaution and I will call you back when I know more.” I picked up the phone and called my friend to come sit with the kids and headed up to the hospital.

Upon arrival to the hospital Emergency Area, my husband and I were escorted to a private room and two police officers a nurse and doctor all came into the room. I knew immediately something bad had happened as this was not normal. But absolutely nothing could have prepared for what they told us. Dad had had a massive heart attack and was without oxygen to his brain for over eleven minutes and they were still working on him. They also advised us that we needed to prepare for the worst.

For the next 72 hours my family and I spent every hour by his bedside watching him fight for his life. I remember there being so many wires and tubes, the beep, beep sounds of the life support system working to breathe for him. The doctors came to tell us after 48 hours that dad had suffered a massive heart attack and had severe heart damage that would require surgery to repair, but worse than that dad had an ABI (Acquired Brain Injury) caused by a lack of oxygen to his brain. They said dad would likely be a vegetable and not likely to be able to do anything for himself and would require 24 hour support – that’s if he survived.

The next 3 months dad spent in the cardiac care unit. He had heart surgery to repair his aorta and then when stable enough he was transferred to Parkwood Hospital where he entered the Brain Rehabilitation Unit where he/we would spend the next 15 months. At the time of dad’s admission to Parkwood dad thought I was 12; my sister 10 and my brother 7. He had lost 15 years of his short term memory.  Dad couldn’t remember he had four grandchildren or even recognize their faces when shown a photo.

Dad slowly learned how to speak, read, days of the week, months of the year; then the tough part – walking, dressing and shaving and all the activities of daily living that that we all take for granted.   At this point we didn’t know if dad would ever be able to care for himself again let alone live alone. We took shifts working with dad every day at his rehab, going for walks, doing exercise, working on reading, hand eye coordination, eating with fork and knife and then we would spend some time talking and looking through photo albums trying to spark some memories.

At about nine months into dad’s rehab we would get excited when he would remember names and dates, and he was up and walking now. But the doctors and nurses kept reminding us not to get our hopes up and this might be as good as it gets and suggested we start touring LTC Homes. I was not able to accept that option. Within a few weeks of this Dad starting remembering things like names and faces being able to read and walk alone unassisted, showering alone and becoming really stable on his feet.

This was so encouraging. It seemed every day was a small milestone… life was going to be different but dad was a fighter and was learning new skills, and coping strategies every day -as were we! We needed to remember NOT to say “remember dad” or “come on dad” because everything took extra time, but it was important to give dad the time to do things for himself in his own time.

Fast forward five years; Dad was living independently in his own apartment. Together we had to learn how to enjoy new hobbies and spend time together without getting frustrated if things took extra time.  Some of dad’s new hobbies are walking, gardening, baking, reading, and golfing with his grandson. He still loves fishing…that hasn’t changed at all.

Today it has been 25 years since his ABI and things are great, dad has even traveled extensively in Europe on his own. Dad worked hard on improving his social skills, being able to be in crowds and learn how to exercise patience practicing the skills taught to him on how to remember important details.

My dad taught me the value of enjoying today because you might not have tomorrow; to exercise and practice patience. Dad was always saying ”don’t sweat the small stuff”. This has a much deeper meaning now. I try to exercise this each and every day.  My dad is my hero and my children are lucky to have him as their grandpa!

This single event shaped my life personally and professionally. I now dedicate my life to ensuring our clients/families receive quality care for their loved ones. That’s I what I demanded for my dad, so why should our clients/families have less than that. My life lesson is “ quality of time, not quantity” and I live by this and I am proud of this.

Michelle Bloodworth, Area Director, Bayshore Home Health London Branch