July 22nd, 2012


The Fragility of Life

The day before I was to visit my folks enroute to a week-long onsite disaster recovery exercise I got the news that my father had fallen and broken his arm. As he required surgery, I postponed my trip for a day. Saturday morning I loaded up the kids in the Land Yacht and we made our way due South. Nearing Texas, I got word that my father's surgery had been postponed due to renal failure - his kidney's had stopped working, and also he'd had a heart attack.

Suffice it to say I was bit unnerved as I texted work that I may have to juggle my professional responsibilities with personal responsibilities if he were to pass away during our disaster recovery exercise - and as our schedule has us on 18-hour days, I let them know that the physical stress of those hours would eventually emotionally compromise me.

When we arrived in Texas I stopped at the hotel across the street and got their largest suite, picked up my mother, took her and the kids to lunch then dropped them off at the hotel so the kids could swim and my mother could sleep - she'd been at it two full days. I drove to the Cardiac ICU and visited with my father for several hours, long enough to get the report that his kidney's were at least functioning again and that after the cath to peek at his arteries the next day they would look at finally setting the radial fracture in his humerus - four days after he broke it. The morphine drip he was on was only enough to keep the edge off. I texted work that my father seemed stable and to disregard my previous text.

I drove back to the hotel where I left the kids in the room to escort my mother back to her car at the hospital. Rather than walk her all the way across the parking lot I told her, "I'll bring the car to you." About ten steps away she asked, "Is GBZ waving from the hotel window?" I looked up and sure enough there was my son, waving. I waved back and yelled to my mother over my shoulder. She took two steps forward while simultaneously craning her head up and to the left, and lost her balance - even with the cane - on the "slight downgrade" carriage entrance of the hotel. I turned just in time to watch my mom faceplant right into the bricks. I had never seen so much blood so fast.

Not only was she just laying there, unmoving, she was moaning terribly. I got her rolled over and was shocked to see that her face was woefully misshapen - as if it were permanently frozen from the disfiguring fall; think Secundus from Stardust. I looked up to see if my son had witnessed it - he had, and now both my kids were in the window, gaping, as was a couple next door to my kids? I ran into the hotel and asked them to dial 911 - I was going to need an ambulance. I ran back out with a handful of paper napkins to clean the blood from her face - it was just a small gash on her chin which had caused it all, and now my mother was talking: She was ready to go home. She wanted me to get her in my car and just take her home. She wanted to go to sleep in her own bed. She was, quite obviously, in no condition to do so. The ambulance arrived approximately sixty seconds later, but not before the window-couple came down with a pillow for my mother's head and an ice-wrapped towel to place around her neck - two things which were quite helpful but which also didn't even cross my mind.

After the paramedics took over (assisted by the Decatur police) I ran upstairs to check on my kids. My daughter had been pretty freaked out over the whole ordeal and had called my wife who, knowing what I was going through with my father, was aghast at how stunningly horrific things were turning out. I took them with me to the ER at the same hospital across the street in which my father was in ICU. My son thought it might be a good idea to bring Grammie's purse - which we did - and which allowed us to register her into ER what with having all her insurance cards and ID contained within. It also seemed to help that I was already in the system as "Next of Kin."

We spent the next several hours traversing between ICU and ER. My father was not pleased with the news, and he knew that my brother was the last capable adult given my work schedule. I texted work that my mother was in ER and would update them later, but that so far I should still be able to make work Monday morning. This was before the CAT scan which revealed my mother's brain was bleeding and that they were ill-equipped for that injury at the small regional facility. They transported her to downtown Fort Worth and my next text to work was equally as ambiguous as to my involvement in Monday's activities.

We went back to the hotel, my kids passed out, and I set aside my two-months of non-drinking to consume six Shiners in short-order to finally calm my raw nerves at the end of that long, long day. I texted work the update on my mother and went to bed not knowing if she were going to even be alive by morning - a very different scenario than the one I had prepared myself for as I neared Texas earlier in the day.

I slept seven hours and remembered I had a Sunday Maintenance Migration twenty minutes before I got the call. A shower, two ibuprofen, two aspirin, and a MONSTER PROTEIN REHAB and I was on top of my game. The nurse at the downtown hospital confirmed my mother was alive and I completed the migration within an hour, woke the kids - they cleaned the entire hotel room of their own accord and without any prompting from me - we ate our complimentary breakfast and checked out, texting work that both my parents were now stable and I would see them Monday.

Straight to ICU where my father had gone to sleep wondering the same thing I did. He was happy about the news and they were prepping him for his cath when we left to see my mother. Downtown Fort Worth was an easy drive from Decatur. She was in Neurological ICU and the kids and I dressed in disposable paper gowns and green latex gloves - I wanted to snap a pic of of us but they frowned on cell phone use. Mom looked FANTASTIC and was lucid. She was mom again and that made everything better. They may release her tomorrow. I passed the reins to my younger brother who will handle all the transportation this week.

The drive to Anna was longer from the other side of the Metroplex but we made it and dropped off my excited kids at their excited friend's house. I hope their enjoyment eclipses the equally stressful couple of days they'd endured with me.

So I'm back in my old stomping grounds, at a hotel behind Chipotle which provided me a quite satisfactory dinner. I am magnificent at compartmentalization, but it too, has a cost - one of which I plan to pay in full right now. And since my day begins onsite at 0600, I'm going to attempt to slumber, and allow my body ample opportunity to shed itself of the stress of this weekend before the stress of the 18-hour days, which may seem like a vacation compared to the last 48 hours. I am certainly looking forward to it at this point.