Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Call

Marine and I were still on the drive home from our vacation. We were about 30 minutes from home when I got the call. It was mom. She was breathless and trying not to panic. Months before my mother had gotten one of those emergency buttons for my Grandpa (who was in excellent health) to wear, at 89 and him being alone during the day it seemed like a good idea. Just a precaution in case he fell or something.

Mom told me the emergency people had called her and an ambulance was on the way to the house. Grandpa had pushed the button and said he was experiencing pain and a shortness of breath. She was over an hour away and stuck in traffic. Of course I would meet the ambulance at the hospital.

As Marine clutched the steering wheel with one hand and squeezed mine with the other, I stared out the window not really focusing on anything as we headed for the hospital. I silently took deep breaths, trying to remain calm and keep my tears at bay. He would be ok, I told myself.

At 89 my grandfather was in great health - mentally and physically. He walks with a cane due to an earlier hip surgery but other than that he's pretty spry, especially for someone of his age.

We arrived at the hospital ahead of the ambulance. We waited....... and waited...... and waited...... time seem to crawl by. Finally we saw fire trucks pull into the parking lot starting to block off an area.

"They're going to life light someone," Marine says.

I remain silent. I can't even describe the emotions swirling around inside.

An ambulance pulls into the parking lot with the lights flashing. It stops near the fire trucks. We leave the waiting room and head towards it. I say my Grandpa's name asking a man standing by the ambulance if he is inside. The man confirms this but is no help with anything else.

My tears are right below the surface but I fight them back trying to continue to remain calm. Finally a nice man climbs out of the ambulance. I recognize him as one of mom's neighbors. He says I can sit with Grandpa till the helicopter arrives.

I climb inside. Three paramedics are inside as well; one working on paperwork, one messing with an IV that is running to Grandpa, and the third has his back to me as I enter and take a vacant seat.

Grandpa lays there with a mask over his face. I take his hand and he turns and offers me a slight smile. No words our spoken and then the man doing the paperwork tells me that Grandpa has had a heart attack. He then asks me about what kind of medications Grandpa takes. Before I can answer Grandpa is answering the question himself. To my unknowing eyes he appears to be ok, just weak.

When the questions are done, I tell Grandpa I love him. He tells me he loves me and that he will be alright.

I'm told I have to exit the ambulance so they can get him ready. I step outside into the cold winter air and as Marine throws his jacket around my shoulders and wraps me in his arms I let a tear slide down my cheek.

A moment later the helicopter has landed and as the wheel Grandpa toward it I am told I can come tell him bye. I rush to his side and kiss his cheek and squeeze his hand again telling him I love him and that I'll see him soon.

We learn the next day that he has to have bypass surgery. It's the only option. And at his age the doctors say it's pretty much a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" situation. So the surgery is scheduled for the following day.

With visiting times in the ICU of only four 30 minute intervals throughout the day it just seems there is never enough time. The last one that night Mom has gone home early so she can be back at 5 in the morning before the surgery - Marine and I stand by his beside. He talks to Marine about his time in the Air Force as he asks again about Marine's upcoming deployment. There are so many things I want to say yet I can't seem to find the words. We cover topics of present and past. All to soon a nurse appears and I know we have to leave. Grandpa kisses me and as I turn to leave I try to convince myself he will be ok. He didn't look like someone who had just had a bad heart attack. He looked like it was something way more mild, as if he was just weak from the flu or something.

The surgery was done on the 23rd. It went good and we thought he was going to pull through. Mom and I spent hours at the hospital. Christmas with our family was on hold. We would wait till he was out so we could all celebrate together. Christmas day instead of the normal Christmas feast mom and I enjoyed a salad and chicken sandwich in the hospital cafeteria.

Saturday night (the 26th) at approximately 10 p.m. Grandpa passed away.

It was so soon and so sudden. Perhaps I'm still in shock. I thought he would outlive us all.

I am sad but also I try to think positive about it. At 89 he had still been vibrant and full of life. Still driving to the post office every few days and getting out and going for walks. He never got to the point he was losing his mind, or that he couldn't get around. And that I think is something to be thankful for. I hope that I will be as lucky to say the same when I approach his age.
"A grandpa is someone you never outgrow your need for.."
~ Author Unknown ~


phoebe said...

*tears* *more tears* i'm so sorry for your loss. i really truly am so very sorry. words cannot express it. i know how you feel. email me if you want to 'chat'. *hugs*

Nicole said...

I am so sorry, E. I hope you are taking what comfort you can in that he lived a good LONG life, and that you were lucky to have learned amazing things from him. Grandpas are special guys, they really are, and you were blessed to have him in your life for as long as you did.

Thoughts and prayers with you and your family.

Date Girl said...

I'm so sorry for your loss. I'm glad that Marine was there to comfort you. I agree with what Nicole and Phoebe said as well. *Hugs*.