This is a prayer request for all the family and friends who are sitting in the ICU waiting room anxiously waiting to hear news on their loved one. This is not a prayer request for the actual person lying in a hospital bed with tubes attached to them – no this is a prayer request for the worried, desperate, teary eyed people waiting – waiting for good news, waiting for results, watching the second hand tick by. This is a request for good thoughts sent to those without hope, those who are experiencing the worst day of their life – right now.
Five years ago today, June 15, 2005, my father was air lifted to the Medical College of Ga. He had decided it was a bright idea to do some bush hogging two weeks after finishing his chemo. He stood up on his tractor to point at some debris he to clear. The tractor popped out of gear. Dad fell and the back wheel rolled over him. For a healthy man this is never a good thing to have happen in the middle of some back field with only two teenage boys for help. For a man who has colon cancer this is just about the worst thing that can happen. Luckily dad kept his senses enough to tell the boys who to call for help, and what to say. He was so far in the field the ambulances couldn’t get to him – the volunteer fire department showed up and had to help carry him to the road. I got the call when he was in the air being flown to the hospital. I have never driven down I-20 so fast nor have the children ever been so quiet for that 2-hour ride. I arrived at the the hospital to the news that the cancer had attached his intestine to the wall of his stomach and when the tractor rolled over him it basically busted his gut like a balloon and all the bacteria that is normally contained in a colon was now free with in the walls of his body. He also had several broken bones in his pelvis. So we were to wait in the ICU.
I had heard those initials before: ICU – Intensive Care Unit. I knew that’s where the really sick go, but I had never experienced the ICU before. It is a very “unique” experience. There are two things that are served in the ICU – fear and desperation. You see it in the eyes of all the people waiting. Some had been there for weeks, some days, and some, like us, only hours. But the place reeked of fear and worry. And once you are sucked into it – you are changed forever. You learn to celebrate the passing of minutes – minutes that mean YOUR loved one is still alive behind those silver doors. You learn to pray without ceasing. You learn that you can sit in the same position for hours and that a person really can sleep under 24/7 fluorescent lighting.
The first night we were there I questioned one of the doctors on the welfare of my dad, what were we to expect, when would he get better. The man looked at me as if I were crazy. He said “Your father just finished a round of chemo, he only has 900 white blood cells in his entire body, WHEN infection sets in there will be no fighting it.” He of course didn’t say your dad will die, but he didn’t have to. So we waited for the infection, it hit the third day- father’s day. My brother’s and I gathered at a restaurant and planned my dad’s funeral on father’s day. It was only a matter of time before he was going to die.
We still waited in the ICU waiting room. We made friends with other families in the room. You can’t help but become one big community of support. Everyone is on the same emotional roller coaster and you just hang on for dear life. One night we, my sister, my stepmother, and I, sat up all night and fought off the despair with our weapons of hope – in the form of Baskin Robbins Cappuccino Blasts and Krispy Kreme doughnuts. As the sun came up the “bad news” doctors came into the room. They came to tell the little 16-year-old girl beside us that her mom wasn’t going make it. The blood disease was going to take her in an hour. I still can remember the girls cries of “It’s not fair, what am I to do” – her dad was gone, now her mom, she had the support of her aunts and grandparents but still she was an orphan in the world. I still cry for that girl.
After 11 days in the ICU – my father left. He kicked that infection’s ass! Sadly it would have been more merciful to have “pulled the plug” while he was in the ICU - 7 months later the cancer won. Dad died January 5, 2006. I mourn more on today's anniversary then I do on the day that he died. January 5th was a release from the pain of cancer, but June 15th was the day we all realized dad was going to die.