Posts Tagged Hurricane Katrina
For me and for many who were touched by this horrific event. On August 23, 2005 a storm formed in the Atlantic that would become the costliest and one of the five most deadly hurricanes in the history of the United States. It was a monster! But I was living in the Midwest and far away from this natural disaster. I was dealing with something I knew would come one day but didn’t foresee it coming when it did or how it did.
My father had been living in a Veterans Home for several years and had already lost both of his legs to the ravages of diabetes and his kidneys were failing him. He, being the stubborn man that he was, refused to get dialysis and truth be told it would’ve been a Herculean effort to get him to dialysis anyway. The home didn’t have the facilities for it and it would’ve required him going some miles away to a hospital that would do it, stay there for hours, and then be transported back – yet another thing the home wasn’t capable of doing. I was told that not only would the trip be very hard on him but so would the treatment and that when he would return he would be so spent that it would take him just enough time to recover…to be ready to do it again. I didn’t want to put him through that so I relented and didn’t fight him on his decision.
You see, his home was about an hour and a half drive away from where I lived. The reason he was there is that initially he was in a regular nursing home close by but he and I both hated it and the cost of care for him and mom was awful! I applied for him to be in any Vets home with the idea of just getting him in the system and then transferring him closer when an opening arose. Eventually an opening did come up close by but by that time he had gotten used to where he was (he even had his own private room -score!) so he remained there. He was having bleeding problems and had been going back and forth to the local(ish) hospital and it was wearing us both out! I had the chance to accompany the then husband to a meeting at a resort but I was torn about staying home just in case Dad needed me or to go and give myself a break. I went…and I regretted that decision.
It was at a meet and greet party that I kept stepping out of to call and check on my father when I was told that he was getting worse and what did I want to do. Long story short (and to be honest a lot of my memory of that night is a panicked blur) I said put him in an ambulance and get him to the big hospital near where I lived that had done some surgery on him before and do it now! It involved a lot of phone calling with that hospitals ER department, asking if a certain renal specialist was going to be available, begging with tears in my eyes over the phone for an ambulance service to take him on that hour and a half drive to the hospital…and then me agonizing over if I should leave the event and go be with him. Once he was transferred to the hospital I spoke with the attending who said he was lucid and talking and I could relax. Me? Relax? Hell no! Screw that!
I was in the hallway outside of the party when I just slid down the wall and began to sob; my body just quivering from the weight of it all. Strangers were stopping to try and comfort me fearing someone had hurt me but I was crying so that all I could do was just shake my head. I paced the floors of that resort almost the entire night trying to get a clear mobile phone signal where I could before I finally said we are leaving I have to be with my father! I’m not sure when it happened but somewhere in all of the phone calls his doctor told me that he threw up blood that looked like coffee grounds and that he lost consciousness.
The resort was a 2+ hour drive away from the hospital and there was some speeding done; I am thankful that one state highway patrolman just told us to slow down and didn’t arrest or ticket us. When I rushed into the hospital, my father was in the ICU hooked up to all manner of wires and tubes that beeped and pinged…and a ventilator. I stopped crying and shifted into ferociously protective daughter/caregiver mode. I was told that it didn’t look too good for him and that I probably should let him go. Wrong thing to say to me people! I asked how long could he stay on the ventilator before he had to come off. I had a week; a week to figure out what to do, how to approach it, research options, make plans and backup plans for those plans, spend every day at his side, snarl at some condescending medical folks (don’t ever piss me off when it comes to the care of someone I love) pray and watch the television in his room that was on constant loop of – you got it – the coverage of Hurricane Katrina.
It was like watching the proverbial car wreck. Everyone in the ICU unit had it on and we all just couldn’t quite turn away from it; it was a morbid fascination. I too watched and couldn’t believe what I was seeing on the television as I was trying to hold it together for the man in that hospital bed who I felt I had somehow failed; who I hadn’t spoken to when I could still talk to him because I was so busy trying to figure out what to do for him… and now I could no longer hear his voice. All I could hear was the news report of Katrina and the machines that were keeping him “alive” making their noises. Some days when I would sit there with him and talk to him, stroke his hand or hair or pray that a miracle would happen, I would switch off the television entirely or turn it to another channel. Let me tell you, it was hard to find something else to watch what with it being on every major channel and hospital televisions aren’t known for having a lot of viewing variety.
Even when I would change the channel or turn off the TV, if I left his room to go get something to eat (I didn’t eat much during this period – I had no appetite) or to just go for a walk, when I would return someone would’ve switched it back to the coverage of the hurricane. And what was shown was a nightmare! I had been to New Orleans and here I was sitting with my father who was dying watching the destruction and deaths of others. I recognized areas they were showing, I had eaten at some restaurants that were destroyed, the bottom level of the hotel I stayed in was shown on fire. It was a horrible situation all around…and I watched parts of it in surreal amazement while I was still holding on to my father with the hopes of a child wanting daddy to come back.