Last spring my Dad found out that the valve in the back of his heart was "broken." It was letting a small amount of blood back in his heart, and it wasn't supposed to be letting anything back in. He didn't have any health insurance at the time, so he didn't pursue any further testing until he was insured. His insurance did not go in to affect until the first week in July.
He went to a variety of doctors during the month of July, but no one seemed to be super worried. He knew that he would have to have surgery, but the doctors consulted with each other about the best way to approach the situation. The last week in July he went to a doctor's appointment, and they sent him to the ER immediately. The emergency room sent him to the ICU. He seemed to have everything going wrong inside of his body. His heart was beating erratically. Sometimes it would beat extremely fast, and sometimes it would beat extremely slow. We knew that he would have to get a pacemaker, but he couldn't get one until the infection in his blood cleared up.
I drove to and from Jackson a lot while he was in the hospital. While he was in the ICU he could only have visitors 4 times during the day. Only two people were supposed to be able to go back at a time, but since my family is so large the nurses turned their heads and let my dad have more visitors than he was supposed to.
During this same time, I had a lot going on in my life too. I was graduating with my Ed.S. from Union and school was starting back up for the year. Daddie couldn't come to my graduation because he was still in ICU. He insisted that I go to my graduation, so I did. I really thought that everything was going to be ok at that point. His tests were looking much better. My school started back that Monday, and I was exhausted. I called Daddie Monday afternoon and told him that I was so tired from setting up my classroom that I would have to come see him Tuesday night. He told me that he had just been moved into a regular room, and I shouldn't waste my gas money driving to see him everyday. He said that his doctors told him that he was getting better and they would schedule his surgery for later in the week. He was in room 711, and we joked about the hospital putting a slurpee machine in his room. That's the last joke I remember him making with me.
I was supposed to go to Jackson with Jamie on Tuesday night. My body was so physically exhausted that I couldn't make the trip. In hind sight, I'm happy for my sister that I didn't go. She and Daddie were able to have a much needed, long heart to heart conversation. My schedule had allowed me to spend a lot of time with him the week before. I'm sad that I didn't go, but I think that Jamie needed that time more than I did.
We had a special day at school Wednesday because all the schools in Shelby County met at Bellevue Baptist Church until 11ish. On the way back to Arlington, I called my Daddie to see how he was feeling. My heart dropped immediately because I knew something was wrong. I could hear the phone being passed around and people saying, " I can't talk to her. I can't be the one to tell her." My brother-in-law, Matt, picked up the phone and said, "Jennifer, he's gone." I was very calm at that minute. I was driving down I-40 by myself, and I was in complete shock! I immediately called my sister and gave her the news. That was the hardest thing that I've ever had to do in my life! But I wanted her to hear it from me instead of someone else. I'm not sure if there is a right way to deliver that news.
Michael, Jamie, Carlos, and I drove to Jackson. I cried a little, but I was still in shock. I really thought that it was a bad dream or a bad joke. As Jamie and I walked down the hospital hall to his room, it seemed like the hall was a mile long. My body was numb, and all I remember is seeing the faces of my aunts and cousins as Jamie grabbed my hand. Once we entered the room it seemed as if time stood still, but the clock hands were racing around the clock.
Jamie and I requested an autopsy in case there was anything that we needed to be aware of genetically for us or our children. The doctors didn't know why he died at that time. All of his tests from that day came back with good results. We now know that his heart just gave out. The autopsy revealed that he had several things wrong with his heart, and it just couldn't keep up anymore. Because of the autopsy request none of the tubes could be removed from his body while he was still in the hospital room. It really looked like he was just sleeping. I remember Grandmother sitting in the corner, obviously in shock also.
The days that followed flew by. My body was still numb, but I felt so loved. My friends and family really came through for me! I thought that it would be best if I returned to school on Monday with my kids. I knew that it would help to keep my mind off things. I'm still not sure if that was the best idea because I know that you need to deal with your emotions, but it did help me to see that life does go on.
I didn't know that some of the hardest days were yet to come. I cried myself to sleep almost every night for the next month. Michael didn't know what to do or to say to me. I explained that I just needed to get it out, and that I really was ok. Little things remind me of Daddie all the time, and I miss being able to pick up the phone and call him to just chit chat for a few minutes.
I'm extremely sad for Jamie and me because we lost both of our parents before we turned 30, but I'm saddest for my unborn children. They will never know the love that my mom and dad had to offer them. I do know that time heals all wounds, and one day I'll be able to talk about my dad and only remember the good times and be able to share the good memories.
I also know that God knew what he was doing. If my dad had lived he would have probably had to eat a restricted diet, taken tons of medicine everyday, gone for numerous check ups, not be so active, and quit smoking. My dad wasn't someone who liked to live a restricted lifestyle. He was a free spirit, and I think that living with restrictions would have driven him crazy. My dad didn't suffer, and I'm very thankful for that. I ask that you keep my sister, family, and me in your prayers. I'm very thankful for having such a loving and supportive group of friends.