Blog a Day 78of365: That awful day

I’ve woken up feeling very on edge today. That sort of feeling you get when you think a ton of bricks is about to fall on your head. I knew this was coming but I hoped it would wait until Saturday rather than the day before.

You see tomorrow is my Dad’s birthday. It would have been his 65th. He would have been retiring in June. It would have been good. In recent years before his death his rheumatoid arthritis was really affecting him and even seminar leading was really tiring him out. I feel somewhat bad that I never acknowledged his condition quite as much as I should. I obviously did to an extent, but much of it was that I didn’t want to face up to the fact that my strong father was not as strong as he used to be. I just didn’t want to accept that he was getting older even though he himself never liked to accept it either.

His 63rd birthday was his last. Just under a month later he died very suddenly. He died at about 5am on April 12th 2008 with me and my Mum the only witnesses. It was a horrible death to witness. I’m sure most deaths aren’t great to see admittedly but this one was harrowing. He’d fallen out of bed initially. My Mum called me to help me lift him up as he was dazed and she didn’t have the strength to do it alone. We thought he was just very dazed from the fall. He’d been ill previously with a seemingly innocuous urine infection but it had really taken it out of him, we assumed because his immune system was so weak from the rheumatoid arthritis and the drugs he had to take for it, along with the antibiotics. As we went to try to lift him, everything took a turn for the worse.

He suddenly seemed to lose conciousness and fell back further banging his head slightly on a nearby bookshelf. He looked concious but his eyes showed that he wasn’t really with it. I rushed downstairs to call an ambulance (why I didn’t use my mobile initially who knows) and while I was down there (my Mum still upstairs) I started hearing a really awful groaning noise. It’s difficult to describe the noises he was making but it felt sub human. It wasn’t a groan a normal person makes, it was just awful. The sort of noise I think resides with you forever. He was fitting violently.

999 had called me back on my mobile so I could stand in the bedroom and directly say what was going on. Within a very short time, he stopped fitting quite so violently. Instead he sounded like he was struggling to breathe. Breaths were getting wider and wider apart. It was blatantly obvious at this point that he was dying in front of us. Then he stopped breathing. At this point I was still bizarrely calm. I was terrified initially especially with the awful fitting but it was like the rational side of my brain had accepted that this really wasn’t going to end well. I was the one that had to still try to calmly talk to the Scottish woman on the phone. I didn’t really have a choice. I had to stay calm.

The woman asked for my Mum to start CPR. My Mum did to the absolute best of her ability. My Mum did everything right but she was starting to panic. In between the timings she was screaming. Desperate for him to start breathing again, desperate that he wouldn’t die.

Time was going on too long. He hadn’t taken a breath in too long. I remember slightly desperately shouting at the woman ‘Where is the ambulance?’. I feel guilty in hindsight which is ridiculous as I’m sure she understood, but I don’t like shouting at people just doing their job. Then I heard the ambulance in the distance.

I rushed downstairs and let them in. They were brilliant. An older, more experienced bloke and a young, slightly portly man probably about my age. They did everything they could. They spent longer than they probably needed to but it was to no avail. My Dad was dead.

I didn’t watch them work on him. I couldn’t face it. I already knew he was dead. Looking at his eyes, I knew he was dead long before he stopped breathing. I have no medical knowledge but to me it was clear he was brain dead long before his heart stopped beating. I think it was a defence mechanism of mine to stay away, I didn’t want to see them work on him.

Instead, somewhat bizarrely, I went and fed the cat. He’d been shut away in the living room all that time and knew something was going on. He’s normally a whiney bugger when he’s hungry but he wasn’t today. It was as if he knew. I sat on the floor before feeding him and just hugged him. Telling him that things had changed and everything was going to be very different now, but that I’d look after him and he’d be ok.

The paramedics were lovely. So kind. The young bloke was nearly in tears and clearly affected by it. My Mum stayed with my Dad until the police got there. I couldn’t face it. I was going to see him but then had to go be sick instead. I was worried I might regret it one day but it’s yet to happen.

The police came quickly and were brilliant. The problem was my Dad was a sudden death. And he’d banged his head slightly (only a cut but still) which made things more complicated. There had to be forensics and an autopsy. The policeman that first came was lovely. A Scottish man who in my head now looks like Bill Patterson but probably didn’t really. He explained the entire procedure that was about to come, explained that it was going to be difficult. We had to fill in a form to explain what we’d seen. This was at about 6.30am. All so very surreal. He had to go at just before 7 as his shift had ended so we were passed onto others who were nice but didn’t really have the same impact.

All this meant that we had a police guard guarding my parents’ bedroom until lunchtime. The coroner couldn’t make it until then which made things extremely long. Worst of all for the first few hours no one shut the bedroom door, meaning that every time you walked downstairs you could see my Dad’s feet sticking out. Not nice really. The police woman guarding the room was nice though. She clearly felt awkward there so eventually we gave her a magazine lying around just to keep her occupied. When the house is full of wailing, grieving people, it can’t be nice at all.

By about 9am we had a house full. A good friend of mine had driven up to be with me for the day and my Aunt, Uncle, 2 cousins and Grandmother had descended. Plus a friend of my Mum’s. It was madness, and also still utterly surreal….

Skimming over the madness of that day and various other incredibly surreal days (there were lots of them, we couldn’t have the funeral for 2 weeks because of the autopsy), we eventually found out what happened to him.

He had a pelvic abscess which had burst sending poison, essentially, throughout his body. Nothing could have been done to save him. Absolutely nothing. Just one of those things that happen due to a series of unfortunate coincidences.

I’ve got a pounding headache and far too many tears roling down my face. So I’ll stop here. I feel ridiculously drained now.

7 thoughts on “Blog a Day 78of365: That awful day

  1. Rachel

    There aren’t words really, are there? Virtual hugs feel pretty damn inadequate too, but they’re there for you in abundance, along with so much love. As the saying goes, you can’t be brave if you’re not first afraid… don’t underestimate how incredibly courageous you are.

  2. Chris Schilling

    Exceptionally brave and moving piece of writing.

  3. Tracy

    I’m so glad you’ve made that post. I remember you writing something similar to me a year or so ago (maybe longer) in an email and sitting there with tears streaming down my face just wanting to reach out and hug you. Still want to do that now. You and your poor Mum had the worst experience I think any of us can imagine, and you’re incredibly strong people even if you don’t always feel that way. I just wish we lived closer so that we could be more help.

    Love to you both, and well done again for that post. So brave to write it It’s one of the most moving things I’ve ever read and I hope you feel better for being able to share it.

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  5. Andrew McMichael

    I haven’t visited your site before tonight – I stumbled across it looking for gaming podcasts, and little did I know I’d end up reading such a rivetting account of tragedy.

    I don’t know anything about you, or your family, but I wanted to express my sympathy. I’m lucky enough to have both my parents living, but accounts like your own should make us all appreciate what we have.

    Rest assured I’ll be browsing your site regularly from now on, and thanks for such a frank and brave piece of blogging.

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