On December 22nd, at 5:13 pm, I received a text from my eldest brother telling me that my father was taken to the hospital by ambulance. My world was turned upside down in that instant. I was distraught. I could barely type an email to my boss to let him know I had to leave town earlier than was planned.
I was texting back-and-forth with my brother trying to figure out if I should head to North Bay that night or wait until the morning. Freezing rain was on its way to both Ottawa and North Bay and I was trying to miss that. Weather sites indicated that the freezing rain was due around midnight in Ottawa, so I decided to quickly finish packing and grab what food I needed from the store and home. It’s not as simple for me as it is with other people to travel as I’m sensitive to a few foods and they’re in a lot of things. I grabbed a quick bite to eat, which was nearly nothing. I had everything packed and ready to go by 7:15 pm and proceeded to leave town, or attempted to. My car wouldn’t start.
I tried to get help from people at my building. A man said he couldn’t because he was a delivery driver and he wasn’t allowed to. Most people overlooked my plight. I called a friend and he had been drinking, so he couldn’t drive over and give me a boost. I called another friend, she was going to come and give me a boost, but it took a long time to get her car started and in the middle of waiting for her, another man saw I was struggling and offered to help me once he was finished helping an older lady with her groceries. He came down eventually and got my car started and away I went at 8:21pm. I had gassed up on my way home, luckily, so I wouldn’t have to stop for that for a couple of hours.
The trip to North Bay from Ottawa is just under 5 hours. I worked a full day before this. It was an extra long drive this time around. My state of mind didn’t help things. I kept saying, “Not Daddy. I’m not ready for that.” My dad is almost never sick. He’d only been in the hospital one other time in the 33 years I’ve been alive and that was for minor surgery from an infection he got. It’s not like he’s never hurt himself. Being a mechanic, it wasn’t uncommon for him to crush a finger or thumb and require a brief trip to the hospital, but he hadn’t been there for anything serious and he’s 70!
Recently, I started learning some meditation exercises, mainly breathing. Those helped me get through the long drive. When I caught myself going 140 a couple of times, I told myself that I needed to slow down as it wouldn’t do to have another Roy in the hospital. The other thing that helped was seeing Christmas lights on people’s homes. Those lights were like little beacons of hope for me on the dark drive. They helped light my path and cheered me up.
I managed to miss all of the freezing rain.
I was hungry and exhausted by the time I reached my parent’s house. I cooked some food while they told me what happened.
He had been acting weird all day–restlessly pacing and looking out the kitchen window, which doesn’t have a view to anything but the side of a neighbour’s house then he’d tire and want to lie down. He started talking funny and it wasn’t jumbled up English or French, though there was the odd French word in the mix. He sounded like he was inventing an entirely new language. My mom sent my brother to the store for the kind of Aspirin you can chew and tried to get my dad to stop pacing around. He kept trying to communicate. My brother returned with the Aspirin and they got him to take it only he probably swallowed it rather than chewing. They called 911 and my other brother who would have beat the ambulance there if he hadn’t had to pull over to let the ambulance get to my parent’s home.
My father went outside at some point during all of this and locked his garage. He had given my mom his wallet before doing this, figuring he wouldn’t need it. He met the paramedics in the driveway and tried to ask whether or not the ambulance would be covered by OHIP! Of course, my mom tried to tell him this was no time to be concerned about money. The paramedic was shocked to find out my dad was the patient given that he was walking around and asking such questions.
The ambulance driver told my brother, who had rushed over to the house, not to follow them through the red lights they would be going through. I’m guessing that’s a standard safety procedure. My mom and brother reached the hospital to discover that my dad was on his way to Sudbury because the North Bay CAT Scan wasn’t working. That was at 5:47 pm.
I wasn’t happy to learn that we had no idea which hospital my dad was in or even what had happened to him. I feel best when I have information and I had nothing other than that my dad was in the hospital and it was probably Sudbury, which is a good place to be if it’s something with your heart.
The next day, we still didn’t know anything until around noon when my dad called us. My dad was brief on the phone and told us he was in Sudbury and that he was going to need surgery. My brother didn’t get a chance to ask a room number or anything. At this point, we knew what city and that my dad was alive. He was expecting to have surgery on Christmas Eve. So we started contacting some friends and family. One couple my dad sees a lot of needed to be updated and we didn’t have their phone number and had no idea how to spell their last name to look it up, so I walked over to let them know what was going on. I needed out of the house for a moment as my family has an inclination to drive me crazy by running through the same information multiple times to try to cope in situations like this, and I’m the weirdo that would rather find something to pass the time until more information comes along or until it makes sense for me to contact someone who has the information we need.
On Christmas Eve, I visited some friends at Ontario Northland while we waited to find out if and when my dad would be having surgery. My brother was at work and I decided it was stupid that we were in North Bay and my dad was in Sudbury. We made a plan to go visit after we found out more information. Dad hadn’t had surgery yet and didn’t know when that would be as he was waiting on the specialist to see him. We had lunch, hopped into my mom’s vehicle, and headed out to see him. I brought my dad one of his presents because I didn’t know how long he would be in the hospital and it was Christmas Eve.
When we got there, we learned that my dad had had a T.I.A. or mini-stroke. We also learned that he wasn’t going to need surgery after all. Apparently, his other arteries in the area had begun to take over the job of routing his blood flow to the brain.
So my dad is going to be okay though he has to quit smoking, reduce his alcohol consumption, take some pills, and do some exercise each day. He’s not happy about the beer. He had reduced his smoking so much already that the nicotine patches made him hallucinate a pizza because the hospital food was so bad. He also saw zombies, which is interesting since my dad never watches anything with zombies in it.
This Christmas I got my daddy back on Christmas Day. We opened presents around 5 pm and had dinner around 7:30, which is much later than usual, but all that mattered was that dad was all right and back with us.