Saturday week, my dad was rushed to hospital. Doctors have given him less than 50 percent chance of pulling through. And yet, God bless him, he keeps fighting. One surgeon told us he had 24 hours to live. That was a week ago. They've probably never had a patient like my dad.
Every day, my wife and I have gone to see him, and met up with my mum, sister and sister's husband. My wife has been a rock throughout this all, as has my brother-in-law. We've got to know the hospital like the backs of our hands, especially the Intensive Care Unit where my dad has been. We're racing through their disposable plastic aprons, lurid red or green, which you have to put on when entering the ward.
My dad is there, hooked up to machines, tubes and wires everywhere. Mostly he sleeps, but occasionally he opens his eyes and sees us. He keeps reaching out to rip the tubes away in frustration. We talk to him, trying to stay upbeat. I've been on the lookout for funny stories in the papers. We remind him of home. We talk about football, cricket, gardening. The places which he loves. Anything which might give him the urge to fight. I must sound like an utter idiot.
The nurses in ICU are wonderful. The devotion each one gives to the patient. Patient, helpful, but no-nonsense: one of them even told a doctor off, after she told us we could see dad after visiting hours.
My wife and I also found the hospital chapel. Each visiting time, we've gone in there to pray for my dad. Yesterday, we also attended Mass. It was a moving, uplifting ceremony. A small room, with intense electric lighting. It was like having the Mass in your living room. A mixture of patients, visitors and staff.
Because my wife and I go to church, we've been entrusted with the task of praying. As though we have some special hotline to "The Big Guy," as my brother-in-law put it. We managed to get my mum to come with us a couple of times; but even though I think she found some comfort there, she hasn't been back on her own. Praying, religious belief, is all too weird. So my wife and I go in, say a prayer, and leave a prayer on the noticeboard at the back.
What we've been praying for- what I pray for now- is that God does the best for my dad. If He wants my dad to live, He gives him strength; but if He considers that it's my dad's time...Because if Dad does come out of hospital, he's not going to have the life he did before. He won't be as active; and my dad was an active man. I don't know. I don't know what's best for him. I put my faith in God.
This morning, I'm going back to work. My bosses arranged special leave for me, no questions and no strings. They're not expecting to see me, but my dad is going to be in hospital for a long, long time yet, assuming he survives. Somehow, we've got to make some accomodation with our ordinary lives. But I will explain that, if I need to, if I get a telephone call, I will have to leave at a moment's notice.
I feel guilty. I've felt guilty about a lot of things this week. Watching the football, reading a book, cooking a meal. Nothing is normal. Everything I do is informed, now, by the knowledge that my dad might pass away, and soon; and that he's in a hospital, surrounded by strangers, kept alive by machines, struggling to wake up, struggling to live. My mum and sister have gone to see him every visiting time, twice a day; but as the week wore on, and his prognosis looked sounder, we decided to try and get back to some sort of normality.
I want to write. Write fiction. Whatever comes up. But everything I do at the moment is tainted by the memory of my dad trying to keep his eyes open.