HOLMSEY: Goodbye dad

By IW Observer.co.uk Jun 13, 2022

In an ideal world, those we love would never suffer; in an ideal world, those we love would go on forever; loss could be reserved for trivial things, like spectacles and car keys.

My apologies for going missing last Friday, but on Thursday, May 26, I was called urgently to St Mary’s, to say goodbye to my lovely Dad. He’d been a patient there since the end of February and had already recovered from an infection that would have killed him, but for the outstanding care received in ITU. Despite turning 81, he’d been in robust good health, and (like a lot of older people) the pandemic had made him very cautious, although he managed to avoid it. We haven’t had too long to reflect, but it’s evident many older people felt the same way; all of them have lost time they didn’t really have to lose.

My Dad, and his wife Jackie, were a devoted couple, together for more than 50 years; her loss is immeasurable, certainly greater than ours. However, much we all loved him, given time, his children and grandchildren will adjust, we will carry on with our lives, much as before. For partners, it’s different.

Until my arrival at Dad’s bedside, we’d been hoping, with justification, he would return home, so the call was a real shock. They told us he had contracted sepsis, and that’s devastating news. On arrival, the doctor present said we should immediately say whatever we had to say, because he didn’t think Dad had very long to live. Actually, we sat with him overnight, kindly the Appley Ward staff allowed four of us do so, Jackie, his wife, two of my sisters and myself. When morning came, Dad was still with us, so we took it in turns to shower and change and so it went on.

Night and day, he just kept on going, even when the experts, including my qualified nurse sister said he couldn’t.

Days later, he was moved to Wellow Ward, the hospice in the hospital.

He was transferred late at night, and at first, it seemed a depressing place. The other hospital wards are busy, noisy places; people hustle to-and-fro, making patients better is the aim. Wellow Ward isn’t like that; it’s a consultant-nurse led acute end-of-life unit, a quiet and peaceful place.

Shane is the person in charge, and frankly, I can see why. He’s highly knowledgeable, utterly charming and above all caring. Nothing ever seemed too much trouble for him, and somehow, he always seemed to be there, listening, and gently answering our questions. Late one evening, I bumped into him on the stairs. He was going home, but still stopped for a brief update. I joked that he’d let me down by not actually being there 24/7, such was his ability to make us feel constantly supported. Irreverently, I describe myself as a doubtful agnostic, but if I did believe, I think that God himself could have picked Shane to work in palliative care.

By now, Dad was sedated; he was made comfortable for almost every minute of his Wellow stay, and for that we will always be grateful. Family members came and went; lots of tea and coffee was drunk; the supply of biscuits in Wellow is inexhaustible, particularly important when relatives can’t face eating. I managed a little humour here and there; Dad survived against the odds for so long, to break the tension, I suggested shining a torch at him, calling him into the light. I also said that if I could find a long cardboard tube, using my best ghostly voice, I’d call him over to the other side to join his parents!

It would have made him smile and he smiled a lot; I’m really going to miss him.