Thursday, February 6, 2014
The dad who had always been there to save me – whatever our differences, however fiercely we disagreed, whatever the circumstances – could not be saved.
His nasal feed would be stopped and the doctor told us gently that, judging by his scans and the damage to his brain, he probably had two to three days left.
It was Friday. January 24. If we were lucky, we had the weekend to say our goodbyes, right any wrongs and prepare for what came next. If you can ever prepare for what comes next.
Dad was moved to a side room at the James Paget Hospital so we could be by his side.
His stroke had taken his speech as well as paralysing his right side but he understood us, could nod, say no and give my mother a crooked smile on demand. We vowed to speak nothing of the news in his room, to keep the faith.
I’ve never believed in miracles. Or in the power of love, the strength of will triumphing over nature and, although I desperately wanted to – or felt I should – had never been convinced by the power of prayer like my practising Christian mother.
Life was all about chance, luck and random acts. Dad had been unlucky. But, normally a pessimist who always fears the worst, hope and positivity won the battle in my head. I refused to believe he was ready to go.
I rang my brother in New Zealand where my parents had spent five happy weeks in November. Should he jump on a plane now, he asked? Who could say?
That evening, our little family gathered together. Just like we had been at Christmas. As I held mother’s hand, his wife for 55 years, my sons, aged 17 and 14, held mine.
Rachel Moore: Dad suffered a stroke and the James Paget University Hospital has done us proud
My 17-year-old, with maturity beyond his years, assumed command as the rest of us crumbled, chatting to my father about their shared love of sport, memories of times shared – dad smiled when Will reminded him of the strop he witnessed when he was bowled out by “a girl” – bravely holding it all together for us. I was so proud of both my boys for instinctively knowing life’s priorities and how to behave in the worst of situations.
My partner filled in the gaps when it all got too much, taking the boys out for breaks, staying by their side, encouraging them to talk about their feelings.
My mother sat in a chair by dad’s bed all night and I took over on Saturday, talking about our holidays, making him smile with tales of my mad dog who adored him so much, reading holiday reviews of his favourite country, Italy.
Staff popped in and out, their kindness mixed with a welcome matter-of-factness reassuring and calming. They’d seen this situation numerous times before but, not once, did they make us feel like they had.
On Saturday, dad perked up when his friend David popped in from Portman Road with news of a 2-0 Ipswich Town victory for the Suffolk boy. Messages poured in from friends, some willing a miracle, others praying in churches of all faiths across the country.
We Skyped my brother, his tiny daughters, aged just three and one, bouncing around on the screen of my iPhone shouting at granddad to get better, making him a tea party and drawing him pictures.
The irony of my father’s fierce dislike of mobile phones and all things social media wasn’t lost on us as he stared intently at his beloved granddaughters performing for him.
He loathed our reliance on our “machines” but it was a “machine” that allowed all his precious family, separated by 13,000 miles, to be in the room with him when it mattered.
That evening was so lovely and, if those hours had been his last, it was as good as it got. All his family – an opinionated bunch who all like to have their say – together doing what we do best, making a noise, talking over each other and laughing.
Sunday was tense as my mother, my partner and I sat, not daring to leave.
Throughout, the nursing staff were incredible. One explained they viewed their jobs looking after people’s loved ones as a privilege. That was palpable.
On Monday morning, my partner called the ward like he did every morning and managed to speak to the consultant.
Against all odds and expectations, Dad’s condition had improved, the bleed appeared to have stopped, and the swelling subsided. They were starting his feed again.
On Friday, he had no chance. On Monday he had a chance.
Elated and confused, we rushed back to hospital. To us, a miracle had occurred. To the medics, it was a small improvement but one of hope.
Whether that magical Saturday night made a difference, we will never know.
But that time was a gift to us all, making us realise how precious we all are to each other and, with his four grandchildren willing him on, perhaps gave dad something to live for. Whenever he saw his two strapping grandsons and gorgeous granddaughters, his face lifted.
A long uncertain road lies ahead and who knows whether it was a miracle, the power of love, prayers or simply nature that saved him that weekend.
Or the dogged cussedness of a man who has much to live for.