Autobiography by the daughter
November 16th 2012.
It was around 10 in the morning when we've gotten a call from the University of Washington medical center that a pair of lungs was on its way for my dad. We got ready and left the apartment at the transplant house. We called our neighbor to drive us to the hospital.
At the hospital we got ourselves checked in. This is our fourth time coming here for lungs. My dad had a condition called Pulmonary Fibrosis. It's where the lungs scar up healthy tissue and it gets harder to breathe in oxygen. He had it in both lungs for eight years. Doctors don't know how it manifests. There were others that had it too, and they all have different stories on how they got it. One lady told us that she just felt sick and couldn't breathe. A gentleman carrying a oxygen machine on his back told us that he caught the H1N1 (swine flu) virus and it affected his lungs. All we know that there is no cure for pulmonary fibrosis. Everyone who has it signs up for a chance to get on the transplant list.
My dad and I have been in the hospital for hours. We waited in the surgical waiting room. It's just one room with many beds and for privacy we had curtains. I've taken my dads first generation kindle reading one of his many books. My dad needed to eat bare minimum before surgery. He encouraged me to eat in the cafeteria. I took his wallet to eat dinner. The bank understood that I was entrusted with his account because risk of him being around people was too high.
While I eat I remember the times we came to the hospital for lungs. The first pair the lungs had a giant scar, second pair were bruised, and the third were drowned. I was constantly praying that my dad would be saved.
I was originally in Seattle for a weekend in July, but the leading pulmonary doctor told us that my dad was being admitted. He told us my dads blood pressure was through the roof. My dads feet were swollen by having too much water in the body. The doctors in Alaska misdiagnosed my dads swollen feet, but its ok my dad was being added to the transplant list. My dad protested because he wanted to do that the proper way, but the doctor refused. My dad was on to oh the list and the doctor would do his paperwork. My dad didn't realize he was worse than he thought.
Not only that, my dad only had enough money to last us for a few weeks. My older brother had money, and made a promise to help us if we asked. He broke that promise. Therefore, my dad had to take out his 401k retirement fund to pay for medication that wasn't covered by his insurance.
After I ate dinner I went back to my dad. He was watching movies on his laptop and I continued reading on his kindle. Hours continued to pass by, and I started to update my Facebook about what's going on in the waiting room.
Around 11 at night the doctors and nurses took my dads bed and wheeled him away. I stood still as they took him to surgery. I was told to go to the visitors waiting room. The door was locked, but with help I got to go in. There were monitors on the wall of all the other surgeries going on. Twenty five minutes I finally see my dads name on the waiting side. Thirty five minutes it changed to operating side. I waited for another hour to pick up the phone that was connected to the operating room. I asked if my dad was really getting the surgery done. The nurse said "yes" and I went home. My dad told me before they wheeled him away was to go home once I know the surgery was happening.
November 17th 2012.
I woke up early, refreshed, and feeling a weight lifted off my shoulders. I was doing my chores when I got a phone call around 9am. They told me to head over to the hospital, my dad was done with surgery. I gotten the last bits of chores done and then I walked to the hospital. They then called my cell phone asked where I was and I was half way there. I was walking because I missed the bus and shuttle.
When I got there the nurses lead me to the ICU where they keep post-op patients. My dad was sharing a room with another man that has a heart transplant. I saw my dad all covered in wires and tubes, but his heart was beating. The leading surgeon pulled me to the side.
He was explaining to me that they didn't know whether or not they should use the lungs for my dad. The lungs were out of the body for too long and a mucus was forming on the outside. The mucus would make it difficult for breathing and they would need to use the new machine they acquired. They were about to send my dad away but he stopped breathing and was turning purple. The surgeon made the call and did the surgery anyway. He explained to me that the machine that's connected at his neck was doing the work the lungs are suppose to do. It was oxygenating his blood and it was giving the actual lungs rest and drain all the mucus. He tells me that when looked at his lungs that it was worse than they thought. If they hadn't given him those lungs, my dad would've had less than two weeks to live. I knew my dad was a special case.
An hour after my talk and updating Facebook, getting all sorts of "get well" messages from friends and family. The doctors found internal bleeding and they needed him back in surgery. I prayed and cried. Supposedly this was the second time my dad died. They brought him back after more hours of surgery. My aunt came up from Oregon to be there for me and my dad. She used to be a registered nurse, but she had retired years ago. She knows the real terminology the doctors use and made it easier for me.
A day or two later my uncle from California showed up in his motorcycle to see my dad. We ended up having Thanksgiving dinner. It was funny my aunt cooked turkey for the third time. We had a good few days of watching over my dad. It was heartbreaking seeing my dad all wired up to monitors and I'm constantly visiting my dad for hours.
The doctors one day gave my dad a private room in the ICU, because he was at risk for airborne pathogens. I remember one moment where he can barely talk but he was writing down what was on his mind. He was slowly coming back to consciousness and he asked me if we need to call the cops. I asked him why, he wrote down that someone flew in the hospital before us in a purple parachute. I laughed, I told him there was no purple parachute. After a few days they took out the respirator and they had him breathe on his own. I was so happy when that happened. I was filled with so many emotions that I couldn't handle myself.
They put my dad in the recovery room, and I thought that I can finally go home. Feeling the stress of everyday caring for my dad, being scared of that one time he blacked out, and the need to make sure my dad had his proper medication, I couldn't wait for his other caregiver to take over. I let my dads friend, the other caregiver, know that the surgery was over, but that day crushed me. She had promised to utilize her caregiver services for free just for my dad after the surgery, but she couldn't. I didn't blame her, things were finally going well for her. It was a horrible feeling of being trapped. I had to stay strong for my dad, but the feeling of broken promises overwhelmed me.
I took time for myself trying to make myself feel better. My depression that day was at a all-time high and I needed a distraction. I went to watch a movie at the theater. After the movie I was feeling better, but then I got a call from my dad that brought me back to reality. He needed a change of clothes and his laptop. I just needed to cry somewhere but I didn't want my dad to see me. I got what he needed, asked the nurse to deliver it to his room. Told her that I couldn't face my dad that day. I left to hide somewhere in the hospital to cry.
I believe I cried for two hours hiding in my little corner. No one bothered me, they let me cry. For too long people have told me how strong I was facing what could've been my dads last days. I believed God gave me back my dad twice, but the hardest obstacle was to see him recover. I also witnessed two broken promises. My brother promised to help, but he didn't in favor his own happiness that didn't last long. I was promised to go home after surgery, but her life finally had gotten better. Waiting four months for lungs that saved my dad, and everyday I was praying, hoping, worried, and scared of losing a parent.
When I finally stopped crying I went back home and tried to cheer myself up. My uncle was there; he knows I let the nurse take my dads things to his room. He said nothing. I went to bed, and then he said "tomorrow you are going to explain yourself to your dad. He didn't like that you had the nurse take his stuff." I nodded and went to sleep.
The next day I visited my dad. He did not ask me why I let the nurse bring his things in, just that he was concerned if they took anything of his. I told him his friend couldn't make the trip. Hiding my emotions as best as I can, he let me go home. The next few days my uncle left to Alaska.
My dad was transferred to the in-patient therapy unit on the other side of the hospital. They have him his own room because his lungs were still at risk for airborne illness. Few days in and he was the model patient. We celebrated Christmas in the hospital. The nutrition doctor said he needed more salt but no potassium, and so all potato chips weren't recommended. He did say that he "proscribed" cheetos. In the middle of January my dad was doing so well that the doctors sent him home and put him on the out-patient program.
I got my dad walking around the Northgate mall and around Pike place market. We watched a few movies at the movie theater. I even got him guppies because he wanted a pet. February came and my uncle came back from Alaska. He went there to spread my grandfathers ashes; even though my dad wanted to make that into a family event. What is done is done. Once my uncle came back, I figured that my dad talked to him about staying because I was told to go back to Bellingham.
I left my dad again but this time it was even more emotional. I called my friends to pick me up and I packed my things. From then on I was grateful everyday that my dad still exists today. I had finally started getting my life together and starting dreams that got nowhere because the doors of opportunity keep closing.
Not only do I write stories, I sing too. I was once on American idol in September of 2012. They recorded me for the reject list. I didn't mind because I was on television. That day my dad sent me to California to finish my audition because he wanted me to achieve my dreams, even though he was sick and waiting for a phone call from the hospital. I couldn't focus because I couldn't help but worry for my dad. This was the second round audition and the executives sent me through the next round that day. Third audition, right away in the next room to sing in front of another set of producers and cameras. They asked me to sing a native song and I did. The native song was used for the reject list but it was never uploaded to the American idol YouTube channel. They don't understand why that video was important to me. It's like they erased me. One of the darkest yet brightest moment of my life is nowhere on the internet. I went back home to Seattle knowing that I had another try next year.
Everytime I think about my time in Seattle, feeling the emotions I was feeling at the time gets me crying. I know people write survival stories all the time, but what about the family members that had to look death in the face praying for a miracle. My dad was fortunate he got two. I continue to pray for his wellbeing, and I hope to never face the same experience again.