Today is the 7 year anniversary of when my dad died. I post this every year so that people will know that no matter how close you watch them at the nursing home things go very wrong sometimes.
At 6:30 in the morning I received a phone call from the nursing home. The voice on the line asked if "Mrs. Brennan was home." I said "yes". Then she says that we think your father is having a heart attack and we don't know if he is a code or not. (meaning do we try to save him or not) I said, "of course he's a full code, it's written right at the top of his chart!"(I had watched the admitting officer write it there myself)
I asked her what hospital they were sending him to because I intended to meet them at the emergency room. She asked someone else and all she said was, "I don't know," then she hung up the phone. I raced out of the house and jumped in my van and flew to the nursing home watching for an ambulance the whole way there. (I lived 5 minutes away) I was praying that I hadn't missed it and when I pulled up to the nursing home there was a paramedic truck sitting there.
I let myself in the front doors and I could hear my dad gasping for air and begging for help with every breath - even though he was at the other end of the nursing home (about 50 yards away). I ran down the hall and he was sitting in his wheelchair and the nurses were gathered around him. They did have oxygen on him but the weren't doing anything else. I asked how he was. They just said he was bad and they were waiting on the ambulance. I said, "But the ambulance is sitting outside." Then a man with a walkie talkie stepped up and said, "That's me mam, I am not the ambulance."
I asked where the ambulance was and that is when they told me that the ambulance was on it's way but there had been a wreck and it couldn't get around it. I asked how long it would be and they told me they didn't know but that the ambulance was trying to get to us. Then I turned my full attention to Daddy. I told him that I was there and I kept talking to him trying to calm him by telling him that help was on the way. At first he didn't realize that it was me, but as I kept talking I could see him responding to me - trying to hang on with every breath. I had saved his life more than once when I was taking care of him and he knew that I would do everything in my power to do it again.
The nurses wanted to put him in bed. He had told me once that when he was in that kind of shape, not to lay him down because he wouldn't be able to fight anymore. He said that, "no matter how bad things get, I have always wanted to live!" I asked him if he wanted to lie down and he shook his head "no" while gasping "help",gasp,"me" ,gasp - over and over. He was responding to me and trying to focus.
I asked the nurses why they weren't doing anything. They said they couldn't do anything but wait on the ambulance. They couldn't give medicines or anything else. I asked the man with the walkie talkie why he wasn't doing anything with that huge bag of medical equipment that he had carried in. He said, and I quote, "Mam, I'm just a first responder. I can't do anything!" So I in my panic asked what the hell he was doing there then. Because he certainly wasn't lifting a finger to help my dad and neither were the nurses. They were just waiting. The nurses were even standing there commenting," Oh God, he's going to die". Which certainly isn't something that somebody in that kind of shape needs to hear.
Daddy had a power wheelchair. I started moving the chair to the front door because I knew that every second counted. By the time we got to the front door probably 15 or 20 minutes had elapsed not counting the time before they called me. I knew he was running out of time. I asked them to let me put him in our van and take him on to the hospital. They refused. I told them that they could drive that they didn't have to let me drive if they were worried about me driving. I told them I didn't even have to go with them if they would just take him to the hospital. Still they refused.
We were at the front door for about 10 minutes when I tried to take matters into my own hands. I started moving his wheelchair to the van. One of the nurses grabbed the chair and held it back. I pushed her off. Then another nurse joined in and I pushed her back too. I knew the only way to save my dad was to get him into the van and get him to the hospital. Something I had done in the exact same situation 2 other times before! Then there were 3 nurses trying to hold him back and I held them all off while he wedged his arm against the button and tried to make it to the van. He knew I was fighting to save him and it was the only chance he had.
We were making progress when the 4th. nurse jumped in. Then there were too many of them. I couldn't fight off 4 nurses. I knew I was going to hurt him if I kept it up. So I stepped back. The 4 nurses were holding on to his wheelchair while he held down the button trying to get to the van. I knew it was over then. I stepped over and turned off the wheelchair. The nurses just looked at me because THAT IS WHEN THEY REALIZED THEY WERE FIGHTING HIM - not just me.
As my dad sat there in his wheelchair at the front door of the nursing home, he died.
The ambulance came, forty-five minutes had elapsed since that phone call. They got out of the ambulance and they didn't go to help him. Instead they started arguing about who was a certified driver and who was going to drive. An old, woman nurse became so irritated that she started trying to put my dad on the gurney by herself. I watched his arm flop limply to the ground. They loaded him into the ambulance. Still not doing CPR or anything. Then I told them I was riding with them. I got in the ambulance and asked them why they weren't trying to shock his heart or anything. They told me it wasn't necessary. After what seemed like forever they did start CPR and manually pumping air into him.
We got to the ER and about 20 nurses and staff met us at the door. My dad's face was black. They escorted me to a small room and told me to wait. There I stood watching a doctor do paperwork and I asked him for directions to the restroom and I washed my face and went back to the little room. There the very same doctor had given me directions told me how hard he had worked to save my dad but that it was no use. It was over. He had never even gone in the room with my dad.
My dad died because a group of people refused to think for themselves and get him to the hospital. They were too worried about following rules and not getting sued. Now I have to live with the thought that possibly my actions contributed to his death. I do know that he died knowing that I tried to save him. I told him many times when I was caring for him that I might make mistakes but I would never intentionally do anything to hurt him - and I didn't.