As I mentioned in my last post, William and I went to Ohio, unexpectedly, in April. The main purpose of our trip was to visit my Dad in the hospital as he worked to recover from a heart attack and emergency quadruple bypass surgery. Because (as we quickly learned) children under 14 were not allowed in my Dad’s ICU room, the trip also included some elements of adventure and fun to keep William and my sister’s daughter, who also flew in on Easter Sunday from their home in Colorado, occupied while either my sister or I were visiting my Dad.
On the first morning that we visited my Dad, we walked into his hospital room with our babies strapped to us in their baby carriers. Within minutes, the babies were kicked out. We spent the rest of that day alternating between sitting with Dad (who was still in a medically-induced coma) and attempting to entertain the babies in waiting areas around the hospital. We quickly realized that this arrangement would not last longer than that day. Active toddlers and hospitals do not go well together. My Mom, who was with us on the first day, had to go back to work and then had a previously scheduled trip to California to leave for at the end of the week. To add a few more glitches to our schedules, the hospital was 45 minutes away from where my Mom lives, it was in an unsafe neighborhood in downtown Toledo, and both of our babies were still nursing. However, we were able to come up with a new daily routine where we were each able to sit with Dad and let the littles have some local fun.
On hospital day #2, I spent most of the day with Dad while my sister, Anna, took our kids to Imagination Station, the local science/children’s museum.
At the end of their fun, my sister pulled the car into the hospital’s roundabout, she hopped out to sit with Dad, and I hopped in it to nurse William and randomly drive around/run errands.
On hospital days #3 and #4, I kept the kids for most of the day, taking them to The Toledo Zoo & Aquarium and the Family Center at The Toledo Museum of Art, and Anna sat with Dad for most of the day. Then, in the late afternoon, we switched places using our roundabout method.
On hospital day #5, we thought that Dad was going to have surgery again, so we dropped the kids off at an in-home daycare near where we grew up. Dad didn’t end up having surgery that day, but we (including my brother, who drove up that day from his house further south in Ohio) all spent the day together with Dad.
In addition to exploring Toledo, the kids helped do chicken chores and got to visit with family.
The whole trip was full of emotions. It was utterly heartbreaking to see my Dad on a ventilator, restrained to the bed, unable to eat or communicate, confused about his whereabouts, and in pain. It was beyond depressing to visit long-term care hospitals and try to select where he should be placed after discharge. It was frustrating – and then actually relieving at times – to see everything surrounding my Dad’s care and medical plans change ALL THE TIME. It was heartwarming to spend the week with my sister and her daughter. It was sweet to see the two cousins, six months apart in age, get to know each other (we were asked over and over and over again if they were twins since they are so similar in size!). It was nice to see my brother, sister, and I make decisions together on behalf of our Dad. There were times I literally felt crushed and empty, completely unsure what to do next and overwhelmed by everything. And there were times spent with the babies and Anna that were so sweet that I will always treasure them.
At the end of the week, William and I had to fly back to California so that we could host a huge birthday party for all three kids (see my next blog post). It was hard to leave; I felt pulled in even more directions than normal. It was a sad trip, but also a good trip. I knew we’d be back again soon, though.
The day after we left Ohio, my Dad was successfully removed from the ventilator. Two weeks after that, he was discharged to another hospital where he’s been able to receive a lot of intensive rehab therapy. He didn’t end up needing additional surgeries and he didn’t end up needing to go to a long-term care hospital. Prayers were answered daily, it seemed, and his condition improved. Although he’s still in a hospital, he’s doing well, and William and I are excited to go back and see him again next week (and this time, William will actually be able to visit him!). Dad doesn’t remember us being in Ohio in April (which is completely fine since it was an awful time for him), but I know we’ll make some happy memories with him on our next trip.