Daughter’s Support, Patience and Love Helped Father During Long Recovery After Mesothelioma Surgery
The next month-and-a-half after Dad’s major mesothelioma surgery was filled with ups and downs, but I knew I had to be strong and as positive as possible for Dad’s mesothelioma treatment. Every day after work and coaching I would stop in at the hospital for a few hours and sit with him until the nurses got him ready for bed. That first day walking into SICU by myself was the hardest, but once again I told myself that I had to suck it up and be strong. As the days went on it was easier and easier to go see Dad by myself because I felt like this was our time together. I could relax my mind after a long day at work and watch him slowly recover each day, and this helped put me at ease.
The first two weeks, the doctors kept Dad sedated while he gained his strength back. Each day I would go talk to him and tell him about my day and to check in with the nurses and his doctor about his progress. On the way home I would call Mom and Andrew, and then Adam, to update them about Dad. He did have a few complications, some were very serious and set him back a little, but he kept fighting. Mom, Andrew and Adam would visit as much as they could, but being far away, they would mostly visit on the weekends.
Finally, after two weeks, Dad was conscious and the team began trying to get him to breathe on his own. The doctor ended up having to do a tracheostomy to hook up the ventilator to avoid further complications, but this extended the time he would have to stay in the hospital. During this entire time he was unable to eat or drink. I vividly remember how thirsty he was, and all I could do for him was wet his lips and mouth with a small sponge. I felt so bad and helpless because all he wanted was to drink water and I had to keep telling him no.
After a month in SICU, Dad was finally released to a rehabilitation facility a few blocks away from Penn Presbyterian. I continued to visit him every day and bring him whatever made him comfortable. I remember when his speech pathologist taught him to talk with the trachea. He could finally talk back to me instead of just responding with writing things down or shaking his head. This is when he started opening up to me and telling me what he remembered about his experience. What he told me was shocking, and seemed to be very traumatic to him.
Finally, the day came when the trachea had closed up and Dad could eat solid foods. I kept asking him what he wanted to eat, anything at all. One night he was finally feeling up to it and took me up on my offer. He wanted his favorite nightly snack: a hot fudge sundae. I quickly ran out of there and down a few blocks to Philly Flavors, my favorite ice cream place in the city. I came back with two sundaes and we sat and enjoyed them together. He was ecstatic, and he could finally enjoy one of his favorite treats after almost six weeks.
I knew going home was near and we talked about him getting out of there to be in the comfort of his own home with Mom, Andrew and our two cats Avalon and Simba, who missed him very much.