Grief and Loss – The Truth About Losing my Dad


For the past three years, I’ve absolutely loathed the date of April 10th.  It was the day, 3 years ago, that I lost my dad.  Too young, too soon, and too tragically.  I’ve been a fairly private person when it comes to my blog and my family.  I share stories of our vacations and adventures, but never our hardships.  We’re all human, we all experience grief.  I decided it’s time for me to share my story.  For me, and for my dad.

1920617_10202664032833353_667396400_n

Three years ago around January 20th, I got a phone call that my dad was on life support.  Days before that, my sister text me and said “dad has the flu”.  I’m a nurse, I deal with the flu often.  I know how bad it can get, but I also thought ‘he’ll be fine’.  In those three days, the influenza developed into pneumonia.  A necrotizing form of pneumonia that was literally eating away at his lungs.  We were told he was coughing up blood and was transported to the ER.  Upon arrival to the ER he was intubated and placed in a medication induced coma.  His body was not winning this fight.

For two weeks, we had a rollercoaster of emotions.  Extreme panic, hope, extreme fear, courage, pain and despair are all words I would use to explain this time.  Over the two weeks in the hospital in his hometown he experienced multiple pneumothorax’s, chest tubes, sepsis multiple times, all the while he was sedated and intubated. Then he was given the worst diagnosis imaginable.  He was diagnosed with ARDS.  On February 9th his body was done.  His blood gases were not able to maintain on the vent with all of the intervention the hospital did.  That night our family was in crisis.  I was in a panic mode.  I was going to lose my 56 year old dad,  I was 32.

Earlier that week my friend sent me an email from her work.  She worked at University Hospital for a Cardiothoracic Surgeon.  He specialized in ECMO.  University Hospital is two hours north of the hospital my dad was in.  After getting off the phone with her, a frantic phone call that I’ll never forget, we had the hospitalist call University Hospital to see if they would take my dad, and put him on ECMO.  By the grace of God his soon to be Doctor, Dr, Babu, said yes.  My dad made it though that night, and first thing that morning was transported via ambulance two hours north to University Hospital.  Flight for life was not an option because he was that unstable.  The smallest of movement in his body was a risk they were not willing to take.  His then doctors were not sure he would even survive the ambulance drive two hours north.  We had no choice.  Either we risked the drive or we lost our dad.  So of course we chose to have him transported.

We drove a little ahead of the ambulance and arrived at the hospital.   We waited in the parking lot for the ambulance to pull up.  I was nauseated the entire time…was the ambulance going to pull up and slowly move.  That would mean my dad didn’t make it.  Would they pull up and hurry my dad in?  It was the most heart wrenching and stressful day up until that point.

226980_4312942993418_851622098_n

When the ambulance arrived I ran to it, and ran into the ER.  He was being unloaded.  It meant it made it. He was still alive.  Our entire family celebrated…this was a huge hurdle.  He was going to be hooked up to the ECMO machine.  It would oxygenate his blood since his lungs could no longer.  It would balance his Ph and his blood gases. It was supposed to save his life.

A few hours later my sisters and I were allowed to go into his room, where they had just performed the procedure to hook-up my dad to the ECMO machine.  His eyes were open!  They were blank, and he starred at the ceiling, but we cried.  We didn’t think we’d ever see my dad’s eyes open again.  For the two weeks leading up to that, all I wanted to do was see my dad’s awake and he was!  That night we all went to eat.  The first time in weeks that we could stomach a full meal.  My dad was the most stable he had been in two weeks.

Now began 8 weeks of extreme hurdles, recovery and encouragement.  We watched him slowly wake up from his coma, he had a tracheostomy so he could not speak.  To even mouth words again, it took a few weeks for his brain to function normal.  He was confined to a bed, hooked up to ECMO.  He recognized me on the 3rd day and held my hand.  For 8 weeks I spent every day I could in the hospital with him.  My sisters spent every weekend and any free time they had in the hospital.  My aunts and uncles, cousins and grandparents all made it a point to be there to help him recover.

His lungs were not improving, he still had a “white out” on his chest X-rays.  He had a tube coming out of every orface, so of course his risk for infection was high.  It was the first week of April and we were talking about rehab and moving him to another facility that would ween him off the vent.  He just needed to get off ECMO.  Then a few days later he seemed to be sleeping a lot, he had a lot of delirium and overall didn’t seem the same.  He had gone septic again and this time his kidneys and liver were shutting down.  His body couldn’t do it anymore.  He was going to lose his battle with ARDS, pneumonia, the flu, and sepsis.

His last words to us were Peace.  Even in his final moment he knew that we wouldn’t find that peace very easily.  I felt like we fought just as hard as he did to save his life.  The numerous number of doctors, nurses, RT’s, PT’s and CNA’s all fought with us.  They always do….that’s what they do and they’re amazing at it.  On April 10th early in the morning he passed with my family  surrounding him.  My sister and I were not able to be in the room.  We were inconsolable.  We were not ready to accept that THIS was how it was going to end.  I don’t regret that decision, I never want to remember my dad’s last breath. I want to remember our fun and happy times.  I knew if I saw it, I would never stop thinking about it.

Over the course of the traumatic 10 weeks, my family experienced a lot of trauma while trying to save my dad.  We were physically sick, emotionally a wreck and though it all, I developed PTSD from the experience.  The grief and the PTSD (which mainly are flashbacks at any and all times of some of the most traumatic and sad events during those weeks) were staggering.

11091537_10153123342690516_6287128287221517000_n

I became pregnant a few months later with my little Jonny.  He was a healing heaven sent baby.  The entire pregnancy felt like a blur.  Grief and loss are hard to deal with, and even harder when you’re a hormonal mess.  The pregnancy was fast, and sad.  I remember crying in the delivery because the Eagles “Hotel California” came on and I took it as a sign from my dad.  I find comfort in music, I find comfort in talking about my dad, and I find comfort in seeing my family members that look like him.  At times I’ll stare at myself in the mirror, trying to find his face and similarities in my own image.  It’s something I never used to do, but I realized I’m looking for my dad in me.

I will never see my dad age, which in someways is a blessing.  Watching your parents deteriorate is a horrible experience.  I just experienced it over 10 weeks instead of years.  I will also think of my dad as having a full head of black hair with little to no signs of aging.  He still looked and acted young.  He loved living out in farm country, away from nextdoor neighbors.  He loved the mountains, he loved Bob Marley.  Most of all he loved his family…and we sure love him!

My grief has come in waves.  Those waves are not as close together now and I feel a sadness that I never wanted to experience in my early 30’s.  My kids will never know the Grandpa they should’ve known.  They’ll hear stories and look at pictures, but they’ll never really get to experience him like they should’ve.  Everyone experiences some form of grief and loss.  Nothing can prepare us for the experience.  It’s the worst part of life…but we all go though it.

The last 3 years have been hard.  I’ve had some amazing blessings and extreme losses.  Most happy times have felt overshadowed by a void and emptiness in my life.  One that will never be filled.  One that I’ll just have to learn to live with.  Grief is no stranger to my family as most…I just wish it was easier to accept.

ARDS AWARENESS

Last fall on the week of my dad’s birthday, my family and I decided we wanted to try and help others, and pay tribute to our dad.  We organized a small ARDS awareness walk in his hometown of Pueblo, Colorado.  We made T-shirts, mapped out a 5 mile walk and gathered family and friends.  We spent the morning walking in his memory and helping to raise awareness to others about ARDS.  Most people have never heard of ARDS, but it’s affected so many families.  It’s important for us to now try and help others.  I know my dad is looking down at us and proud, we’re trying to make something positive out of something so negative.

ARDS WALK

This year we’ll be walking again in our 2nd annual ARDS Awareness walk in memory of Dennis Jimenez.  Last year we raised $500 to donate the the National Lung Association in my dad’s name.  If you’re in Colorado, and would like to attend our walk in September, please reach out to me so I can send you details.  The more people we can reach, the more funds we can raise, the more we can help educate others.  In time I think this will help use heal from our loss.  We find healing in helping.  I know that’s what my dad wants us to do.

ARDS AWARENESS WALK


12 Comments

  • Christina April 7, 2016 at 12:26 pm

    I am so, so very sorry for your loss. My mom survived ARDS, but I was told many times she would not… we spent many similar long days, weeks, and months going through this agony. I can’t imagine what my life would be like if she hadn’t of made it – (she was 56 when she went in to the ER for the first time, a bad flu that developed into pneumonia…, ) reading your story brought me many tears – I hate it that you lost your precious dad this way. My heart is with you.

    Reply
    • Organic Deal Diva April 7, 2016 at 12:28 pm

      Wow-thank you Christina. Your comment brought tears to my eyes as well. 🙂 Thank you for sharing your story and reading mine.

      Reply
  • dee storey April 7, 2016 at 3:20 pm

    Beautiful tribute to your father. I am an ARDS survivor. I know my journey but I don’t know the journey my brother took as he sat by me in the ICU while I was in ARDS crisis or as he heard the horrid medical information. It is sooooo good that you are sharing your sad experiences. You are honoring your dad by letting others know about ARDS and sepsis and how quickly the flu can transmute into something else. You are very brave!

    Reply
    • Organic Deal Diva April 7, 2016 at 3:24 pm

      Thank you Dee! This is exactly why I wrote this. I hope to share with others and honor my dad. Thank you so much! ARDS is a horrible thing to battle. You are very strong to be a survivor! <3

      Reply
  • Paula Blonski April 7, 2016 at 3:50 pm

    Thank you for sharing your story! While reading your story, I cried several times as I have been there., with my 36 year old sister who also was taken way to soon.

    Thank you also for raising awareness, and funds! As the Co-Founder of the ARDS Foundation, awareness continues to be our greatest struggle.

    Please find comfort in the fact that there are others, that share your grief. I will continue to keep you in my thoughts, and my prayers.

    Paula

    Reply
    • Organic Deal Diva April 7, 2016 at 4:16 pm

      Thank you Paula! I follow your ARDS survivors Facebook page and your inspiring for all survivors and victims families. Thank you for reading his story and stopping by to support! <3

      Reply
  • Lisa Snow April 7, 2016 at 5:59 pm

    Thank you for sharing and trying to raise awareness. I am a 10 year survivor and we desperately need to spread the word as I know there was little information available when my family was by my side. Eileen (founder and survivor) with ARDSUSA.org has been such a blessing to so many. Your dad is surely proud as he watches over your little family!

    Reply
    • Organic Deal Diva April 7, 2016 at 6:26 pm

      Thank you Lisa for your kind words.
      We will be organizing the walk again this fall to help spread the word to more.
      God bless you and your healing from such a scary illness.

      Reply
  • Bob Badovinac April 7, 2016 at 11:51 pm

    This is such a great way to honor my friend. Jessica, your words touched my heart. .

    Reply
    • Organic Deal Diva April 8, 2016 at 9:17 am

      Thank you Bob! I’m so happy to hear that. It took me years to write this but I’m so glad I finally could.

      Reply
  • michelle April 8, 2016 at 7:01 am

    My Mom passed away after 45 days i think on the vent. 2 years ago. She was 54. It was the flu also. My kids will remember her but I’m pretty sure not well. That hurts beyond belief. I think i have PTSD also. It has subsided somewhat but a LOT of it is from actually watching her die. It hirts and i hurt all the time. My dad has not gotten over it at all and is wasting away from a disease we never even heard of till then. Please e-mail me details so i can see if the walk is a possibility for me.

    Reply
    • Organic Deal Diva April 8, 2016 at 9:03 am

      I’m sorry to hear about your loss Michelle. I’m so glad I wrote this post. I’m finding so many others who have gone though similar tragedies. I’ll send you an email now! 🙂 God bless.

      Reply

Leave a Comment

CommentLuv badge