This is an excerpt from the book in progress, 3 Months To Beauty. I’m writing this book about the hospital stay I had with my Dad, during the time he was nicked by a doctor in his heart, in 2014. To learn more about the project, click here.
There is a beauty in being free enough, liberated enough, and confident enough to share the most intimate parts of one’s soul. And I do so, for the sake of sharing, healing, and passing the truth forward for others to do the same. There is a beauty in being able to let go and not fear other people’s reactions, but yet, value their reactions because they are human. But my true sense of where my destiny takes me comes from something larger than life, bigger than people, and more powerful than hurt—the place where perfect love resides. It is from this place that I seek to make a home and write this story. It is this place in which I want to take you. It is this place where the most healing can happen.
Making it to the step-down unit was not so easy. Before we transitioned from ICU Dad undergoes another surgery because his intestines are coming through one of his incisions.
Dr. Manik says that he will be in the surgery room with Dad, but the surgery will be performed by another surgeon who does that “type of work.” Even though we were uneasy by yet another procedure, by a different doctor, my family was so grateful and impressed with Dr. Manik’s level of concern to be in the surgery room.
Dad is in his new room, and now we have arrived at another celebration milestone. Dad celebrates a birthday in the step-down unit. Sixty-three years old. I walk into the light colored, but pale-lit corner room, which is larger than the other hospital rooms but still small, and the room is speckled with brown from family being in every corner of the room. Dad is the center piece, the white nurse with curly blonde hair is at the computer monitor inputting something in, and Dad is covered in cream-colored wrapping from the covers, except for his head and arms. His shiny silver bass guitar is on his lap, helping to show how thin he had gotten by pressing the covers over his legs, creating an outline. The whole image is helping to keep him the center piece of the room. The left side of his body is still limp and not moving, and that is where the arm of the bass guitar is laying, as though he will pick it up at any point to play. I feel sad looking at the bass on his lap, such a different image than the last time I saw him with it at church. He was playing it in his arms, nodding his head to the music, and using both of his hands to hold and glide the strings as some gospel song we are singing in the background. Music was his life.
He wanted his bass from home, and he got it for his birthday. Dr. Luke is now Dad’s doctor. I didn’t ask questions, although I wondered what happened to Dr. Manik. He had said that he was Dad’s doctor no matter where Dad would be in the hospital. My thought was that he was too emotionally tied to the family and had to release himself, or was released by higher management, but I never asked, so I never knew what happened to him as our main doctor. I did feel like he left us. It was an abrupt switch. The social worker who I had gotten close to, or so I thought, told me that she was no longer our family’s social worker. She only worked on the ICU unit. I was torn. How could all of this meaningful development of trust be minimized to floors—or just taken away without warning. How could everyone leave us? I couldn’t allow my emotions to stay there, but I felt it. I just buried them and tried to focus on celebrating Dad’s birthday, May 13th.
It is not long after, close to May 20th when we realize that Dad is not doing well. Dr. Floyd finds me in the hospital, as I had resumed my usual hospital position by Dad’s side, and relieved Aunt Lily from standing in for me, he says, “We don’t know how serious this is, but your family should really consider not offering any more care. It is hard to take, but we might be at the end of what his heart can handle. Joy, I am really sorry this had to happen to such a good man. You Dad is my favorite patient and has been for years. And I am truly grieved. I am praying for your family.” While he was talking to me, I called the family, and now many of them were on speaker phone, on the other end. He was able to speak most of those words for all to hear. He was sitting beside me on a bench in the hallway of the hospital. He in his white coat, me in my fitting shirt and shoes that nurses often bought that help support your back and knees as you stand all day. I focus on making sure the connection is clear between Dr. Floyd and my family members.
My family asked him a few questions, but mostly, Dr. Floyd says, “Dad’s future care is up to what the heart catherization will tell us.” As Dr. Floyd is sitting there, he gets a beep on a pocket device. He quickly takes it out, he checks his phone, and shakes his head. “Well, I just got the results, and it is not good. His heart is worse than we think. He will be transferred back to ICU.”
You hear sighs and gasps from the phone. My family makes preparations to come back to the hospital. I interject the commotion on the other end of the line and say, “Thank you, Dr. Floyd, for your time.” He and I look at each other, slightly nod, and then part ways. We both have work to do regarding Dad. I go back to Dad’s room to wait for a nurse to tell me where Dad will be transferred. In the interim, I text Dr. Manik. I tell him that I didn’t know if he knew or not, but Dad was being transferred back to ICU, but I wasn’t afraid, and I still believe that God will heal. As I sit, the nurse comes and ushers me to the waiting room for the ICU. Dad can’t be seen right now.
Aunt Lily soon joins me, and we wait there silently. Dr. Manik comes in. I perk up right away. “Hello!” I say, trying not to seem tired, and straighten up my back from where I was slouching to try to fall asleep a bit in the uncomfortable, overly small waiting room chair that had hand rails on either side of me, blocking me into only one position, the uncomfortable sitting one.
The three of us start talking. I quickly add, “May I pray for you? I know you are still doing good work with other patients, and even though you are not our doctor anymore, I want you to do well with everyone.”
He smiled and said, “Yes.”
Making a small circle in the waiting room that was just the three of us, I kneel down, taking my left hand in his right, and my right hand in Aunt Lily’s left.
“Dear Precious, Lord, thank you for Dr. Manik, and now you have allowed him to be our doctor and to help Dad. I pray that you will continue to be with Dad through the trials that will come.”
My knees are cold on the floor, but I keep praying, and as I do, the whole time I prayed, it was focused on Dad. “In the name of Jesus, Amen.”
There was a unison “Amen,” that followed mine.
I look sheepishly and say, “I didn’t mean to pray for Dad, but that was what was in my spirit.” Dr. Manik says that he will check out things and he leaves.
My other siblings soon get there with mom. I was in good spirits because I knew Dad would walk out of that hospital, and there was no need to mourn. My family on the other hand was torn. My mom looked solemn and worried. Dr. Manik comes in and I jump up and wave. My family were the only ones in the waiting room, so he addressed us all. There were about ten people in that room. He tells us that Dad doesn’t look like he is going to make it. They could put in a breathing tube to help his lungs, but that might be prolonging Dad’s death. I cut him off and asked, “May I see him?” He nods his head yes, and mutters it was OK that I cut him off. I apologized for doing that, but I also look at mom and ask if she wants to come with me, she shakes her head no. I get up and go to Dad, leaving my family in the waiting room listening to Dr. Manik.
Dad looked much worse than that morning, before the heart cath, which was the test that gave an indication of his heart output. I wondered what they did to him. He was taking large breaths, like he was suffocating. He looked a bit like this last night in the Step Down room, but not as dramatic as now. Last night, I was with him and Aunt Lily in the hospital room when we were trying to get answers about the change of his breathing. Then, Dad was asking for Dr. Luke. Dad said that Dr. Luke would know what to do. We told the nurse this, and the nurse said that his breathing is somewhat normal considering the medications and strokes that he had, and we were not to worry. I held Dad’s hand through the night, it didn’t seem normal. My aunt was in the recliner sleeping as much as she could. I took a chair, put it as close to Dad’s bed as I could place it without getting in the way of the nurse, and just reached out to hold Dad’s hand. I prayed and tried to stay awake, as I knew he was uncertain as to what this meant. It was all I had the power to do.
So when I see him now, in the ICU, I was mad that the nurse hadn’t taken his claim more seriously. I also was surprised to see that so much had changed so quickly. I was no longer in such a joyful state as I had been moments earlier. I had just eaten spinach and onions on a veggie sandwich for lunch, so when Dr. Manik got beside me near Dad’s side, he started to say something kind and consoling, but I interrupted him again. I was mindful of my breath, but I didn’t care. I needed to tell him that I believe that God is still here. He walked to the other side of the bed, looked at a few things on the monitor, then started to walk out. As he walked out he said, “Whatever you are going to do, I would do it soon.”
I went back out to the waiting room as my family was trying to decide whether to put the tube in or face what the doctors say is inevitable and let Dad’s heart fail. My sister and Aunt were in tears and walking away out of the unit. My mom and brother were heading towards Dad’s room to see him. My other sisters had left already. I paused, and knelt down in the hallway in submission to God. My knees were cold against the floor, and I was mindful that anyone could catch me, but I needed direction, and prayed, “God, give me wisdom, please. What should I do?”
The decision was up to me. My family said that I had to make a decision whether to give the orders to put the tube in Dad or not. I didn’t want to seem like I was prolonging the inevitable, and I didn’t want to seem like I was taking matters in my own hand, My older sister’s critique of me the whole time, and I didn’t want to disappoint my promise to Dad. I made a promise to Dad. I couldn’t break it.
I had my words to Dad, but I could not escape the overwhelming pressure from the doctors’ words, nor the pressure from some family members to just, “let Dad go.” Doctors are seen as gods, almost, and have “the final say.” I was stuck. I took my word seriously, and I gave my promise to my Dad. I couldn’t just let my promise go so easily, I needed support.
I went back into Dad’s room, and mom and Ramon were there. “What do I do?” I say looking at the two individuals who have needed the most familial support over the years. I needed compassion and I needed some support to do what I wanted to do, what I had promised to do. Dad is taking large, gasping breaths in the background. He is fighting to breathe, and his eyes are large, and bulge each time he gasps. Ramon doesn’t hesitate to says, “Dad would want the tube in.” I looked at mom, and she nodded her head yes. That is all I needed to hear. I immediately went back out to the nurses, almost running, and said frantically, “Please put the tube in.” Without hesitation on their part, they flooded into the room. It took them seconds to rush in to Dad, and start pulling out tubes, resetting digital buttons, and talking to each other in medical jargon, as their hands were busy over Dad’s mouth, head, chest, and on the machines. They didn’t even have to ask us to leave. We left. We knew we needed to give them space to move around. Dad’s noises stopped. They had covered his mouth. As we were leaving, I saw his eyelids close down. We went into the waiting room. It was empty. Mom and Ramon decided to leave. I was there by myself, waiting for news. The nurse finally came in. She said, “Your Dad is stable, but heavily sedated.” I didn’t have any questions. I was tired. “Thank you.” And she left. I sat there in silence, alone, and just waited until they would allow me to see him.
Later that evening, the family returned. This time, it was all of Dad’s siblings, children, and wife. My uncle asked me, “Joy, how is it that you are the medical power of attorney? And the decisions that you are making for Dad’s care, why are you making them?”
Just like everyone else, I was hurt. I was emotional. I wanted to have answers. It felt like I was being criticized and it felt lonely. The doctors seemed to blame my emotions as to why I was making the decisions, some family had thought I was being selfish or exclusionary in my decision-making, and I was doubting if Dad had changed his mind as to his orders of care. He was the only person who could defend me, but he was also the one who needed me to speak for him. The only thing I could do was to choose to keep my composure, to keep my feelings hidden, and to focus on facts and actions. But if asked, I would have admitted that I didn’t understand the level of criticism. I wondered if they were the power of attorney, would they even try to be as inclusive as I have tried to be or even as thoughtful or considerate, or if they would just make decisions by themselves or with a select few because it would be easier and less time consuming or emotionally less messy. Knowing that I had to keep my composure in order to not make emotions worse, I start to answer the questions one by one:
Last year, when Dad was in the hospital, it was in November. It was Dad, mom, and myself. We were discussing Dad’s care when the nurse came in and talked to us about the medical power of attorney. She explained that it was important to have someone in place to take over important decisions, should something terrible happen, and Dad couldn’t make the decisions. She said that having something like this in place helps doctors know how to guide their care. It also helps families be more organized.
The nurse also said that it didn’t have to be anyone with medical experience, it didn’t have to be the wife, nor anyone special—just someone who was willing to take on the responsibility and to be able to be contacted by doctors to keep up to date. The nurse left the three of us to talk.
Dad looked over the paperwork and said, “Veronica, what do you think?”
Mom responded, “It would be too stressful for me.”
“Joy, I think you would be a good person.” I looked at Dad, with my chest puffed up and said, “I would be proud to be your medical Power of Attorney. I would be honored. I will fight for you with all I got. You have my word.” And I got up to give him a hug. He seemed relieved. We hugged, and as I sat back down, he looked at me stone-faced and said, “Keep me alive. No matter what, keep me alive.” He started to put his signature in all the places indicating his wishes.
I interjected different scenarios, “What if you become a veget….”
He interrupted me, “Keep me alive. I want to live.”
And I got quiet. I heard him on a spiritual level. “If I ever have to defend you. If I ever have to fulfill this role. I will keep you alive. You absolutely have my word on that.”
There was silence. I continued talking and told the family of my vision from the Holy Spirit that Dad would walk out of the hospital. My aunt asked, “Are you sure it was from the Holy Spirit?” I said, “Yes. As much as I can know. It came in the same way other visions that have come to me that have come true.”
My older sister, Marcy said, “Well, if this is what you feel, then I will stand behind you. There is more power in unity. We are called to be people of faith, so let’s be one.” My other older sister, Rach, says, “I will join you, Joy, as well.” Slowly, the other family members joined in, and we agreed that as a family, we would stand behind Dad walking out of the hospital. We would do all we could medically and spiritually to help him.
They took the tube out around May 22, and Dad woke up. He seemed fine. His breathing returned to normal. I had to ask him, and I couldn’t wait to ask him. An older nurse was with me. “Dad, what decisions do you want me to make about your medical care? Should I try to keep you alive no matter what or should I decide based on what is happening. What should I do?” Dad looks at me and says, “Keep me alive.”
“But Dad, I want to keep you alive, but the doctors think I am too emotional. Tell me what to do. Should I keep you alive no matter what? Is that still what you want?”
“Yes, Joy.” He responded without hesitating, without doubting, without moving his right side, the only side that he could move. He affirmed that he wanted to stay alive no matter what.
I lost it at those words, and broke down crying. Why did I ever doubt myself? I knew what he wanted, and I should have had enough confidence to stand on that. “Joy, Joy,” Dad was calling my name. I laid on the left side of his bed and just cried on his limp arm. He tried to console me with his right arm, but couldn’t reach as far over. I was crying for relief knowing that I was making the right decisions. I was crying because the doctors didn’t hear these words. I was crying because my prayer was heard and Dad was alive. I was crying because I heard my name from his caring voice. I was crying from the impatience of seeing the vision come to pass. I was crying because I was tired. I was crying because I wanted this hospital stay to be over. I was crying because I wanted Dr. Manik by my side. I was crying because I finally could cry.
“Come on God,” I thought. “Bring healing!”
Through my cries, I sputtered, “Dad, please tell the doctors and the family what you are telling me. They think that I am making these decisions based on my emotions.” Dad agreed that he would call another family meeting, and asked the nurse to help organize the doctors attending. Once the meeting was set. I sent Dr. Manik a text asking for him to come, if he could. Although at this point, he was not Dad’s doctor anymore.
From Joy May 25, 2014 (email)
To Family and Friends:
Hello Dear Ones,
I want to thank you all for your prayers, words of encouragement, and for walking this journey, which has lasted 80 days so far. It has been quite a trip, with us fighting spiritually for Dad’s life–and each time, the Lord has won.
Now, the Holy Spirit has impressed upon me to round up everyone and start praying for Dad’s left side. I was unclear why I was told to do this yesterday, because, after all, we have been praying since his left side was affected for it to recover. But, nevertheless, I tried to obey and got the message out to many through FB.
Today, I have more of an understanding as to why. The doctors have explained that they want to withdraw support for Dad, because they don’t have a way to solve Dad’s heart issue (meeting tomorrow between 12-1 in Dad’s hospital room to hear more about it). Until I’m told otherwise, I just want us to focus on what the Lord has told me, pray for Dad’s left side.
Please allow the Holy Spirit to direct you–as he knows how you should pray. Also, include a thank you and a praise within your request.
The Lord is glorified, and it is truly amazing how wonderful this journey continues to be. Be bold in your faith, reckless in your love, and unyielding in your loyalty to Christ.
Blood of Jesus,