In an Instant…

My dad had a massive heart attack two weeks ago today. In a minute, everything I knew, everything I believed was out the window and all our lives were changed forever. No matter how his recovery may go, my father of 67-years of age died two weeks ago and was re-born the same weekend. That is how I viewed it anyway. Some may view it differently but, I feel so blessed that he survived. He had less than a 10% chance of surviving the sudden cardiac arrest and then, the other worry was brain damage.

When my mom first called me, her voice told me something was wrong- terribly wrong. When the doctor at the first hospital they took him to talked with me on the phone, asking me more questions than providing me questions, I think at first I did not believe it, so I just said- okay whatever! He is probably just tired or exhausted from the heat, it’s not serious and everything will be just fine. I was wrong. I did not want to believe that in an instant, everything had changed.

I flew out the next day and the plane ride was the longest one I have ever taken – ever! It rivaled the international trips I took even though it was a mere 1200 miles away. The thoughts going through my head were not good. The prognosis was not certain, it was not positive and uncertainty loomed. The doctors were surprised he was still alive and now it was up to him to fight and if you are a believer in a higher power, of course, it rested in his hands more than anything. In an instant, everything had changed. I saw him in a medically-induced coma for two days before he started opening his eyes on Saturday. Even then, he would open eyes, knew we were there but could do nothing because at the Cardiac Care Unit (CCU) and the potential trauma to his brain, they had to keep him in a medical coma. It was so hard to see him like this especially when I last saw him, he was up, running around, chattering away, and even dancing at my brother’s wedding. In an instant, everything I knew had changed.

Miraculously, he recovered. By Sunday (day 4 after his sudden cardiac arrest), he was moving his lips and trying to talk, following commands, and while still sedated, trying to tell us things with his fingers and hands. He was squeezing hands, moving his fingers and toes and by Monday, he was trying to sit up, and once ex-tubated, was talking, and trying to communicate albeit he had no memory of the trauma. In an instant, everything had changed. Life as we knew it was different – would my dad’s brain recover? Sure, maybe? I have no idea. Would he be the same? NEVER! Would we be the same? Nope… not a chance.

My father died on Thursday, April 19, 2012, and returned to us on Monday, April 23, 2012 but with memories from sometime ago, with memories that were spotty and speech that was not all there. He could not feed himself initially or stand up on his own, or walk, but when he was released out of CCU on late Wednesday night, he was trying to escape, and pulling his wires out. Disoriented and weak, he was released from the hospital on Saturday, April 28, 2012, and was cleared to fly back home on Tuesday, May 1, 2012. For all of us though, we live in a different world, where we appreciate every minute, every second, and we do not take even an hour for granted. In an instant, everything had changed and we would all never be the same. I will be heading out next week to help with some of the upcoming therapies, the cardiologist appointment, and if needed, further intervention for his heart. But mainly, my mom needs us in this time and the support we provide will be indispensable. My dad may go through recovery for a few weeks, few months to a year or more but he will be a heart patient forever. He will need to watch his diet, exercise, get cardiac care, and may need more intervention if his other artery gets blocked. No matter what, we are so blessed he is with us today and while I wish we all lived closer, I am grateful. I am grateful for all the time we had, and all the time we will have in the future with every one of my family members….because in an instant, everything can still change for any one of us.

What I learned from this is not to keep second guessing what was or why this happened… why did this happen? What are we supposed to learn from this? What I learned honestly is what to do from here on out— what I want my life to be, how I also need to slow down, how I want to treat others daily in my life and what my priorities are:

  1. When parents or your kids or close siblings or even friends call, don’t be busy- listen, talk, entertain – life is too precious and these moments will never come back. It may be annoying what they are saying or that you are trying to work but work will be there but in an instant, everything could change… and you may never get to hear them talk to you again! So, listen, make time, and forget about what is going on around you. Take the call if it is safe for you to do so.
  2. Don’t worry about what people think… just live! Because in an instant, everything could change and then no one will really care what the guy on the bus thought about you or the situation. It’s not important! It’s all small stuff compared to losing someone you love.
  3. When you love, love unconditionally, love completely and do not worry what tomorrow brings because as you know, in an instant, everything could change.
  4. Travel that extra mile, walk that extra step, and do everything you can in your power to help others especially those that you love or care about because today they are here, and tomorrow, in an instant, everything could change.
  5. When you can, use up that leave (don’t hoard it), and travel with loved ones – go far, go away, go and have those memories because in an instant, everything could change and then you will never be able to take that trip again or not in the same way.
  6. Life is to precious to waste on petty issues, quorums or fighting for things that do not matter because when you really need to fight then fight for LIFE—remember to live and love because in an instant, everything could change.
  7. When your kid wants to hug you, and your mom is embarrassing you by kissing you in public, stop and don’t worry – hug away, kiss away, touch the life you love because in an instant everything can change and you may never get the chance to touch, to kiss, to hug, to be with them again. I know, sounds depressing but celebrate the love you have on earth now – don’t wait.
  8. Say what you need and want to say – say it loud, say it proud, and say it often – the word, ‘I love you’ can be said when someone is gone but may not be heard, and because tomorrow may not come. In an instant, everything we know could change.
  9. Save the memories, encapsulate them – the photos, the videos, the written blog posts, the amazing diaries and do not lose sight of how important these moments are with your children, your grandchildren, your parents, your partners—grab a camera and if you forgot yours, buy one because you’ll regret if in an instant, everything changes and you did not capture those amazing memories.
  10. Don’t have regrets or guilt- if you did something wrong, rectify it immediately. Never worry about the “what ifs.” Just do it! Life in the moment and while you should plan for the future, and put money away, don’t be afraid to spend it reasonably and wisely because in an instant, EVERYTHING CAN CHANGE
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