Thursday, 18 October 2012

An Unexpected Reality

Today was a rather difficult and emotional visit with a special 84 year old man named Dan, who a day earlier, had a catastrophic fall. Rather independent, he hadn't informed his wife or children where he was going when he set out to photograph an old buried ship on the outskirts of town. There was a section of rock that he had to traverse in order to reach the boat, and as he negotiated the steep decline, he fell forward, face first unto the rocks. Collecting as best he could his broken, bleeding, and battered body, he managed his way to the top of the hill, and drove himself to the nearest clinic. Once in the parking lot, Dan realised he could no longer move and was swallowing a great deal of blood. Several nurses ran out to his car, ordered he not move, and an ambulance was summoned. Dan's face was so badly swollen and bloodied that they assumed he had been attacked. When asked who they could call for him, without a second thought Dan spoke, '' Whatever you do, don't call my wife, she'll have a heart attack.'' They called one of his 4 sons, who managed to get Dan's wife of 61 years, quickly to the hospital. Marilyn was not prepared for what she saw. The familiar face that looked back at her for over 60 decades, was barely recognisable, and she began to cry. Dan had a broken cheek, nose, nasal passage, cut and swollen eye, a multitude of scrapes and bruises, and a torn rotators' cuff to his right arm. All Marilyn could think of was what if he hadn't been able to get back up those rocks, her husband might never have been found in time, or found at all. Dan had loss so much blood that he required blood transfusions, but they found his kidneys were compromised, and he would need dialysis. Dan became frantic with the thought of being immobilised hours a day watching his blood filter through tubes. His oldest daughter, a nurse, convinced him it had to be done as her father was experiencing chest pains. About this time, I had arrived, and entering Dan's hospital room, it was not the sight of his badly bruised body that caught me off guard, but that of his fragile, beaten and defenceless spirit seemingly exposed for all to see. He was restless, and nothing like the strong man I had known for so long. I realised how vulnerable seniors become when their independence is replaced with falls, fears, and fragility. Walking toward Dan's bed, I desperately tried to negotiate my tears stay hidden, but that was not to be. He took my hands, held them tightly, thanked me for coming, and as I reached toward him, he hugged me, and whispered the words' I love you'. Tears streamed off my cheeks unto his, and for the first time in my 57 years did I see a frail spirit betrayed by the years, at one time a strong man, now desperately wanting time to stand still before it robbed him of his pride, his faith, his family, his life. Many seniors have graced my life, but Dan's journey leaves a much more indelible mark with me. To witness anybody in such poignant heartache is trying, but to witness father, assailed by time and unforgiving circumstance was never foreseen.