Little did I know that after October 2, 2020, my life would completely change forever. I want to start by saying I am a pharmacist by profession, and I now finally understand the saying, “take charge of your health.”
My brother and I had taken my dad to a hospital in Philadelphia on the morning of October 2, 2020. Caught by surprise, we found out my dad had four blockages. My dad had open-heart bypass surgery on October 6, 2020, and what happened after that was unimaginable.
Immediately after his surgery, my dad was having tremendous amounts of shortness of breath, in addition to other complications. I reached out to my closest friends who are physicians and started updating them on my dad’s status daily. They pushed me to ask all the right questions to the doctors, yet the doctors were not willing to take any suggestions. Days passed by, and the doctors were not doing much to help my dad. To make matters worse, this was all taking place during COVID times. It was hard for us to visit my dad and even harder to speak to a physician to learn about my dad’s daily status. With no empathy from the doctors, they eventually told us they would not be able to provide care for my dad anymore. They wanted to withdraw care for my dad, but we were not ready to lose hope.
I was furious and devastated. Why did the doctors not plan for an exit strategy if a complication arose after the surgery? Why did they keep him sedated for three weeks? Why did they give up so easily? Why did they not initiate the right treatments or do the required imaging in a timely manner? I always used to hold doctors to the highest regards and standards until this experience.
Four weeks after my dad’s surgery, my family and I decided to transfer my dad to a hospital in Houston. Surprisingly, the cardiothoracic surgeon himself came from Houston on an air ambulance plane with his medical staff to pick my dad up for the transfer. My dad was then taken off of sedation, and he started to become more responsive. The doctors in Houston went above and beyond for my dad. They did everything and more to provide the best care and treatment for my dad. After seeing what the doctors in Houston did for my dad, I recognized not every physician is the same. After my dad’s departure from Philadelphia, I was left with a bitter taste in my mouth when thinking of a doctor. Subsequently, seeing how the health care professionals in Houston treated my dad, I realized that there are physicians and nurses out there that provide the utmost patient care.
Unfortunately, on January 26, 2021, my dad passed away. It felt surreal. I was heartbroken. I was not able to accept that this had happened. We did everything we possibly could for my dad, and yet this was the outcome. I miss my dad dearly every day, but I know we kept fighting for him. During this whole situation, the one person who fought with his life every day was my dad.
I started questioning each decision that the doctors had made during the last four months. Did we as a family ask the right questions? Could this have been prevented by asking more questions? Did the doctors not carefully assess my dad before recommending doing the surgery? To this day, the answers to these questions will be unknown.
I have learned many things from this experience.
1. Be your own advocate. Ask all the questions you possibly can to your health care team. You should be able to trust your health care provider, and you should feel comfortable asking them any questions you would like. If something feels doubtful, then speak up and voice your thoughts and opinions.
2. Do your own research. For any serious conditions or situations, get a second opinion. Speaking to different health care providers will give you peace of mind. Not every physician will go above and beyond for you or your loved one, so make sure you trust your health care team.
3. Don’t always take no for an answer. Sometimes you need to push for yourself or your loved one. The health care team may want to give up in any given situation, but you need to keep fighting.
4. Be strong because there will be difficult days. Situations as such can cause a mental strain, but you have to be resilient.
Retrospectively, I personally do feel that if an exit strategy was put in place for my dad before the surgery, I would not be writing about this experience. The pain I endured during and after those four months was and is unimaginable. Without the help of my family and friends, I wouldn’t have the strength I have now. I shed many tears throughout this experience, but I know we as a family went above and beyond for my dad.
On my dad’s last day at the hospital in Houston, one of the nurses came up to us and said, “Your dad is and was very special, because we have never traveled across the country for a patient except for your dad.” That nurse is absolutely right. My dad is and was a very special man.
Love you, Dad. Now and forever.
Himani Joshi is a pharmacist.
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