When it finally happened, I was there in his hospital room asleep. I was awaken as the nurse and the caregiver were hovering over him, checking for pulse. It was 1:11am, April 12.
He had considerably weakened from that last hospital stay. His oxygen levels were low. He finally relented and allowed 24/7 oxygen. We wanted to get him a full-time nurse but none passed his standards. He became very particular about many aspects of his care. Only his night-time caregiver measured up.
That frustrated me. He insisted that the household help be the one taking care of him, as they already knew how to. I tried to reason with him that this would tax them, and they wouldn’t be able to perform their duties to Nanay and to the household. But he wouldn’t take it. I relented. Besides, my sister (Ate No. 2) was consistently watching over, too, together with Ate No. 4. And Ate No. 1, our doctor-sister, flew in from the US since end-March, so I knew he was around expert care.
April 6, c3 and I left for Zambales as planned. That was also the time his gasping attacks started happening. He would suddenly start having difficulty in breathing, literally gasping for breath, even as he was taking in oxygen. It was a like a panic attack with his heart rate racing. The only thing they could do was to increase oxygen flow and tell him to relax. Ate No. 1 listened in on his lungs and concluded pulmonary edema. His systems were now compromised and his heart was working overtime. Heart failure was imminent. Ate No. 2 was relating all this to me and how scared they were that he might go soon. But I reassured her that this wasn’t time yet. Tatay will wait for me to come home.
I was back April 8 evening. I made it a point to stay with him the following day, April 9, a holiday, I witnessed for myself the attacks. It was painful to watch and everybody felt so powerless to prevent it from happening. Thankfully, after a few minutes, he would calm down.
But April 10 evening was different. His gasping attack had not stopped, 20 minutes and counting. The caregiver and I were beside him, trying to calm him down. Yet he wouldn’t. His whole body was jerking and stiffening. We called 911 and brought him to the emergency room. He eventually relaxed, the gasping stopped when he was there. All they did was administer oxygen using the mask. His doctor insisted that he stay for tests, to check what was causing these attacks. He grudgingly agreed (he hated having to go back to the hospital.
April 11, he hardly had any rest or sleep even as he was in the hospital. The attacks would continue. The tests showed there was nothing major that was causing the fits. Though he did need another round of blood, it couldn’t be the reason. It seemed that it was really a psychological anxiety attack. And the only solution for him was to relax.
That evening was my turn to sleep over at the hospital. He specifically requested that a family member should be with him constantly. I arrived at the hospital and he was still restless. He was now complaining of some allergic reaction or side effect that rendered him unable to speak properly. We tried to check what was administered to him. He was then given a dose of antihistamine.
He slowly drifted to sleep and finally got to relax. Ate No. 2 went home. leaving me and the caregiver at the hospital. I also prepped and lied down on the bed beside h is. The caregiver kept vigil over his pulse rate and oxygen levels.
Past 1230am, she said she noted that a pulse, a heart rate couldn’t be detected anymore. She called the nurse to take his blood pressure. I woke up as the nurse came in. We all tried to check for pulse but couldn’t detect any. He didn’t seem to be breathing anymore. Caregiver and I tried to wake him up as the doctors and nurses arrived with the cardiac monitor. They immediately started CPR procedures on him, except for intubation (He explicitly refused that in his DNR [do not resuscitate] order). After about 3 minutes of this, at 133am, I asked them to stop. An ECG machine came in to certify his death.
I teared up a bit as I was calling my sisters to inform them of his passing. But that quickly passed. I kissed him on his forehead and prayed. I left the caregiver and the nuses to take care of the paperwork. I came back to witness his body being wrapped and taken to the morgue.
Numbness came over me by that time I got home, at around 230am. There was still a lot of work ahead. There was no time to grieve yet.
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