One evening, at the height of my father’s illness in September, around the time he spent in the ICU, I went down to the treadmill and started running. The extra adrenaline I was carrying at the time along with the increased heart rate brought on from running sent me into a panic attack. I remember crumpling to the floor in a sobbing heap, trying to breathe my way through the panic while the room spun and my body shook. After that I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t get back on.
When my dad went into the hospital this last time, we thought we were losing him again. One day a man in an expensive black tailored suit walked in. I assumed he was a doctor though he never introduced himself. He looked at my dad for less than a minute, made only the slightest eye contact with me, and walked out. I learned his diagnosis the following day- Hospice… Without talking to me. Without talking to my dad.
Every doctor we met with looked us in the eye and said “Hospice.” Not one of them would fight for him. “He has cancer, you know.” (As if that detail had somehow neglected to wedge itself into my memory.) But he wasn’t there for cancer. He was there for an infection. And they weren’t treating it. They weren’t feeding him. They weren’t hydrating him. They had given up before they even tried.
We pushed back. We pleaded with nurses. Everyday he had a different doctor, and none of them would take responsibility for what had happened the day before, so every day we started again. We asked the same questions, demanded answers, insisted on tests and medicines and nutrition. We refused to back down while calling them out on their indifference. And even when he started to show improvement the doctors said it wasn’t fast enough- call hospice.
I cried in the hallway. I researched hospice. I read articles. Maybe they were right. But they didn’t know my dad. They didn’t know us. And they didn’t know our God.
One day a nurse took me aside when there were no doctors around. She said in a gentle way, “He’s getting better. It’s going to take a while. But he’s getting better. Don’t give up.” That’s when I understood that while the doctors had written him off, the nurses were still fighting for him. They became our allies. They pushed the doctors. They encouraged us. They lovingly cared for my father. And little by little he recovered.
When he came home, it’s like his recovery was fast tracked and each day I am in awe of the progress he has made. He is gaining so much independence and by the grace of God he is exceeding everyone’s expectations. With all sincerity, it is nothing short of a miracle.
But it’s only now, a couple of months later, that I can talk about that hospital experience with any sense of perspective. Only in the last six weeks has life started to settle down. I don’t know what reprieve we have been given. I don’t know what the future holds. But I can trust in a God that has carried us this far to continue to provide the strength and trust and patience we need each day.
So tonight I got on the treadmill and I ran.