Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Crossing Over...Silently...Peacefully

...that's how my father Jesus Cabigao Santos (whom we fondly call "Pops", "Amang" or "Popty-Wopty") met his Creator on Sept. 07, 2010.

He was bedridden for almost four months before he finally succumbed to cardio-pulmonary arrest and overall system failure brought about by his brain lesions. MRI results said it was primary CNS lymphoma but we are not sure if it really was because we never submitted Pops to any further invasive procedures such as biopsy or lumbar tap due to risk factors that go with these. His oncologist recommended radiation treatment. In fact, she gave Pops a referral to a radiation oncologist, who was supposed to determine if he could still undergo the treatment. But we opted not to submit him to further treatment as there were so many co-morbid conditions like his age, diabetes type 2, etc.  Our family chose to have palliative care for him at home.

When we brought him home last June 13 (feast day of St. Anthony), the only thing unusual about Pops' look was the feeding tube inserted in his right nostril which goes down to his stomach. That's the only way we could feed him because he doesn't wake up anymore even if he wants to. He couldn't do anything.  That's how bad Pops' massive brain lesions, which were situated in the frontal lobe, affected him: he couldn't move, talk, or even blink.  The last time he talked was June 4 and his last words were counting one to 10--not voluntarily--I even had to prompt him to talk using my fingers as visual aids.

Our humble home became a mini-ICU (Intensive Care Unit) during the latter part of his sick days (though sans the complicated heart machine and respirator). Pops had a total of four (4) life-support lines attached to different parts of his body: an IV line on his left hand, a feeding tube and oxygen line in his nostrils, and a foley catheter.  His neurologist sent us home to prevent Pops from contracting hospital-acquired infections which would aggravate his condition. Well, he actually did get pneumonia at the hospital and had to stay for another week of antibiotic treatment before being sent home.

Every thing had to be done at home. My youngest sister--a nun--and I became nurses and caregivers overnight. We had to learn tubefeeding and pushing mannitol, changing diapers, bathing, turning Pops from his side to the other, dressing his bedsores, injecting insulin, and a whole lot more. My mother was our pillar of strength during all these trying days. She would do all the household chores plus took her turn in watching over Pops in the wee hours of the morning.

Through it all, until his last day on earth, Pops laid there silently...by God's grace, he endured his sickness peacefully and painlessly. None of the doctors who treated him were conclusive if it was really brain cancer. Even his neurologist said that Pops didn't look like a cancer patient. He was just "sleeping".


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