Friday morning, August 14th (so nearly 2 weeks ago now) - Quinn woke up for his feeding shortly after 4AM. Gordon went to get him and I lie there willing myself awake so I could give Q his early morning snack. Soon after the phone rang. I hate hate hate when the phone rings in the middle of the night. So often it's a wrong number... but every now and then it's a horrible, horrible message. Gordon had a hard time finding the phone and the caller hung up - I relaxed for a minute, thinking - phew, wrong number. Then it rang again - and I knew someone was trying to reach us.
My first thought was that my Grandma had passed away. She's been in a nursing home with Alzheimer's for a few years now and had recently started refusing food. We knew she was getting ready to move on. In fact, Friday morning we were heading down there to see her and introduce her to Quinn. My stomach tightened at the thought that we were too late. Gordon answered the phone and I heard him talking to my mother. I prepared myself to hear the news that Grams had passed on and I hadn't gotten a chance to say goodbye.
However, when I finally got on the phone and heard what my Mom had to say - I was woefully unprepared. I vaguely remember her saying "Dad's in the hospital". DAD? - I said. What could be wrong with Dad? Then she said a sentence that included the words "brain aneurysm" and my world just stopped spinning.
I don't remember much about the conversation. The jist was that my Dad had come home from his trip to Memphis Thursday evening, gone to a shelter board meeting, and then returned home - a normal day. Around 10PM my Mom heard him in the bathroom and he complained of the "worst headache of his life". My Mom took one look at him and called an ambulance. They took him to Charlton in Fall River, but he was soon transferred to Rhode Island Hospital once they confirmed that he had experienced a subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH).
I couldn't really digest the news, my brain was both spinning and shutting down at the same time. We made plans with my Mom regarding getting the four of us to Rhode Island and hung up the phone. I lay back down and tried to get another hour of sleep. I tossed and turned, got up googled "brain aneurysm", tried to control the scary thoughts running around in my head, tried to ignore the dismal statistics.
Eventually we got us all packed up, fed and in the car. We arrived at Rhode Island Hospital sometime before 10AM. My Mom, her cousin Gail, my brother and his girlfriend Liza were all there already. We staked out a spot in the waiting room outside the neuro ICU - an area that would become like a second home in the weeks to come. We brought donuts - no one wanted any. We didn't know much yet. Dad's brain was bleeding. They suspected an aneurysm. He was off getting an angiogram. We should know more soon.
A doctor came to talk to us - the angiogram was negative. But due to the bleed pattern and his symptoms they were still thinking aneurysm. They would repeat the angio in 7 days. In the meantime we just wait and see what complications develop. He would be monitored closely in the neuro ICU during that time. SEVEN DAYS. It started to sink in a bit more - we were going to be here a long time. We had no idea where this new path was going to take us.
There were some encouraging things. Dad had survived the bleed - not everyone is so lucky. He was coherent and responsive when he came to the hospital. He knew the people around him and what was going on. Again, not everyone with this disease is so lucky. But the doctor was very straight-forward. He was a really really sick guy. We still didn't know the path this would take - there were many possibilities from here.
Eventually I got in to see Dad, once he got back from his angio. He was mostly out of it and it pain, discomfort. He was complaining about a headache and also complaining about his Foley catheter. He didn't seem to know who I was really. We were told that his confusion and discomfort was likely due to a condition called hydrocephalus, literally "water on the brain". The jist is that something (like blood from an SAH) prevents the cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) from circulating around the brain. The fluid backs up and collects in the ventricles, which in turn swell and exert pressure on the brain. Hydrocephalus is a common complication in patient's with SAH. To treat it, an EVD (external ventricular drain) was put in Dad's head - allowing the draining of this excess fluid.
Lily spent the whole day in the waiting room and was a total super-star. Quinn was mostly strapped to me in the mei tai the whole day. I can't remember how that first day ended, but we all eventually left the hospital, left my Dad in the care of the neuro ICU team and went back to sleep at my Mom's - all of us wondering what tomorrow would bring.