Many of you are aware of my Dad’s passing, the morning of Thursday, March 5, 2016 at the Presbyterian Hospital in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He had been driving West from Tennessee to visit me and my family in Maricopa, Arizona (Phoenix Area). Several folks have asked me to write down the details of his last days. The following is based on information gathered from various sources including conversations with Dad and his doctors at the hospital before he passed, folks he talked to during his trip, and the contents of his wallet. I write this and hope it will provide some comfort to those who loved him.
Preface: For those of you who did not know, Dad was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma (cancer) three years ago. He had what was considered a successful stem cell transplant two years ago, thanks to the amazing staff at Vanderbilt Medical. Dad always said he would die with his disease, not from it. Dad was right, once again.
Dad’s Last Days: Dad set off on his last great road trip on Friday, February 26, 2016. He had been planning the trip for months and was very excited to see me, my wife Linda, and our son Henrik. Dad stopped in North Little Rock, Arkansas to visit his cousin. They had a nice meal at the Outback Steakhouse, Dad had a burger and fries, and a Dr Pepper. Dad and Kathleen talked until the early hours on Saturday, February 27, but despite insistence he stay and rest before continuing his journey West, Dad decided to drive on.
Dad made the trip West through Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, stopping twice along the way to check into a hotel and rest. By Monday, February 29 Dad had made it about 80 miles West of Albuquerque and started feeling really tired. He stopped at the Sky City Hotel in Acoma, New Mexico and checked in. Dad said he was so tired he got into bed without changing into his pajamas. He got up later that night, changed into his pajamas, and went back to sleep. The next day he woke up feeling even more tired, and decided to stay another night. Dad did that for the next two nights, each time thinking he would wake up feeling better. On the morning of Thursday, March 3 Dad knew something was very wrong. He woke up, called his primary oncologist, and was told to get himself to the closest Emergency Room.
Crystelle had been in contact with Dad every day of his trip. When they spoke Thursday morning he admitted to being in bad shape and heading to the Emergency Room. Crystelle called me and I started the drive East not knowing where exactly I would need to go. Dad found help getting to the local Acoma-Canoncito-Laguna Hospital (ACL) in Acoma Pueblo, New Mexico where he was treated for severe dehydration. After some time, and careful negotiation, Crystelle was able to get Dad transferred to the Presbyterian Hospital in Albuquerque where they were better equipped to treat. Dad was admitted to their Emergency Room at 3:30 PM. I arrived at 7:30 PM. Shortly after my arrival Dad was taken to have an ultrasound done on his Kidneys since the fluid output was not keeping up with the input.
After we returned to his room, I texted Crystelle and we agreed she would take the next available flight to Albuquerque.
At around 10:30 Dad was transferred to a room in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).
After a restless night’s sleep, Dad sat up in bed about 9:30 AM the next morning and put his head in his hands. The nurse running some tests asked Dad if he was in any pain. The last articulate words I heard Dad say were, to the nurse, or perhaps to me, himself, or God, “I’m just so weary”.
I picked Crystelle up at the airport at noon on Wednesday, March 4. We talked in the hospital parking lot about Dad’s state. Prepared as possible, we went up to Dad’s room. Crystelle spent a lot of time talking to Dad. He did respond to her several times, and there was ample indication he was aware we were there by his side.
Dad had a rough night, and the next morning his heart stopped.
Causes: The doctors were tireless. They turned over so many stones to piece the puzzle of Dad’s condition together in order to treat. In the end they were able to figure out somewhere either before or during Dad’s trip he had picked up the H1N1 flu, contracted Pneumonia, and as a result of the re-hydration, had Sepsis. Any one of those complications would have killed a lesser man. He fought to the end, but passed without any pain, surrounded by his children.
Postlogue: Dad was an amazing human being. One of a kind. Complicated but practical to his core. He was a renaissance man, artist by trade, but a good athlete, great coach and prolific mentor. He was a craftsman, poet, and historian. He loved his friend and family, and the evidence of that was certainly well represented at his memorial. The experience was amazing and surreal, to see friends from 40, 30, 20, 10 years past there to share a story and say goodbye.
One more thing: My cousin called me the night after the memorial and asked if Dad had planned his memorial before his passing. He was so impressed with every detail. For that, our family would like to thank two amazing men, and two of Dad’s closest friends, Larry Yarborough and Bill Craig. I know how much you loved Dad, and that he also loved you.