|Bio||A daughter, sister, wife, mother, research chemist and technical lead, studying to become a high school science teacher. Not a writer, but a woman with a creative streak and a story to be told.|
My Mothers Saviour
I found him by the veggie patch. He was barely moving, just standing holding the hose and watering his tomatoes. Too filled with grief to even wipe away the tears streaming down his sunken face. Tears I had never seen from this man, not in my twenty-seven years of being his daughter. It was a beautiful day with the eucalypts towering above over the back, the sun just breaking through them, and a morning summer breeze rustling the leaves, but it was by no means a good day. Just twelve hours earlier this man heard his wife fall, then reached her just in time to watch her stop breathing. He was immediately on the phone to the paramedics who told him how to do something he had never before attempted; he would have to perform CPR. He told me it was only five minutes, that the paramedics were there so quickly to bring her back. In reality, he did compressions and breaths for fifteen whole minutes before they even pulled up outside.
This man was broken. He left his wife in intensive care in the early hours of the morning to go home and sleep. But he did not sleep. He was filled with a dread that was consuming him. A dread that he did not perform the CPR properly such that his wife would have brain damage if she even came back to him at all. ‘Real men don’t cry’, yet here he was, the strongest, toughest man I knew, unable to control his emotion.
Over the days that followed, as his wife lay comatose and the doctors handed over the devastating but realistic verdict that she may not make it through this or come back with any level of brain damage, Greg changed. His eyes were unfocused, looking into a space far away. Usually loud and energetic, he was quiet and sombre. He bumbled about the hospital and the house so uncertain of both his future and present. Lost in thoughts of that first night and not knowing how to get through each day. This man had never had care to for himself, by himself. The dishwasher, the washing machine, meal preparation, his own medications; they were all new learnings. He missed his wife and realised now just how amazing she was, and how much he, and all of us, needed her.
By this point, the word had spread of what had happened, and people kept stopping by the house, or calling for an update. Each time, I watched my father struggle through the recount of the CPR, the two shocks from the defibrillator, the diagnoses of cardiac arrest, pneumonia, broken ribs, spiking fevers, low oxygen, reversed respiratory rates, everything. Each time I watched it tear through him and heard his voice change. I tried my best to help him through this time, everyone did, but we were all struggling, too, and even with the greatest amount of love and support we could offer him, he couldn’t let go of the idea that he did not get there in time and her brain had been deprived of oxygen for too long. He was blaming himself for not saving her. Blaming himself for the brain damage he didn’t have any way of knowing she would have. And as much as I tried to help, there is no way I could know the internal battle he was fighting.
Inside of me new life was beginning, but all of my thoughts were on a life that may be ending. Four days after my mother’s cardiac arrest, I was booked in for my first ultrasound for what I was hoping would be my first viable pregnancy. I spent the morning with my mum before heading off for my appointment, then returned in the afternoon with my father. We did not stay long this time, as Mum was stable but unresponsive and remained heavily sedated. As I walked back to the car with Dad, he was again becoming emotional, not knowing if his wife would ever come back to him. I told him, “Dad, you still have a lot to look forward to and Mum has to wake up to meet her new Grandchild next year. I’m pregnant and she knows it.” Dad’s eyes filled with tears again, but this time he was smiling. Tears rolled down his cheeks as he put an arm around me, and he told me how happy that made him. My dad was a notoriously bad secret keeper, which is why I had not told him this news yet. But now, as we once again walked away from my mother who continued to lay in a critical condition, I needed him to know. I needed him to understand that whatever happened, I still needed him. Whatever happened, there was a new life coming that needed him. And whatever happened, life would go on.
And it did.