Today my grandfather went to be with the Lord. About 18 months ago I took over his care. He had been living with my mother, but when he lost mobility, she was unable to continue (she could not lift him or properly assist him). At the time we weren’t sure how much longer he would live — my uncle warned me it could be months or years. Unfortunately, he continued to decline. He got a hip replacement, which helped ease the pain in his leg, but developed gastro problems at affected his eating until we found treatment, and last fall the hip replacement became infected, requiring constant antibiotics and caused severe leg pain. Most recently we did home infusion antibiotics, which eventually seemed to cure the infection, but during the process his kidneys began to weaken. Twice he ended up in the hospital due to kidney complications. Fortunately, they did recover, but were severely weakened. He was slowing down, not eating as well, but still mentally healthy. On Sunday evening, June 11, he seemed fine. I got him to eat half a grilled cheese sandwhich for dinner. About 3 a.m. the next morning he called me and was acting strange. He was having trouble breathing. He has asthma so I gave him his puffer, which helped. But every thirty minutes he kept calling for me, and each time it was strange requests, almost delirium. Once he wanted his pants so he could “go outside.” I told him it was the middle of the night and he said, “Oh, I didn’t know,” and promptly laid back down and went to sleep! Another time I found him on the floor with no idea how he got there. I lifted him back into bed and he didn’t seem to be in any pain. Later in the morning, he had trouble getting dressed: his right leg was in a lot of pain, making me think the infection had returned. His temperature was a low 94.6, but after breakfast (which he didn’t eat), it was 99.4 — we called 911 immediately. By the time he got to the hospital it was nearly 103! It turned out he was suffering from a myriad of inter-related problems: a bladder infection meant he wasn’t urinating properly which resulted in kidney strain and fluid build-up in his body, which collected in his chest, causing congestive heart failure and pnemonia. It also turned out that he’d broken his leg with the hip replacement — apparently the infection had weakened the bone so it was incredibly fragile and it had broken in several places (possibly that time I found him on the floor). But worst of all was something called sepsis — an infection of the blood — which is serious even among young healthy people (who can take months to recover). In the end, it was too much for the poor man. We’d just celebrated his 91st birthday in May, which is not a bad achievement, though he always talked about hitting a hundred. Always positive, even the day before he died he was telling the doctor he felt great.
Granda was a very special man. His sense of humor was dry and subtle, even to the end. While in the hospital, during his last week, I tried to get him to eat his lunch, and he wanted me to eat it. “No, it’s yours,” I told him. “You’re the patient.” He looked up at the nurse who was nearby. “Am I the patient?” he asked in convincing confusion. She was startled until I explain this was his form of a joke! I could see the twinkle in his eye.
I shall miss Grandpa dearly. He and I were very close. When I was a baby my father was killed in a car accident and he and my Grandma cared for me until my severely-injured mother was better (which tooks months). I lived with them for many years, off and on, over the course of my life. They even took me on as a teenager, during my high school years, something I wouldn’t wish on young, healthy people. I feel blessed and honored I got to be with Grandpa during his last years. Caring for him was stressful, educational, and filled with magically tender moments of humor and love that made everything worthwhile. I shall miss Grandpa, but I know he’s at peace and out of pain now.
F. Wildon Colbaugh
May 9, 1915-June 19, 2006