Dignity and Grace

Dignity and Grace

Ali Terry | Family Member

I have worked in the medical field for many years. I have learned a few things just by watching. At no time during this experience did I tell either hospital I worked at one of other hospitals. My reason being I wanted them to speak to my dad and not me. In December 2012 I received a phone call that my mom was en route to the local VA Hospital with my dad. She was thinking he was having a stroke. He had some mild confusion and right sided weakness. I called my brother, who at the time was active duty United States Coast Guard to let him know what was going on and I would call when we had more information. After several hours, a CT, and no answer, dad was being transferred to a local hospital. (We live in an area where we have 2 good hospitals and are within driving distance of University of Kentucky or Ohio State.) My mom, my husband and I stayed at the hospital until late evening waiting for an MRI while my dad was placed into ICU. The MRI was performed and reviewed with my dad after we were gone. Less than 24 hours later my mom and I walk into the hospital expecting to hear good news since dad’s symptoms were mild. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Mom and I approached the ICU Nurse practioner who cared for my dad. Knowing my dad’s sense of humor, I politely asked her how my dad was and if he was a party animal in the ICU. She was wonderful. She told us no he was the perfect patient. I went on to ask her what kind of stroke my dad had. Was it a bleeder? Was it due to a vein constricting? Please tell me. With my mom by my side we were given the news just like this. “No sweety, your dad didn’t have a stroke, he HAS a brain tumor.” I was speechless. My mother on the other hand was broken. I grabbed my mom’s hand and told her to pull it together and go see my dad. I gave her the instructions to fake nothing was wrong so she and my dad could have a good visit. I stayed behind to talk to the Nurse Prac. She could tell by the look on our faces, we were clueless. I have no hard feelings toward her. She was going by the misinformation provided to her by the neurosurgeon who talked to my dad during his confused state.

She was very apologetic and told me she would never had been so frank had she known his documentation was incorrect. I will not bad mouth this hospital or Neurosurgeon. Simply because the care in a 2 day period was great. I will only say the Neurosurgeon was not very honest in his documentation. My dad’s follow up, 2 weeks before Christmas, was worse. This Neurosurgeon and his colleague didn’t know the trouble my dad went through to save his eyesight. At the follow up to discuss surgery this physician called my brother, who was not on the exam table nor did he look 65, my dad. He told my dad he would be left blind, paralyzed, and pretty much unable to care for himself. We were in the room 11 1/2 minutes.

I had to stop the physician from leaving so my dad could ask questions. I was disgusted my mom left in tears. I asked my brother to go with my mom and I would finish checking dad out. I asked my dad at that moment in front of the other physician to get a second opinion. He agreed. On the way home I was reading the MRI report with my brother in the back seat of our parents car. Glioblastoma?? Malignant suspicion?? None of this was even mentioned to my dad! I spent the next day gathering in formation to take to whomever we could get to see my dad. The hospital I work for has a neurosurgeon that several of my friends had personal experience with. I took my dad’s disc with his MRI and the 50 pages I had gathered and cried. I went to his office manager and asked her to accept my dad as a patient. On December 27 we met the Neurosurgeon who would become part of our family. Ondrej Choutka, MD. When he introduced himself to us it was please do not call me Dr., call me Ondrej. Pronounced Andre. We spent almost 2 hours at that visit. He reviewed the images, explained the report, and gave us what he suspected, including the prognosis. 6 months to 1 year if he was correct about the diagnosis. Again, my mom had her heartbroken. But my dad, my dad smiled. I couldn’t believe what I saw. My dad smiling through this potential terminal cancer. Ondrej went over the possible side effects and outcomes of surgery. Dad without missing a beat said let’s remove it. All of the info given from the previous physician were ruled out. Dad’s sight not in jeopardy, inability to care for himself ruled out. Dad was ready to fight. On January 9th, 2013. Dad had surgery. 1 hour before, my surgeon I worked for visited him, then we got to spend time with him before surgery. As they wheeled my dad away. He told us he was going to be fine, he knew it. Several updates given vvia phone during surgery and 4 hours later he was in recovery. We saw my dad. Sitting up, talking, moving all his limbs, and seeing the best he could with no change in his already bad sight!!! Welcome home dad January 11th. What a great day! Around January 28th, 2013, we received the final pathology. Stage 4 Glioblastoma. Ondrej was right. Mom and I cried. I dreaded calling my brother. But my dad, here sat my dad smiling. Through all the questions we had asked, the ones on paper and the ones we just thought of, my dad asked “How long?” Ondrej stated “6 months with treatment. I have never seen anyone live past 6 months.” Ondrej told my dad chemo and radiation would not get rid of it but it would possibly give him time. When my dad asked about quality of life Ondrej said it would depend on how you tolerated treatment. Dad smiled again. Ondrej said “Jim, I have given you the worst news and you smile, when even I want to cry.” Dad simply said, ” God blessed me with a good life and great family, if I died tomorrow I would be happy because I know I did it with dignity and grace.” 6 to 8 weeks of radiation 5 days a week and chemotherapy 7 days week began in February. My dad rocked it! He had 3 great doctors (Ondrej, Dr. Terry Justice, and Dr. David Goebel). All were pleased with how well he did. We lost my grandpa (dad’s dad) in March 2013. My dad never gave up. Never missed one treatment, even rang the bell at Dr. Justice ‘ office when he was done with radiation. He did it with dignity and grace. On May 15, 2013, we lost my dad. After having seizures related to his tumor he died in his sleep. Not of the tumor that he fought so bravely but of a heart that grew weak from fighting. A fight that he handled better than anyone I know could have. He did as he said he would, he did it with dignity and grace.