I looked up the definition of "shell-shocked" and here's what I found: Battle fatigue.
Those two words describe exactly how I've felt this past week. A week ago tonight, I got a call from my Mom telling me that "Something is wrong with Dad." I didn't even recognize her voice it was so choked with grief. Mike and I immediately jumped in the car and tore off down the highway. We are lucky that we live about 3 km from my Mom and Dad...
When we arrived, my Dad was lying on a stretcher with two EMTs reviving him. He looked terrible, my Mom was a wreck. What followed was an epic night of pain and struggle.
My Dad was taken to our local hospital. After 2.5L of IV fluid, his heart rate and blood pressure were still low -- this led the attending physician to think "there was a bleed somewhere." My Dad lay there shivering uncontrollably. He was so cold and couldn't warm up. He could barely open his eyes he was so weak, but when he did, I was startled by their piercing blue clarity.
Phone calls to Lethbridge and Calgary were made, and the EMTs prepared to take my Dad to Lethbridge for a catscan...Things were happening so fast yet so slow at the same time. Mike, me and Mom hovered around the bed. I told my Dad I loved him, and as they moved him to another stretcher for transport, I panicked, realizing that this could be it. I called out to him as they wheeled him away, "I love you Dad! You are a strong man and a good father!"
I was thinking to myself that I wanted him to know these things -- of all the things I need to tell him before the end. The level of severity still hadn't sunk in.
I assumed the role of manager -- it is what I know how to do. I called my sister, drove my Mom home, called the hospital in Lethbridge, then Calgary, drove to my Mom's house at 4:45am to let her know what I found out. I had a couple of moments when I thought I was going to fall apart -- I've watched enough TV shows to know that when you phone the hospital and are put on hold...that the news is often the worst.
But it wasn't. My Dad remained conscious all through his ordeal, but barely. He remembers that the STARS helicopter guys didn't think he was going to make it. That they couldn't find a pulse.
When we learned that my Dad survived and was recovering, my Mom left for Calgary. She was so discobobulated -- I wrote a detailed list of things she would have to bring with her...A list of my Dad's stuff and her stuff. I knew that I had to be strong and keep my head on straight. I showed her how to use my Dad's cell phone (yes I DO know how to use one!) and kept my sister updated on everything. I also wrote a letter to my Dad. Going over in detail all the things I've always wanted to say, but never did. My Mom read it to him when she visited him. I am so lucky to have more time to tell him even more things now. :)
Fast forward to today. Things happened so fast, and I felt so removed. I felt numb, drunk. This past week was a weird haze of complete exhaustion. I had a difficult time speaking -- it sounded like I was drunk. The exhaustion I felt was unlike anything I've ever experienced. Sleep wouldn't touch it.
I'm the type of person who laughs all the time. Especially if I've never met you. I'll say something and then laugh right after. I'm just like that. This week I was not myself. I reached out to total strangers -- a girl I swim with for example. When she said good morning, how are you, I told her about my Dad. She was so gracious and kind offering words of encouragment. I lapped it up like nectar. I needed it.
You know when you are running during Ironman and someone shouts out your name -- a total stranger, but they are offering you support? It was like that -- I fed on it.
I am very lucky and blessed to have very good friends...Friends who offered to drop everything and come and cook, whatever. Friends who shared with me their experiences and what they did to cope. As ridiculous as this might sound, these shared experiences prepared me for the exhaustion and grief. Almost like a manual.
Sara (my coach) gave me carte blanche over my workouts. I chose to stick with everything. I needed the familiarity of routine. This past week of workouts were an odd experience. There was one 90 minute steady run where I turned my mind off completely and just had my body breathing hard and moving forward. Like an animal. Nothing in my head that I was aware of.
But my head was full to the brim and I was too paralyzed by fear, shock, grief to realize it. My cosmic twin Charmaine called at the perfect time and told me in plain language what I was going to experience. That I wasn't even coping yet, that all this stuff was in my subconscious and would trickle down into my consciousness soon, that I would feel selfish for doing my workouts, that when my Dad returned home it would hit me.
She gave me two wonderful pieces of advice: That whatever I do/say/think -- to accept it and move on. And this is what she sent in an email yesterday: "Take strength in your determination and use this hiccup to push yourself even further. Look, if your Dad can do what he just did, you had better step up another level here girl." Can you see why Charmaine means so much to me?
This has changed everything for my family. Already we are closer than before. External crap has been stripped away to leave honesty, understanding, and total love. When I saw my Dad yesterday at home, I hugged him, kissed him, kept touching his face and arms, and cried and cried. I told him again how much I loved him.
During a bike session this week, I was listening to one song over and over again by Christina Aguilera: Fighter. While the lyrics refer to an entirely different situation, I heard them through my own experience. Through the eyes of a father's daughter....This was for you, Dad:
'Cause it makes me that much stronger
Makes me work a little but harder
It makes me that much wiser
So thanks for making a fighter
Made me learn a little bit faster
Made my skin a little bit thicker
Makes me that much smarter
So thanks for making me a fighter
My Dad IS a FIGHTER. :) :)