67: Hanging by a thread

On our return to Plymouth it became very apparent that my dad was extremely ill.  My dad had been a Colour Sgt in the Royal Marines.  He’d started from a very humble background in Inverness and when he told stories of his upbringing we were always a bit shocked at how he’d brought himself from virtually  nothing (living in a Nissen Hut at one point) to having a good job, wife, family and home.

Dad had loved his career in the Royal Marines.  The Per Mare, Per Terram RM crest adorned most of his clothes even though he’d been retired for almost 30 years.  He had RM ties, socks, braces.  In his and mum’s sitting room they had bronzes of RM Commandos.  He was “corps” through and through.  It was terribly sad to see him so diminished by illness.  I should add that he won the Falklands War single handed as well! The photos below show Dad at Deal and at the Globe Hotel, Stanley, Falkland Islands.

He was so poorly that our eldest son from Seattle flew home to see him, our youngest son drove down from Cheltenham and my brother visited from the North.  When I returned to school I spoke to my Headteacher and to our HR dept and warned them that I was expecting the worst, the decline in Dad had been steady but had picked up speed and he looked, sounded and was very poorly.  Dad had been having weekly blood tests and blood transfusions but nothing was picking him up.  He was hanging on by a thread.

Below.. Sheena, Sandy and Marcus.

Dad and Marcus EAster 2019

A couple of weeks later my brother and his wife visited again.  She was a very experienced nurse and could see the decline and the effect it was having on mum.  Sometimes you just need an external pair of eyes to point out what was right in front of you.  My parents were being very stoic and didn’t want a fuss but weren’t coping.  My sister in law gave me some guidance which I was and am very grateful for.  They had to return to Yorkshire and I emailed school and asked for permission to go to the hospital with mum and dad the next morning.

Nick took dad to outpatients for his blood test to see by how much his HB had dropped and Mum and I went to Birch Ward.  This was the ward that dad went to on Tuesdays to have his blood transfusions.  He had been a bit of a wag and was well known on the ward not least as he always said he booked in for “Morris Dancing”.  Mum and I spoke to one of the Sister’s who knew dad and we presented her with a letter outlining his decline, the additional issues he’d been having at home and the fact that he did not want to be resuscitated should he have a heart attack. Mum was clearly upset as we were discussing end of life care.  The Sister was kind and commented on how they’d all noticed a decline in dad.  She too gave some good advice about adult social care and what to do next.

We collected Nick and Dad, went to their home and I phoned adult social care – they could not have been nicer or more helpful.  They promised to send someone round later that week and assess their case.  The next step was to take mum to make a GP appointment to have dad seen by their GP.  This was not straightforward.

I took mum to the GP surgery and we waited in the queue.  When it was our turn she explained the situation and the receptionist basically said there was an opportunity for a telephone consultation the following week or face to face appointment the week after.  My mum visabley slumped against the wall and I intervened.  I told them that we’d been to Birch Ward, we were talking about end of life care and did the GPs do home visits?  They did and later that afternoon one of them did visit my parents.  The Doctor agreed that dad was very poorly and helped action the DNR (do not resuscitate) order.  Having taken some action things quickly swung into place.  Dad was assessed by physios  at home, had some training on a walker and adult social care came to their home and helped put things into place to make living at home easier.

The following day dad returned to Birch Ward for more O neg to top him up.  Nick had driven him there and taken him to the ward.  As Nick was waiting an acquaintance from Stoke, who was a consultant hematologist, saw him and had a chat.  He’d read the letter mum and I had handed in on the Monday and was going to be looking after my dad.  A new treatment plan was put in place – drugs were juggled, additional tests ordered, more appointments made.  It took a few weeks but dad picked up and started to feel a bit better.  He was no longer hanging on by a thread but it certainly wasn’t a full blown rope either.




Author: fionaosmaston

I live in Plymouth, Devon with my husband Nick and near my parents Sandy and Sheena. Our three children, Marcus, Phoebe and Miles are grown up. I am a geographer and love teaching Geography. My current role is as an Assistant Vice Principal in an inner city comprehensive school where I lead on coaching and initial teacher training. In August 2017 I was diagnosed with invasive lobular carcinoma and following a skin sparing mastectomy and endrocrine/hormone treatment I am now awaiting a final reconstruction. These views are my own and writing this story has helped me come to terms with where I am in this interlude of life which has been dominated by breast cancer.

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