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Long story and endless whatifs...


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My beloved dad passed away 5 days ago very unexpectedly and tragically after a stroke. He was only 61 years old. It's so early and so unfair, neither him nor me deserved this. I was always sure that we have good 10-20 years together, so his death just hit me so much. I also lost my mom 21 years ago, so I'm an orphan now, at 36. And I keep going and going over all the circumstances of his death with endless whatifs.

We're from Ukraine. When the war broke out, I was abroad with my husband. I invited and even insisted that my dad and stepmom just evacuate and come with us. But they both refused. (What if they came to live with us abroad  😞 )

My dad had allergies and asthma pretty much during all his adult life, so whenever it became warm enough, he moved to their summer house near the sea and lived there until autumn. He always said that he feels better and can breathe more easily there.

So, he was already living in that summer house in May when the tragedy happened. He got a stroke, at night. Nobody was near him at that moment or even in the morning, so he just laid there unconscious for the whole day, until his wife started to ring the alarm around 5 PM, after trying to call him numerous times. She says that earlier she offered him to come home at least for the night to be together, because during the past 6 months his health started deteriorating a little bit, so she was worried. But my dad refused. (What if he was home that night  😞 )

A month earlier he went to get a Covid vaccine shot. Even though the pandemic had been over, and there was little chance to get Covid, especially in late spring-summer, and he wasn't too social, spending time in his sea house the whole summer, he was still anxious about it and thought that with his bad lungs, he just cannot take the risk, as getting Covid could be fatal for him. (It's known that Covid vaccines increase the risk of blood clots. What if he didn't get that shot  😞 )

And after my dad was found, he was taken to a state hospital. Our Ukrainian healthcare is bad... Medical insurance doesn't exist as a concept here, so you have only two choices - bad Soviet-style state healthcare or private clinics where you cover all the expenses out of pocket ($300-$700 per day for ICU/ER, not including tests and drugs). The regular state ambulance my stepmom called just took him to the state hospital (If I was there, I would have insisted to take him to a good private hospital, which actually had some stroke coverage from the state)

I rushed to Ukraine as fast as I could. When I visited him in the hospital, he was in ER. The doctor said that he's optimistic about his neurological status, as it seemed like he had a chance to recover. Dad didn't open his eyes and was in a kind of a stupor state, but he could hear me, could move his legs, arms and hands. But the biggest problem was his asthmatic lungs and pneumonia which caused respiratory insufficiency, so he was put on a ventilator. My first thought was that I need to get him out of there to that private hospital as soon as possible, but he was not transportable in that acute state + those exorbitant prices + doctor mentioning that he may need intensive care for his respiratory insufficiency for months + possible expensive lifetime care after being discharged, so we thought we have to plan our budget for years ahead + that ER in that specific clinic was recently renovated and quite western, with good modern equipment, seemingly professional and attentive team working according to modern medical protocols. The combination of all these things persuaded me that he is getting the best possible care anyway and there's no reason to rush and transfer him right away (What if I just insisted on transferring him anyway...  😞 )

He spent 11 days in that nice ER, but with little progress both neurologically and respiratorily, being on and off from ventilator, but kind of stabilized towards the 11th day and even started to slightly open one eye and see something with it, so they were getting ready to transfer him to the neurological ICU. They only waited because there were no free spots there. And this saved my father's life at that time. On the 12th day, in the early morning his breathing got seriously worse and he required resuscitation. They saved him, but put him again on a ventilator and scheduled a tracheostomy, which went fine, so on the 18th day he kinda stabilized again and they transferred him to the ICU. And that was his death sentence 😞

During all this time, starting maybe from day 5, every single doctor we spoke to, both from ER team and rehab team, kept saying that his condition was very bad and that his life is still in danger and the prognosis is very uncertain. Why the **** are you then transferring the patient from a nice ER, with professional team which can reanimate him if his life is in danger, to a stinky miserable 100-year old shithole in a separate dilapitated building without an elevator, looking and feeling more like a prison than a hospital, as if they just dropped him there to die...??? They said they have no right to keep him once he's stabilized...

In the ER, they allowed only one short visit per day from one person, to not put him under stress as they explained, so we couldn't visit my dad together with his wife, so we took turns - one day I visit, the next day she visits. Unfortunately, I wasn't there when he was transferred, so I saw WHERE they transferred him only the next day. They had to bring him up to the second floor by hand on a stretcher, because there was no elevator there. I was shocked and a little lost from what I saw there. I remember calling my husband in shock and saying that although I agreed that there wasn't much sense in transferring him from the ER, now I don't care how much it will cost, we need to transfer him from the "ICU", because it will be better for him. At the same time stepmom insisted that the interior and exterior don't matter to him, and that she thinks that doctors are more important, as long as they have the equipment, and that he is getting good care there. But his new doctor and the whole team didn't make a good impression on me either... And that transfer to a different building by hand sounds like it was quite stressful... How ironic is that? One additional visit from his closest people on earth - nono, too much stress. Barbaric medieval transfer to a different building without elevator - sure, sounds great! (Why didn't they allow us both to visit him in ER, that way I would see that "ICU" earlier and would have one more day to make a decision to transfer him 😫 And why didn't I make that decision the next day, when I visited 😞 I thought that I still had at least 4-5 days to make that decision and arrange everything :(((((

When I saw him on my day after the transfer, he seemed worse  😞  He didn't respond to my usual "Dad, do you hear me? Squeeze my hand if you do", but as I knew from previous times, it also depends on when exactly you come - when he's sleeping or more active, which can fluctuate. But I also keep thinking that maybe that horrible transfer just put too much stress on him and erazed all the small progress he made during the first 18 days. And now I will never know whether he even heard me and knew that I was there during his last days :(((

The next day I wanted to come again and drove off as usual, but due to Ukraine being a stupid miserable shithole country with no infrastructure or any homo sapiens among decision makers, a small road repair created an enormous traffic jam in all directions from our home, and I saw that I won't be there in time during the morning visiting hours, and the evening visiting hours were during my work hours, so I wrote his wife that she can visit him today, and I will be there tomorrow and for next 3 days. ("I can't come in the evening because of work" now sounds so stupid and insignificant... if only I knew that it was his last day and at least tried to speak to him and tell him once again that I love him and that everything will be allright 😓)

That was Friday. In the evening I was planning to come on Saturday, Sunday and Monday to speak with everyone I can reach there, to see that "ICU" once again and make a decision of transferring him to a better hospital, where he will at least receive normal resuscitation if necessary. But I just didn't have enough time... didn't have enough time... And for some reason wasn't able to make that decision faster.

The next day, on Saturday, at 6:30 in the morning he died. Doctors lied to us that "his heart just stopped", which sounds like the worst bullshit I've ever heard in my life. They weren't able to produce even a slightly coherent and plausible story. They spewed this nonsense exactly one day after his new doctor said that in terms of his heart health and hemostasis, he seems more or less alright. It's his breathing which is the problem. But they will cover each other for eternity, and I will never know what really happened there, behind those stinky shabby closed doors. I strongly suspect that what happened was the same thing that happened for the first time while we were waiting for dad's transfer to the "ICU", but back then it was pure luck that he stayed in ER and was reanimated and put on a ventilator. Most probably they just didn't react on time, were less experienced or probably didn't even have the necessary equipment such as a ventilator there, to quickly hook him to it as needed. And obviously, there was no way they could just roll him back into ER to get help from a better team. But I will never know the truth. In our disgusting failed state, ruled by mafia in virtually every aspect, where there is no law, no truth, no justice, you're just a small bug against a Leviathan... You can easily be murdered if they want, and they will write it off to war... When I spoke with the new doctors on Thursday, I couldn't get rid of the feeling that every single question I ask is perceived as an attack, and their purpose is not to inform, explain and calm the relatives down, but defend and hide as much as you can, play ping pong with other doctors, speak with you in this "you're too stupid to understand this stuff anyway" tone, and not show any empathy and humanity, like it's a prison and not a hospital. 


I find myself going through all this story in every detail in circles trying to make sense of it and I'm getting buried under endless whatifs and guilt...

I keep wishing that there was a nuclear war (with a prior warning from US intel and time to evacuate) or that our city was on the frontline and getting destroyed to rubble, like some other cities in the east. Then they would have no choice but to come abroad to us. Yes, we would have lost everything we had, all our homes and possessions, but we would all be together, alive and healthy...

If my dad just came home for the night...

If he didn't get that Covid shot...

If there was no war at all, I would have been present when he was taken by an ambulance, and would direct it to the correct hospital from the very start.

If I was more resolute and wasn't worried so much about money... My father's life costs all the money in the world, why didn't I understand it back then... I should have transferred him if not right away, then immediately when I saw that gruesome ICU and strange doctors. Why didn't I do this... Even if his state was indeed serious and there was little chance for true recovery, good professional care could have at least kept him alive long enough to see him a little more, speak to him more, or maybe even get enough time for his brain to start restoring itself, and it would pick his respiratory state up too. He wouldn't be fully functional, maybe, but he would be alive and present...

I will never know. Or even if I knew, would it change anything? When I resurface from all these thoughts, I suddenly ask myself "And what does it change? My dad died and there is nothing that can bring him back. He is gone forever. And he will never be able to speak with me, hear me saying "dad, I love you, we will pull you out, see you tomorrow!" or see his grandchildren for the first time which he so dreamed about 😞 while I was secretly thinking of being childfree up to this point... No matter what I do now, I. Cannot. Change. Anything. and this is killing me.

...The big giraffe has been with us for so long that I don't even remember who bought it for him, whether it was me, or my mom, or someone else. But it resembles my father in some way, because he's tall and has always had thin legs and arms. And later my stepmom bought him a second little giraffie, and my dad always kept it in his room in a similar position, representing him and me 💔


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