Last November marked the end of a fantasized life and begun an era of calculated importance. My dad suffered from a massive hemorrhage and required emergency surgery. Unfortunately, my family’s ignorance on the severity of the issue potentially worsened what could have been a slightly more manageable issue. It was a traumatizing event for all of us.
I remember boarding ambulances and a helicopter that day, still unable to process what life was presenting to me in the moment. At the final hospital, the doctors told me that surgery was inevitable. Death was the only other option.
Hearing those words snapped me back to reality. My mom and I patiently waited while they operated. We couldn’t speak a word to each other except the occasional “it’ll be okay”. 6 hours later the doctors returned. At this point, my mom and I were mentally and physically exhausted; we just wanted an affirmative answer. Surgery was successful. That night we returned home by train. My dad was still unconscious and the doctors told us there was no point in waiting.
We couldn’t sleep that night. My mom and I called friends who had heard the news throughout the day, trying to comfort them even though we weren’t quite comforted ourselves. We reached out to my dad’s workplace and his co workers. Many calls later, we ended our agenda for the day.
My mom and I reached the decision early on that I would be taking a few days off from school until my dad’s condition becomes more stable. We agreed to let my brother attend school in the meanwhile. The next day, we woke up with heavy hearts. Our gracious friend spent the night finding public transportation routes and joined us on our way to the hospital.
A few hours later, my dad regained consciousness for the first time post-surgery.
Now looking back on the event months later, I still remember the day with extreme clarity. It was the first time I realized I really might lose someone I love this early in my life. Everyone passes away at one point in their life but no one expected my 49 year old dad to reach death’s gates that early.
This “experience” has also taught me to be more mindful of my body as well. As youthful as I may be, my long-term habits that I develop now may affect my health as I reach an older age. In the following months after the surgery, my whole family went on a low-sodium diet together with my dad to lower his blood pressure. We cut back on processed foods and opted for more wholesome fruits and vegetables.
Our Wheel of Fortune nights have resumed to its original excitement in recent days. I always used to wonder why there were so many medication ads, especially in between a family-friendly game show. Now they hold a special connection with my family.
Thank you for listening to my story. If you or a loved one is going through a similar time like I did, I send all my wishes to your family. It’s a truly tough time, and staying strong during something as emotionally burdensome is commendable on your part. Find a support system. Your family and friends are there to help you. Ask for help. Tell your teachers. They will understand. And most importantly, trust yourself. You will get through this. Best of luck.
Dr. O adds:
G., thank you for sharing your personal story. Unfortunately, teens have to go through difficult situations like many adults do, but having a sick parent is something no young person anticipates. It is hard enough to balance academics, physical development, social situations and planning your future without the additional stress from the uncertainty that having a sick parent brings. Your words will let others going through similar stressors know they are not alone, and that they should not be shy about reaching out for support.
There are many different types of strokes. A stroke is what happens when blood supply gets cut off to part of the brain. This can happen because there is a blockage (like the same kind of blockage that happens in your heart with too much fat and cholesterol in your diet), from a clot that forms or travels to a brain blood vessel, from the long-term effects of high blood pressure that damages blood vessels all over your body, or from bleeding that happens in the brain from an aneurysm or other problem. G. is right that taking care of yourself now as a teen, by eating junk food (fat, sugar, salt) in moderation as a treat, rather than as a steady diet, can decrease your risk later in life. You may not think “later in life” is so very far away, but believe me, it isn’t!