By Dylan Edwards
It’s that small word that normally means something has progressed past your control. That was the question I was asking as a junior in high school.
My dad was, for all intents and purposes, on his last leg. A botched surgery a couple years before had left him a shell of who he was. He had lost function of his intestinal muscles, losing about 150 pounds, couldn’t eat and was constantly in-and-out of surgeries.
I’m sure anytime someone’s parent is really sick, it’s tough on him or her. Maybe it’s a bit selfish to think this case is any different, but it felt like it to me.
The reason for that is my dad was always there. For instance, he would work all day in a plant and rush to watch my football practice afterwards – not a game; just a middle of the week practice when, most times, no other parent was there.
His feedback during the practices and games was something I began to not look forward to, but expect – a thumbs up for a good job or a rotation of the index finger indicating to pick it up.
Over time though, that presence and instant feedback dwindled. He reached the point where he never left the bed, and when he did, it was to go to the hospital for another surgery.
It seemed like nearly all the time my parents were out of the house in a hospital room. I’ve used the word selfish before, but this time I’m sure it was. I didn’t blame anyone of course, but I just really wanted my dad and mom to be home, to come to my football games.
It’s something that I struggled with throughout high school. After I got out of class, I’d call my mother on a day when he had one of his multiple surgeries and not really know what she would say or what to expect.
Numerous times, doctors said he had next-to-no chance of surviving this condition. It was just a matter of time until his body failed due to lack of nutrition. If a surgeon wasn’t warning that this could be his last surgery, a doctor was throwing his hands up in the air after what seemed like the thousandth act of futility.
I’m not an overly optimistic person, but even the sunny-disposition would admit that things weren’t merely bleak for him. They were desolate. I truly doubted that my dad would ever see me graduate. I should have known better than to doubt my dad like that.
It wasn’t until the summer before my senior year of high school, three years ago now, that a hope for his future presented itself. A doctor at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson had his own procedure for those affected with this relatively rare ailment.
A pacemaker, like the common treatment for a heart condition, was surgically implanted to stimulate his digestive system. This recovery was different though.
He slowly began to regain the ability to eat. His time in the bed grew less and less. I came home from school and actually got to see and talk to my dad.
He has now progressed all the way to the point where his diet is relatively normal. He doesn’t stay sick and gets to live a pretty active life. He even grows a little antsy from retirement boredom at times.
And, most importantly, he’s still there for me.