Walter M. Windsor
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| The Funeral | Death of Our Father - What We Learned | Ancestors |
|1947: Mary||2007: Billy||2007: Tony||1987: Wendy||1981: Marty|
When we started this daily diary, I thought it would be a brief report to the siblings on Dad's hospital stay. Then the hospital became frightening when Dad became unconscious and spent three weeks in ICU. It was a real roller coaster. We were told on several occasions that Dad would not live, but he continued to prove the medical people wrong. After moving to the Peachtree Christian Hospice on February 13, we felt the diary would be a brief report of Dad's final days. He lived 16 days at the hospice when they felt he might not make it for more than a day or two. He died at 1:19 am on February 29, 2008.February 29, 2008 - 1:19 am:
Dad took his last breath at 1:19 am. Tony and I were by his side - each holding one of his hands as we had done so many times as children. It was peaceful. He was in no pain. - Billy -
February 28, 2008 - 8:00 pm:
Dad continues to decline. His vitals are much worse today.
February 27, 2008 - 11:00 pm:
Dad continues to decline. Dr. Gruver advised me late this afternoon that Dad has between a few hours and a few days to live. His vital signs have taken a strong downward turn. We're playing his music again, and we are making plans for the funeral and a Celebration of Dad's Life. Dad specifically requested a celebration rather than a mourning. The Celebration will be held a few days after Dad's death at the Orlando Repertory Theatre, 1001 E Princeton Street, Orlando.
February 26, 2008 - 11:00 pm:
Dad continues to decline. He has been asleep all day, and he has not had anything to eat or drink (except two sips of iced tea) for several days. Dr. Gruver says he does not expect Dad to be responsive again, yet he seemed to move a little when he heard Barbara's voice when we visited Dad this afternoon.
February 25, 2008 - 11:00 pm:
Dad continues to decline. He has been asleep all day, and he has not had anything to eat or drink for several days. Tony reports he took a couple of sips of iced tea this evening, but that's it.
February 24, 2008 - 11:00 pm:
Dad continues to decline. He was asleep from midnight until I left at 2:00 pm, and Tony indicates that Dad continued to sleep. He didn't eat or drink anything today.
February 23, 2008 - 5:00 pm:
Dad continues to decline. He was asleep from 1:00 am until I left at 4:30 pm.
February 22, 2008 - 10:00 pm:
Dad sleeps a lot, and when awake, he is very agitated. When his eyes are open, he doesn't seem to actually see anymore. It is really sad to be with him. At least he doesn't seem to be in pain. Tony reports that Dad did have some tomato soup, several bites of sister-in-law Hazel's avocados, and some orange sherbet.
February 21, 2008 - 11:00 pm:
Dad didn't eat breakfast. Sleeping and out of it this morning. He was hallucinating all afternoon with his eyes wide open. He called me by name, but everything else was about things he was seeing that I couldn't see. Dad slept all evening.
February 20, 2008 - 11:00 pm:
Dad was reasonably lucid this morning, and he ate some breakfast and drank some juice. He was out of it all afternoon, and he did not eat lunch or dinner. Tony reports that he ate some late dinner and was awake in the evening though largely saying things that didn't make sense. I met with Dr. Gruver, and he says Dad's death will probably be a slow one because he is so healthy other than this lung/esophagus problem. At least he doesn't appear to be in pain. I wasn't able to see Dad yesterday while tending to Barbara's broken ankle, and when I saw Dad today, I couldn't believe how pale he had become in two days.
February 19, 2008 - 11:00 pm:
Dad slept most of the day. He didn't eat any breakfast and had only two bites of applesauce at lunch. He didn't eat dinner.
Dr. McGann, one of Dad's pulmonologists, called. He believes Dad just had another short rally on Sunday. He believes Dad continues to trend downward, and he believes it is just a matter of time.
Tony took my shift today as Barbara fell down some stairs and broke her right ankle, and we spent our day at the doctor for X-rays, cast, etc.
Dr. Gruver, the hospice doctor, examined Dad this afternoon and spoke with Tony. He feels the rally Dad had on Sunday is just one of those odd things that they see with patients nearing the end. He feels Dad continues to decline, but it may be some time before Dad passes away. Dad's heart, brain, and other organs are so strong that it is prolonging his losing battle with pneumonia and respiratory failure.
February 18, 2008 - 11:00 pm:
Dad had a chest X-ray this morning. The nurse at the hospice reports that the X-ray shows bilateral pneumonia. Now we need to know if the X-ray is better or worse than the last one done at the hospital. We await the analysis to decide what we should do next. We are also seeking the opinions of different doctors.
However, when I went to the hospice late this afternoon, Nurse Jeff showed me some physical changes with Dad that usually signal that the "end of the journey" is near. Jeff believes Dad had the rally yesterday because the dehydration caused his lungs to dry up enough that his breathing dramatically improved, and he became alert. What has made all of this so tough with Dad is that he doesn't have an ounce of dementia, and when he is alert and talks, he seems like he couldn't possibly be old or sick.
When Mark arrived at 10:00 pm, he went over to tell Dad he was there. Dad said "thanks for being here, Mark," and he reached up to grab Mark's hand. He had been pretty much out of it with me all night, though he did eat some soup and have a few bites of his Starbucks Coffee Ice Cream. Mark's first day on the job as a caregiver for Dad was the day that Dad went to the hospital. We asked Mark to come in and sit with Dad in the hospital when we couldn't be there, and he has been kind enough to take the all-night shift off my shoulders since I became sick. Dad has expressed his sincere appreciation to Mark on several occasions of lucidity, and it has meant the world to Mark. While Mark has only cared for Dad for about a month, he says he already loves him like he was his grandfather. Needless to say, we think the world of Mark.
The 89-year-old man in the room next to Dad got unexpectedly better and went home today. We were hoping for that same miracle, but I expect the worst again after seeing Dad tonight and talking with Nurse Jeff. The daughter of the man next door said he really enjoyed Dad's music; we have been playing CD's around the clock because Dad loves music! The selection includes CD's from many of his musician friends (Carol Stein, Rick Fay, Gene Clark, and others...as well as Barbara Cook, Frank Sinatra, Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller, and many other big stars from his era and a few more recent stars like Linda Ronstadt and Diana Krall.)
February 17, 2008 - 11:00 pm:
Dad started talking to Mark (his evening home caregiver) just after midnight. He asked Mark for "the biggest glass of water in the world." He then drank an entire glass of water over the next hour. He then managed to eat an entire pudding. Dad last had anything to eat or drink at noon on February 14, and he has not been talking coherently for days. When I arrived at 6:00 am, he had his eyes open and tried to tell me something four times, but I just couldn't understand him. He drank some more water, and he drank 1/3 of a bowl of mushroom soup through a straw. He licked his lips and told me it tasted good! I asked the nurses to hold off on giving him any more sedatives until we see if Dad becomes lucid again. They took his vitals, and his blood pressure was 110/70; pulse was 62; oxygen was 96; respiratory rate was 18; and temperature was normal. These vitals are BETTER than when he was in the hospital and are vitals that anyone would be happy to have. He is not receiving any of the many medications he was on before, and he has not been hooked up to any breathing machine since he arrived at the hospice the night of the 13th. He hasn't even had IV fluids since the 13th.
We don't know what to make of this! I called his pulmonologist, but he said he was too busy at the hospital to speak to me. Needless to say, it made me mad that Dr. Larry Kaplan couldn't spend two minutes with me on the phone. I think we need a chest X-ray to see what the lungs look like. Dr. Kaplan called about 5:00 pm to say that Dad's vitals are great and he doesn't know what to make of this.
This could be one of those strange "rallies" that the hospice says often happens with patients near the end, or maybe Dad has somehow gotten better - perhaps because he hasn't had food or drink to aspirate and damage his lung.
Depending upon what we learn tomorrow, Tony, Wendy, Marty, and I may have to reconsider the feeding tube. If a feeding tube would keep him from aspirating, and if he didn't also have to have a breathing tube inserted into his trachea, the feeding tube doesn't seem so terrible.
I wish we had a doctor we could really trust. It seems to us that none of them really care; they all expect the worst with someone 89-years-old; and we never get full and complete explanations or opinions.
Tony reports that Dad has done some more eating and drinking this afternoon and evening, but a lot of what Dad says is delusional. He seems lucid when asked a focused question.
I spoke with Dr. Gruver, the doctor for the patients at the hospice. He explained that it is possible that the lack of food and liquids for the last three days is what caused Dad to have this rally. Since Dad's problem is fluid build-up in the lungs, dehydration will make that better. He believes we need to take a breath and step back and look at the big picture, which has been a steady decline. He suspects that further decline is most likely, but we need to give it some time to see. He is ordering a chest X-ray, and he is backing off on Ativan. We'll see what happens.
We have been told on numerous occasions over the last month that Dad was about to die. He's still here! Maybe we should forget asking doctors and nurses and just ask Dad!
February 16, 2008 - 11:00 pm:
Dad has now had his eyes closed for two days. He wasn't agitated or delirious today. He just lies there. His lungs make a horrible sound. From time to time, he makes some gasping sounds. Nurse Kathy says Dad only has a short time left in this world. It was tough watching him today.
The experts say the last sense to go is hearing, so we have continued to play his favorite music night and day.
February 15, 2008 - 11:00 pm:
Tony was with Dad from 6 pm to midnight last night. I was there all night. Hy arrived at 5:30 am. I handled 2 to 6, and Tony was back until 10. Mark is now there on the all-night shift. Dad was quiet most of the night last night. He slept quietly and I played music all night, as he would raise his arms when music wasn't playing. With music on, it clearly relaxes him more. Dad did not really acknowledge my presence when the nurses turned the lights on at 5:30 am. Dad's respiratory rate has increased to 48; that means his lungs are working twice as hard as they ideally would.
Dad seems to be in another world today. I understood him to say he saw Mom on a dock. He keeps reaching with his right arm fully extended as if he is trying to grab something. Dad was out of it for dinner and breakfast, and he only ate one bite at lunch, so he has had essentially no nourishment for 44 hours. He is delirious and agitated.
Tony reports that Dad rested quietly tonight. He is delirious when he talks. We doubt that he will be lucid again. It's so hard to see, but Tony and I both came to grips with this a week or so ago, so we are dealing with it okay.
February 14, 2008 - 8:00 pm:
Hy and Mark report that Dad rested comfortably during the night. He has been on medicine to ease the pain. His vitals remain strong. No BiPap!
I spent 2 to 6 with Dad. He was very agitated, constantly pulling at this bedclothes and his gown. I just let him do whatever he wanted as the guidebook provided by the hospice says that's the way to handle it.
Cliff Pine came for a visit, and Dad grabbed his hand. Cliff had big tears in his eyes. Cliff told Dad various Channel 9 alumni who had emailed or called Cliff to say hi to Dad. Cliff informed me that WFTV Channel 9 went on the air in February 1958, so this is the 50th anniversary of Channel 9. Dad was General Manager, President, or Chairman there for 17 years. Cliff was Program Director, and Dad told me that Cliff was one of the hardest working and most loyal employees he ever had! Cliff is infamous in our family because Dad was constantly dictating "Memo to Pine." Cliff says he would guess each morning on his way to work how many memos he would have waiting for him from Dad.
Dad "spoke" on the phone with Ryan, Wendy, Amber, Nick, and Harvey. He mainly listened. When he speaks, he usually doesn't make much sense to us - perhaps because it is so hard to understand him. He has been breathing through his mouth for a month, and he is very dry, and his dentures are out, and he is tired.
Dad ate a big lunch but was drugged at dinner. Tony says Dad has been resting comfortably since I left. Mark has car trouble and can't come tonight, so that means I am on the all-night shift. Tony and I decided when Dad went in the hospital on January 12 that we would not allow him to be alone at any time. With the exception of some periods of illness (we ALL got sick while spending day and night at the ICU), he has not been alone. His bedside team has included his home caregivers Hy and Mark, Billy, Tony, Wendy, Marty, Barbara, Ryan, Yuriko, and Nick.
February 13, 2008 - 11:00 pm:
Dad is now resting comfortably at Peachtree Christian Hospice (www.peachtreechristianhospice.com). It is a very nice, warm, loving place, and Tony and I are very impressed with all of the people we have met. Dad arrived by ambulance at 8:30 pm tonight.
Mark will be with Dad from 10 to 6 am, and Hy will be there 6 to 2. I will be there by 2. His nurses tonight are Donna and Joy. Nurse Katharine Ames met me there tonight to do the paperwork, and she will be Dad's day nurse for the next three days. She seems really nice, and she had read Dad's bio before I got there.
The decision to leave the hospital to go to the hospice was made because Dad's lung and breathing continue to get worse AND because he is now aspirating what little he eats. He was agitated all day, moaning and groaning in pain, fidgeting, tearing at his bed clothes and taking off his hospital gown. The aspiration meant the only option was to put Dad on a feeding tube, and the four children voted against that. Then Dad staged his rally on Saturday, and I explained the options to him, and he told us that he did not want a breathing tube or a feeding tube. So, Physician's Assistant Ruby Weller, who has followed Dad the entire 31 days in the hospital, advised me that the hospice was the appropriate choice. I notified the social worker at the hospital, and the hospice had Lucy there in minutes to assess Dad. She agreed that he was an appropriate candidate for the hospice, but they had no beds. Within an hour, a bed opened up, and the wheels were in motion. (A hospice is a place where people go for comfort prior to death. This hospice only accepts patients with 10 days or less to live.)
At the hospice, they gave us a lot of material to read. As I read it, I realized that Dad has been showing the tell-tale signs of someone nearing death. Even the rally that he had on Saturday can be part of the preparation for death for many patients. The main message the information provided is to speak calmly to your loved one and let them know it is okay to go. (Dad told former employee and long-time friend, Bob Jordan, that the biggest problem he was having in the hospital is that the kids were not ready to let him go.) When Tony and I were invited in to be with Dad after the nurses did their initial assessments, etc., we told Dad we were there, and we both told him it is okay to let go. His eyes were closed as they have been most of the time in recent days. I then said, "Dad, we'd all like to ask one big favor of you. When you see Mom, please give her a big kiss from all of us." Dad didn't open his eyes, but he said, just as clearly as could be, "I will do just that."
The hospice has been instructed to ease Dad's pain and make him as comfortable as possible. Dad was resting comfortably when I left.
I believe it is now just a matter of time. No one knows for sure, but I have to believe he will pass on in the next few days.
February 12, 2008 - 11:00 pm:
Dad was in bad shape all day. Delusional. Making horrible crackling sounds when he breathed. Mad. Agitated. Wouldn't eat much at all. Said he could barely breathe. I met with Physician's Assistant Ruby Weller, and she feels like Dad's lung may not last much longer. She also feels a hospice is what we should be thinking about. She said Dr. Kaplan was looking at a few days of rally when he indicated Dad may be a candidate for an acute care facility (fancy word for a Nursing Home). She says they often see patients rally like this just to slide backwards. From watching Dad for 6 hours, my sense was that he is about to die and that he would be happier with peace at this point.
Then I spoke with Tony at 10:15, and he said Dad has been doing better and has been alert. He says the respiratory therapist discovered that the BiPap machine has not been working properly!!!! So, Dad has not had the benefit that he has needed from the machine for perhaps several days.
So, who knows? This has been a roller coaster since Day 1.
February 11, 2008 - 11:00 pm:
Dad was very grumpy all day today. Wendy flew in, so we were all there to see him this afternoon.
Dr. Kaplan (another of the pulmonologists) came in late in the day to advise us that Dad's X-Ray showed "remarkable improvement" over the last three days. We don't know what to think; Dr. Kaplan's partner (Dr. McGann) told us yesterday that we needed to move Dad to a hospice (which is where people, go to ease into death).
Dad was visibly disappointed by the news as it was clear to us that he had prepared himself to die. I can understand this as strange as it may seem to some. You resign yourself to something and get mentally geared for it, and then someone upsets your apple cart....
Dad no longer seems willing to use the BiPap to aid his breathing. In the past, several days without the BiPap has led to days of unconsciousness that has to be reversed with the BiPap. If Dad refuses the BiPap (which is a horrible deal with a full plexiglass mask covering his entire face from above the eyebrows to the his ears to below his chin that blows bursts of air in his face), I suspect that his lungs are not strong enough. Tomorrow will be an important day - to see what Dad's condition is and to see if he has refused the BiPap.
February 10, 2008 - 11:00 pm:
Dad was wide awake and excited to see me when I arrived a little after 8 am this morning. Tony reported that from midnight to 8 am, Dad was more lucid than he had been since entering the hospital on January 12.
I spent the morning with him, and he talked a lot. You would never in a million years look at him or talk with him and think that his days could be numbered. However, that's what the doctors and nurses feel.
I seized the opportunity while Tony was there first thing this morning to talk to Dad once again about the realities of his situation. I have done this before, but I was never sure if he could really understand what I was saying. I explained the alternatives, and he quickly rejected the idea of having a permanent breathing tube inserted in his trachea. I advised him that Dr. McGann (pulmonologist) was going to come see him and explain things from his perspective, so Dad spent an hour on the BiPap breathing machine so he would be well rested for the doctor. Dad asked questions, and Dr. McGann explained everything to him. He explained that his lungs just aren't strong enough to expel the carbon dioxide, and that he has to have the assistance of a machine to do that. He advised Dad and us that he feels there is only a 10% chance that Dad's lung might get strong enough to work without a machine. Dad made some funny comments, thanked the doctor, and saluted him goodbye.
Over a period of a few hours thereafter, Dad came to accept that his time will soon be here. He was agitated and grumpy for a while, and then he became calm. He made his acceptance clear when Marty walked in from the airport; he welcomed her to his "Last Hurrah," and he was concerned that she may not understand how serious his condition was. He said he was on his "final assignment" and Walter Windsor would soon be "signing off" for the last time, and other such colorful expressions that tied to his career. He just accepted his condition and prognosis like a man. I wish I were that strong, but I am not.
He said he wanted to specify the date and time that he dies. He wanted to get everyone together and then have them "pull the plug." I explained that it can't work quite that way as he doesn't really have a plug, but he was happy that it can kind of be on his terms.
He lit up like a Fourth of July fireworks display when he saw Marty and Brittany. Shortly thereafter he told Barbara that he loved her as if she was another daughter and could have never hoped for more in a daughter-in-law. He said a lot of wonderful things to all of us.
I wish we had taken a tape recorder, because it would be great to have what he said and the stories he told on tape.
Boz, Marty, and Brittany went all over north Georgia in search of Starbucks Coffee Ice Cream, and they found some, and Dad LOVED it! He said something like if he has to go, he wants it to be while eating Starbucks Coffee Ice Cream!
After Boz left to take Brittany home, Dad told Marty and me that he had a wonderful life with Mom and that in recent years, he has enjoyed living life through all of us. He said he will miss so much knowing about the twists and turns in life for all of us. I told him that Mom is in Heaven, and she knows all about what's going on with all of us, and he can, too. This gave me the opportunity to once again raise the subject of asking if he would agree to meet with someone from Peachtree Presbyterian Church. He enthusiastically agreed! I was pleasantly surprised as Dad has always questioned God - especially since Mom died. I immediately called Boz and Brittany, and they called the church, and within a few minutes, Reverend Chuck Roberts called me and arranged to immediately come see Dad. Tony walked in about this time, and Boz raced back to be there when Reverend Chuck was there. Wendy listened in from Orlando by cell phone.
Chuck was wonderful. He told Dad what he had learned about him and his religious concerns from Barbara, Brittany, and me. He asked Dad if there had been times when God was a significant issue in his life (or words to that effect), and Dad replied "three times." During the conversation, Dad mentioned something about going to Hell. Chuck asked him if one of the three times when God was significant to him was when he was baptized as an adult, and Dad said it was. Chuck advised Dad that he is going to Heaven. He explained that the Presbyterian Church believes that if you have ever accepted the Lord in your heart at any time, you will go to Heaven. Dad told Reverend Chuck and all of us that he has had his doubts over the years, but this is important to his children and his grandchildren. He said it is important to him to be with Mary in Heaven. He said he enthusiastically and wholeheartedly welcomes God back into his heart. Reverend Chuck read a perfect verse from the scripture that dealt with a sinner/doubter who was welcomed into Heaven. We all joined hands in a circle and Reverend Chuck said a wonderful prayer. It was a VERY SPECIAL experience, and we are so happy for Dad that he was conscious today and we could all have this special time together.
A little more ice cream and a few more stories, and then Boz, Marty, and I left to get some dinner and come home. Marty has now gone back to do the midnight to 4 am shift.
Dad said a lot more today, but I can't keep my eyes open, so I hope I remember later.
Dad called Robert and Madison and was able to speak to them by speakerphone and he received a telephonic smackerdoodle from Madison that landed right on his cheek! Dad also spoke with Ryan who was especially delighted to hear about Chuck as Ryan has had several conversations with Dad about God and Heaven. Dad also spoke with his half Brother, Howard; this was the first person he mentioned when we asked him who he wanted to speak with.
It's hard to say that the day your father accepts that he is about to die is a really special day, but today was. I have huge tears streaming down my cheeks as I type this.
Wendy is flying in tomorrow. Boz has made Mom's spectacular Nana Pudding, and Dad is excited about eating that tomorrow and enjoying some avocados and other foods that he loves (that are of a soft consistency that he can handle).
The doctors and nurses have recommended that we move Dad to a nearby hospice where he will be much more comfortable. Dad likes that idea. But, Boz and I are not convinced that the 10% is accurate or that the end is that close. It's hard to imagine that when Dad was his old self today. He was the same old Dad we knew before he came to the hospital when the breathing mask was off. The wonderful respiratory therapist, Pamala, was AMAZED throughout the day at how well Dad did in every regard. SO, I am inclined to want Dad to stay in the hospital until or unless we see him going in the wrong direction. We'll just take it a day at a time. It has now been 31 days in the hospital.
January 12, 2008 to February 9, 2008:
Dad was taken to the emergency room on January 12, 2008. He spent most of the next month in ICU. He was released from ICU, but the doctors advised us that he was not winning the battle against pneumonia, and his lungs were failing to do the job required.
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Messages from Friends & Family |
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Walter M. Windsor
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