Dad's Final Journey

By Alex Day

December 29th, 2020

My dad, Charles Day, passed away on Christmas morning after battling for his life for a month.  His final journey was a challenging one.  In the weeks before Thanksgiving dad was having abdominal pain.  As was my dad's nature, he tried diagnosing and treating himself, but the pain continued to get  worse.  He called me on the morning of November 25th (the day before Thanksgiving) and told me that the pain had become unbearable.  We met at the Emergency Department at Norton Hospital in downtown Louisville around 10:00 AM.    

After several hours, he was given a CAT scan and it showed that his gall bladder was extremely enlarged and inflamed.  At about 11:00 PM they brought him in for emergency surgery.  Dr. Cheadle performed the surgery and reported to me at about 1:00 AM that the surgery went well.  He said that he had the largest gall stones that he had ever seen and that in his 30 years of performing surgery, he had never seen a gall bladder like this one.  He had removed 80% of dad's gall bladder, but the gall bladder had impacted dad's small intestine and created a hole.  Because of this, Dr. Cheadle placed a Davol drain that drained into a bag so that the bile and gastric juices did not drain through the hole in his duodenum.  

Dad spent two weeks in the hospital, with numerous setbacks.  One of his initial blood cultures showed that he had a bacterial infection in his blood, he had to be fed through an IV for several days, he had to have a J-Tube inserted through a hole in his stomach, and then a nurse accidently plugged this tube and he had to go back in and have it replaced, he then got a blood clot in his arm, and he was finally released after two weeks.  During this time, with the Covid rules, only one person was allowed to visit during his entire stay.  I was that visitor and spent everyday at the hospital while he was there.  

We brought dad home to our guest house on December 8th, with an expectation that he could achieve a full recovery.  He was being fed through his J-Tube, and he had a Davol drain coming out of his side that was draining gastric juices and bile into an ostomy bag that had to be emptied about every 2 or 3 hours.  My sister came to help take care of him here, but on the second day he was home, she became ill and could not help.  She stayed in our spare bedroom to recover.  When dad was home, my mom helped to take care of him and we provided around the clock care.  It appeared that he was recovering from the gall bladder issue.  The amount of effluent coming from the Davol drain was decreasing (which was an indicator that the hole in his duodenum was healing).  But then dad started having serious prostate issues.  He was getting up every 15 to 45 minutes to urinate and had a constant sense of urgency.  This exhausted him.  

My sister recovered after a week and started helping with his care.  She would take the third shift with my mom and I would help from early in the morning to early evening.  Dad had a feeding tube and the Davol drain that had to be maintained and he needed help getting up to urinate.  We continued to be hopeful that he could recover, but the exhaustion became unbearable for dad and for each step forward, we would take one and a half steps back.  After three weeks of fighting, de asked for us to call hospice and remove his enteral nutrition feeding.  We contacted Hosparus on December 21st.  They came in and provided medications to help make dad comfortable.  He got rest in the days after that and had medications to help him deal with the pain he had.  He discontinued his feeding tube.  On Tuesday he asked what day it was and we told him, and told him that Christmas was on Friday.  He said, "it would be nice to go home and meet Jesus on Christmas".  Early on Christmas morning dad got his wish, and went home to be with Jesus.  

We would like to thank the following people and organizations:

  1. Dr. Cheadle, who performed the initial surgery.
  2. Dr. Vitale who placed the J-Tube and helped Dr. Cheadle develop the strategy for dad's care
  3. All of the people at Norton hospital who helped take care of dad (the staff and culture at Norton were amazing), 
  4. Kayla Cook at Caring Excellence
  5. Ashley Harris at Caring Excellence
  6. Phil Marshall and the entire team of Hosparus

We would also like to thank all of our friends and family who have prayed and cared for us during these difficult days.  We will miss dad tremendously, but were blessed to have the time with him we did.  We got to say the things we needed to and show him our love through our actions.  He was incredibly grateful for the care and resources we were able to provide during his final journey.  Because of the Covid pandemic and in an effort to protect my mom's health, we have elected, not to have a funeral.  At some point in the future, we will hold a memorial service.