2013 has been one of the Greatest Years of my Life Yet also Likely the Most Trying

You all have been reading about what is likely one of the most exciting chapters in Diana and my lives. Putting our careers at risk for taking two years off, renting out the houses, driving across the country and so far sailing the entire East Coast and down to the Caribbean. In between there has been a lot of exploring, more boat repairs and improvements than you can imagine, visits from friends and family and even some relaxing.

What you haven’t been hearing about is a family emergency that happened on September 16th. I got a call late in the evening that my Dad was in the hospital for a head injury. At the time I actually got to speak to him for a few minutes and they were just going to monitor him; from that point things got much worse. His brain bleed paralyzed the left side of his body and they had to do emergency surgery to relieve the pressure and left him in a drug induced coma.

Diana and I had to figure out how to get the boat secured, find a place for the dog to stay and get on a plane to Seattle ASAP. Luckily Brett was still with us so he was a big help in getting everything figured out. The Annapolis City Harbor Master let us keep Ryana on a back mooring ball while we were gone and some great folks we spoke to on the VHF earlier in the season were anchored next to us and kept an eye on Ryana while were away. We managed to catch a flight out of Baltimore that same afternoon.

Upon arriving I stopped by my Mom’s house then went off to visit my Dad in the hospital and he was quite a site; tubes and wires all over and a head bandage that made him look like a Q-Tip. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it was a bit shocking. The doctor and nurses wouldn’t give any concrete information about his prognosis as brains are still quite a mysterious organ in the medical field. He remained in this state for about 2 weeks with a few scary nights where his pulse and breathing would get very erratic.

His slow recovery has been marked with weeks of status quo then significant overnight improvements. After leaving late in the evening and then arriving the next day you would sometimes walk in to what you would think was a different patient. He would gain clarity and awareness just overnight, but then remain at that level for weeks, until another significant step change occurred.

All through this I was trying to figure out how to get control of his finances and medical decisions. I did eventually find the PoA document that allowed me to free up some assets for a few bills and also make decisions based on his medical care.

After spending about 3 weeks back west and panicking about all the boat projects that weren’t getting done to prepare for our journey to the Caribbean my mom convinced me to go back to the boat and my wife and dog. Since my departure my mom has taken care of almost everything in my absence and allowed Diana and I to continue with one of our life dreams. That’s not to say I haven’t had my freakout moments and wanted to immediately return to assist, but there really isn’t any more that I could do than my mother already has.

Overall my father was in the hospital for about an entire month with most of the time spent in the ICU. His medical bills have piled into astronomic figures as he does not have medical insurance so that’s been a fun situation for all. . . don’t be uninsured! Don’t just think about yourself think about the risk it is to your immediate family.

He is now in a rehabilitation center in Enumclaw WA where he is maybe about 70-80%. He has most of his long term memory, is fairly quick witted and can take care of his basic needs of bathing, dressing and eating. He is still not ready to be released back into the wild by any state. He easily gets overwhelmed, has very poor short term memory and does not believe he even needs any psychiatric help even though he is on some pretty heavy drugs at the moment and has a substance abuse issue that was a contributing factor to his accident

We don’t know where the future has in store for him; it’s unsure if he’ll ever be independent again. The brain takes a long time to heal and the doctors say it could be up to a year until we understand what his long term prognosis is. The next step is to get him out of the rehabilitation center and into a lower level care facility that will save us some money as there isn’t too much more they can do for him.

So my overall feelings as 2013 comes to an end are;

  • Satisfaction and pride based on what Diana and I have accomplished this year.
  • Gratitude to all the people that have helped and continue to help any way they can. I have a mother that has stepped up way beyond her call of duty to help her ex-husband. All my father’s wonderful neighbors that have helped him out during this time; Rich, Kathy and Stephen. Fellow cruisers that have assisted us numerous times especially Tokkie and Gail on ATA Marie, Curt and Kathy on Five & Dime and Kevin from Port Annapolis. And last but not least Diana for being very supportive and dealing with my own madness through this mess.
  • Warmth from all the great people we have met this year and have created new life long friends in a short amount of time. We were even included in Te Mana’s family Christmas dinner, thanks Heather, Kirk and Russel . . . it’s been fun!
  • Optimism that my father will continue to have big step improvements in 2014 and Diana and I will continue enjoying this once in a life time adventure!

May your new year bring; happiness, love and a whole new set of wonderful memories.