C is for Challenge

April 3, 2014 at 10:47 am | Posted in Family, Family History, Mental Health, Ways of Living | 24 Comments
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A2Z-BADGE-000 [2014]

Warning sign -challenges ahead

Dad was always up for a challenge. Tell him he wasn’t up to doing something and he would make sure he did it, just to show he could.

In 1925, Dad turned four. During that year, he contracted pneumonia in both lungs and became gravely ill. He was nursed at home by his mother, there being limited hospital facilities at that time.

Sick child& teddy

One day, two of his aunts visited the bedroom where he lay. When they left, Dad heard one of them say to his mother,

“Oh Hannah, pray for the Lord to take him”.

When they left, his mother returned and knelt beside Dad’s bed. He felt a tear fall on his hand and looked up at his mother.

“Don’t worry, Mother,” he said. “I’m not going to die.”

It took a couple of months, but Dad recovered and became a very active, energetic lad.

In 1954 we came to Australia, where we lived in the Illawarra area of  NSW. In 1961,  almost the last polio epidemic raged through the district. My little brother, then my older sister, then Dad contracted the disease. Dad was the worst affected and doctors wanted to put him in an iron lung so he could keep breathing.

Iron-Lung

He refused to let them and gained their agreement that, if he survived the night, he wouldn’t have to go into one.

“I wasn’t going to live the rest of my life in an iron lung,” he later told me. “What kind of life is that?”

Old wheelchair

He lived. However, a specialist told him he would never walk again and that he was to remain in bed or, at best, in a wheelchair. Dad wouldn’t have that. A friend drove him to an appointment with the specialist one day and Dad walked into his rooms on crutches. The doctor became angry and said, “If you won’t do as you’re told, I wash my hands of you”.

Dad went to another doctor, who organised a body brace and full leg caliper for him (both made of steel and leather) so he could walk more easily. A friend also made him steel crutches.

Dad made an amazing recovery, forcing his muscles to do what he wanted of them. He had been a concreting contractor in the building industry – heavy labour. Within less than two years, still in his steel supports,  he was at work making moulds for  concrete columns, balustrades and stepping stones. As he got stronger, he was making them from concrete. Soon,  could do without braces at all.

Balustrades

In 2008, at the age of 86, Dad suffered a perforated bowel during a colonoscopy. He was operated on, but acquired almost every infection possible, including septicaemia, peritonitis and bi-lateral pneumonia. He became incoherent and suffered at least two heart attacks. He’d never had any heart problems before, but the massive infections were too much.

Medical staff said he wouldn’t make it and our family maintained a bedside vigil day and night. Dad turned 87 during this time. One day, when we were all gathered around his bed – he was virtually comatose, my sister softly told him “You can go now if you like Dad. You can go and be with Mum.”

Somehow, that message got through. However, it didn’t have the effect my sister expected. Over the next week, Dad rallied. He amazed the doctors, one of whom called him “my miracle patient”.

“Nobody’s going to tell me I can go to your mum,” he told me later. “It’s not time for me to die yet. I’ve too much to do.”

Dad in rehab, 2 weeks after leaving Intensive Care.

Dad in rehab, 2 weeks after leaving Intensive Care.

Dad went on to rehab and then home, where he lived alone (with family help) for another five years. He fell one night as he was going to the bathroom and broke his hip. He died six weeks later, just six days before his 92nd birthday. He had tried to rise to this challenge too, positive as  always, but it was the final one, the one he couldn’t win.

He is my inspiration. Ernest Thompson, 1921-2013

 

How do you respond to challenges? Do you quail, or do you step up and meet them with determination? Do you have someone to whom you look up in times of personal challenge?

 

© Linda Visman 03.04.14

 

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