I recently mentioned the sad death of a man that I interviewed, in 2018, with advanced prostate cancer.
His name was Richard.
I have become great friends with one of his daughters, DeeDee. She would perhaps tell you that I have become the bully brother that she never had and never knew she always wanted.
I asked her if she wanted to update the blog and she was totally up for it. What I was totally unprepared for was the incredulous, heartbreaking story she would tell me.
A brief recap. The full interview can be found in blog 32. The Other Side. I suspected that Richard’s prostate cancer had metastasised, from what he had told me during the course of the interview. That means it had broken out of the protective coating of the prostate and has spread to other organs. All I could do was tell DeeDee of my suspicions and suggest to her that she went with him to his next appointment.
He confirmed my suspicions when I did a follow-up chat a couple of months later and he told me that the doctors had cancelled the operation that he had been scheduled for. He was happy and thought that it was a good thing that he didn’t need the surgery anymore. It actually wasn’t and meant quite the opposite. He would either refuse to allow DeeDee to accompany him to any of his appointments or he would just not tell her.
Richard lived with his partner for over 34 years. He had one daughter with her and 4 other daughters by 3 other women. He liked the ladies and they liked him. His partner never made an effort to get on with his other daughters. In fact, she went out of her way to let them know they were unwelcome and she wanted the bare minimum to do with them. If fact if I was to say she had a barely concealed contempt and jealously towards them I would probably be closer to the mark. She hated them all with a twisted rabid passion. There was a possibility she wasn’t a ‘full deck of cards‘. She had also poisoned her daughter to be the same towards them. Let’s call the partner Cruella and her daughter and Cruella the Apprentice.
On the odd occasion when Richard was honest about how he was feeling he would complain about aches and pains in his legs. Even then he would play down what must have been excruciating pain as the prostate cancer had spread to his legs. When the country went into lockdown he was classed as vulnerable and needed to stay isolated from the outside world.
However, Cruella and Apprentice had other ideas. Somehow, she and Apprentice persuaded the kind mannered Richard that he had to make an urgent journey to Cruella’s sister’s house, over an hour away. Life-saving medicine, the final design for a nuclear fusion reactor perhaps? No, a delivery of Lemon Grass tea was of the most critical importance regardless of the deadly pandemic sweeping the globe. This was on Mother’s Day. DeeDee would find out the beginning of her dad’s final demise from her sisters, who were in more frequent contact.
DeeDee got a call, a few days after the actual event, that her dad was not well. He had passed out over the steering wheel while driving to Cruella’s sister’s house. Any right-thinking, decent member of the human race would have called the emergency services at the very least.
Not this pair. It gets worse.
Cruella and Apprentice think that Richard had actually suffered a stroke. How did they know? Well, they googled the symptoms that they saw while they waited for him to come around.
As you do.
Then they called one of Richard’s best friends when the situation began to inconvenience them and got him to follow them as Cruella took the wheel with Richard slumped in the back. Not to the hospital or even back home. No, to complete the journey to her sister’s house (in for a penny perhaps) and deliver the tea. Richards’s friend pleaded for them to call an ambulance for Richard but that fell on deaf ears.
Just warming up!
When Cruella and Apprentice had made the delivery they asked the friend to lead them back as they didn’t know the way. This friend now remains traumatised to this day as the last vision he has of his dear friend was Cruella and Apprentice carrying the still unconscious Richard back inside the house. A call for an ambulance was replaced by fish tea, a little ginger and garlic.
I wish I had made this blog up.
It was DeeDee’s other sister Sharon that had informed her what had happened. As soon as DeeDee heard she called her dad. It was now the Wednesday after Mother’s Day. Richard picked up the phone and was extremely breathless. He admitted that he didn’t feel good. Before DeeDee even asks him about what happened she told him that he needed to go to the hospital.
“If I go to the hospital I won’t come back out” he replied with fear in his voice. Every word was followed by a painful gasp. DeeDee stopped him from talking and instead says she will ring Junior instead.
‘Hey sis, yeah dad’s here, we are monitoring him and Mums making him some fish tea. We are going to give him some Garlic and ginger later”
“Don’t you think he needs to go to the hospital?“ DeeDee asks worryingly.
“We’re just going to monitor him for a bit.”
“Are you sure? His breathing is not good, don’t you think he needs to go to the hospital?”
“We are here with him, we are going to see how he is later.’
DeeDee was distraught with the lackadaisical approach to getting her dad’s help. Even more so if they had suspected he had suffered a stroke a few days earlier.
DeeDee tried to call him the next day but the phone went to voicemail. She then sent him a WhatsApp message. She didn’t get a reply but the blue WA tick at least indicated life. She called Junior again.
“Dads fine sis, he had a good night and both him and mum were on the phone. I’m just going to give him something to eat.” She excitedly replied.
“OK, keep me updated’ DeeDee replied.
Sharon called DeeDee on the Friday to tell her that their Dad had been taken to the hospital with suspected coronavirus. His oxygen levels were at 74%. Over the next few days, the sisters would each try to call him. The longest call he could manage was six minutes this rapidly fell to no more than two minutes as his breathing deteriorated. They had to resort to texting him as it was both painful to hear and painful for him.
The sisters then decided that they would call the ward instead to get updates on his condition. Cruella got wind of this and instructed the hospital that only her daughter was to receive updates which she would then share amongst the rest of the family. They were left vulnerable and helpless as they were thrown crumbs of information from Apprentice.
“Dad is doing better today, he ate more than yesterday”
“Dad has had really good improvements in the last 24 hours, he is no longer on fluids”
“Dad is improving, he is doing really well”
Apprentice would regularly report all the good things the family wanted to hear. That was the point she purposely crossed her rubicon.
Richard managed to get a call out to Sharon. She knew it was her dad because the phone caller display said so. She was waiting for a voice and eventually, it came. It was so weak and so frail, but her dad managed to give her a list of instructions before ending the call. Also, his condition was contrary to the crumbs they were being fed by Apprentice.
This was the first time that Sharon actually contemplated that their dad could actually be dying. Sharon called her sisters and she cried and cried uncontrollably. Sharon was sure dad was ‘going to leave us’ the reality of the call pulled on her heartstrings right into the next day. The next day Sharon got another call from dad, where he sounded much better than he did previously. Dad must have mustered up everything within him to call again leaving her with an assurance that he was feeling better.
When Sharon called her siblings, she was much better than the day before and did not feel that dad was at death’s door. The call from dad and then a positive update from Apprentice gave them a bit of hope. On the Monday which would have been his ninth day in the hospital, Apprentice alerted the sisters that dad was being moved. Looking back, with the constant stream of positive updates, it almost sounded like he was improving hence the move. However, we now know the truth.
One of the later updates said that Richards’s phone charger was stolen. Ironically, his phone was also dead so he wouldn’t be able to call us or even read messages from his other daughters.
The Thursday afternoon they got the dreaded call that they hoped they would never hear. The hospital had called the sisters to tell them to come and say goodbye to their father. This was a complete surprise. The sisters had been getting one update after another from Junior saying how he had been improving.
Jackie made her way to the hospital in a daze, meeting up with her other sister Sharon on the route. To hell with the lockdown. When she arrived at the locked ward the nurse on the intercom announced,
“There are no patients in this ward. The last patient was moved out two days ago”
Jackie and Sharon stood stunned. It did not make any sense. Once the nurse had looked up Richards name the horrific truth emerged.
“Your father has moved to the End of Life Care ward three days ago”
Through the tears, Sharon called DeeDee while Jackie made her way, on autopilot, to the End of Life Care ward. It was indeed true Richard was in the ward. With the current COVID 19 guidelines in place, only one person could be at the bedside. Junior was already at her dads’ side. Jackie furiously sent messages to Junior begging her to allow her to say goodbye to her dad. Blue WhatsApp’s ticks would indicate the messages were received but also being ignored. Another update eventually came from Junior,
“Dad is dying! The hospital said they called too early so the next call we get will be to say goodbye’
Whilst this was all unfolding, DeeDee contacted Richards’s sister to let her know her brother was dying and that it would be that very same day. Apprentice finally left the hospital late afternoon. She had left Richard on his own, on his final day to go back home to celebrate his life with a few drinks and music all to be proceeded by a prayer meeting.
Of course, the other sisters were not invited.
The next few hours were unexplainable. They tried to continue as normal but waiting for the phone to ring with that dreaded call. DeeDee took the opportunity to contact her 93-year-old grandmother to semi prepare her with the news that was pending. It was no way the easiest call to make because the bond they shared as mother and son was a beauty to behold. Dad loved his mother with his whole being. Something the daughters sometimes wished they had experienced themselves.
Grandma answered the phone hurriedly saying hello so quickly that you would miss it if you blinked just to get the question in her heart and mind,
“How’s Richard?” She asked. For the first time, she was going to know just how sick her son really was.
“Grandma, he’s not doing too good”
“Do you think he’s got the COVID?” You could hear the trembling in her voice.
“I believe it is mum. He is still with us, but we are not sure of what is happening” DeeDee replied. Grandma begins to wail, with the pain coming from deep inside.
“I’m going to call you later, I’ll keep you updated, love you” DeeDee eventually replied before slowly putting down the phone.
If you think this story cannot get any worse, so did I.