The Faces of Sepsis
Donald "Don" Magee, Sr. - tributeby Wendy Lee Magee Miranda
After my mother passed away from cancer, everyone believed that my father wouldn’t be able to cope without her, that he would fall into the bottle and it wouldn’t be long before he passed as well. They couldn’t have been more wrong. Dad began going to the gym, eating better, drinking less and started going on singles’ cruises. He continued to work and enjoyed going out to his friends’ home for celebrations. Everyone loved my dad.
He loved to laugh and enjoyed making others laugh, always telling jokes or funny stories. He would often come up to Jacksonville to spend the weekend with my family and me. As soon as our friends knew he was coming, plans were always made to come see him and spend time with this big jolly guy. All of our friends called him “dad.”
In May of 2008, I graduated college and dad went to my graduation. I could hear him hooting and hollering, saying “You go, girl! THAT’S MY baby girl” – that was on Saturday. I talked to him on Monday and everything was fine. Dad had just gone to the gym and was getting ready to cook himself some dinner and then watch some TV before going to bed. On Tuesday, I received a call that dad had been admitted to the hospital for emergency surgery and that it was quite serious and I should hurry.
Dad was in good spirits and the surgeon said he was cracking jokes and inviting him out for a beer after surgery. He had the nurses laughing in the background as I spoke to the surgeon. I called my husband to tell him that I was going to Brandon to see what was going on and then I left my house to go to the hospital. By the time I got to the hospital, the surgery was over. The doctor said that dad had an ulcer that ruptured and opened his bowel, which spread bowel contents throughout his body. The doctor said the surgery went well and that dad did extremely well for a man of his age.
Apparently, dad had been sitting in his den eating yogurt when he felt what he thought were chest pains, so he called his doctor. His doctor told a 72-year-old man who thought he might be having a heart attack to “come on in,” so dad jumped in his car and headed to his doctor’s office. During the exam, they pressed on his stomach and he about jumped off the table, so they sent him via ambulance to the local hospital where they did the surgery and found out the real cause of the pain.
For the next 12 days, my sister, her husband, my husband, my daughter and I went to dad’s room, but dad was still “asleep.” He had tubes down his throat and was intermittently on and off of oxygen. They had given him propofol to relax him since he kept attempting to pull the tubes from his throat. He got so bad that at one point, they actually restrained his arms.
Although dad was “asleep,” he knew we were there – as soon as he heard one of our voices, his heart rate would increase and he would begin to roll around. Dad was in there, but he just couldn’t process the anesthesia as quickly as they would have liked. Every night we would call the hospital and they would tell us “He hasn’t changed – all his vital signs are good, he just wants to stay asleep for a while.” He would come in and out of consciousness saying he was thirsty, so we could let him suck water out of a sponge, then he would drift back into his little nap.
One Saturday, my family was going to meet my sister and brother-in-law at the hospital. On the way to the hospital, my car died, so I called the hospital to ask the nurse if she would tell my sister that we would be late. The nurse asked me if I wanted to speak to my dad and tell him myself. I couldn’t believe it!! Dad was awake and talking. We called my dad’s neighbors who came and picked me up, and I went and got dad’s car to go to the hospital while my husband took care of my car. My sister and brother-in-law came to the hospital and we sat talking for a while until my husband called for me to pick him up from the car dealer. Once back at the hospital, we spent a few hours with dad who’s big requests were to go smoke his pipe and a “Thick porterhouse – medium rare, and a good salad with Roquefort dressing” Unfortunately, he couldn’t have either of them, instead he had broth and Jell-O. He was once again cracking jokes and telling stories.
The nurse said we should let dad relax and sleep a little so we left. Before we were out of the room, he had fallen asleep – but at least he was back.
We went back to dad’s house to get it ready for him to come home. A rehabilitation nurse called and said she was working on dad’s discharge paperwork and rehabilitation orders. She said based on what the doctors saw, dad would be discharged within a few days but he would need lots of rehab to get his atrophied muscles back in shape. Later that night, the hospital called and said that dad was running a fever and was in pain, so they needed to go back in to do another surgery to see what was going on. I gave them permission and we went in the next morning to see him. He was back in his little nappy world again, so we figured it would be another few days before he came out.
Right away, we knew something was wrong – he didn’t move and his heart rate didn’t change when we walked in and started talking to him. Dad never woke up this time. When we went to see his doctor, she asked if we had made a decision about keeping him on life-support or not. We were stunned – no one had said anything about him being on life-support. It was then that we talked to a neurologist who said dad had “No significant brain activity and this is not likely to change.” Knowing that dad did not want to be on life support (he had a living will) we called our family and friends and let them know that dad put up a good fight, but it didn’t look good. My brother flew in from Atlanta and on June 3rd we met again with the neurosurgeon and made the painful decision to remove dad from life support.
He was taken off life support on June 4th. Dad was moved from the ICU to a private room and we were preparing to have him brought home so that he could spend his last days in the house he raised his family in – the house where his wife had passed away 5 years earlier. While arranging the house for dad to come home, we got a call that said dad had flat lined. That was June 6th.
Mom and dad had already made all the arrangements for their burials. We planned dad’s funeral and let everyone know. Dad was buried with full military honors, with my husband and two of our friends in military uniform as pall bearers.
There isn’t a day that goes by that when I think of my father I get very angry and extremely sad. There is no reason why my daddy shouldn’t still be here with us. His death was senseless and his absence has left a hole in my heart. We miss him terribly and wish he was still with us. He left behind his three children, six grandchildren, and twin great-grandsons who will never get to know their great-pop pop.