Back in April of 2009, I started writing a note about how much I love Ann Arbor. The recollected adoration was prompted by the visit my Dad and I had just made to the University of Michigan’s Cardiovascular Center (CVC), a beautifully designed facility on the campus of my alma mater. Our visit for his test began on time and he was actually done early (and surprised me by walking up to me in the atrium where I was waiting well before the time I had set to go back and check on him). The CVC provides consistent wireless throughout, which makes waiting time go by quickly and communicating with others very easy. You can check out an iPod if you need a device during your visit. Even the graceful Jane DeDecker bronze in the lobby is beautiful. It is such a far cry from the doctor’s offices of my youth that it barely feels like a medical building.
For whatever reason, I never finished that recollection outside of starting a draft of it and leaving it in my WordPress to-do purgatory. For all the wrong reasons, I was reminded of it this week. On Sunday, home alone, my Dad called 911, and EMS was able to get him to Henry Ford Macomb, where he was admitted for shortness of breath and placed on a ventilator. We didn’t even catch up with him for six hours, until his significant other got home and found him missing. The sedation required to be on a ventilator comfortably, and the ventilator itself, have both made communicating with my Dad impossible. The initial diagnosis is pneumonia, dramatically exacerbated by the congestive heart failure he has been battling for years.
After a few days at Henry Ford, it was clear that my Dad’s vitals were not improving. In fact, both his temperature and pneumonia were worsening. Given that the strength of his heart is going to be an ongoing complication in his recovery, and since his cardiologist is from UM, it was determined that the best route would be to transport him to Michigan’s Cardio Intensive Care Unit (CICU).
Detroiters know that Macomb Township and Ann Arbor are about 60 miles away from each other. I assumed that he would be transported via a safe and easy drive in a responsibly-driven ambulance. I was surprised, and a little distressed, to learn that he would be going by helicopter instead. It was leaving UM and would be here in 30 minutes.
Angels in Maize and Blue
Michigan Survival Flight is a dazzling unit with militaristic precision. The three-person team walked into my Dad’s hospital room in maize and blue jumpsuits pushing a gurney loaded with medical equipment. Kris, one of the RNs, immediately took control of the situation, comforting us, hugging my wife (already — and predictably — a mess), and executing his game plan with a confidence and ease that was perfectly paired with his athletic, Top Gun persona. Wilson, the other RN, moved with the same quiet, formal confidence, and they migrated my Dad’s medicines and even his ventilator to their more portable equipment very quickly, with the support of the pilot, Dean. It was wonderful, and terrifying, and as they finally loaded him into the helicopter, put on their helmets, and flashed us the thumbs-up before taking off, I recognized through my tears something I had never seen before: It turns out that angels do exist.
Three days later, it is slow going. My Dad’s temp is stubbornly high. His pneumonia is starting to improve. He is still out like a light. His major organs are holding up and in spite of everything he’s doing pretty well. But he’s not out of the woods. It could not be more frustrating not to be able to talk to him, or more precisely to not know if he understands what we are saying to him. We are waiting for him to shake this fever, get off the vent, and talk to us. Please. Here, in this city of visible angels, a city I love. But, naturally, I love my Dad more. And when he wakes up and I can talk to him again, Ann Arbor will be the most beautiful city in the world.