His foot was black and woody; gnarled, like dirt covered ginger. I will never forget the terror in my mother's eyes as she fruitlessly tended to its bandaging, and yelled at him for letting things get to this point. It was a shocking state of affairs. My father was now blind, bedridden, undergoing dialysis, and at the verge of needing his foot amputated.
My old childhood home had changed from whatever it was in my memories and into a hospital. Dad's room was an intensive care unit; my sister's old room was storage for the massive amounts of dialysis fluid boxes he would be needing.
I knew that dad was struggling... but I didn't know the extent. I had been gone from home for far too long, I guess, where at least reality wouldn't have denied me the right to know the truth. My parents, however, were the kind of people that lie by omission -- never telling their youngest daughter whatever might have worried her, or troubled her; never keeping her up to date with issues such as this. It was their way of protecting me... but it was far less protective than the truth. On May 5th, 2003, dad passed away. I only got to spend one last weekend with him the previous March... where he couldn't see me, couldn't go on walks with me, and had the beginning stages of dementia.
For the longest time I was very angry at my dad. To be and feel desperate at the healing of the unhealable is one of the most impotent feelings a loved one can experience. You are overcome with anger at the selfishness of the 'uncompliant' diabetic, not thinking how this would impact family; not thinking of the burdens of family having to be nurses, diaper changers, dialysis providers, and well... at the other end of helplessly watching them rot.
It has taken me years to deal and cope with these feelings; to come to terms with acceptance and forgiveness, and understanding that although complications happen, they are not always due to our choices as people with diabetes. That sometimes, the long ride is just too much -- and the genetic deck is not stacked in our favor.
Except on December 20th, 2013...
A desperate message was posted in a large online community to which I belong by a young man seeking advise about his father's infected wound, how it was not healing, and asking about what all that needed to be done. Someone -- knowing about me and my advocacy -- gave him my name. Then the desperation began anew... this unreasonable feeling of 'how can I save this person's loved one?' What all can I do to turn back the hands of time? I answered as best I could... with all the information I knew.
But information is cold, and stiff. It doesn't change his lack of access to resources, to well educated medical professionals, to the state of the art facilities we enjoy here in the states. It doesn't change that he knew not much about neuropathy, how to care for poor circulation, how to effectively and diligently monitor blood glucose levels, let alone what healthy blood glucose levels were, that Indian food is not exactly diabetic friendly, and that years and years of this status quo would likely not be undone.
Every day, the young man messaged me. "What can be done?" Sometimes, a few times a day. I could see the desperation of his situation -- I could see in my mind's eye, the terror on his face. At some point, I had to say "I am sorry. I am not a medical professional. These are the best guidelines I can give you... and to urge you to seek a wound care specialist." I wish I could have done more. I felt like I was needing to save my own father all over again.
I heard little from the young man, after that... But I had my suspicions. My gut feelings. On December 31st, he wished me a Happy New Year, perhaps in the most somber of ways one could wish it. Just words on a page... not even capitalized. Then by January 5th, he finally mustered the courage to tell me that on the 2nd, his father passed away. And it all came back around, home for me...
I mustered an "I'm so sorry," in the best way that I knew how, never once telling him about my own pain. My own loss. "It's fine," he replied.
Perhaps not so, today... and that's just fine, as well.