My Papa. Why I Am The Nurse I Am Today.

Why did you become a nurse?

My grandfather whom I have always called Papa was a loving, generous, happy, intelligent man. He got colon cancer. He fought with everything he had for two years then decided; but not before considering the thoughts of his wife; my grandma, only daughter; my mom, and his only granddaughter, me; his body had taken all the chemo it could and he was tired. He said if we thought he should keep trying he would. We told him it was ok and if he was tired we would find the best place for him to rest.

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Why did you become a nurse?

His journey began two years prior. He received the diagnosis of colon cancer and began chemotherapy. All of the nurses at the treatment center would fight over who got to take care of him. I cannot think of a person who did not love this man or at the least enjoy his company. Papa got a little better than much worse. It began to spread. The man I grew up with who always bought me the most beautiful Winter coats, threw me in the biggest pile of raked up leaves I had ever seen, and always had a big smile, hug and kiss for me suddenly became very human. His weight began to wither; at one time he was a little more than a regular size man with a large belly. The belly looked like a pregnant woman's would and whenever a family member or close friend would get pregnant they would take a picture of the bellies. He eventually withered down to a very thin man.

The hospital trips were becoming a little more frequent at this time. He eventually had an operation to remove part of his colon and needed a colostomy. He took it in stride. One of the things that hurt him the most is that he was unable to attend my high school graduation. Before the event, my mom, dad, grandma, then boyfriend; now husband, and I went up to the hospital to visit him. He and my grandma gave me my graduation card. When I opened it I saw a cut-out picture of a Chevy caviler. Behind the picture written in the card, among other things was "Let's go beater shopping". There was a running joke between all of us that I would use my graduation money to buy my first car. The mood was light but it became very heavy when we were all leaving my papa to go to my graduation.

Fast forward I do not even know how many months. My family is one of the closest families you will ever meet. When he started getting really bad my mom moved in with my grandma and papa full time to help take care of him. He had a hospital bed in the house. Their family room was converted into a bedroom for him, everyone helped, and he showed much appreciation. I believe this was around the time he stopped eating enough. His doctor prescribed Marinol as an appetite stimulant. This worked for about the first week or so and then did not. The first time he took it he said, "I could eat the whole house". My mom had to call 911 on three different occasions because my papa's blood sugar plummeted to 32 and below. Before treatment, he did not have problems with his blood sugar. He was getting weaker and weaker. This is when he brought up whether to continue treatment or not.

This decision was made in the hospital with my grandma, mom, and me. He asked us if we thought he should keep trying. This was a very tearful and difficult conversation. The end result was where we meet earth angels, at a Hospice. When we arrived my papa said, "you checked me into the taj mahal". This was an inpatient hospice, the unit was beautiful, one would never know that is was attached to the regular part of the hospital. The hospice center was one hallway with no more than 12 rooms; if I remember correctly. The unit was dim but very much adequate, the rooms looked like real bedrooms, no one had to share a room, the family/ patient lounge looked like a regular living room with a kitchenette off the side. The nurses, aids, social workers, and any staff on the unit were magnificent. I truly believe God handpicked these people to be there. My mom and grandma were there every day. I visited as much as I could; I was in LPN school at the time. This devastated me that I could not be there as much as I wanted. My papa had so many visitors however they were all respectful to his needs. There were times where he just wanted to move around but could not due to lack of energy and deteriorated condition. My mom would wheel him around the hallways of the lobby and quiet parts of the hospital he really enjoyed this. I would come in and he would get a sparkle in his eye and my papa's smile not the big ear to ear grin of the past but it was still his. One time I brought us both raspberry milkshakes from Dairy Queen. Whenever my grandparents and I would stop there that is usually what he got. He said he was not hungry at the time so I put it in the freezer, but he watched me have mine and we all could tell this made him happy.

He began to go downhill fairly quickly after this. He went into a semi-coma state; he sat in a chair and had his legs out in front of him in another chair. My papa was in this state for about 30 hours. He woke up and was hungry, which he had not been in a very long time. He asked if my uncle Jim*, his wife's brother-in-law, would make him a perch dinner. My papa ate all of the dinner. Three days before he died he asked my mom if she wanted to take a walk, which meant her pushing him in his wheelchair. She asked where he wanted to go and he said outside to the garden. The hospice grounds had a beautiful garden that was dedicated to all the current and past patients that stayed there. The garden included flowers, trees, grass, benches, and a large brick patio like area. Many of the bricks had inscriptions on them from families who had their loved ones there. After my papa passed we bought two bricks one with his name, birth, and death date, as well as one with a poem I wrote for him on it. My mom took him to the garden and she said he just stared at everything; he touched everything: the grass, leaves, flowers, and trees.

The day he died I had the privilege to be there all day and night until he passed. I knew he was going to die that day. The room had a smell to it and he just had that look. None of us had the "it is OK to die talk" with him. I went to the nurses and asked them how he was; they knew from my tone what I meant. She asked me if anyone had told him that it was OK to go, I said no, and she suggested maybe today was that day. I thanked her and went back to the room where my papa, grandma, mom, and dad were. The nurses asked if we had told him it was OK to go and everyone said no. They said we needed to tell him it was OK and that he needed to know we would be OK. I went in to talk to him first. This was the hardest most painful conversation I have ever had to have. I sat next to him and held his hand, looked up into his eyes and tears began to fall from my eyes. He looked at me with a knowing look. I asked him, "How am I suppose to tell you it is OK to die". He looked at me with a little smile. I told him it was OK; I loved him very much and asked him some questions that will stay between us. I told him that we would take care of B, what I call my grandma, and that she would move in with my parents and me and we would take care of her. I talked about all of the things I remember doing with him, how he was such an important part of my life and that he always would be. I gave him a kiss and we hugged we both just sat for a little looking at each other then I held on to the top part of his arm and rested myself up against his side and let the silent tears fall. He brought his other arm around his front, put it on my arm, and lightly rubbed me. I wanted to stay but I knew everyone else wanted to talk with him. I told him everyone else would come in and talk to him just him and them; he said "OK I love you " I said I love you too papa. One by one my mom dad and finally grandma went in and talked to him. We already knew we were going to spend the night. After everyone was done we all went in together. I sat with him on the bed he was sitting up but a little hunched over, he said he back hurt, I asked if I could rub it; he nodded yes. My mom was sitting on the other side of him. He held his arms away from his body very stiff and began rocking back and forth while trying to stand. We stood him up and then helped him sit back down.

We all got ready for bed my grandma was coming out of the bathroom from taking off her makeup, my papa was sitting in the recliner, my dad was in the family room, my mom was sitting next to him, and I was sitting up in my sleeping bag at his feet. He looked at all of us. My papa took a big breath and three little breaths and was gone. This was, I believe, around 3 am. We got my dad and told the nurses. They gave us some time with him and asked us to wait in the living room while they got him into bed and cleaned up. When we all came back into the room my grandma was crying heavily and kneeled by him with her hands on him saying, "oh Charles* my Charles* my lifeline". I could not look at him laying on the bed dead it was his body not my papa. I had never seen a dead body before. It was my papa's body but he was not there. I did not know how long to stand there and stare at it. I went into the garden sat on the bench and cried and cried. I talked to him saying I know you are not hurting anymore, I know you are free of this, I am hurting I need to feel you, I want to hug you one more time, talk to you one more time, hear your voice and laugh one more time. I know your wife needs to feel you more but please help me too. I closed my eyes heard the leaves blow and even though it was the very end of October, felt a light warm breeze. I knew it was going to be hard but I also knew he was there. I still feel him from time to time and talk to him. I miss him so very much and always will.

I knew at that moment this is why I am in nursing school and why I will. One of the core beliefs in nursing is helping those that cannot help themselves. I fully am prepared to continue to do this. This took place in October of 2005. Right now I am a working LPN as well as a RN student. I will graduate in May of 2010, I will pass my NCLEX, and I will push to be a nurse I am proud of.

*name or names changed for privacy

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19 Posts

Your story really struck a chord with me... My Papa has been my driving force to go into Nursing as well. I have always been close with my papa and am fortunate to still have him with me. He has had a lot of medical issues the past few years and there have been times where I thought "this is it..."but I am so thankful he is still here. The bond between a grandfather and his granddaughter just can't be beat. I just know your Papa is so proud of you. :) Thank you for sharing your story, my heart goes out to you! I wish you all the best. I'm sure you're a great Nurse and your Papa helped you become that Nurse!


44 Posts

I'm sorry for your loss. There is really no kind of preparation that can prepare you for the inevitable. My Father died of Esophageal CA, he was given three mos to live. I don't think I was ever ready to accept the loss of my dad eventhough we have time. When the sad reality of them gone forever hits you, it just break you apart.

I work in the icu and have to deal with end of life situations and be the pt advocate. There is never a moment that I don't think of my dad when I have to terminally wean a pt from a vent and put pt on Morphine gtt. I feel tha pain and loss that the family go through.

I have to think not just a nurse but also put myself in the pt shoe.They may not be able to talk but their physical and vital signs says it all.

You're going to be a great nurse and yes.. NURSING truly is a calling. When you take care of a pt, think of your PAPA and you're going to be just fine.........


6,011 Posts

Specializes in ORTHOPAEDICS-CERTIFIED SINCE 89. Has 30 years experience.

I was already an RN when my Daddy died. But I do know exactly how it hurts. I was there too.


76 Posts

My Papa (father) is the reason I am going to be CNA.

Truly inspirational story you told. Thank you.


13 Posts

Has 3 years experience.

Thankyou for sharing your story. I am sure you'll make a great nurse.:nurse:God bless.


371 Posts

Specializes in Psych, Skilled Nursing. Has 2 years experience.

I miss my grandpa :(

thanks for sharing!


27 Posts

Specializes in Neurosurgical ICU. Has 21 years experience.

This story really made me cry, gave me more inspirations to continue my nursing carreer.


13 Posts

This article made me cry.. You gave me inspiration to to find the confident i lost when i failed my NCLEX-RN exam this Sept 2009. Your article touched the deepest part of my heart. Yes.. being a nurse need to endure and persevere in all the challenges thats come on our way.. Im proud of you. Your heart is so blessed with love and God blessed you with a loving family......


14 Posts

Has 21 years experience.

I am so sorry for your loss. Your Papa sounds like a wonderful man. My inspiration for choosing nursing as my profession was my mother. She, like your Papa, had colon cancer. She died on her 58 birthday. It was the day of my final exam in my first semister of nursing school.

May your Papa's memory always inspire you as you forge your path in nursing.


16 Posts

Thanks for sharing that story!


15 Posts

Specializes in LTC, Med Acute, Management, QA.

Thank you for sharing. :redbeathe