This weekend we were visited by Banana Head royalty in the shape of Rachel’s parents Phil and Shirley to celebrate Phil’s 80th birthday. On the face of it, becoming an Octogenarian is definitely worth celebrating. If you delve a little deeper however, you’ll realise it’s actually an incredible achievement that 18 months ago seemed like a far off and unobtainable dream. Whist on holiday in Israel in August 2016, Phil fell over after an invisible wall tripped him up and broke his hip.
Whilst in hospital he developed pneumonia and other complications which resulted in a lengthy stay in intensive care. Things were very up and down from one day to the next and eventually Rachel received a message from his attending doctor. “We think it’s best you come out and see him right NOW.” We all knew what this meant and so Rachel flew out to see her daddy. Amongst other problems, he had lost almost half his body weight, was constantly hallucinating and was generally in very bad shape.
We did our best to stay positive and all talked about him getting better and coming home. Eventually, after an emotional 5 weeks of ups, downs and everything in-between he was flown back to Birmingham. Things didn’t improve much once back there but at least he was home and we could all see him. The prognosis from the doctors was that his current state of mind (hallucinating constantly) would likely never improve. Add to that his progressing Parkinsons and things looked pretty bleak.
Suddenly, after saying he would still need to be in hospital for a while they announced he could come home. This seemed like a mistake. He couldn’t walk, was still skin and bone and was convinced Shirley was trying to kill him and steal the house. Maybe the time had come to accept that he needed to go into a home where he could be cared for. Shirley was having none of it. She would look after him and that was it.
I’ll be honest, I didn’t think she could cope. Nothing against her at all, it was a huge undertaking, physically, mentally and emotionally. What if he fell, what if he tried to hurt her thinking she was trying to kill him again? She converted the bathroom to a wet room, had a stair lift installed and he came home. What happened next was a miracle. Within 24 hours he completely returned to normal. No hallucinations, no confusion, it was the old Phil, just a lot thinner. We couldn’t believe it, without going all spiritual it really was a miracle.
Over the next few months he had physio and he slowly but surely improved. He began to walk gingerly with a zimmer frame. He got stronger and one day walked with a stick. He carried on fighting and working and one day he walked a few steps unaided. Today, he walks on his own including up and down the stairs.
It’s been just over a year since he came home. His Parkinsons has progressed and his movement is slow and deliberate. At times he’s totally lucid and at times he hallucinates. Do you know what though, he’s still here, he still has a twinkle in his eye and today we went out for lunch and celebrated his 80th birthday. It’s so easy to take life for granted but everything with Phil has reminded me of a few very important things.
First of all, love is strong and very powerful. Shirley has been a rock for Phil and without her strength and determination we wouldn’t have been out together today. Secondly, hope is something never to let go of. Finally, I intend treasuring the time I have with my family, my friends and everyone else I care about. We’re not here for long so I don’t want to waste a second of it worrying about pointless stuff like the fact we have no lawn as Honey has torn it all up. Happy birthday Phil, here’s to many more.
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