The will to live

Posted by Madbot on Apr 20, 2005 in Human Observation |

Grandpa’s not doing well. The hospital had put breathing tube down his throat to help him breath but because it’s painful (to have a tube down your throat and breathing pathway) he managed to pull out the tube 3 times – and each time more painful to put back.

Aunty Susan tells me the weather in Taipei this year had been very strange. It even snowed a few times at a few places – I’ve never ever heard of Taipei snowing. Because of the sharp temperature change, many old people got sick and eventually passed away. Grandpa caught a cold which then infected his lungs to the extent that 85% of his lungs are now no good.

Last week at the hospital the nurses kept him drugged so he couldn’t wake up and tied his hands down so he can’t pull the tube out. With all that, he still managed to pull the tube out once by moving his head/neck. When I saw him he was very weak already and could hardy open his eyes or stay conscious due to the drugs.

I was told that during the few times when he did wake up earlier in the week, Aunty Susan had passed him a pen and paper for him to communicate via writing (since he couldn’t talk with the tube). He wrote “wish death” constantly. The times when Grandpa removed the tube by himself, the doctor (and relatives) thought okay, maybe they will let him “go”. Grandpa then tried to breath on his own but couldn’t. Aunty Susan told me that after a few minutes his lips would turn purple from the lack of oxygen and he’d then beg the doctors to give him the breathing tube back – so they did.

Grandpa was meant to go on an operation to cut (?) out a portion of something somewhere around his throat (didn’t really understand since it was in Chinese too) which would then help him to breath on his own easier. The operation was meant to be yesterday but there was a mixup – the hospital was waiting for a written authorisation from the uncles but the uncles didn’t know they need to as they were told by the doctors that it will happen (and later on told no, that’s not the case). So now grandpa is on the queue for the operation. so maybe tomorrow or later this week.

Uncles and aunties complained a lot to the hospital about them using too much (more than the doctor prescribed) drugs to keep grandpa sleeping so they eventually reduced the dosage since Sunday. By yesterday grandpa was able to be more conscious and was even able to move his arms and legs. Aunty Susan tells me that one week ago grandpa was still very strong with his arms and legs (so they had to tie him down) but by the time I arrived at the end of the week of constant drugging, he couldn’t move much of his arms and legs at all.

Either way it’s going to be tough. Grandpa cannot have the breathing tube for much longer (there is supposed to be a maximum time of 2 or 3 weeks a person can survive with the tube) and he cannot breath well on his own. Even with the operation he still needs the machine to breath… it’s just not as painful because the tube can then be removed.

Everyone’s quite upset and the younger uncle talked about killing himself after grandpa dies – silly drunk talk. But yesterday grandpa was able to raise his arms and legs a few times when he was more conscious and they teased him to do some exercise. That was so very impressive and I would have called it a miracle after seeing what he was like for the first few days. He also knew that I was there as he opened his eyes to look at me (with tears in his eyes) and nodded when we spoke.

I’m constantly amazed at the older generation and their amazingly strong will to live and not give-in. Grandpa’s joined the military when he was 16 or 18 towards the end of World War 2. He didn’t fight much against the Japanese but he did lead the fight against the communists. One of the more popular mainland Chinese beer exported outside China these days is called “Chin-Tao beer”. Chin-Tao is the name of a sea port city on very eastern tip of China and that’s also where my mother was born.

As the nationalist party was pulling out of China to run to Taiwan, Grandpa was the man in charge of defending this one was the last remaining nationalist held cities and had received the order to “fight to the last man and take out as many of them with you as possible”. So the story goes that they said their goodbyes to everyone. Saw the communist army coming over the hills with their tanks and what not and then received the order to “get yourselves outta there”. Two ships sailed and that’s how my mother’s family got out of China to Taiwan.

As grandpa was a major leading the group (he never got to be a full general because of politics – don’t think my family was or will ever be good at that..), he still has a group of the old soldiers following him even now who will do anything he asks at the notice of 1 phone call. Except more and more of them dies everyday and there’s only a handful of them left now. I met quite a bunch of them some 8 years ago when my mother and I went back to Taiwan to celebrate grandpa’s birthday. These guys all saw my mother (the eldest of her siblings) and her brothers and sisters grow up and it was quite an amazing scene when they all met up with each other again. These guys are tough as nails. I joked to mum that I can drink with these guys with my drinking skills trained from the university days.. only to be told to not be stupid and these guys used to drink medical spirits. :-p It’s true that old soldiers never die, they become legends.

Never say die.

1 Comment

Apr 22, 2005 at 11:45 am

Aunty Susan sent an email yesterday.

Grandpa had operation on Wednesday and so far so good.



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