The moments in life that make you stop and remember your priorities are often not subtle moments. Life gets busy, especially with kids and work (etc. etc.). When those moments happen that make you stop they are like someone punching you in the gut and making you gasp for air.
One of those moments happened while I was at work. End of shift, September 22, a phone call from my sister. She usually sends a text and knows I’ll call her back after work. This time it went to voicemail, she left a message then called my Hubs to tell him I may need to get home sooner than planned. It was the tone of her voice and the slight hitch that was noticeable when she spoke about our dad’s health declining more rapidly than they expected.
Fighting back tears I snapped at my Hubs over something he said to our four year old while on the phone with him. It wasn’t even part of the conversation, just a distraction for me to change the subject and get off of the phone as the lump in my throat swelled. I love a good cry, but not when I’m in uniform and have to solve other people’s problems who expect a little more bearing and professionalism. It wasn’t fair. It was too soon and raw after losing my father-in-law in April to a painful battle with cancer.
My dad (step-dad endearingly called Mr. Bob) was diagnosed with Parkinson’s a few years ago. But there was something more than Parkinson’s rearing its ugly head. The degenerative and immobilizing disease rapidly progressed with “episodes” where he would stumble and sometimes pass out, only to come out of it with a glazed look and no explanation. He would have them when he stood up which most of us assumed was blood pressure related. They got worse to where it would happen with him sitting down.
My mom saw it daily. She tried to explain it to doctors who ran tests who said over and over everything looked normal. The test results were normal they were just running the wrong tests. The medical gurus at the VA just nodded their heads and were unable to explain it—the pain, random falling, confusion, the dizziness, all of it worsening rapidly—so they kept upping his medications.
On August 22, or about that time, they finally got a doctor who was straight with them. With everything Momma described, new tests and the Doctor’s experience, the diagnosis was not Parkinson’s…it was worse. Multiple System Atrophy (MSA) is the name given to this evil foe that had been infiltrating dad well before any symptoms alerted them.
According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, MSA is:
“…a progressive neurodegenerative disorder characterized by symptoms of autonomic nervous system failure such as fainting spells and bladder control problems, combined with motor control symptoms such as tremor, rigidity, and loss of muscle coordination. MSA affects both men and women primarily in their 50s. Although what causes MSA is unknown, the disorder's symptoms reflect the loss of nerve cells in several different areas in the brain and spinal cord that control the autonomic nervous system and coordinate muscle movements.”
My definition, it's Parkinson’s on steroids. It is known to advance rapidly with progressive loss of motor skills, eventual confinement to the bed, and death. The cause of MSA is unknown. There is no remission. There is no cure. The only sure way to diagnose multiple system atrophy is to examine brain tissue after death—my God, this sounds like rabies.
Monday, September 10, 2012 dad was placed into hospice care. It was less than a month that he went from being able to communicate, eat, drink and somewhat manage his personal needs independently to being a shell of a body lying in a hospice bed with family surrounding him. We begged him to swallow his medication, to eat or drink anything, to just sleep and wake up in God’s arms because the pain we felt for him, seeing him this way, was not able to be treated with morphine.
Broken hearted, we said goodbye to him on Thursday, October 4, 2012. Dad remained very brave and kept us all close to him with his memories and stories up to the end. He told us all he would be going soon and that he loved us. Amazingly I said goodbye on the Monday before telling him I would see him that Saturday. He shook his head and said, “No, they won’t let you inside.” I told him I would be here anyway to see him and he said, “ok, but you won’t get in. I love you.”
I love you. He made that known through all the years in my life. He was the man that showed me what a daddy is suppose to be and what I wanted a husband to be like, as he treasured my mother. Forever the greatest man in my life, I love you more Mr. Bob. I love you more.
Seale Funeral Service, Inc.
1720 S.Range Ave., Denham Springs LA 70727
Robert “Bob” Lester Jackson, 70, passed away Thursday, October 4, 2012 at his home in Pine Grove, LA. He served and defended our country in the U.S. Navy, was a member of Emmanuel Baptist Church and once longtime business owner of Slade’s Industrial Services, Baton Rouge. He was known to everyone as “Paw Paw” and will be dearly missed by all who knew and loved him.
Survived by his wife, Debbie Jackson; children and spouses, Sheri Payton, Robin Taylor, Bobby and Larquel Jackson, Elaina and Heath Monson, Brandy and David McDonald, T.J. and Beka Buckley, and Sissi and Bobby McLaughlin; grandchildren, Brittanie, Jordan, Alyssa, Taylor, Harlie, Anthony, Chase, Raven, Moose, Bammers, Colton and Cason; great-grandson, Brendan; sisters, Leslie Jackson Thoresch and Rhonda Jackson Swink; brother, Barry Don Jackson; “blood brother” and best friend, Jerry Guffey; as well as many other relatives and friends. He was preceded in death by his mother, Oletha Highfill; father, Lester Wesley Jackson; brother, Gary Wayne Jackson; and grandson, Chance Wayne McDonald.
Visitation will be at Seale Funeral Home, Denham Springs, on Monday, October 8, from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Visitation will resume Tuesday October 9, from 10 a.m. until the Memorial service at noon, officiated by Rev. Paul Taylor, Rev. Greg Stewart and Rev. Max Landry. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Children’s Home Inc. located in Paragould, AR. www.childrenshome.org.