80s dads

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When we meet on a cloud I’ll be laughing out loud
I’ll be laughing with everyone I see
Can’t believe how strange it is to be anything at all.

It’s okay. It’s okay. 

The Reality of Cancer and Healthcare

It wasn’t the cancer that took my dad’s life.

Before I elaborate on this, I’d like to first honor the man who fought a difficult four-month battle.

Myung Kim was born on February 7th, 1956 into a low-income family of four sons (including him) and a daughter. Without bias, he was an extremely attractive and charismatic man in his youth, carrying not only looks but also a versatile musical talent and an all-around athletic skill set. He met my mom in high school but they did not date until the late 70’s, sending love letters and pictures of themselves to each other. My mom flew to the United States in the early 80’s and my dad, as committed a lover as he was, joined her in Los Angeles and they finally wed on April 30th, 1983. Fast-forward three kids later, and Myung and his wife established a beautiful family (this usually would not be about me but I’ll include myself for my dad’s sake) that never really broke apart and looked out for each other through the best and worst of times. He loved collecting records, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Blue Velvet, Smokey Robinson, Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, the Bee Gees, zombie flicks, jokes that don’t make sense, embarrassing dance moves, dogs, Nana Mouskouri, Leonard Cohen, the Commodores, Magic Johnson, Eric Clapton, playing Dust in the Wind on guitar, practicing at the golf range alone, and being the best example he could to every single person on sight. To his last day, Myung developed an unbelievable resumé: choir conductor, songwriter, vocalist, music instructor, saxophone/guitar/flute extraordinaire, golf/badminton expert, effortlessly masterful cook, realtor, business owner, actor, bodyguard, model, Korean navy veteran (he was a bugle boy, don’t worry), faithful husband, unconditionally loving father, and proud servant of God. My father’s legacy was a lot to take in once I sat and deeply thought about it, and it is quite unreal to admit that I’m this man’s son, but I’m more than proud to boast that I had a father who demonstrated his love through so many ways.

My father went in for a blood test in early 2015 after signs of anxiety and depression following a traumatic car accident, and he noticed his platelet and white blood cell counts were low. His doctor assured him it was only a result of his past experiences and that the platelet and WBC counts should be back to normal eventually. Up to April 2016, his personality and reactions to surroundings changed. He couldn’t be in crowded places anymore, he smiled much less, he was less satisfied by food and company, and felt more frequently exhausted. His second blood test revealed extremely low platelet and WBC counts, and his doctor never reached a conclusion and prescribed him with what he thought would at least slow down the decreasing rate. Towards the end of the summer, my dad discovered a tumor near his pelvis and then did the doctor take a deeper look and properly diagnose my father with stage III follicular lymphoma and myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS, essentially pre-leukemia), two diseases that have been spreading since as early as my dad’s first blood test.

An ideal solution would have my dad go immediately into chemotherapy and surgical removal of the tumor, but due to his low platelet count, he was ineligible for either procedure. He would instead take multiple trips to the ER in a downtown hospital to get infusions of specialized platelets, white blood cells, and hemoglobin, which should have been able to keep his immune system afloat while receiving chemotherapy. In the meantime, my family had been reaching out to a much more experienced doctor in this realm of cancer, but because the hospital that doctor was stationed at did not accept our insurance coverage, we were left to wait until the first of January 2017 to switch insurance plans and send our father on his way to salvation. We were all hopeful and began our waiting game until the big day. But suddenly, everything went wrong.

For the sake of working professionals and confidentiality, I will keep all names anonymous.

I’m not sure where to begin, to be honest, so I will write the most I can remember onto this list:

  • My dad was taken to the ER and only required his routine transfusions which only should have taken a few hours, but even after reading the doctor’s note, the ER doctor ordered radiology as a “precaution,” which was avoidable and resulted in an additional 2 hours of waiting on average.
  • The nurses who put the IV’s into my dad’s arms were surprisingly inexperienced to the point where I’d compare them to freshman college students. They couldn’t find his blood lines and had to start over multiple times, causing my dad to bleed more than he should have, and they left to find another person who knew how to put the IV’s in better. (More on this later)
  • The ER doctor completely disregarded my dad’s doctor’s note for a specialized platelet order and gave my dad a general platelet infusion, resulting in a severe fever and further delay on his required infusions.
  • Hospital food is usually horrible, I know, but I really don’t know if you consider hot water with a few chopped green onions in it “soup.”
  • The infection doctors have no idea what they’re talking about and are completely useless. I’ll just leave it at that.
  • My dad asked for a discharge approval because of an important meeting the next day, but one infection doctor went on a tangent about how one cancer patient asked for a discharge approval and died a few hours later. And he laughed.

On top of all of these issues, I would like to talk about one man who (although I am really trying to avoid personal opinion) is honestly the living spawn of Satan. My dad had an assigned admitting doctor who is the leading example of what the medical field should not be. This man walks into the room for 30 seconds every 24 hours and has the final say on my dad’s discharge approval based on what he hears from his stethoscope. He has absolutely no personality, is completely apathetic, and fails to hide from his expression that he is only checking in to collect his paycheck. I read a Yelp review on this doctor and one of the one-star reviews (there was no higher review) said that after one patient had passed away, the patient’s daughter contacted the doctor, who claims to not recognize the name of the patient and blames the fact that he deals with so many patients in one day. More on this doctor shortly…

At home, my mom discovered what looked like a rotting bullet wound on my dad’s ass with pus oozing from it, and my dad’s arms were red and swollen. We soon discovered that the wound was a resulting bed sore from the nurses failing to turn my dad on his bed since he was left waiting in the same position for as long as three consecutive days (he couldn’t turn or leave his bed from either the IV’s or the pain), and the swollen arms are from the inexperienced nurses who ruined my dad’s arms multiple times. Eventually, his ability to walk and move his arms started fading away and the light at the end of the tunnel began to gradually dim. On Christmas morning, I woke up hoping for just one good day, but instead I found myself taking my dad back to the hospital, but this time not just to the ER.

In the waiting room, we were told that my dad had to spend some time in the ICU because he was in critical condition. His arms were too swollen to take any infusions, so he had to have a PICC line catheter surgically inserted into his body. During this time, my mom was approached by both my dad’s cancer doctor and the Satan doctor, who happened to be lounging on a chair with his legs crossed while this happened, and the cancer doctor told her that my dad’s organs were failing to recognize any of the infusions and that she should “be prepared.” I’ve never felt so much weight on my chest until this moment. The catheter insertion was successful and we were able to see my dad again but he stopped talking.

My dad was unrecognizable at this point and all he could do was heavily breathe with his eyes half-open. His heart rate was as high as 160 and his blood pressure was as low as 40. I’m having a hard time writing from this point on but we spent every possible second reminiscing on how wonderful a father he was. We played videos of our dogs barking, my dad singing in choir, us laughing, etc, and we’d talk about things to do once my dad is back to normal, like going boat fishing in Hawaii, golfing 18-hole, having a feast, and seeing my sisters have children in the future. When I was alone with him, I told him how he’s my hero and how sorry I am for treating him like dirt the last four years when he did all in his power to spend time with me. He really was my hero and I failed to recognize how selfless and giving of a father he was to me. On December 30th, 2016, Myung Kim, choir conductor, songwriter, vocalist, music instructor, saxophone/guitar/flute extraordinaire, golf/badminton expert, effortlessly masterful cook, realtor, business owner, actor, bodyguard, model, Korean navy veteran, faithful husband, unconditionally loving father, and proud servant of God passed away.

It wasn’t the cancer that took his life. It was the infection from the bed sore.

My sisters know in more detail the flaws of every single person who cared for my father, and maybe I should write more, but my everything is still restless from having seen the man who I forever love descend six feet underground earlier today. I thought I was strong enough. But I saw him in his Corona hat signed by Smokey Robinson and Uniqlo winter jacket waving one last goodbye from his grave, and that’s when I remembered everything. The hide-and-seek games, the breakfast he got up at 6:00am to make for me every day from kindergarten to 12th grade, him ending every phone call with “I love you,” no matter what the phone call was about, and all other memories that stabbed me simultaneously made me crumble and scream at the top of my lungs. The medical system failed my dad, and I’m really not sure how stable I can be the rest of my life without him as my foundation.

So, what should you know? This is also a lot to write so I’ll make a list again:

  • A life without compassion is no life at all. People in the medical field who lack compassion and only study their lives away just to get fat paychecks are very likely to put someone’s life in danger, and it’s ironic.
  • Get the best damn medical insurance coverage you can afford. I understand that it’s extremely difficult, especially with Führer Trump’s upcoming presidency, but you want the best hospital with the best staff to the point where the ensuing debt is worth it.
  • Check the physical conditions of EVERY part of the body of your loved one being treated. Movement is life, and blood must circulate everywhere.
  • Read reviews of doctors treating your loved ones before meeting them because some of them will fuck you over.
  • Spend as much time as possible with your loved ones. This is cliché and you hear it all the time, but this is coming from a heartbroken man whose heart won’t fix itself for a long time. I thought my dad would live to 100 and he’d see all my life accomplishments, but I lose him 40 years sooner in a time where our dynamic has been so shaken up from me leaving home for college. Hug whoever you can, even for no reason. Say “I love you” for no reason. Make sure whoever you spend time with recognizes that they have done a job well done being in your company and sacrificing whatever they could for you.

I skipped a lot of details writing this, but I’m too broken to think at this point. I miss him. God’s with him, and hopefully I join them soon, but I have big shoes to fill and I have no choice but to swallow my feelings and look after my mom. My last wish for any of you is to experience a loved one lose a battle to cancer not from the cancer itself but something that could have easily been avoided. Maybe my dad could have lived to 100. Life just doesn’t work like that, does it?

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Harry Potter Aesthetics - Hufflepuff/Gryffindor Friendship

“We are mosaics - pieces of light, love, history, stars - glued together with magic, music, and words.”

— Anita Krizzan 

Dedicated to @ancalimes