He had been suffering from Alzheimer's, and progressive weakness in his legs led us to send him to the hospital on Dec 17th. When he was in the hospital we learned that he had an autoimmune disorder which put him into renal failure, and this was why he was getting progressively weaker.
The autoimmune disorder was curable and they started him on the drugs for it. Sometime during the early stages he aspirated some food and got aspiration pulmonitis. Around 1 AM on Tuesday, January 9th, they intubated him and put him into the critical care unit.
Aspiration pulmonitis is a very hard condition to come back from. It kills people much younger than him; but he surprised everyone by spending less than 24 hours on the ventilator. He was lucid and responsive on Thursday, although he looked terrible.
Unfortunately, combined with the autoimmune disorder causing renal failure, it was just a bit too much, even for someone as stubborn as he was. He had REALLY HATED being intubated and on the ventilator; his blood pressure crashed after dialysis early on Jan. 12th, and we decided that we would not let him be intubated again.
We got some other bad news later on the 12th: he had pneumonia, and despite the antibiotics it was getting worse. At that point we had them put him back on regular oxygen (no pressure device, no HPAP, and certainly no intubation!) from a nasal cannula, and to let nature take its course.
Overall, it's hard to be in this situation, but I take comfort from the fact that his suffering is over. He had some idea of what was happening to his mentation due to the Alzheimer's, and he was really unhappy about it. His quality of life could not improve from where it was in mid-December; it could only get worse. When I think about some of the Alzheimer's patients I worked with in the nursing home, I think that this way might in fact be better for all of us--he died before he lost the ability to recognize family members. When he could get the words though all the gunk in his lungs, he could still form complete sentences. So that, at least, is comforting.
Dad was 79 years old, and we're all going to miss him. But we know we'll see him again, someday.