A few months ago I received a call from the hospital. It was the Registrar on duty. I knew my father had gone there for a routine check up earlier in the day.
“Mr Di Stefano”, it was 9.30pm. “Your father has an abscess in his bowel. It has ruptured and he is spilling bile into his system. This is a serious operation for someone of 84 years old. He may not come out of it. There may be severe complications. However, if we don’t operate immediately, he will have approximately 36 hours to live.”
“Mr Di Stefano, are you still there.” I was hoping he would go away and it was all a dream.
“I’m sorry, you are talking about my father, Giovanni Di Stefano? You’re sure it’s Giovanni Di Stefano?”
“Yes, he is here. My suggestion is for us to make him comfortable and let him go quietly.”
“I’m sorry, just to confirm, you are talking about my father, Giovanni Di Stefano?”
“Yes, look I know this is hard, but …”
“I’ll call you back.”
My brother and I decided to go head with the operation. We knew that my father believed that even the slimmest hope was more hope than you can ever expect. It was a long operation. He came through it quite miraculously. The doctors were quite amazed.
He was incredibly confused for a long time. No idea where he was or who we were. The doctors again said it would be amazing if he made it out of the ward.
Five weeks later he was moved out of the ward. The doctors were amazed. They said he would have to spend the rest of his life in a Nursing Home. We looked for a nursing home that was appropriate. The doctors said that because of his heart and other complications, he probably wouldn’t make it our of the hospital.
During this time my father had a lot of visitors. He would tell me about these people on a daily basis. Sometimes he knew who I was and other times he didn’t.
There were men who would come during the night and wrap him in a carpet. They would dump his body in the back of a truck and drive him into the country. Somehow he would escape.
A group of young boys all dressed in white visited him on another occasion. They sang at his front door, and asked him to follow them. He refused and told them to go away.
A man with a beard came, he had a long cane. His appearance scared my father. He reached for my father’s hand. He wanted to help lift him off the bed. My father refused to extend his hand. He apparently screamed something into the night.
Daily, the nurses would explain the fitful nights he had spent. On a couple of occassions, they had to place him in his chair next to the Nurses station, so they could keep an eye on him.
The doctors just nodded as if they knew what would happen next.
Then the visitors stopped turning up. He started physiotherapy and became stronger. After ten weeks, he actually went home. Not to a Nursing Home, but his own home, with my mother. He is probably better now than when he went into hospital.
He has an incredible sense of life, my father. I don’t know if I would have shoo’d off the visitors as many times as he did. But he smiles warmly when I go visit him and you can see the joy for life that still burns strongly in his eyes.