Eastern Hemisphere, Travel

the day it all changed

When we were in the Philippines, we learned that Beth’s father, Bill, had a “reduced state of consciousness” and was taken the hospital. At first it looked like a stroke, but then seemed to be “only” dehydration and a urinary tract infection. So he went back home to his memory care facility. But then over the next two weeks, he went back to the hospital once or twice.

Ultimately they sent him home under the care of a hospice nurse. That basically means that the doctors feel he has six months or less left to live, and the focus of care changed from trying to fix things that were failing and just make him as comfortable as possible. The morning of November 9, our time, Beth talked to the hospice nurse to find out the results of her assessment.

The prognosis wasn’t good. The nurse said Bill probably only had a week to 10 days to live, and if we wanted to see him again before he passed on, we needed to come home immediately. I was stunned; I thought we had much more time. Beth went into overdrive, hurriedly making travel arrangements to return to Kansas City. However, I had two things in Bangkok I needed to deal with before heading back to the states; I’d left my iPad at an Apple service center for repairs and I had shipped at great expense and trouble a new smartphone from the US to my company’s office in Bangkok. So I thought I could take an extra day or two and then return behind Beth.

Beth’s travel plans had her leaving Phnom Penh on the morning of the 10th, then flying to Taipei, then Chicago, then KC. I was originally going to escort her to the airport and then go back to our Airbnb the rest of the day to sort out my own plans. However, after thinking it all over (since I couldn’t sleep) I decided I would just go to the airport and fly to Siem Reap that same day. After all the trouble and expense of getting to Cambodia, I at least wanted to see Angkor Wat, which for me was the main point of going to Cambodia in the first place.

Given that we’d seen the Genocide Museum and gone to the film festival and nearly gotten mugged in Phnom Penh, I felt that if I could see Angkor Wat, I’d never really feel like I had to go back to Cambodia again.

So I checked us out of our Airbnb room after just two nights of the seven we’d paid for, and found an automobile taxi to take us to the airport. I didn’t feel comfortable going to the airport by way of a tuk tuk, given the near mugging the night before.

That’s how the remainder of our trip changed. I canceled as many of our upcoming travel arrangements as I could, and left some to be canceled later. I talked to someone at the travel insurance company about how to file a claim to help pay for the added expenses of us going home early (“trip interruption” it’s called). And I put together a quick plan to see the temples one day, then go back to Bangkok the next day, and then head back to the USA the next day.

We knew from the day we left on our travels that this was a possibility. Bill’s health had been on the decline for years, but he was a tough one, and just kept holding on longer than I expected. We figured there was a 50/50 chance we’d have to cut things short like this, but it was still a shock to me, especially with how quickly the “week to 10 days” diagnosis came.

As it turns out, Beth just barely made it home in time. She arrived in Kansas City about 24 hours before he passed away. I tried to talk to him by phone, but never saw him in person until the viewing at the funeral home on November 15.

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