The Darkest Hour

14th October. It started off like any other normal day but did not finish like one. It was a day after we were finished with the religious service at the house. Father was greeting everyone, being himself like he always has, authoritative yet warm to greet. One thing that caught my eye was the unusual amount of weight he had lost since the last time I saw him, but it never crossed me as anything serious.

He was still active like he had been. I visited the town, not in father's car. He didn't let me drive it but anyways, I got to meet my best friend Aditi and her family. The old rusty pathways of the town reminded me of all the times I spent there, shooting clouds and vagabonding. I visited the market place and saw a few old faces but mostly new ones.

Later in the evening, we all had dinner. At the diner, father was constantly complaining about his hands and legs getting numb. After dinner, I massaged his legs and feet for a while, before we went to sleep. Everything was normal up until at around 4 AM on 15th, my father's sister stormed into my room, yelling my name in haste.

I am a deep sleeper on the usual. I could hear someone calling my name but it felt like I was dreaming subliminally. She took off my bed sheet and yelled, "Ravneet go look at your father, he is having trouble breathing!"

I opened my eyes and sat up straight in a jiffy. I shot out of my bed in a instant and jolted towards his room. As I entered, I saw him sitting upright on the bed, his face and body drenched in sweat and turning red.Just a look at him was enough to see that he was having a hard time breathing.

I quickly checked his sugar levels. He was alarmingly clocking at 300 mg/dl, way above the normal.

I tried checking his blood pressure, but he didn't let me. In matter of minutes, he was bathing in sweat. My aunt went to my younger uncle's house and woke him up. My uncle came over swiftly and suggested we take him to the nearest hospital. We got him in the car and started driving towards the hospital. I was in the backseat with him, rubbing his back to help him breathe but it felt in vain. He was in a lot of pain, and it felt like he was struggling hard to stay afloat. He was grunting in pain, making noises while trying to breathe while we were loosing our mind, trying to understand what could have went wrong in a day. He was fine just the night before.

While father was panting, with his head lowered while I could see drops of sweat dripping down his nose, me and my uncle were trying to figure out a place to take him to. One of the main problems with living in my town is there are no proper medical amenities around. We took him to a clinic but got turned down. They said that the doctor is asleep and we should try taking him to the Government hospital.

By this time my dad was in a desperate condition and was worsening with every lost moment. He tried uttering that he needs an oxygen cylinder. I decided to call my friend Ayush, who is a doctor in India.

I told him the symptoms and asked him what can we do and where should we take him.

Ayush suggested me to take him to local government hospital and get him hooked on an oxygen cylinder and possibly get an ECG done as well. By that time, we were already approaching the hospital. It was about 5 AM. We took him out of the car and rushed him to emergency.

The doctor came over and put him on oxygen cylinder while he started performing some procedures. The oxygen cylinder wasn't working and father told me for asking them to change it. I ran towards the doctor and told him that dad is still having trouble breathing. They acted quick and changed the oxygen cylinder and then performed an ECG. I managed to get a glimpse at his ECG report and it was abnormal.

At that moment, me and the doctor realized that my father is having an heart attack. I was taken aback. I felt weak in my stomach and I felt my head spiraling inwards.

By that time mother along with aunt and my elder uncle arrived at the hospital. Mother had telephoned some of father's closest friends and one of father's friends Sachin uncle showed up at the hospital too.

No one uttered a word, but you could sense the rising tension in the atmosphere. We were all looking at each other in awe, mostly shocked. No one knew what to suggest or what was coming next.

Within minutes doctor prescribed some medicines and injections and administered first aid to dad. We all were terror-stricken, cold at our feet. I was trying hard not to shed a tear. Mother was crying and everyone was panicked. Every passing moment felt like an eternity. Soon a doctor appeared and announced that they are referring father to a neighboring city hospital and we should prepare to leave immediately. Every moment was critical.

Sachin uncle suggested a hospital which was an hour and half away in a neighboring town. My younger uncle arranged for an ambulance and swiftly, we got dad in along with my elder uncle.

Mother was trying to get in the ambulance. Something in me suggested it was not a good idea. It broke my heart to do this to my mother, but I asked her to come in another car so that I can go with father and take care of him. She looked at me crying. She did not argue, just gave in to what I said, in hope that father will be fine. I could sense she was shook to the core, we all were. I got in the van and within minutes, we were on the road.

My dad is a pillar of strength for every single person in the family, an anchor that holds down our family's ship. He is the eldest one and takes care of everybody. I guess in order to care for everyone, he forgot to take care of himself. There were no seat belts in the van. My uncle sat on one side of father while I sat on the other, holding him so that he doesn't fall or move much with all the bumps on the road.

Father was still struggling to breathe. I kept asking him if he was okay. He was trying to rest his head to fall asleep, but I kept asking him not to. I kept talking to him to not let him close his eyes just yet, till we reach the hospital. I held his hands tightly in mine and kept telling him that he will be fine. I guess in doing that, I was more or less just convincing myself that he will be fine, that its all going to be fine.

I do not know why but I texted Harneet in USA, saying that I will need to extend my flight back to Australia. She asked me why and I broke the news to her which I realized was very stupid of me but I guess at that point I desperately needed to talk to someone so I won't break down infront of father.

Harneet called mother asking her about father and texted me continuously to give her updates. Like all of us, she freaked out too. Meanwhile, I could look at mother and my family following us, I was holding father's hand so tight. It was about 6 AM. Time was running out. My father was sinking, and I was witnessing him sinking. The hospital was still a long way to go.

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