I was in front of my locker at the police precinct, half out of my civilian clothes when one of the guys ran over to me. “The hospital called,” he said. “Your father took a turn for the worst.”
I quickly changed into my uniform. The desk sergeant, knowing my predicament, told me to take a radio car to the hospital. I sped over the Williamsburg Bridge into Manhattan.
At the hospital, I saw what looked like 20 doctors and nurses all around my father’s bed administering CPR to him.
“He had another heart attack,” one of the doctors came over to tell me. “We started trying to revive him almost 30 minutes ago, but we’re still getting no pulse.”
Then he asked me if they should stop.
“Keep going,” I said.
I stood there in my police uniform, frozen, scared, as if I were a little boy, watching helplessly as my father fought for his life. I had tears in my eyes and wanted just to wail and fold up in a heap on the floor. But my police training kept me together.
After another 15 minutes, they finally got a pulse.
“Thank G-d,” I said.
I called my siblings to get over there as fast as they could. When we all assembled, the doctor informed us that although they had revived him, he would probably never come out of his coma, and that he was brain-dead. We all started to cry, except for me. I was the oldest, a police officer in uniform, and I had to keep my cool, keep myself together for all of us.
My father went on life support. I called the precinct to report what was happening. My brothers and sisters and I stayed with our father at the hospital all that day. We sat with him day and night for five days while he lay in that bed, tubes in his body. To this day, the sound of that respirator still haunts me. Same with the beeps and buzzes from his heart beat on the monitor next to his bed.
On one such day, I looked out the 12th floor window. I saw people on the street, kids dressed in Halloween costumes, and felt bad about being unable to take my son trick or treating.
By the third day, the doctors said a decision had to be made about whether to continue life support. Because he was brain-dead, he had no hope for a life with any kind of quality. After our family discussed it, my brothers and sister left it up to me.
I then made one of the hardest decisions of my life. I said we should take him off life support.
On the night of the fifth day, my brother Anthony – may he rest in peace – started to cry. He said he could no longer stand to be there. Every time he saw our father’s blood pressure drop on the monitor, he felt like he was going to lose it. “You stay,” he said. “I’m taking a cab home.”
“It’s 3 in the morning,” I said. And I drove him home.
I stopped at my mother’s house to tell her what was happening, and just then the phone rang. It was the hospital. Someone told me my father was near death and to get there right away.
But I was too late. By the team I got there, he was already gone. No more tubes, no more monitors, no more of the eerie sounds we had endured for five days, just silence and my father, all bloated, his eyes puffy, his hands swollen from all the fluids and meds given to him. A neatly folded sheet covering his body was tucked under his chin. It reminded me of those photos of newborns all wrapped up.
Alone with him now, I held on to the rail of the bed and bent down and cried and kissed my father goodbye.