Around 4 PM, December 29th, 2020, I received a call from Dad that he had been taken to the hospital by ambulance from work. He was experiencing chest pains that made it difficult for him to move more than a few steps at a time. On Wednesday the 30th they performed some tests and found that he had a number of blockages in his heart that would require bypass surgery. On New Years Eve, he underwent quintuple bypass surgery. After several hours of waiting and about 5-6 hours of surgery I am happy to report that he came through with flying colors. I spent most of the evening with him in the ICU as he was waking up and struggling with the breathing tube before they finally were able to remove it. I stayed with him until after 10 PM when all seemed stable.
Dad's recovery has been going well in most ways and he is regaining strength every day. Unfortunately, even with as well as he has been doing, he has been experiencing issues with Atrial fibrillation which has kept him in the hospital for an extended period of time. At this time he is on day 10 and has been poked, prodded and needled for IV's so many times that they are running out of veins to use. With Covid protocols, he is only allowed to have one person visit, period. To say that he is ready to go home is an understatement not to mention that the costs are obviously adding up with every day he is there. I am taking care of things while he is there and visiting every day but it is all starting to take a toll on him. So I wanted to try and do something more to help and this is the best thing I could think of.
In my 38 years I am hard pressed to know anyone who is a tougher SOB or who has worked much harder than my dad. He is 61 years old and the youngest of 3 who grew up on a farm in North Central Kansas. It was a tough and honest upbringing to begin with but then his father died of a heart attack. My grandfather was in his 40's and dad was only a teenager at the time. That left dad and grandma to try and manage a lot on their own, as both of dad's older sisters had moved onto college and were starting their own lives. They still got some help from family and neighbors. But try to imagine, if you will, being a teenager, trying to get through high school and manage any portion of a farm with livestock and cropland.
With all of that, he still managed to find time to be a rowdy, hell raising teenager who loved to drink beer....and still does! Well, the beer drinking part anyways. He also met my mother around this time even though they lived about 230 miles apart. They were introduced to each other through mutual friends. I always loved the story about skipping the last half of school every Friday so that he could make the long drive to be with my mother.
Dad eventually graduated high school and decided to go to Tech School to be an Automotive Technician which he has been for about 40 years. My parents also got an early start on the next stage of their lives around this time as well by having my brother while they were still teenagers and then having me about 3 years later. As you can imagine, having and supporting a family with 2 kids by the age of 22 while also starting a career was no easy task. My parents started with next to nothing and worked very hard to provide a life for us. It was a modest life and maybe we didn't have as much as some growing up, but it was more than enough for us. I am very grateful for everything we had and I will never take for granted where I came from and what it took to make it happen.
With every challenge that was overcome, life didn't get any easier for my dad. My mother experienced a number of health related issues and had long stretches of time that she was unable to work. Dad took on a lot in order to keep providing for all of us. He would put in a full day of work at his full time job and then would come home in the evenings and weekends to work side jobs for extra money sometimes putting in 16 hour days on 4 hours of sleep. I spent a lot of time working with him in the shop trying to learn, help and contribute. While I very much enjoyed all of the time I spent together with him and our neighbor, Montie (who is family to us), all of the hard work and the stress year after year was taking a toll. Eventually it became too much and at the age of 43, dad experienced a heart attack. It was just one of a number of life altering events that took place around that time and none of it easy. Thankfully, he came through it all okay. That was 18 years ago and where some things in Dad's life have been tough he has also done very well for himself since.
It's hard to put into words the type of person my Dad has always been throughout his life and do it justice. Nothing has ever been easy. Can he come off a bit rough around the edges and grouchy at times? Yes, but believe me, he is just a teddy bear inside. Besides, hes earned it many times over. Like all of us, he has his flaws and has made some mistakes. But regardless of what has been happening in life there are a number of things that have always been true. Dad has always.......ALWAYS!!! been there to lend a helping hand when someone was in need. I can't tell you the number of times that Dad has been there for me, my brother, family, friends, neighbors, co-workers and the occasional stranger. Even with an aging, arthritic and uncooperative body full of pain, you can count on him to be there and ask nothing in return....except maybe a beer and some company. Every day he forces his body to move through the pain in order to get up, get ready, go to work, come home, go to bed and start all over again just to provide for himself and maybe have a little something extra to try and enjoy what he can of life.
If there is anything that I can do to try and help take some of the burden off of a man who has already given so much of himself to others, I want to do it. I don't have any expectations for this but it is the least I can do. Every little bit helps and would be greatly appreciated.
For anyone who is unable to contribute, I understand. These are tough times for all of us for sure. I would just ask one thing of you. Take a few minutes to step back and reflect on your life and the people in it. Love one another, cherish one another, be good to each other. And maybe, if you find yourself with an opportunity, do something kind for a stranger.....just because.
Peace and Love to you all.
- John Schrader
- Shawn Lavallee
- Jon Roberts
- Keith Fehr
Organizer and beneficiary
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