Carl Griffis--April 28, 1940-October 31, 2014

I put this post off for a while--not an easy one to make. Carl Griffis was my father.

Back in March, Dad was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. It was at stage 2b, which his doctors viewed as early enough to be treatable, so they went at it with chemo and radiation, and successfully killed the tumor. (Esophageal cancer is caused by acid reflux apparently. Dad wasn't a smoker, so it wasn't that type of cancer.) The tumor had narrowed his esophagus, which made it difficult to swallow, and the treatment made the area in his esophagus extremely irritated, so he was being fed through a tube into his small intestine.

The next step in treatment was surgery on July 14th to remove the damaged part of the esophagus. What was expected to be the removal of just a portion of the esophagus turned out to be the removal of most of it, as the damage was greater than the doctors had thought. His stomach was stretched to take the place of the missing esophagus. The biggest problem with that was the removal of the valve that keeps stomach contents from going back up.

The hoped-for nominal two week recovery never materialized. Setback after setback cropped up, and two further surgeries were required, one to insert a tracheostomy tube to protect his lungs when bile reflux from his stomach entered his lungs and gave him a persistant case of pneumonia, and the other to correct a twist in his intestine that was suspected of keeping his stomach from emptying properly. The extended use of the tube feeding left him malnourished, as it was only intended to be a temporary thing. He did not thrive. Three and a half months after his surgery, he passed away.

I don't celebrate Halloween anyway, but his dying on the 31st would have killed the holiday atmosphere of the day if I did.

There was a memorial for him November 18th at Engineering Hall on the University of Arkansas campus, where Dad taught for more than 40 years. Quite a number of colleagues and former students showed up, and a bunch got up to talk about him. It's nice to know that he was truly loved by so many people. My sister, who shared caregiving duties with me and alternated days with me taking Mom to the hospital to visit Dad, had put together a slideshow using family photos. The hardest image to look at was the last, which was taken the week before he died. He was smiling and waving at the camera, but we knew what had come before, and what came shortly afterward.

I'm glad he is no longer in pain.

He will be missed, by a whole lot of people.