A surgeon at the hospital severed the blood vessels that fed the ulcer in my father’s stomach.
It was a new procedure, an experimental method the tall young doctor devised to interrupt the life source of and starve the ulcer.
My father had endured the discomfort and pain of gastric ulcer for more than three decades, visiting the Princess Margaret Hospital from time to time to get some medical relief. Suddenly, my father wanted permanent relief. The doctor was ready to give it to him.
“It might work,” the doctor said confidently, trying to allay the fears of my father, my youngest sister and my middle brother.
The experimental surgery triggered a blood flood. Blood oozed out of all open venues on my father’s body. Blood gushed from my father’s anus and nose as quickly as nurses pumped it into my father’s blood vessel. My father wreathed in pain. His bloody eyes rolled uncontrollably.
“Doctor, nurse,” he panted between convulsions. “Give me some aspirin. Give me something. Too much pain.”
They gave him something to ease his pain. He asked for more. They gave him more.
“Doctor, nurse,” he cried again and again.
“What do you want?” asked the weary nurse that night.
“Help me,” he whispered through tortured lips. “Too much pain.”
“The doctor said no more painkillers.” The nurse told him, “You are too troublesome. You are complaining too much.”
My two siblings held aluminum pans to my father’s mouth to collect the blood blurting out. They burned with despair when their pleas for help failed. As they patted my father’s drenched forehead with cool pieces of cloth, he asked God for help and death for relief.
Then my father pleaded out the names of his children who were in Antigua, St. Thomas, England and New York: “Solomon. Frances. Timothy. Esther. Help me! Help me!”
My father called for his wife, our mother. She was with me.
In New York City, I felt trapped, trapped by my father’s anguish, trapped by my inability to ease my father’s pain and end his sorrow.
I longed to board a plane and rush to my father’s side. But, I could not. I would not be able to return to my three children, my husband, the new life I was beginning to build and the new future I was trying to carve. My passport would be stamped with the last place I had visited, the last time I had entered that place, and the last date I had departed from it. My passport would have shown that I had left New York later, months later than the time immigration had given me to stay.
My passport would have shown that I was an illegal immigrant.