My Dad Died in Hospital Five Years Ago — We’re Still Looking for Answers

This first-person column is by Sonali Karnick, a CBC journalist from Montreal looking for answers as to why his father died. For more information on CBC’s first-person story, see: Frequently Asked Questions.

When the hospital called my mom and told me to go to the hospital as soon as possible, I knew what it meant, even if I didn’t want to believe it. Her father’s heart had stopped. Although he was in the intensive care unit and neurological ward for about seven weeks, his death was still a devastating blow.

My mother, sister, and I stood in the hallway outside his room after we said our final goodbyes. As we stood in the hospital hallway wiping away tears, his father’s neurologist urged us to order an autopsy.

My father was diabetic and had an essential tremor, but that didn’t explain why he suddenly went into a coma or had his heart stop.

We knew the autopsy wouldn’t return my father, but knowing what happened might help the family understand his survival in his final weeks and get more closure. I thought.

When the autopsy papers came back, it said “I have no conclusion.” in French. The brief report included a note that a sample of his brain tissue had been sent to a neuropathologist at another hospital for consultation.

After that autopsy report, we did not contact anyone from any of the hospitals regarding the results of the consultations mentioned. I didn’t even know if it was finished. For many years, my father’s death was a mystery, with no answer.

I ask myself from time to time.

He was the first person to joke in the room. He loves traveling by car with my mom and we have traveled all over North America together.

Ramesh Karnick and his wife Sandhya in 2015. (submitted by Sonali Karnick)

In January 2017, my father Ramesh Karnik lost consciousness and was taken to hospital by ambulance. My mother, Sandhya, was his full-time caregiver and used to looking after him when her blood sugar was too low or she had other health problems, This was wrong. It was their 45th anniversary, but when she called him over to the table for lunch, he didn’t respond.

It looked like he had had a stroke, but his medical team told us otherwise. Meanwhile, the medical team performed all sorts of tests, including a brain biopsy, to find out what was wrong.

I was frustrated and even infuriated because I walked into the ICU hoping that today would be the day I found out what was wrong with him. The hospital had a room where the medical staff met with the patient’s family. Sometimes I would explain test results or tell them that a loved one was dying soon. Several times my family walked into that conference room and were told that his condition could be the result of something else, but they weren’t sure.

After his death, I waited six months for my mother to receive a letter saying that an autopsy could not be completed because my father’s body had antibiotic-resistant bacteria that could endanger pathologists. brain samples were sent to another hospital so that neuropathologists could examine them.

I requested the hospital archives to obtain the neuropathologist’s report. I had to fill out so many forms to prove that I was a relative trying to find answers. It took me months to get to that final consultation report, but I was told I wasn’t allowed to see it. We did not release the report unless there was a written request from the doctor to prove that.

A man dressed in 70s fashion kisses a young girl.
Sonali Karnick (left) is still trying to figure out why her father died five years ago. In this photo, he is kissing his 3-year-old Sonali. (submitted by Sonali Karnick)

So wait no more. This time my family doctor wrote me a letter saying he needed a report on his own medical records about me. great. Now I can see the report, right? No. I had to get my mother’s consent to see the files. Finally, you can see the consultation report. But not soon.

The hospital archive was unable to send the file digitally due to problems with the fax machine. Yes, people still use them. I could have gone to the hospital to get the files, but I was reluctant to go to the hospital to get the documents because the infection rate was skyrocketing at the time.

In mid-June, the package finally arrived. Reports say the cause of death is difficult to determine. So again, inconclusive? Not perfect.

The neurologist’s report did not point to a specific cause of death, but explained that it may have been in his brain. FXTAS or Fragile X SyndromeIt is a genetic condition that can cause some of the health problems he has dealt with in the last few years of his life, including loss of athletic ability. waiting to be examined.

A bride and groom dressed in traditional Indian attire are flanked by an elderly woman and man with walking sticks.
Sonali Karnick, second from left, on her wedding day with her parents and husband. (submitted by Sonali Karnick)

This isn’t exactly the answer I was looking for, but I was curious to see if there was a way to go down the same path as him, or if there was a way around it. I gave birth to two boys. My mother said she felt the same way. “Nothing changes, but at least we have something,” she said.

After five years of running wild, doing paperwork, and doing bureaucratic work, grieving for my father, I am tired and confused. I am very grateful to the ICU and neurology staff who took care of my father’s case and took the time to carefully explain the results even when the test results were unclear. However, the feeling that there was no answer did not change.

listen | Sonali Karnick has spent years trying to answer the question: How did her father die?

lab coat black art26:29Story of Sonali

Ramesh Karnik, on his 45th wedding anniversary, was at home with his wife Sandhya when he appeared to pass out. Ramesh said he was in a coma for five weeks before his death. His daughter, Sonali, has spent years trying to answer her question: How did her father die?

after my story aired lab coat black art, I have received dozens of messages from people seeking answers about losing a loved one to a mysterious or complicated health problem. I offered my assistance. I’ve also heard from people who didn’t have the emotional energy to keep searching. This makes perfect sense to me after going through it.

For my part, I would pursue genetic testing, but after years of exhausting pursuit, it is not my focus.My father’s absolute joy in life was his family. It is a legacy that I intend to protect and pass on to my children.

A smiling woman embracing two children with goofy expressions.
Sonali Karnick and two children. (submitted by Sonali Karnick)

Sonali Karnick is the host of All in a Weekend and Our Montreal.

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My Dad Died in Hospital Five Years Ago — We’re Still Looking for Answers

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