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Krista Vernoff on life, death, and "Six Days, Part 2"

Original Airdate: 1-18-07

The card at the end of this hour of TV that read “In memory of Bob Verne” was a tribute to my father. He died six years ago at the age of 56 after a very short battle with esophageal cancer. He called me one day at my office at Charmed and told me he thought he had the flu. A week after that he had surgery on a massive tumor at the base of his esophagus.   Before the surgery he was laughing and celebrating with family. He had a profoundly positive attitude. After the surgery, he had a massive scar down his belly and was intubated and pale, and upon seeing him,  I, who thought of myself as quite strong and educated and capable of handling that moment, started to shake and then hyperventilate and had to be helped out of the room.   

During the week we waited for him to recover, we learned that kidney function was of the utmost importance and I became obsessed, absolutely obsessed with his urine output. I checked that urine bag like 50 times a day. 

At one point, the doctors gathered the family to tell us that my Dad had a kink in his breathing tube and that they might not be able to get a new one in. They told us we needed to prepare ourselves for the possibility that this was it. We stood out in the hallway and waited, holding our breath, terrified. There was another family there in the hallway, the family of a 16 year old boy who’d been shot on the street on his way home from work in what was feared to be gang related violence, though his family insisted that he was a good kid, that he wasn’t in any gang. They were as scared as we were as they waited for news of condition. We talked to them for awhile, made small talk, then fell silent. And after a long, pregnant pause, one of the teenagers of the family looked over at a member of my family with a very disturbed look on his face. And then he said “Dang. Somebody just farted. And I think it’s this old white guy right here.” My family laughed harder than we have ever laughed in our lives.  And my dad lived through the reintubation.

He lived for three more days. 

When the surgeon sat us down to tell us that it was time to let him go, he explained that Dad had come to him – behind our backs – on his way into the OR actually – and begged him to proceed with the tumor removal no matter what. My Dad believed, truly believed, that he could fight that caner, that he could live, if only they would remove the tumor.  The surgeon did as he wished. And I have yet to completely forgive that surgeon for that decision. Because my dad’s body was riddled with cancer. Plus he had a liver condition and a heart condition. There was pretty much no way for him to recover from a surgery that traumatic. And the surgeon knew that. I believe in forgiveness, I do. I’m a fervent and avid believer that resentment, unchecked, leads to illness and spiritual misery. But I also believe that that surgeon cut my dad in half because he wanted the practice. It wasn’t the right call. He knew better. My Dad didn’t. The scene in which George yells at Bailey and Richard – that scene didn’t happen in my life. Writing and shooting that scene was wish fulfillment for me. What happened in my life is, we went into my Dad’s ICU and put our hands on his body and sang him Beatles songs while the nurses turned off the machines.  When they pulled the intubation tubes from his mouth, my sister and I put our faces to his mouth so we could feel the last of his breath.  And then he died. And I became a member of the Dead Dad’s club.

I know you didn’t want us to kill Mr. O’Malley. Believe me, I know that. He was funny and warm and kind and too young and too happy to die, just like my Dad.   He had children and a wife who loved him and needed him, just like my Dad.

Sometimes life sucks. Sometimes, surgery sucks. (By the way, because Bailey and Richard are Bailey and Richard, I don’t think they did what they did for anything but the highest reasons. I believe they were persuaded by Mr. O’Malley’s plea. I believe they felt they had a responsibility to honor his wishes even if they thought it was the wrong decision. But still, sometime surgeons and surgery suck.) It’s been hard for me sometimes to work on a show that by its very nature idealizes Western medicine and surgery. I believe in both, but only as a last resort.  Because I fervently believe (and statistics support) that surgery often does more harm than good.   So, one of the reasons I haven’t written an episode since 302 is because I called dibs on this one. I knew which story I wanted to tell.

I’m sorry it was so hard to watch – but I believe that where there is darkness there is light. I believe that from death comes life. I believe that in the face of great pain, families become closer. Friendships become deeper. Life becomes sweeter. And I believe it’s important to be reminded of the loss of love so that we will value and honor the love we have while have it.

I hope you do that.

I hope, that if you were impacted by this episode, you will use it as inspiration to call your Dad or your Mom or a Grandparent or a sibling or a friend or a teacher and thank them for being in your life and tell them what they mean to you.

If you weren’t impacted by this episode, and you just want to write me hate mail that’s okay too. That’s your choice. We all get one life to live. Or, maybe we get reincarnated a lot of times, I don’t know. But like Burke, in my experience science isn’t enough. For me it’s about faith. Some kind of faith.  Any kind of faith.

So maybe, while you’re calling your families or sending me hate mail, I’ll put forth a little effort and try, once again, to forgive my Dad’s surgeon…

All my best,  Krista   

(p.s. those of you who keep writing and begging for dirty, gratuitous Mer/Der sex? I have one word for you: porny. You have porny, porny minds. And I’m not saying that’s a bad thing… : ) 

(p.s.s. Aren’t you glad little baby Laura is okay? I am. Because as you know I’m expecting a daughter on March 17th. And another thing that’s hard for me about our show is that by necessity, we tell a lot of traumatic baby stories and birth stories.  I read a book that helped me undo a lot of the fear those stories had instilled in me – it’s called “A Guide to Childbirth” by Ina May Gaskin. If you’re pregnant or know someone who’s pregnant or are thinking of ever getting pregnant, you should read it. It’s so so so great. Okay, now I’m really done. Bye.)

Comments

Beth

You are so amazingly brave. There's no way I would be able to do something like that, and then admit that it was actually what happened to me.

I think, though, that we do need some dirty gratuitous Addex sex. (Addsex?)

Demi

Amazing blog Krista! Welldone!
AND
I just realised something.
Addi was wearing a red shirt at Joe's (and she looked gorgeous!) anyway maybe that's Addi's good looking red shirt like derek had! Is that a coincidence or something more?

stephanie

beautifally written, krista. thanks for sharing it with us.

Tina

Thank you for sharing your father with us. You did him proud.

Bridget

Yay-March 17th-Girl.

How long will you be on mat leave?

Eva

What an amazing episode, and what amazing courage you have to write about your own dad's situation. Thank you for sharing, and my best to your baby!

p.s. T.R. Knight was fabulous!!

Kelli

All the scenes with George and his family were very powerful. (Especially the farting one). I can now see why.

Cookie Buchman

wow. I have been there too. dad's club and Daughter's club, when my 24 year old daughter was taken off life support, I was a coward and her sister (pregnant at the time) held her hand till her sister's last breath. I should have been there. I too should have given her a last good by kiss. I am still crying, but that is okay. It was a wonderful episode and t.R. deserves an Emmy.

ace

This episode was amazing. period. Freakin amazing....

Shonna

Krista - first and above all, you have my sympathies for the loss of your father. A dear friend of mine is even now battling esophogeal cancer and it's........well. You'll know what it is better than most. You have my most sincere sympathies.
Second and not nearly as important: The character of Amanda Bailey is a Goddess. Truly. She's both too deep down, isn't she?
Last....Charmed?! Well then....Blessed Be ;)

Susanne

Thanks Krista for doing this episode. I know it must have been hard on you, as much as I cried, I know you cried more. I am attending a funeral tomorrow for a close family member and I needed a good cry to get through tomorrow. All the best, and never any hate mail from me.

LAUREN (BIGGEST GREYS FAN)

ok so i think i may be one of the first comments, YAY!!

first of all, Krista, I want you to know that I sobbed like a baby during the last 10 minutes of this episode. I literally sat on my floor and cried hysterically. This will go down as one of the best of the season and of the series and I hope you realize how fantastic this episode was. Everything about this week and last week was absolutely amazing. In light of everything that is going on behind the scenes, I don't want it to affect the hard work of all the talented people involved in creating 'Grey's' -

That being said... thank you thank you thank you for this episode. The theory I discussed last week was 90% correct! Go me! lol - Anyway... this is getting long but I just wanted to thank you for the laughs, for the tears, and for this episode and every one that will follow this month, this year, and in the future.

I truly do believe I am one of Grey's biggest fans and I do not want all of you to forget how many of us are completely obsessed with the show!! =D we love you krista!!! =D

ps. happy belated birthdays to Patrick and Shonda!!

pps. Congrats on the GOLDEN GLOBE! ABSOLUTELY DESERVED!! I STARTED SCREAMING WHEN YOU WON!!

ppps. all of the actors did a fantastic job tonight and I commend all of you! How could Ellen, Patrick and Katie not win the golden globes???

THANK YOU!!! =)

Pam in Janesville

Krista,
Watching this episode, then reading your post here - your episode has written life as it is....and so often happens. Thank you,it was excellent, and it was hard to watch. I am sorry about your dad - my husband died of liver failure after a 2 year long fight. And the ending..that George does not know how to exist in a world without his dad - so sad, and no, it never really changes.
Thank you for doing this story. Congratulations on your upcoming daughter ! Life does indeed get sweeter as it goes on, as we go through each days journey.
Pam in Janesville, CA

Becca

You're an amazing woman. You and your team of writers never cease to astound me. And I say this with so much sincerity, I could move to Seattle if I wanted to haha. Not that I'm obsessed, just purely touched by your episode. Props Krista, your Dad's smiling down on you. :)

OH MY GOD THAT WAS THE BEST EPI EVER YEAH I AM SO PISSED YOU KILLED GEORGES DAD BUT IT WAS A VERY EMOTIONAL EPISODE AND I REALLY NEEDED TO CRY THANK YOU SO MUCH

Rachel

Thank you for sharing this episode and your story with us. As another member of the "Club," I am truly sorry for your loss (and George's) and I understand how much it hurts.

MandySeattle

Until the last 10 minute string of this shopw, this episode had 5 minutes of content, 5 minutes of commercials, alternating the entire time. Ridiculous= 5 minutes of content and then a commercial break?. Get some cajones and talk to the network- stop cheating your fans and selling out.

Denice

Krista,
Having watch my mom die I was crying the whole episode. I thank you for literally the best 2 lines "I don't know how to live in a world where my dad doesn't exist." "You never get use to it." - That has been ridiculously true for me these past 6 years. Thanks for a well written episode.

Krista- Thank you.

Meghan

This show has the ability to make me cry and laugh hysterically. I go through an crazy range of emotions within an hour.
But I did appreciate these episodes. Thank you for sharing.

What happened to the intro and outro of Mer. talking? I always loved that part.

Hopefully it'll come back.

Thanks again.

Isabelle

Okay...I cried...I lost my parents 6 years apart and like you my dad was 56. I`m just going to tell you that I wanted so bad to take George in my arms...

The epi was fantastic as always! Thank you...

I`m always moved when I watch but this one, with Geoge`s dad dying hit home.

I`m happy Mer found a way for Der to sleep though. The man looked exhausted! The scene where they spattle was hilarious!

And Bailey...she`s fantastic! She should understand Izzie because she is also both a person and a surgeon...

Mark and Addison..don`t ask why but I had a feeling it was that...Will Mark leave???

Addie and Alex...they will make a hot couple! I loved flustered Alex when Mer asked him what was up with Addison!

So..as always, loved it!!!

Thanks again for the epi!!!
I`ll dedicate it to my parents...

Sincerely, a true fan...

Laura

I admitt I have a porny porny mind...but only when it comes to Mer and Der...lol...I told my boyfriend this week that Meredith needed to buy Derek some ear plugs or George and Izzie could loan him a pair (if they had some)..so admist my crying during this episode...I laughed at that too...And I felt sorry for Mark in this episode too...okay kinda sorry...Alex and Addison kiss was great...She deserves to find someone who makes her happy...but I am still convinced he is in love with Izzie...So all in all I LOVED THIS EPISODE...even though last week it was to be continued...it was worth it..and I can't wait for next week...:D

<3 Until then--Laura <3

kammommy

Oh my goodness. Great show, great blog. Even though it was so sad from beginning to end I thought it was a really fantastic episode. And good acting - George did a great job. Thank you.

Wow. That was amazing. I cried. But not too much, because my dad was in the room. But still, I cried. Thank you for your honesty in telling your story and for the wonderful way in which you told it.

grey'sfan

ok, so i don't know how much you read these, and i don't want to be one of those fans that tells you whether you were right or wrong in what you did on the show, because i mean it's your show. But thanks for explaining all that in the blog. I was really, very upset that mr o'malley died. I also thought that it was particularly painful to watch and that it was long, as in, it was sad right from the beginning of the episode and it just kept getting sadder. but now that you explained where everything came from, i accept the fact that it was long and painful. i am still really sad that mr o'malley died (like most of the population is), but one thing i have to say about the episode is how real it felt. and now i get why. also someone close to me died from the same form of cancer so it felt close to home. anyways. as for baby laura, i think i was too busy thinking...alex...adisson...is it going to happen?
thanks for giving me that one happy moment at the end of a very depressing hour of television. and i'm not saying that as a criticism. just that george losing his dad was, in my opinion, the saddest thing to happen since the show started. just because it's george. and how much we all love him.
i'm also intrigued to know, krista, if you ever found out if there was a cure for verbal diarhea? because i have some issues with it.
also, i hope you'll be answering more fan questions soon! i think it's awesome how much time you guys spend blogging and podcasting for us! keep it coming!

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