Thank you to everyone who donated to help my father. I have been meaning to post an update since I returned from Greece, but been so distracted with everything that I've put it off time and again. I was able to rush the process of getting Nikos cremated in Greece, something apparently that only became possible about a year ago, as cremation is forbidden by the Greek Orthodox Church and that is the official religion of Greece. Prior to late 2019, they would export bodies to Bulgaria for cremation! Still, I was able to have him cremated in Greece and received the necessary paperwork and clearance to bring his ashes back with me to the US. Getting all of this done during the week I was in Athens ate up the majority of the donations. I have them here in my house. In the next few weeks I'll be cleaning out Nikos apartment, donating many things, while also keeping what I can so that my family can weave him into our everyday lives as we see a piece of his artwork, use a favorite knife, or clip on his leather fanny pack. Wish me luck, he lived in that apartment for more than 40 years, so there's a lot crammed in there.
Given COVID, I have decided to hold off on a memorial service for Nikos. Instead, I am hoping to have a celebration of his life next November 6th, which will be right between his birthday, November 1st and the day of his death, November 8th. More info forthcoming (I've saved a record of all the donations so can email everyone). The leftover funds from donations that haven't been spent on his cremation and the costs associated with traveling to Greece (though mostly that was covered by airline miles) will be saved for this memorial party so it can have the kind of spread Nikos would be proud of. In the meantime, this great obituary was written for the Bay Area Reporter: https://www.ebar.com/news/news/299125
With great sadness I write that Nikos has passed here in Greece. I got a call from the hospital at 3:30am (5:30pm Pacific) letting me know. I am very grateful that I was able to visit him twice since arriving here on Friday. Even though it was for only 10 minutes each time, I got to touch his shoulder and speak to him. I hope that he passed knowing he was not alone. It seems like he hung in there long enough for me to arrive--and, not to make it political, and for the defeat of Trump to be recognized. I'll spend the next few days trying to organize his affairs here in Athens before returning back to the US. I plan to have him cremated here, and will then transport his ashes back to San Francisco where, despite his love for Greece, I think he would have preferred to have his remains, close to the community he built and lived in for so much of his life. I will see if the Proud Seniors of Greece want to hold a socially distant memorial here for him as well, since he was an honorary member of that group.
Thank you all for the support over the last few weeks, it's been very helpful to me know how many people were impacted by my father over the years, and how wide and deep his network of friends and family extended. He will be greatly missed, but I know his memory will serve as a blessing for all of us.
I made it to Greece midday Friday and took a taxi to Nikos’ apartment. After cleaning up, I went to the hospital. I was only allowed to visit with Nikos for about 10 minutes—the ICU has a no visitors policy but they let me in because I had come all the way from the US. He looked gaunt and fragile hooked up to all the machines. I touched his bare shoulder while I was there so he’d have contact and talked to him so maybe he'd hear my voice and know I'd traveled there to be with him. I played a recording of my twin daughters singing him happy birthday in Spanish until the nurse told me I couldn’t use a cell phone inside the ward.
I also spoke with the doctor, who told me that Nikos’ condition continues to deteriorate. He has kidney failure, and his kidney function continues to decrease. His blood pressure fluctuates and without support would collapse. They take him off sedation every few days to see if he will start breathing on his own, but so far he has not, so he is still on a ventilator and sedated along with pain medication. They told me to be prepared that he may not make it through the weekend, and that while they have not given up hope, it is unlikely that he is going to recover. I feel sad, though I don’t think it has really hit me yet.
Greece started a COVID lockdown this morning (Saturday) so now I can only leave the apartment with permission from the government. I will try to arrange another visit to the hospital today or tomorrow, but since I didn’t think I will be allowed back in to visit, I will likely just end up sitting in the waiting room outside the ICU in case there is a change in status. The doctors said they would call me each afternoon around 2pm to give me a status report, so I will wait today for that and then see about going for another visit.
Hello to all the generous supporters. I spoke with Nikos' doctors on Tuesday morning about his condition and consulted with some doctors here in the US as well. Unfortunately, it seems he has continued to deteriorate, and is being kept alive only though serious medical intervention at this time. Recovery is not out of the question, but seems to be getting increasingly unlikely, and I have been bluntly told that I should be prepared for him to not recover. I have therefor decided to book a flight to Greece as soon as possible to hopefully get to spend some time with him and see how I can help in person. I am still hopeful that these generous donations will get to be used on Nikos' recovery, but I am also trying to come to terms with the reality that I may have to spend it on funerary arrangements instead. Please keep Nikos in your hearts and prayers in the next few days and wish me a safe journey to see him in Athens.
Around midnight SF time/9am Thursday in Greece I was finally able to talk briefly with a doctor in the ICU of the Laiko hospital in Athens, where Nikos is recovering from surgery. They have stopped the sedation for Nikos and are waiting for him to wake up from his medically induced coma. He's taking longer to wake up and be responsive then they would like, so they can't yet start weaning him from the ventilator. They are worried about this, but his vitals (blood pressure and oxygen, liver function) seem good, which is encouraging. This means he is still in critical but stable condition and so I am worried but still have hope. Thank you all for your support.