Archive for December, 2008

All Systems Go!

The overnight duffle packed, dogs care in hand, it’s 7a.m. and I’m pacing the kitchen, waiting for the phone to ring. Totally sleepless night and ominous looking day…very overcast and just cold enough for snow.  I had no idea where we were going, only a rough idea of how we’d get there and enough time on my hands to begin wondering how in the world I’d ever be able to drive such distance alone, being a novice driver.  I had called no-one…not Blanche nor my sister, no friend until I was sure this placement had been secured and covered by CHAMPUS.  A full pot of coffee…and probably full pack of cigarettes..later, the phone rang.  “Are you read to hit the road?  We got a verbal, all systems go…tell me how to get to your place and give me twenty minutes…”  The woman from last night sounding as excited as I was.  Half-an-hour later we were on our way to Baltimore, an ambulance having been ordered to meet us there.  When we arrived, first hiccup…the EMTs assigned to transport us said they couldn’t do it.  Fred was on oxygen, they did not carry enough for his needs and a five hour drive.  Oh, no…you’re not doing this to me now, I thought.  “I don’t believe he needs it to be continually running,” I said.  “I’ve seen him without while they were bathing him…let me find a doctor…”  Just then I spotted Dr. Patrick coming down the hall.  He wasn’t one of Fred’s doctors but familiar with his case.  Calling to him to wait, I asked him how dependent Fred was on oxygen and told him why I asked.  He said he wasn’t…maybe five percent but they had him connected because it was a purer source.  By then he had joined our little group outside Fred’s room and he assured the EMTs there should be no problem taking Fred off the oxygen for this journey.  What they normally would carry would suffice.  Time…what was the time?  For they were now telling me the ambulance was on it’s way to take Fred to the convalescent home in the city.  Panicking, I’m looking from one to the other, to two others…somebody decide!  Our EMTs suddenly said, “Let’s go…” and in the went to get Fred on the gurney and down to the ambulance, me running behind them.  As we got to the elevator, the woman from the night before, now I’m considering my guardian angel, yelled “Nancy…did you eat breakfast…or anything, today?”  I did not…she reaches in her purse and tosses me a banana!  I couldn’t help thinking how appropos…I was already feeling like the organ-grinder’s monkey going through his paces!  “Eat this..potassium!”  And…awaaayyyy we went.  I sat up front with the driver, noticing the skies becoming darker.  All was quiet in back…Fred wasn’t choking, having any respiratory difficult…only a few minutes out of the city and so far so good.

It wasn’t long before the snow started and it was bitterly cold.  I kept asking if they thought my husband was warm enough.  The guy in back assured me he was doing fine.  Then about an hour later I heard choking and gagging.  “Oh, God…I’m killing him with this travelling!”   I have to be honest…I had no idea what all this moving, travel, no oxygen would do to Fred.  At best, all I could think was I’m trying to do the best I can for him.  Maybe I WAS being desperate and, I supposed, there was a possibility my insistance on this might just be his end…in which case, I knew I did my best which was better than doing nothing.  If I did nothing at all but let hospitals, nursing homes, social workers tell me what THEY were going to do, Fred would never be any better than how he was.  Maybe what I was doing was risky but what, really, did Fred have to lose?  His life?  At the moment and for weeks now, what was that worth to him?  Trying to look in back to see what was going on all I could hear was the gurgling and gagging…but it wasn’t as bad as I had feared.  He had gagged and begun to throw up but the EMT assured me h had it under control and, within a few minutes, all was well again.  I had learned that we should arrive at our destination around 6pm (depending upon how well the weather would hold up) so now I had time to think, plan (Plan? What, exactly?!), raise some hope, be curious as to what they would or could do for Fred, if anything.  At the same time I was also wondering where I was going to stay overnight or, if I left tonight how in the world I was going to get home.  Probably bus or train but I had no idea from where.  Nothing but questions, no answers and I didn’t care.  Think that was when I finally learned to live in the moment.

Frederick, MD…Deep Creek Lake, Cumberland…Morgantown, WVA???  Where was I?  Totally unfamiliar with this part of the State but the beauty of it didn’t escape me.  For the first time in a long while, I was at least enjoying something.  Just a few minutes after 6pm we rolled up to the entrance of the centre.  New Medico was it’s name…though not any longer as it was bought out a few years later.  The director and several nurses were waiting to greet and welcome us.  Immediately they wheeled Fred off to get him comfortable and settled, I’d get to see him shortly.  Now the process was to be explained to me.  First, they were going to begin immediately, weaning him off the trache.  They said coma patients always seemed to do better when that was successful and they were breathing on their own.  Second, there would be medication changes…the first would be changing the Phenobaritol to something else…it was “highly addictive and if he should recover this could be a problem…”.  They had other anti-convulsives in mind.  He would be assigned his own nursing team, each team having a very few patients for whom they alone were responsible, giving them time to get to know their patient very well and vice versa.   They would immediately begin therapies…Physio, Recreational and Speech.  I have to confess the last two had me wondering how they would do that with someone who just could not respond but…they were the professionals and, at the very least, were willing to do something.  He asked me if I had any questions so far…none, at least not pertaining to Fred’s care.  It did occur to me that we had not discussed cost, insurance, payment, nothing financial but decided I didn’t want to worry about that just yet.  I knew CHAMPUS was involved and, when necessary, we’d go from there.  So I asked if there were any hotels in the area…having noticed not much of anything within a few miles of the centre.  Very much relieved and surprised, I was told I didn’t need one.  They were providing accomodation, would have a cab take me there when I was ready to leave that evening and, if I would let them know at what time I wanted to return home next day, they would arrange…and pay for…a flight out of Pittsburgh to BWI.  Wow!!!  Suddenly I felt the taughtness leave my body and mind, Pfffffffftttttttt as many breaths I’d been holding escaped like air from a balloon.  “Now…are you hungry?  We have a family room where we can get you a bowl of soup, sandwich, some dessert and coffee…”  For the first time in weeks, I was ravenous and, of course, that was the best soup and sandwich I’d ever had!  They did everything for my comfort…better yet, they did everything in short order for Fred’s and when I’d finished eating they told me he was settled and would take me to his room.  As we walked up a hallway, a young man in scrubs came towards us and stopped.  Introducing himself, he then said he wanted to let me know that when I went in to see Fred I’d notice something changed and, possibly, a little blood.  He was a respiratory tech and had changed the trache to a different canula…which might cause a little bleeding…and this was the beginning of the weaning, hopefully closure, of the trache.  This process would take a few days but not to be worrying.  The room Fred was in was very pleasant…wallpapered and painted in soft hues, lamps…I noticed a cork bulletin board on the wall by his bed and was told this was for photographs, cards, notes from friends, anything which could be tacked up there to both brighten his space and help with cognition when or if that day should come.  “Bring stuffed animals, favourite music, fragrances he liked…tomorrow we’ll get a list of his favourite foods and those he just didn’t like at all, anything you can tell us about his personality will be helpful…”  When the team  left a few minutes later I could only sit on the chair, take Fred’s hand and weep.  Somebody listened, somebody is willing to try.

An hour later I was ready to go get some sleep…little did I know that it would finally be the best sleep I’d had in weeks, if not the only.  The cab they had arranged took me the couple or so miles to Canonsburg proper, stopping in front of a row house.  I went to pay the driver and he refused…also taken care of already.  I’d been given a key as I was leaving, couldn’t get the door unlocked fast enough and when I entered…more surprises.  Nicely appointed living area with couches, lamps, rugs.  A tv smack in the middle of a large wall unit, radio. Into the kitchen I investigated cupboards which had dishes for any meal, a few packets, packages, boxes of such as sugar, cereals, seasonings.  The fridge contained a fresh carton of juice, ditto milk, butter, eggs, bread, some yoghurt cups, jams, jelly and peanut butter.  Upstairs, two fully furnished bedrooms, each with twin beds, lamps, clock radios plus, of course, bathroom.  The cab driver had given me his card for next morning.  When I was ready to go out to the centre, I was to call him.  I did so around 9am, given that’s when visiting hours began there.

Fred had had a good night and they were very pleased that, unlike some, he did not have any adverse reaction to the journey.  Not even an elevation in BP which they had said to expect.  This was good…and, of course, I wasn’t daft enough to start expecting miracles.  Yet.  I caught my flight home later that day…yes, a bit concerned about Fred being so far away should there be an emergency and also giving great thought as to how I was now going to get up there to see him.  Among the paperwork I’d been given were details on visiting.  I could visit him ten days a month and, as long as I called to let them know, they would have one of their townhomes reserved for me.  These were shared facilities for the families of patients who lived distances away.  Sometimes, I heard, I would have one of the homes to myself, sometimes having to share with two others but if I wanted to bring a relative or friend with me and space was available, they would also be accomodated.  Things such as eggs, cheese, bread, milk, juice would always be stocked in the fridge for breakfasts or a quick evening meal but we could make anything we wished and, often, we would find the previous guest would leave bacon, sausage, ice-cream…whatever they had bought but did not eat.  At the centre, they strongly encouraged families to be very involved in the care and therapy sessions when visiting so we were welcome to be there from 9 until 9…and if there was a crisis, as long as we wished.  There was a family lounge, a smoking room, the little cafeteria where we would get coffee any time of the day or night…in fact, everything was there to make a pot.  Sign up sheets were posted each day, put your name on the list for lunch and lunch would be provided…soup and a sandwich.  If we were staying on, likewise for dinner…name on the list and dinner would appear for us at 6pm.  There were no additional charges for those services.  Once a month, we could take advantage of a flight from wherever we lived to Pittsburgh, paid for us.  I hate flying…figured I’d never use that service but now I had to figure out the route and find the courage to get behind the wheel of my car and just do it.

Published in:body-mind-spirit, inspiration, life, society, Uncategorized |on December 31st, 2008 |Comments Off on All Systems Go!

Happy Birthday To Me!

October, 23…had more than usual to attend to before getting to the hospital that day and, when I arrived there at noon the social worker assigned to us was waiting for me.  No sooner had we wished me a good morning he quickly followed that by telling me Quality Control were serious about my husband being moved…asap.  We had already discussed this…he and I…so I was aware that they insisted Fred required being in a skilled nursing centre due to the PEG, trache and the care he would need.  Baltimore was 25 miles from where we lived and though it was only a guess, seemed to me that once placed in a nursing home there would be nothing of stimuli for this man…just left in a bed, with two tubes and basic hygiene.  If he was never going to emerge from this silent, lifeless world he now inhabited, being practical I knew it just wasn’t possible for me to stay by his bedside twelve hours a day in that environment.  We had dogs, I had chores, would likely have to return to work in an attempt to keep head above water.  While 25 miles is not a long distance by any stretch of the imagination, I also knew that, somehow, with all the other things needing taken care of, I would be up there all I could and yet find myself making period trips daily to see to our dogs, if nothing else.  I rebelled.  I wanted to see more being done at UMMS before they just cast Fred aside.  That afternoon the discussion between Jim and I went on and on.  I could see he was only doing his job, what he was asked to do…and wasn’t comfortable doing it.  Still…I was not going to budge from MY ‘job’ and what I had to either.  As daylight was waning, standing by Fred’s bedside, Jim asked “THE” question;  how long was I prepared to leave my husband in this condition.  For starters, I didn’t want to leave him in ‘this condition’ but how could I…we..improve that?  Jim had no answer so, again, he asked the question.  I have to say I was annoyed…nursing staff had said from almost the beginning that hearing was the last to go and I certainly didn’t want my husband hearing the question, let alone any answer so at that moment I put a tape on, headphones on his ears and told Jim that from then on, if he was going to discuss prognosis, he would do it outside the room.  Given my knowledge of Fred’s wishes, throw in my own unfathomable hopes, I then answered him, told him no less than a year, no more than three.  If he never was any better than he now was, I didn’t believe I could stand by doing nothing, watching him curl up into a 48yr. old foetus.  From that day forward, Jim met with me every day, usually to enquire about any progress being made in finding a facility for my husband.  There was none.  I knew there was none he needed, nearer home…and I wasn’t looking in Baltimore or it’s vicinity.

Days went on, I was tired, frustrated, scared.  About a week later Jim met me with the news that I had an appointment with a nearby nursing home…less than two blocks away from the hospital.  The appointment was for two hours, to meet with all staffing departments, have the grand tour, discuss financial arrangements.  My heart fell…now I was beginning to feel I was losing control of our situation and wondering how I could avert this.  But I kept the appointment, showed up at 2pm. as instructed.  First person with whom I met was the Social Director who, in the course of twenty minutes, explained all this facility offered to their residents.  Fine…if they had mobility and cognisance of some sort.  #1  representative obviously hadn’t done HER homework on this prospective resident.  Soon she left me while going in search of the financial director.  She appeared, spent one hour and forty minutes with me by the end of which what I knew was this;  $3000 a month and Medicaid or Medicare would cover most of it but I’d probably have to pay something.  If/when my husband needed to be hospitalised for any reason I, myself, would then be responsible for ‘keeping his bed open for him’ at $100 a night.  What I did know was my husband’s general health at that time was not stable…he continued to spike fevers for unknown reasons, if his PEG site were to be infected or the PEG came out, he would be back in hospital.  It was highly likely that, at least for a time, besides the payment coming from social services, I would have to find close to $1,000 a month for additional care.  With having to work to keep a roof over my head, pay a mortgage and even with his military pension, there was no way I could see of being able to do this.  I walked out without signing anything, went back to the hospital and told Jim, “Not only no but hell, no!”  In talking with relatives of another patient that same day, it was suggested that I might have to consider doing what others before me had done.  Divorce my husband…and, I guess, basically leave him to the State as penniless.  Not a chance.  And, aside from all that, from the time talks had begun with Quality Control and Jim, I had stated that the only place Fred would be going from hospital was home.  This created some serious arguments when they told me I could not take him home in his condition…they would not allow me.  Really?  Then, the young woman who was in the medically-induced coma, word spread that the family were being offered a placement in a coma-stim centre where they would expend all efforts…short-term basis…to bring her out of it.  I asked why this had not been offered to us.  The reason given was his insurance would not cover the expense.  I mean, while I balked at a regular nursing home I had no problem allowing his transfer to a facility which would work toward trying to bring him out of the coma with various methods.  It wasn’t being done at UMMS, it would not be done in a nursing home…of that I had already been assured.

Finally, about ten days later and just as I was going down to the cafeteria for some coffee, Fred’s surgeon was on the NICU floor and approached me.  He wanted to talk to me, next day.  Told me that as soon as I arrived to ask for him…the staff would page him and we would meet in his office.  He didn’t elaborate, I didn’t pursue questioning and I guess the fear must have shown for he patted my shoulder, saying it would be okay.  We did meet, next day, soon as I arrived…it was a Wednesday and I remember the weather was as miserable as my spirits.  Thank heavens for anger…that was about all that was keeping me going at this juncture.   Dr. Rigamonte had brought in two Quality Control staffers, we talked and I made it clear how I felt, what I believed.  They left and the surgeon and I continued to talk, he asking me what I would do if Fred never regained consciousness.  “I’m taking him home…”  Again, but in a more gentle fashion, he said I couldn’t do that, what if this or that happened.  “We’ll take that chance…how much worse off will he be than he is now?”  Finally, the meeting came to an end and, once again, Dr. Rigamonte said it would be ‘okay’.  I hadn’t seen Fred yet, that day, and immediately made for his room.  Something not quite right…his bedcovers were in disarray, things out of place and I knew…unless some miracle had happened…he didn’t do it so off I went to the nurses’ station.  There was Jim, needing to talk to me.  Before I had a chance to say a word he told me Fred was being moved at noon, next day.  Being transferred to a Jewish Convalescent and Nursing home “whether you agree or not…”  His words.  I was floored…how could they do this?  I was then told if I was at the hospital already I could follow the ambulance to the facility, if not I would have to find it on my own and, no…I could not ride up with him.  I was shaking…with fear, anger, mostly fear.  And just then, a woman appeared at the desk, asking where she could find Mrs. Cleveland.  Jim indicated me as I turned to tell her I was she.  She introduced herself then asked if I could step out by the elevators “someone wants to talk to you about your husband…”.  I had no idea who, what or why.

I followed her to be faced with young-ish man, kind face offering a smile and handshake as he introduced himself.  His name meant nothing to me but when he followed it with the name of his organization I could feel my heart lift.  He was director of the coma-stim facility we had been refused.  He was a friend of Dr. Rigamonte’s…as I gathered…who had asked him to come to the hospital to assess Fred’s condition and determine if the centre would be of any value to him.  I could only assume he had been the one at Fred’s bed while I was in the earlier meeting.  Later, I surmised that perhaps this was why  the surgeon had called this meeting for that day and hour, along with the Quality Control staffers.  We were all out of the way while his friend was making a decision and I suppose, had it not been a positive one, I might never even have known or discovered he had been there.  I don’t know…and I didn’t care.  This young man went on to explain his facility to me, the services available, the treatments they would use.  He also made it clear that “I don’t have a crystal ball so I can’t tell you we can bring your husband out of this.  All I can say is we are willing to try everything we have.  If, by the end of two-three months there is no change then we would discharge him.  Are you willing to accept this?”  Am I??  The only question I had was how would I pay for it…my insurance, I’d been told, would not cover this sort of long term care.  He said he was under the impression that my husband was retired military and eligible for CHAMPUS.  Yes, he was…and I was told that his facility accepted CHAMPUS.  There would likely be no problem, all they had to do was get their “yes” to the move.  Then I began to worry…told him that the hospital were moving my husband next day at noon…how could we do this in that time?  He checked the time, told his assistant to go make a call and get a verbal answer for now, paperwork would be done later then he turned to me, saying we had to do this next morning if at all possible…once they moved Fred it would be more difficult to get an agreement to move him again.  The woman returned saying she did not get the answer but had been assured someone would get back to her by 9a.m next morning.  They looked at me…”Can you go home and pack a bag?  Soon as I hear from them I will call to let you know I’m on my way to pick you up, bring you here, and you will travel up to Canonsburg in the ambulance with your husband..”  I think, before the woman ended her sentence I was ready to push elevator buttons and be on my way.  But first, I had to go back in and tell Fred.

Published in:life, Uncategorized |on December 31st, 2008 |1 Comment »

Me, Myself and I

Well, not really.  I had our two dogs for company when I was home and glad of them.  Days became even more routine than previously. Up in the morning, see to the dogs and then off to the hospital.  Sometimes I would accept the neighbour’s help in letting the dogs out and seeing to their feeding but more often I’d take a couple of hours to drive home and see to them myself…I just felt so badly about leaving them every day for so long a time.  Blanche did go home, I continued my daily sojourn to the park, feeding the little squirrel who had become my faithful companion (well…as long as I showed up with his bag of nuts!).  Fred had ups and downs..spiking fevers, breaking them, yawning, sneezing, eyes open, eyes closed.  All the while I was at his bedside I’d hold his hand, stroke his arm, talk to him, brought tapes of the dogs barking, phone ringing and me answering it, anything I thought might strike a chord, somewhere.  One thing I did continue to see was his BP would change soon as I touched him, eyes on the monitors.  I don’t know why but somehow I believed he knew someone was there, not surgeons, not nursing staff but, regardless, we were all playing a waiting game.

A couple of days after he had been admitted…think it was the day of his surgery…a young wife and mother had been brought in.  She was fully aware but had an opthalmic aneurysm.  They operated, she came through the surgery but something not quite right so it was deemed best that they induce a coma to rest her brain and body, to be brought out of it within a few days.  Sadly, they could not bring her out of it.  Her parents, her husband, spent the same hours waiting and we at least all had some companionship.  After a couple of weeks, they began talking to both families about where we should go next…that would be a long-term nursing facility.  I rebelled.  Incredible or not, he had been conscious when he was brought in.  Now he wasn’t and, by this time, I had secured enough information on coma treatment to be frustrated.  As much time as I spent at his bedside, I didn’t see the stimuli being used…the scents, touch.  Someone would come to his bedside and ask him a couple of questions which he never did answer or acknowledge.  It seemed to lack conscience to me that they expended all of their skills to save his life when it appeared they had only prolonged his death.   No, I was not releasing him to a nursing home until all avenues…and some extended time…had been explored.  I’d always been a very quiet, passive person.  Any problem needing a strong, authoratative voice Fred had handled…for both of us.  Always my advocate, someone had to be his.  That was me by default.  And it was amazing to me how easily I slipped into that role after forty years of believing I couldn’t do it.  Probably just a case of fighting for the rights and well-being of one who cannot do so for him or her self.  Deep seated anger at the turn life had taken helped.  This young woman’s family was going through similar turmoil…probably worse since it was both parents and husband, not always on the same page.  One thing which had been so supportive and encouraging to me was a talk Blanche and I had had, just a few days after her arrival.  I was hesitant to broach the subject but, at least for my peace of mind, it had to be done.  I asked her for her thoughts on if the day should come when someone might ask me to make a very crucial decision.  No-one had suggested ‘pulling the plugs’…yet.  Hints had come that the day may arrive but not so far.  Fred and I had already discussed such a situation and both of us were of the same mind.  Not to be kept alive by machinery, feeding tubes and certainly not if either of us were in a vegatative state.  We had not formalized our wishes in writing only trusting in each other to carry out our respective wishes.  I did not tell Blanche this, at that time.  I needed her honest feelings and then go from there, trying to respect her place as his mother while effecting his wishes.  And she was stuck.  As a mother she had no desire to lose her child…and no matter how old our offspring are, they are still our babies, be they 8 or 48.  Having lost our only surviving child just four years previously, I could imagine her difficulty.  Further, I well-remembered thinking that when my daughter died I would have given the world and everything in it to have her here, regardless of her condition.  Selfish, yes…but never ready to give her up.  She did ask me what my thoughts were.  I told her of the conversation Fred and I had had in the past and that I would really like to honour that if and when called upon but did add that her, being his mother, I would be attentive to her needs as much as possible.  This poor woman couldn’t have been more supportive, telling me she knew I would only ever want what was best for “Freddie”, always had done so and whatever I decided was good enough for her.  At that point I had no idea what I would do now such a decision was highly probable in our future…just hoping I could live with whatever the ‘right one’ would be.

I found one of my most major hurdles were finances.  Fred’s company offered long-term disability coverage.  He had chosen to pay more for the coverage which would become effective immediately in the case of any injury or disability rather than one which required a waiting period.  His HR office had been exemplary, getting the paperwork to me within a couple of days of his being stricken.  Likewise, I had completed it, immediately, and got it back to then.  Then the insurance company decided they were not going to pay.  Finally, I was able to talk to them myself rather than through HR.  HR had been very good, done just about all they could, to no avail.  Came the day I talked to a rep from Aetna who told me, in no uncertain terms, they were not going to make payment without my husband’s signature.  Excuse me??  Did they read the application, the diagnosis, the prognosis?  Yes…they had…and they still would not budge.  I asked them to check on his life insurance coverage with them and tell me who the beneficiary was, there.  They read out my name and relationship.  I asked if that should not be sufficient and my answer was…”No…he isn’t dead.  Just in a coma…”  Just??  So how does one get a comatose patient to sign papers, to do anything?  Apparently that was my problem to solve and the only means available was I had to become my husband’s guardian.  I spent days getting the information to do this, much as it went against the grain to do so.  I did not want to be his guardian on an emotional level.  I did not want to think, let alone believe, he would never again be the logical, super-intelligent, practical man he always had been.  No matter…I had no choice it seemed.  At the same time, legally becoming his guardian was to cost me upwards of $1500 which I did not have.  In fact, I had no income other than his Navy pension which, thank God, was on direct deposit to our bank.  That was less than $1,000 a month, our mortgage was a little over $800.  Not to mention every other little bill.  Frugality made no difference here.  I honestly had no idea what I was to do.  His company HR continued to keep in touch so eventually they learned…to their horror…the situation I was in with the insurance company.  They attempted to talk to them, I talked to them some more until, finally, the HR office had one resource left that might help.  They had their corporate attorney contact Aetna to ask if they could make a one time payment of some of the money already past due me.  The answer, initially, was no.  Of course other things were going on…another of my neighbours, an older man who was involved with Veteran’s Affairs…suggested that I go talk to the VA as there may be some help coming from that quarter.  I made the appointment, decided I probably should gather all of my husband’s military documentation including his medical record, before I went.  I knew he had hearing loss attributable to his navy career, also the BP was considered the same since he only acquired HBP some years after enlisting and while he was still on active duty.  He could have filed with the VA before getting so sick for both of them but we both believed they were minor enough not to extract any more money from their coffers while we could afford to tend to them ourselves.

So, one night I thought I probably should go through his medical records before talking to the VA.  I didn’t know if there was anything which could be helpful, I didn’t have a clue as to what I was dealing with but I dug it out and began to read.  I suppose one could say I lucked out…we both lucked out although that ‘luck’ wasn’t exactly a word I’d use during those weeks.  As with all career military members, they are required to undergo a thorough physical before being retired.  Presumably to find everything that could be a problem then or later, also so noting by absence something that was not attributable to a military career or service.  The very first page contained the notations from that physical.  It was written that he had an aneurysm in the brain and “we should conduct CAT-Scans to make determination and follow…”  I looked…all the way back to when he had his first medical notation when he began his career…25yrs. worth.  Nothing.  No-one had followed through, nothing more had been done and his new-ish, retirement medical records contained nothing about aneurysm.  I made copies and I turned the paperwork into the VA.  If any help was to come from them I knew it was not going to be immediate, if at all.  Social Security disability also had to be filed for which, after two months, I did.  That would take six months, I was told.

Along came my birthday, October 23.   By then, Fred had been transferred into a two-bed room.  All machines had been removed though he continued to be hooked up to oxygen and, of course, dependent on the PEG for sustenance and fluids.  No change, otherwise.  I had noticed…and mentioned to the nursing staff…that when I would now enter his room and call out his name, ask how he was doing, his eyes would actually open.  No turn of the head, nothing else…but the eyes would flick open.  That was a sign of sorts, yes?  No, they told me.  Spontaneous reflex or just coincidence.  One afternoon I had brought some ice into his room, took a cube and ran it down his side…from under his arm to his hip.  He flexed!  I next did it with my fingers…nothing.  Again with an ice-cube…flexed.  Off to the nurses’ station to tell, ask.  Nope…reflex.  I was beginning to question what I knew of our senses.  If one could respond obviously to one touch, yet not another…was it simply reflex or was he feeling the difference?  And yet I’d periodically take my keys and run them along the sole of his feet, up his legs…nothing.  One evening, the wife of friends of ours had accompanied me to visit Fred.  While she had been in the waiting room she had overheard another family talk about bringing their Holy Water to use on their family member.  Viola remembered that when her parents had visited from Italy, a couple of years ago, they had brought a vial of Holy Water blessed by the Pope when they had taken a weekend in the Vatican City.  She asked if she could bring it next day.  I’m not Catholic, not religious but not proud or stubborn enough to refuse help from any quarter and it was a generous gesture.  Next afternoon, each of us on either side of Fred’s bed, she gets the vial out of her purse.  We looked at each other, nodded and she was ready to annoint Fred.  I simply stood holding his hand and watching him very closely…for what, I had no idea.  She touched the water to his chest, his arms, his legs, throat, heart and, lastly, across his forehead.  And I almost fell backwards through the room window when Fred’s eyes shot open.  I mean they shot open and wide-eyed…as did mine!  Viola could only yell, “Oh, Jesus!”…and it was not an epithet.  Personally, I actually thought it was his last physical act before death.  We had killed him for God’s sake!   Took us a few minutes of watching, waiting, to realise we had not…and trust me, this was an experiment I had no intention of relating to the nursing staff!  Oddly enough, Viola nor I said word one to each other, just carried on with our visit for a few more minutes and then left to head home.  It was only as we were out of the hospital, crossing busy evening hour Green Street traffic, that I came unglued, began laughing hysterically that I could not even walk, stopped right in the middle of the roadway.  She had to drag me to the opposite kerb.  How, I don’t know for she was as bad as I was.  We plunked down on the kerb until every bit of nonsense was out of us.  She admitted she thought she had killed Fred, I told her I was sure she had, both confessed that each was afraid to tell the other.  But we had never seen anyone’s eyes fly open so hard or fast…and the worst was Fred’s eyes just staring, coldly into nothing.

The Holy Water stayed home.

Published in:body-mind-spirit, humour, life, Uncategorized |on December 28th, 2008 |Comments Off on Me, Myself and I

The Day I Hit The Wall

Literally!  We had been spending all day, every day at Fred’s bedside.  Whatever changes had occurred, none were to his betterment.  He ran raging fevers, only being brought down by a cooling blanket over him…more bumps, bangs.  The vasospasms continued and there was talk of pulling the naso-gastric tube and getting him on a PEG, feeding tube directly into his stomach.  That was a bit ominous to me for it seemed this would be a more permanent resolution to his nutritional needs than the naso-gastric which, I then wondered, might mean ‘they’ had pretty much given up on him reawakening at time soon.  They assured me that it was simply safer and kinder to him as, too lengthy a time with a naso-gastric causes it’s own set of problems and, besides, a PEG could be removed at any time.   The ventilator was gone…that was something.  We’d had no further mouth bleeds.  It had been the vent which caused it, scraping against his soft palate.  The day it happened and we were quickly expelled from his bedside while they investigated, Blanche and I had sat in the waiting room wondering what would have caused it.  When she asked me, I couldn’t even think straight and the only reasons I could come up with were a serious stomach disorder or “a gunshot wound to the chest or abdomen!”.  Trust me, a little levity (we were learning) was necessary every so often.

But I had to think about when Blanche would leave.  She couldn’t stay with us indefinately with a home, animals to care for and there really was nothing we could do but wait and hope.  This meant I had to take the driving test and become fully independent as soon as possible…then she could feel free to stay or go, knowing I was not stuck or dependent upon others.  So I chose a Tuesday and off we went to the DMV.  Now, when Fred had been after me a few months earlier to get my licence he had reminded me that now the seat-belt laws were in full effect, when the examiner got in the passenger seat it would be a good idea to ensure he or she was wearing a seat belt before we set off…”no matter what they say…it could cost you points…”.  We had actually had an argument while having this discussion about me driving for when he had said he didn’t want me to be dependent upon friends or others to get around, I noticed he was on the verge of tears…”What if something should happen to me?  I drive the parkway and beltway every day and the idea of you being left stranded doesn’t sit well with me at all…”  I was angry, we had words.  I really didn’t know why I balked at sitting the test and getting a licence but then I did give it some serious thought.  Perfectionist…as long as I never took the test I could tell myself…and him…that of course I would pass but, digging a little deeper, what if I took the test and didn’t or couldn’t pass?  Failure!  Not at all a comfortable word in my vocabulary or psyche.  When I HAD to, so be it…I’d live with the results but, until then…   Well, now I had to.  I’m sitting in my car, the examiner climbs in…not a very pleasant woman, either.  I watched, waited, listened as she told me what she wanted me to do and then she said, “Okay…go..”  She had no seat-belt on!  “Excuse me…” I said.  “Would you mind putting on your seat belt being as it is the law?”  I don’t think I’ll ever forget the look on her face (or the tone in her voice!!).  “I don’t HAVE to…YOU just drive!”  Okay…that unnerved me for starters.  Now she wasn’t just unpleasant…I think she was mad.  Off we went and things seemed okay as we drove round the test route.  At one point she told me to do a turn-around.  Those were the exact words she used and that was exactly what I did.  I zipped into the area she designated and wheeled around.  I think I missed a stop sign and then we arrived at my nightmare…the parallel parking area.  Friends had told me about it, how close I needed to get, how far away from the orange cones I would be and still pass etc.  She had me stop while she explained what she wanted me to do…”move forward until I tell you to stop then begin to reverse…”  She had previously warned me that when she needed me to do something she would slap the dashboard…I moved forward, began to reverse being ever watchful for her slap and I kept right on going, jumped a kerb and hit a wall.  Hit the darn wall!  She looked at me, pointed to a parking area a few yards ahead and said “Over there…and park it…”  Oh, no!  Well…I wasn’t really surprised…lolol…would you be?  The only comfort I took from that failed test was the look on her face after I’d hit the wall and come to a stop.  Teach her to be nasty!  When she handed me the test paper a big, whopping sixty points for that look I’d incurred!  Now I was worried…I needed that licence but after that morning was even less sure I’d ever get one.  What then?  Off I trotted to the DMV office to turn it in and ask when I might re-sit.  I believe she told me anytime…I decided two days hence would work.  Having taken half a day away from Fred’s bedside, I had to be there all of the next day.  Thursday…I had to get that licence by hook or by crook for Blanche was planning to return to Oklahoma the coming weekend.

Wednesday we had no sooner arrived at NICU than we were met by a surgeon who said they had decided to do the PEG next day.  A day or so before I had talked to my sister who had said Mum was scheduled for an arterial biopsy that week…also Thursday.  The day arrived and again off to the DMV…and I was a wreck, wondering how Mum’s surgery had gone.  It wasn’t major in and of itself but at her age, with her failing health, an artery?  And then Fred…he’d gone into surgery a couple of weeks before still able to communicate, still conscious despite the beating his brain had been taking, and came out almost lifeless except for a strong, beating heart.  What could possibly happen today under his current circumstances?  I probably had no business even getting behind the wheel.  The examiner got in the car…another woman!  Oh, geez!  A different one, however…and this one much more pleasant from the get-go.  Even joking with me.  The better part of valour told me to keep my tongue between my teeth so I said nothing about a seat belt.  And off we went.  This time, when she asked me to do a turn-around I knew what she meant.  Had the first one said “Do a three-point turn” I would have known exactly what she wanted.    No…turn-around was, to me, just that…basically a U-ie.  This time, three point turn executed beautfully.  I did NOT miss a stop sign or stop light and then…parallel parking.  It took several shots for me to get it even close but I didn’t zoom backwards, did not jump kerb or hit wall in the process.  Finally she directed me to a parking area and we came to a stop.  I held my breath while she made out the slip, Blanche standing beside the car with bated breath, I’m sure.  The examiner handed me the slip saying “Congratulations!  It’s a pass but, do us all a favour for a while…only drive forward, don’t reverse!”  She laughed, I laughed and cried both at once.  I was a legal, licensed driver and only I knew how much that could and would mean to me that day.

I couldn’t wait to get to the hospital.  Ran into NICU and over to Fred’s bed, waving my licence.  And with high hopes that if shock could awaken him, this would.  I’m not joking when I tell you I was so disappointed…no reaction whatsoever and I would have taken anything.  The good news was he had had his PEG inserted and it went well.  When I went home there was a message from my sister to say Mum had had her surgical procedure and it, too, went well.  I’d had an angel at my side for of all times I was sure I would fail that driving test it was that day for any thought I had, at all, was split in three directions and absolutely desperate.

Now I was free…did not have to worry about Blanche staying longer than she really should or could, didn’t have to impose on friends and friendships for transportation and could be at the hospital for as long as I wanted and even be called in an emergency without panicking about how to get there.  Another step forward for at least one of us……………

Published in:life, Uncategorized |on December 28th, 2008 |Comments Off on The Day I Hit The Wall

Alive…But Missing

As was becoming routine, fifth day…day after surgery…soon as I felt it reasonable I called the hospital to see how Fred had fared during the night.  Nothing untoward since we had left the night before so we prepared to head back up there.  Blanche had discovered she needed a couple of items of warmer clothes than what she had brought with her so we made a side-trip on the way.  As we were coming out of the store I suggested that this be the day I began driving.  I loved that woman but never more than when she just smiled and said, “I think that’s a good idea!”  She hated the urban traffic because she just was not accustomed to it yet, not only had she driven in it but was willing to ride shotgun for a learner driver.  What a trooper!  And off we went.  I do have to admit that from where I lived to UMMS was a straight shot up I-97 (I think that was it…), round by the ball field, cross over to Green Street and into the parking garage.  Probably the only reason I was willing to attempt the driving.  We made it in one piece!

Walked into NICU, eyes immediately on Fred’s corner of the room looking for…I don’t quite know what other than some awareness.  He looked exactly the same as when we’d left him, all the machinery active with the addition of a whirrr-thump of the ventilator.  His nurse told us he was to have x-rays and CAT-scan that morning.  He had not stirred or awakened.  Later, the surgeon came by to talk to us, saying it appeared Fred had also had a stroke but, until he regained consciousness, there was no way of knowing how it would affect him.  He did think it might only be in ways I…his wife…would even notice but we were playing the waiting game.  The other thing he impressed upon us was that we were not out of the woods, by any means.  A rebleed was very possible and it could happen now or even days, weeks from now.   We spent the day by his bedside.  Supposedly, NICU rules were that only one person could by the bedside for ten minute stretches every hour.  They never even asked us to try to adhere to this.  I was grateful yet, at the same time, uneasy.  However, there were times when they would have to conduct tests, bathing, cleaning, changing cannulas etc. where we did leave the room to allow them to get on with what the nursing staff had to and not be shackled by relatives watching.  And I confess mostly it was so that they just didn’t have to toss us out.  It was early days and, for me, rules were rules so I complied as far as possible.  Then they told me we didn’t have to leave when they were doing anything…we were welcome to stay by his bed.  It hadn’t taken me long to work a routine there, either.  Without saying anything, then, I always arranged for Fred’s mother to be on his left side, me on the right.  This way I could see the monitors, see the BP and EKG readings and fluctuations.  I had noticed one other thing that morning…he now had what looked like a spike coming out of the top of his skull…looked like a German Kaiser helmet without the helme.  I wondered if it was a shunt…no, it was explained to me a common side-effect of the trauma and surgery were vasospasms and this was some sort of detection probe.  I had more time to check to see all that was being done and going on…noticed they had an A-line in his upper chest with several tubes attached.  Of course he also had a naso-gastric tube in place.  We spoke to him, joked, laughed…it was still so new to us that we weren’t totally comfortable within ourselves doing this but we figured it would get easier as time went on…although the thought was it was only for much of this day and, tomorrow, he would be back among us.  We went over to our park…me to smoke, us to sit and chat..mostly wonder aloud at when Fred would wake up and where, how, when we could all move forward.  We were beginning to get into a routine of timing the nursing procedures, getting some fresh air, getting our coffee…no food.  Neither of us had any appetite.  We left him at 9pm that night…still ‘asleep’ and nipping at our heads was the comment made by an intern, “We don’t know why he hasn’t awakend yet…we thought he would but I’m sure tomorrow….”

Home…the answering machine was filling up on a daily basis so there were calls to make, regular running of the household where possible, calls to and from Fred’s office.  I didn’t have to worry much about the medical insurance aspect…either paperwork or the paying of what I knew would be horrendous medical bills.  He was retired military and had coverage in addition to his private health insurance with the company and whatever deductible there was, I’d worry about it when it came in.  Sleep was fitful for Blanche and I, both, and the dogs were totally confused by now.

Next morning, off we went again.  No change.  Blanche looked at me quizzically, “Is Freddie in a coma, honey?”  I didn’t know.  We knew he was unconscious but…what was the difference, was there a difference or just a matter of semantics?  I decided I needed an answer but could find no-one willing to answer.  Even tougher finding someone to ask.  Then, later that morning as we were heading to the park, the elevator stopped and an attending on Fred’s case stepped in.  I wouldn’t ask him there but when he got off I followed him and asked if my husband was in a coma.  He wouldn’t look at me, hemmed and hawed and when, in frustration,  I asked if we could expect him to come out of it…and when…he simply said “That’s between him and his God…” and walked off.  The smidgeon of hope we’d felt following Fred’s surgery, when they said he would begin coming round the following day…and then the next day…was dashed.  Sure, it was possible he would come out of it but the answer I’d just been given made it seem more doubtful than hopeful.  Later that day I had a chance to talk to another of my husband’s doctors who bluntly said they had no idea why he was comatose, could not say when he would emerge from it…or even if…going on to explain that we shouldn’t entertain ideas of emergence “as you see on tv or in the movies.  It doesn’t happen that way.  If your husband does come around it will be a very gradual, slow process…”  The nurses were more informative.  Or as much as anyone can be in such instances.  Given Fred’s condition, we were real excited the first time we heard him sneeze;  the first time we saw him yawn.  Nursing staff told us that patients in coma DID sneeze, had ‘sleep/wake periods’ even though still absent.  And quite gently told us that those things really meant nothing in terms of recovery.  Despite seeing his still body, eyes which hadn’t opened in days, the equipment, the tubes…everything that was foreign to anything we had seen or known before…the word coma, the little things meaning nothing…I suddenly felt as though I had been delivered a gut punch.  Fred was alive…but where had he…his essence…gone?

Published in:body-mind-spirit, life, Uncategorized |on December 13th, 2008 |Comments Off on Alive…But Missing

Hurry Up And Wait

Calls to be made.  I called my sister, knowing it wasn’t too early for her with such news, the UK being five hours ahead of us.  Devastated about sums it up…that and helplessness.  Her immediate instinct was wanting, needing to come be with me but that was out of the question and I did not expect her to up and leave our mother who needed her presence there, just as much.  Next was my mother-in-law.  I waited until around 9a.m. to call her…this was not something an elderly woman should be awakened from sleep to hear about her only son.  She was waiting for Fred’s sister and brother-in-law to return from vacation, they would be in a little later that day and she would let me know what plans they would make.  The other calls were to Fred’s boss, mine, letting close friends know and between calls, the hospital for updates on his condition.  Phyllis was taking me up to Baltimore later in the day (we lived about 21 miles from there).

By the time we arrived for visiting I knew my mother-in-law would be flying in next afternoon.  I had warned her, as gently as I could, that we had no idea what to expect the outcome to be so she had arranged to stay for ten days.  Veiled hints, not words, I knew she was coming prepared to bury her son.  At UMMS I was informed that their was no change…not that I expected there to be, other than for the worse…and that surgery to repair the damage would be done Monday.  This was Friday.  Over that weekend we picked up Blanch, my mother-in-law, spent most of our time at the hospital and, on Sunday night, decided that Blanche would do the driving for now while I would try to get my driver’s licence.  She had visited us in the past and always stipulated that she could never drive in this urban traffic but she, like myself, just did not want to put our friends out any more than I had already.  They were willing, of course, but they also had families, lives, work.  The one thing I did do was see my own doctor on the Saturday morning…I couldn’t stop shaking, could not fall apart now and figured a little help might be in order.  She, herself, warned me that some very tough decisions would likely have to be made in the next few days and was very helpful to that end.

It was Sunday evening we decided we had to make our own way to the hospital from then on.  Blanche said she would drive while I suggested that, since I did have a permit already (but rarely used it) maybe I should drive while she supervised.  She was some woman…bravely agreed!  But…we wouldn’t do that right away.  In fact, I decided that Monday, the day of the surgery, we should just take a cab to Baltimore.  Reason being, with such a surgery we had no idea where we would be at the end of the day and, if worse came to worst, neither of us would be in a fit state to drive and a cab was the safest bet.  So we set off at eight, Monday morning.  They were taking Fred down to surgery around 11am, they’d told us and we had met with the neurosurgeon operating.  He told us that with further CAT-scans, it was shown Fred had three aneurysms…two others besides the one which had ruptured…and that they would try to repair all of them at the same time.  He also impressed upon us the uncertainty of success or outcome but, certainly, there was no other way to go.  Fred and his surgical ‘entourage’ left NICU before eleven and we had been made aware that when the surgery was over they would bring him back there, immediately.  (Oooh…I just had a thought…this NICU is not to be confused with Neonatal care…lol.  This is Neurological Intensive Care Unit!)

I bet you all have watched shows such as ER, Chicago Hope, Marcus Welby (Marcus Welby???), House…and seen how, during surgeries (particularly the critical procedures) someone…a nurse, attendant, surgeon, pops out every so often to provide updates, status of the patient etc.  Well, maybe not so much House…I’m afraid him I’d have choke!  Uh..huh…Blanche and I sat on the NICU floor (umm…not literally) for fifteen minutes shy of almost twelve hours without word one being spoken to us..unless I went to ask something.  A few times I would go to the desk and ask if there was any news.  Nope…nothing.   I felt like every Monarch butterfly heading for Mexico for the winter had rested over in my stomach.  We did take a few minutes to go get some coffee and yes, I had to find a place where I could have an occasional smoke.  That happened to be in a nice little park across the street from the hospital entrance.  Neither of us ate…neither of us could.  Mid-afternoon I went in search of the hospital chapel to sit there for a few minutes.  Finally, at 9:45pm, they were wheeling Fred back into NICU.  An attending surgeon came out to talk to us then, informing us that they could only repair the ruptured aneurysm as “he had been under anaesthesia long enough but  if he made a recovery, we will take care of the other two at a later date.”  He then told us that once they had him hooked up to the monitors and settled we could go in and see him for a couple of minutes.  When the time came, Blanche and I walked towards his bed and found we were reaching to hold onto each other.  This was someone almost unrecognisable.  Head completely shaven, so swollen it had taken on the shape of a basketball.  Fred was and always had been a very slim man, standing just a hair over 6′ tall.  An assortment of monitors and machinery was whirling, clicking, humming and there were tubes everywhere.  He was cut and stapled from behind his right ear, up following what had been his hairline and over to behind his left ear.  A nurse told us that when we returned next morning he may still be a little out of it but should begin to regain consciousness as the day progressed.  With that, we kissed him goodnight and started for home.  Tomorrow would be a new day but I was quickly learning never to ask myself  “But bringing what?”

Published in:body-mind-spirit, life, Uncategorized |on December 13th, 2008 |Comments Off on Hurry Up And Wait

Life As We Knew It

The navy career had been over five years and we were finally settled into civilian life.  Bought our first…and presumably, our last…home in Maryland.  Fred had begun a new career working for a government contractor in Washington, DC.  From being a stay-at-home Mum, I had found a job I really enjoyed as an editor with a tv/radio ratings company over in Laurel.  We had two dogs, our only child…a daughter…had married several years before  and was living in Scotland when she died, suddenly, in her fourth month of pregnancy, four years earlier.  We were beginning to pick up some of the threads of “normal” living again…whatever ‘normal’ is.  (I’m not sure there is any such state!)

I didn’t drive…had never driven in my life which, being in our mid-late 40’s, was beginning to irritate my husband mostly because he was concerned as to what I would do should he ‘not be around’.  Not a problem…should that day come I assured him I would have no choice but to get my licence.  Meanwhile, he worked flex hours starting his day at 6a.m. and home by 2:45pm. each day.  I started work at 4pm and finished at 10.  He was home in ample time to get me to work then would come fetch me when my shift was over.  So was our routine.  Then, late one September afternoon when he arrived home, before we left for my stint, he mentioned he needed to take a couple of aspirin as he had a terrible headache.  At the time, nothing untoward…we were both prone to headaches, always had been…me migraines, he would have tension headaches and, very rarely, headaches assumed to be associated with high blood pressure.  We got in the car and took off.  Five minutes down the road I noticed him grimacing, hand to forehead.

“How bad IS your headache?” I asked him

“It feels like someone drove an icepick through my forehead to the back of my neck,” he said, adding that it was the worst headache he had ever had.

I immediately suggested we turn back home and I would call in to work that I couldn’t make it that evening.  He wouldn’t do that, said he would fine once the aspirin took effect.  Nevertheless, I had an uneasiness…didn’t know why.  As we drove through Fort Meade I found myself looking for an easy-out, something I had never done before, making sure if Fred should stroke at the wheel, I could get us off the road and out of harm’s way.  Now I wasn’t just uneasy.  I was unnerved.  Why would I even think stroke?  He had had HBP for a number of years and while, of course, we all know that stroke is a definite possibility, it wasn’t something that pressed upon either of us until those moments.  Sometimes of an evening he would go to the store and pick up a couple of odds and ends we might need.  That evening was one such but then I told him not to.  To just drop me off, go home and take things easy.  When we got to the office door I told him one last chance…it wasn’t too late for me to go in and tell them I could not work that evening and we would go directly home.  He said the headache was a little better and that he would see me at ten.

I’m not, nor ever have been, in the habit of taking or making calls at work but around 9pm. I asked my supervisor if I could call home.  Didn’t know why other than wanted to make sure the headache had dissipated and my husband was okay and the odd uneasiness this thought created.  The phone rang for quite a while and when it was answered the voice was almost unintelligible.  I wasn’t even sure who answered then, after a few seconds, it did sound more like him.  He couldn’t answer any question I asked him, he spoke but I wasn’t sure about what and then I heard him throw up.    I hung up, called our next door neighbours and asked if Tom would go check to see what was happening then call me back.  Within minutes he did…Fred was in his chair, looking as though he was having a seizure.  Tom called 911 first, then me to bring me up to speed while waiting for them to arrive.  When they did, I talked to them for a couple of seconds, mostly with regards to medications Fred took for his blood pressure.  Then Tom came on the line, letting me know they were taking my husband to the ER at Fort Meade.  I would meet them there.  Explained to my supervisor, went to call a cab to take me the few miles to the hospital but my supervisor said he would take me there.  I had him drop me off…saw Tom immediately, waiting for me at the ER doors.  I asked how Fred was…he didn’t know!  He’d followed the ambulance until, at an intersection, they turned away from the route to Fort Meade.  He couldn’t follow them at that point for he’d said he’d meet me there (days before cell phones were really the ‘in’ thing) so he had no choice but to keep that arrangement.  I thought we had nothing else to do but go inside and ask where they had sent/taken Fred.  Nobody knew…best guess was North Arundel Hospital.  Jumped in Tom’s care and sped up there.  No-one in their ER had any knowledge of him, either, and could offer no options.  Now what?  Finally, in a panic I practically screamed at them to call the dispatcher or “anyone” who could give information on where ambulances took emergency situations.  I mean, somebody had to know, right?  Finally located him at the hospital in Annapolis.  Off we went again.  And it had turned out to be an ugly night, weather-wise.  Rain, fog, a bit chilly and by now it was wearing on for 11pm.  Soon as we arrived they took me back to see Fred.  He was drifting in and out of consciousness but he did know me.  He had not been able to answer many of the nurses’ questions so I filled them in on his general health, the fact that he had PKD (polycystic kidney disease) at which they thought, perhaps, his kidneys were acting up.  Shortly after they took him for a CAT scan.  At that time, I told Tom to go home.  He had just started a new job that week and had to be up for work in the  morning.  He was concerned about leaving me and also how I would get home.  I knew I would be staying there until we knew what, exactly, was going on and when I was able to leave, I’d get a cab but, meanwhile, asked if he would check in on the dogs, let them out etc.  He finally, reluctantly, left and I waited.  What seemed like forever later, a radiologist came looking for me and the news was stunning.

He told me Fred had suffered a ruptured aneurysm in the brain, with a 70% bleed.  He asked if I had anyone with me and I explained about sending Tom home then he suggested I call someone.  The outlook was not good, he said it was unlikely my husband would survive and that I should have a relative or friend with me.  No relative…the nearest was Fred’s mother who lived in Oklahoma!  My family were all in Scotland.  But we did have friends from our navy days.  So I called Phyllis and Steve, waking them.  Without hesitation they said they would be there asap.  Then I sat down in the little waiting room wondering “What the hell….?”  In a blind panic I hadn’t a clue what would happen, everything was more than just uncertain except life as we knew it had drastically changed.

They brought Fred up from radiology, told me they were trying to make arrangements to transfer him to Baltimore as they didn’t have a neurosurgeon at the hospital.  While we waited they allowed me to be with him as I waited for Steve and Phyllis who, shortly after, appeared at the doorway.  While I was waiting with Fred, I heard a nurse attempting to solidify the plans for my husband’s transfer.  Obviously on the phone to UMMS, they were trying to figure out where to land the life-flight.  Travelling by road was not an option and, as I overheard it, she was adamant they could not fly him above 3,000′.  Sometime later, he was ready to roll, Steve, Phyllis and I got in their car and were on our way.  We arrived at NICU, UMMS a fair bit before the helicopter came in but then we heard a commotion in the hallway.  Fred was on a gurney trying to get off to “go pee”, attendants trying to keep him on it until they got him into a room.  They had him in a side-room off NICU when we got to see him for a few minutes.  They had me take his watch, wedding band etc.  Several times they came in to ask him questions such as his name, where he lived, the date.  He told them his name was George.  Not even close!  Not a middle name, no-one in his family called George…just our neighbour on the other side.  Couldn’t tell him his last name, date, nothing.  Then when I went to bring Phyllis and Steve in to see him I had said I’d be back in a wee minute…and when we returned, he was ‘there’!  Looked directly at me saying “That was more than a wee minute!”  To be honest, the reason I went for Steve and Phyllis was two fold.  They were, obviously, very upset and concerned…we had been friends for many years and, having been good enough to come when I called them, it was the least I felt I could do.  The other reason was more sombre…I wasn’t at all sure this would not the last chance they would ever have to see and talk to Fred.

It was 4am.  Hospital visiting in NICU began at 9am.  Here I was…having to depend upon friends getting me back and forth for the foreseeable future…however long that ‘future’ would be.  I didn’t know at what time I could get back to the hospital but I had the dogs to see to, my in-laws to notify as well as my sister and nephew in Scotland (and leave it up to my sister how and when she would break the news to my mother who, herself, was ill).  After I arrived home and my friends left I sat shaking, crying, my mind in a total frenzy and not a clue as to what I could do, if anything.  So I dropped to my knees and said  “All I ask is that I find the strength to face what must be faced, whatever that is…to do whatever it is I need.”

Published in:body-mind-spirit, life, Uncategorized |on December 12th, 2008 |Comments Off on Life As We Knew It