So, my heart, my love, my life-long mate, my best beloved in the wide, wide world (he so loved Kipling) died today. Right in the living room. No rescue breaths or compressions were going to bring him back. He lived long enough to smile brightly at son-of-disorderlyCNA, who had come home to visit from college for the weekend, to flick him some crap like usual, and then he had the big one. The widow-maker.
This was not unexpected. He’d bravely fought cancer for over seven years. . .was the king of the infusion floor, the oncologist’s most interesting patient, the guy who’d outlived every one of his diagnostic cohort. But he’d been short of breath this week. After chemo on Thursday, he had a chest x-ray. . .an ugly, ugly thing. I’ve seen some nasty images of lungs, peeking over the shoulders of the intensivists and nurses during my CNA days in the ICU. But this one took the cake. Imagine the thick, evil webs of funnel spiders, and that’s what my husband’s lungs looked like, all the way up to the middles. The oncologist returned my call the next day, in response to my question whether it was partly pneumonia? Nope, he said, it’s the cancer. And I felt all the fight drain out of me, right then. I didn’t say anything to my husband. I think he knew, anyway.
I almost lost, him, I thought, last night. He was sitting in his recliner, and the way his mouth hung open, his pallor, and the protruding tongue didn’t look right. He was unresponsive to a sternal rub, to peripheral pain, to me shouting and shaking him by the shoulders. And then, he came back. . .like he still had something to accomplish. Looked at me like I was a total jackass and said “why are you shouting at me? Are you PMS-ing?” Coolest, toughest sonuvabitch I’ve ever met. Should we take you to the hospital, I asked. No, he said, I’m fine. Please get me some ice cream. So I did. . .he really, really loved ice cream.
So today, he had cream of wheat and raspberry preserves. Watched TV. Had coffee. Laughed at the antics of our cat and dog chasing each other up and down the hall. It was really sunny outside. . .a beautiful day. At 1430, I told him our son was about 20 minutes away. He flipped channels on the TV. I was bathing our ridiculous little dog in the sink when the boy came in with a breezy “hello!” He and Papa began to talk. Life was good. I was out of the room when the boy shouted, “Mom, there’s something wrong with Dad!” 1525.
I would say a full-on grand mal siezure and hypoxia certainly qualified as bad. The boy dialed 9-1-1. I felt for a carotid pulse. . .there it was, I thought. I gave two rescue breaths – they bubbled back out at me. The boy said “we need to do compressions now.” I started them, yelled for the boy to bring the breadboard from the kitchen. We lifted the man, slid the board under, and I continued compressions. I went five rounds of 30:2 and the medics arrived. 1533.
They took over compressions, and I told them – he wants everything, full code. The shirt was cut, the pads placed, the IO started in the right tibia, the epi pushed. Backboard placed and strapped, lifted, gurney scissored up, out the door. 1538. Ambulance leaves our house. I look numbly at my son. Who’s driving, I ask? He says he will. We leave, go to the hospital. Walk through that front door for the zillionth time. I go like a robot to the security window, tell them I’ve parked in the ER lot because my husband is in the ER, so please don’t email my manager that I’m in violation. We go to the triage window. We are ushered back to one of the trauma bays. We go in. Full code in progress. . .a compression line of 3 ED techs. I know them all. The nurses, the doc, the house super, the charge nurse. All of us, faces stony. Pulse check. . .asystole. The doc talks to me, says that nothing’s coming back. I know, I say. He wanted everything done, has everything been done, I ask. Yes. All right, I say, that’s it, then. Time of death 1611. He is gone.
I think, looking back, that he might have insisted on being a full code because he knew where it would lead – either to the ICU or the ED, and either way, there would be people there to take care of us, to hug us and help us through that first awful hour of shock, to ease us into the unending hours of grief to come. And they did. And I am grateful.