Thursday, November 15, 2012

Disaster

You know disaster to a child can be not getting the toy at the checkout counter.  When you are a teen a disaster can be a pimple on the day of The Dance.  A really bad tasting meal or burning the toast when a woman is a young wife can send some into sobs.  Finding the baby diaperless in a fecal covered bed, wall and child can be more than a disaster, it can send some parents running for the nearest trash can or stool.

Natural disasters are measured and rated by the Richter, Saffir-Simpson or Enhanced Fujita scales.  Never been near an earthquake that I felt.  Live too far from the ocean for hurricanes.  We have had tornadoes withing 1/4 mile of our home.   We met a skidding car on a narrow, ice covered overpass the regained control about 10 feet from our car.

I do not know of a scale to measure a health disaster.  Irreversible damage, life threatening, near death, at the brink, on hospice care and septic shock come to mind as terms used in the conference rooms with doctors.  These doctors were accessing the condition of our fathers' conditions in the days and hours prior to their passing.

In 2007 after driving for about thirteen hours in a blinding snow storm Gene evidently developed a blood clot.  It took several weeks for any symptoms to manifest.  After a few days of xrays, antibiotics and a CT scan, it was determined Gene had a massive saddle blood clot in his left lung.  Imaging, also, revealed what appeared to be pneumonia in the bottom of his right lung.  He was immediately admitted to the hospital and anti-clotting meds were begun.  That was on Wednesday, April 19.

On Friday morning, April 21,  Gene, who had been somewhat uncomfortable, experienced a sudden, sharp pain.  Tests were run all day.  A morphine drip was installed.  Gene's pain just continued to increase.  Our son and his family from Texas arrived after lunch.  All indications were that Gene was doing okay.  The pain was probably just the pneumonia spreading as a CT scan had shown over half of the right lung now showing problems.  The morphine drip was increased.

Around 5 PM John Roger, our son, took his family to our house to get some dinner.  He would help get the boys to bed and return to spend the night with his dad allowing me to go home for some rest.

At 9:40 PM my husband went into coronary and respiratory arrest while I stood holding a pan for him to throw up.  His assigned nurse who had been working to determine why Gene's blood pressure was dropping dangerously low had stepped down the hall to consult by phone with a doctor.  Alarms were sounding at the nurses' station as the young PA crawled across my husband to pull the cord signalling a code blue.  All I could do was repeat very loudly over and over, "Not now, God, No, No, No, it is too soon."  I was inconsolable.  I had seen those dead looking eyes before at my father's bedside.

Within seconds the nurse was on Gene's chest beginning CPR.  As the room filled with the Code Blue team I was escorted to the hall by a nurse.  From nowhere the chaplain was by my side trying to get me to stop screaming.  She got my cell and we called first my son who did not answer.  I left a message for him to call immediately.  Everything had been "fine" with Gene when John Roger  had left the hospital so he was not keeping the phone "on him".

When unable to get through to our son, the chaplain had me call my sister who was in Texas.  Arlene was a dinner.  She was a little short telling me she could not understand anything I was saying and I should calm down and quit crying.  She had no idea till months later that the code blue team was working on Gene as she and I spoke.   I managed to calm down enough to tell her it was not good.  She had asked earlier in the week if it she needed to come to be with me.  I told her no then.  But this time I said yes without any hesitation.  Meanwhile the team pulled Gene back from the brink of death.  A nurse pulled me to the bedside while another nurse finished the conversation with my sister.

Gene was moved to CCU where he would be for the next 8 days.  Our son returned my call.  I had to say the words that we had lost his dad for a short time.  The team had gotten a heartbeat and he was breathing with difficulty.  Everything was extremely critical and unstable. That his dad was transferred into CCU and what floor that was on.  I instructed our son which door to come to get inside the hospital at this time of night.  We hung up both being in shock at the turn of events.

I returned to the room to gather belongings to take up to CCU.  There were all the electronic gadgets Gene loved to have around him.  His cpap machine, my stuff, his dirty clothing and I was still gathering stuff when my son walked into the room.  He had made the trip from our house to the hospital, walked through the emergency room entrance, gone to the CCU and came to look for me.  It seemed to be only minutes since we had spoken but it takes 10 minutes just to get to the hospital from our house.

The next 48 hours had doctors in conference rooms with John Roger and I.  The doctors were saying all the words I had heard before.  In addition there were new words like infarction, ruptured, bled out till no room for heart and lungs to work.  That is called a thoracic event not dead.  It is not dead till there are no brain waves.  Vena cava filters, arterial heart monitor, intubation, pump assisted abdominal drains and dopamine drips.  Then the "if he makes it the next 24 hours he might have a chance" talk.

There were wonderful health professionals.  The nurses in CCU worked very hard to keep Gene alive.  Dr. John saved his life by coming back to the hospital in the middle of the night to install the thoracic drain that removed enough blood to allow the re-inflation of the lungs.  This procedure also gave room for the heart to beat with less stress.

The next day Dr. John said the dark part of the lung had not been pneumonia but was an infarction.  The bottom lobe was dead, it ruptured and Gene's chest cavity had become filled with his own blood.  Later Dr. Rivers, the hospital doctor, said research had not turned up anyone who had lived through this type of event.

My husband has almost no memory of most of the events of Saturday the 22nd and Sunday the 23rd of 2007.  This amnesia is due to the heavy pain medications and a merciful God.  At one point Gene recalls how good it felt to quit hurting and thinking it would be okay to stay at the "not hurting place".  Then he remembered me, his son and his son's family.  He decided we all still wanted him in our lives and he should not let go of the pain. And he started hurting again ... for us.

Gene just went to bed here on November 14, 2012.   Our grandsons via an email from their dad said they are looking forward to seeing us in a few days.  So is our son, my sister and her family.  Life is good.  And I still believe in my heart of hearts that yelling "not now" was really a prayer from the Holy Spirit.  A prayer that was answered when Gene decided not to let go of the pain.

Second Blooming
Second Blooming
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