Forgive me if this post has errors be it grammaticaly or spelling. This is one post I will write and never read.
A moment I would return to and re-live? Without a moment’s hesitation, I would go to June 24, 2006, the day my mother died suddenly of a heart failure. I have never written about that day or spoke in great detail but here goes….
To this day, I dream about the day my mother died and it is unforgettable. It’s a dream that I can never wake up from. With each dream, I cannot wake up until it is over and I have to re-live those final moments. I don’t think I can ever forget that dream, that day, those sounds, those moments and the impact on my life. It was 2006 but I remember every minute of that day and when I have the dream it is just as it was that day, every single time.
I still constantly question every aspect of that day. What else could I have done? I should have done this or that. Why did I do something or why did they? I feel guilty that somehow I failed her. I know her doctor earlier that day failed her and that she should have been transported to the hospital. I know that based on what I was told after her death. I should have made the doctor and the hospital pay for what they did and face judgment. But I didn’t, why?
I still have not been able to take myself to see her grave. I don’t know when or if I will be able to take that walk.
Back to that day:
My husband was deployed and we were living in Texas. I had flown out to my parents’ home to spend a few weeks and catch up. My mom was in bad health and had been hospitalized several times in the months prior. She was diabetic, in kidney failure (she refused dialysis), her heart was in bad shape and she could barely walk (wheelchair bound majority of the time.)
I feel very lucky that I was able to spend that time with her. We talked, we went shopping and we really had a great time together. However, I saw the shape she was in and the constant pain she tried to control with countless pain medicines. I saw how depression had overtaken her personality and watched as tears sprung so easily from her eyes. I saw the woman who did everything, who stayed busy all day, never said no to anyone who needed help, who was THE go-to mom for everyone; she had changed into a sick, helpless and sad woman. I know she did not want to live like that, she had a living will drawn up with her last wishes such as a DNR, she refused to go on dialysis and she was fading away.
On that day, I took her to a previously scheduled PCM appointment. She complained about chest pain to the point she could not lie back without trouble breathing. She was given an EKG and quick check up. The doctor said the test was abnormal but nothing major. He advised to take her home, feed her lunch and take her to the local hospital for further test that couldn’t be done in the office. Nothing pressing, no hurry just to check.
I took her home, stopping for chicken nuggets and fries at her request. I can’t remember if she even got out of the car because by the time we got there she decided to go on to the hospital. I noticed she hadn’t eaten; she was quiet and kept touching her chest. Thankfully, the hospital was within 5 minutes. By the time I pulled into the ER, she couldn’t breathe and I had to get her out of the car. I found a wheelchair and hurried into the ER to the desk and begged them to take her back. This hospital doesn’t have a very good reputation when it comes to quick service and my mother-in-law passed there a few years before. They immediately took her back after one quick glance and forced me to let her go.
I waited with my dad, I called my brother and I cried. I was scared and I’m just like her, I like control of a situation and the ability to plan. I had neither and my husband (my rock of support) was in a war zone across the world. I had to stay strong for my father (who is medically retired from the Navy, has lung problems from injury in service and Alzheimer’s). I knew, according to her wishes and living will that I was going to be the one to have to make decisions and make sure doctors knew her wishes. Damn! Why!
Finally, we were allowed to come back and see her. Unprepared for this moment was an understatement. I had seen my dad in this place after a heart attack, my mom after a stroke but not like this. She was hooked up to EVERYTHING, she was crying, she couldn’t talk and the doctors were frantic. They gave us only a few seconds to see her. A FEW SECONDS to say what ended up being goodbye to this woman, this strong and invincible mother. I didn’t know what to say, what do you say? I wanted to be strong, to not cry and let her see my fear (yes, again just like her). I held her hand, told her was going to be ok, let her know what a great mom she was, that she did things right, that I appreciated her, that we had plans, that the doctors knew what they were doing and that I LOVED her! All this why I was scared beyond words, screaming and crying inside and not believing for a second that this was the last time we would talk. I prayed for her, with her, with my dad and by myself.
The nurses moved us to a private family area with the ER, which I knew from my mother-in-law that this was a bad sign. The doctor (heart surgeon) came in and told us quickly that she needed open heart surgery…now…..and needed an ok……now….this second….any options?….no time…no time to discusss…wanted my answer not my questions……NOW! Of course, I said yes and he left.
I called the Red Cross to get a message to my husband. It was so complicated in such a horrible moment to deal with. They wouldn’t take the nurse word that my husband needed to be sent home. They wanted to talk to THE doctor that was operating on her. Over and over, regardless of the hospital official that talked to them, they wanted THAT doctor. Well, the nurse ended up having to use the speaker phone in the operating room DURING the surgery for the doctor to talk to the Red Cross. ARE YOU KIDDING? That was what they needed to send him home.
After surgery, the doctor came in and said it was over. What? There was nothing more that could be done. Her heart was over, her life was over and nothing could be done. Her heart stopped every time they closed her up and thus they left her chest open to put her into the Cardiac ICU while hooked up to life support. We had a short time to say goodbye.
Dear GOD! We went in and she was hooked up to the machines, white as chalk, cold and silent but you could hear the heartbeat on the monitor. I held her hand, prayed, said I love you and tears fell. My heart broke watching my father say goodbye to his wife of 40 years. How do I console him? I had no clue. About that time blood began to fall from her eyes, ears and mouth, the nurses ran in and we were ushered out only to be returned a few minutes later. We were told they had to “pull the plug” and there was no hope. I could not stand there and watch her die, every inch of my body refused to be in that room when they unplugged her life. A nurse took me into a room, called the red cross and they connected me to my husband. I was on the phone with him when I heard her heartbeat turn into a flat line. NOTHING prepares you for that sound and I am in tears right now as I can HEAR it in my mind. I am so thankful that I was on the phone with my husband at that moment. I don’t know how I would have dealt with it otherwise.
I did not have a chance to talk to her after she was taken into the ER. I would give anything to hug her, to tell her everything she means to me and what an example she was as a mother, military spouse and special needs advocate. I would love to be able to show her pictures of my daughters and to tell her how much she was right about parenting, to share my two little miracle daughters with her for one minute. I never imagined that she would not be around when I had children. June 24, 2006, That would be without a doubt the day I would want to go back and try again.
Live, Love & Learn,