28 April 2007


Friday, end of the work week. Time for a nice dinner out, maybe some dancing or a show in their younger days. Now, they don't get out as much, the children are grown, the grandchildren filling their hearts with pride. Friday might not have been anything special any more. The usual routine, watching the news and the late show then off to bed. They lived in the in-law apartment, upstairs around the back, close to the love and support of family because they weren't getting any younger or healthier.

Today she had seen her doctor because she hadn't been feeling so well. Not that she'd been feeling great too many days lately, cancer will do that to you. He'd given her some new medication for atrial fibrillation, she was going to start tomorrow. Her chemotherapy was on schedule and everyone seemed hopeful for remission.

Her husband was sitting in his favorite recliner waiting for her to finish up in the bathroom when he hears her fall. She didn't even call out, just a thump as she hit the floor and the glimpse of her head in the hallway. He called downstairs for help and then called 911. The woman on the phone asks the usual list of questions and when she gets to "Is she breathing?", her daughter finds out the unfortunate answer is no. The dispatcher gives directions for mouth-to-mouth and that sinking feeling sets in. "Does she have a pulse?" "Please start CPR."

Her daughter gives an audible sigh of relief when the FF walks in and gently asks her to move out of the way. She won't be the one to have to do compressions, to hear her mother's ribs breaking, to wonder if she's doing them right, to wonder if she could possibly be responsible if her mother doesn't survive. Suddenly a scene of quiet desperation has changed to a scene of flurried activity. CPR in progress. Paddles on, monitor showing asystole. First try at an IV, no good. She gets moved to a backboard, strapped down and then she's gone, hustled down the stairs to the waiting ambulance.

Once she's inside, the family thinks the ambulance will be leaving now. But there's order to this chaos and things that are easier done before departure. IV established. ET tube placed and secured. Drugs given and a tiny glimpse of hope on the monitor screen. Finally, someone comes back out of the ambulance to tell them what is going on and the ambulance heads out in a hurry. More chaos as everyone decides who goes and who stays, which car to take, who is able to drive, and the million other decisions that have to be made before everyone can run out of the house.

The drive is the longest twenty-five minutes any of them can remember. By the time they reach the hospital, it is all over. The hospital staff doesn't let them back to the room right away. Nothing left to see or do, her room guarded over by security and a nursing staff which is trying to support them and prepare themselves for an incoming major trauma all at the same time. Dazed and confused, they stand at the room at a loss for words or actions. Loving companion for more than 40 years of marriage, kind mother, gone in the space of a missing heartbeat.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

That is a very beautiful piece. It made me cry. love, m