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Friday, June 5, 2015


I don't know what to say, but the writer in me sits at my desk, cigarette in hand, glass of whiskey and Coke at my side, wanting to type out my sorrow -- but "sorrow" is a stupid word, it doesn't begin to describe this hollowness I feel as if some unknown hand has reached into my belly and cut out my very soul and left me empty inside...

But I feel the need to relate the events of this past week, to all you faithful readers, who have supported me and given me such comfort these past four + long years.

On Tuesday, Bob was fine. Did his exercises, his speech therapy at home.  The week before we had visited a doctor to get the results of his lung CAT scan, Bob had been sounding a bit more "gurgly" than usual and I was worried about another bout of pneumonia, but the doc had given him an "all clear" for pneumonia, the scan had looked good except for the chronic fluid accumulation in Bob's right lower lung lobe. This had been an ongoing problem since the stroke, when he suffered a pulmonary embolism that had collapsed that lung completely. Since then, the lower lung lobe always retained a bit of fluid, but the doctor called this his "baseline", said it was "chronic condition" and told me not to worry.

On Wednesday, Bob said he was "tired".  He slept in and I let him.  I certainly had plenty to do, laundry, cleaning etc.  I woke him up at noon for his noon meds and asked him if he wanted to dress and/or get up in his wheelchair, but he said he was still "tired" and just wanted to change into fresh pajamas.  Concerned, I took his blood pressure and his temperature.  His BP was fine and his temp slightly elevated (98.9) and I checked the pee in his bag and it looked, maybe, a little darker than it should, which concerned me a little bit, worried that he might be getting another UTI.

I asked Bob how he felt and he said "Fine".

The urologist had given me a script for Cipro and said that if I suspected another UTI, to give Bob a two day dose to "knock it out" at the onset and if that didn't work, then come in to see the doctor. So, to be safe, I started him on the Cipro.  I also gave him a breathing treatment with his nebulizer. He fell back to sleep, but rallied round about 5:00 p.m. I noticed then he seemed to trembling a bit.  I retook BP and temp (99) and asked him how he felt and he said "fine". He still sounded gurgly so I gave him another breathing treatment. I was growing concerned, kept asking him if he was OK, if I needed to take him to the hospital, but he kept reassuring me he was "fine" and did not want to go to the hospital and when I said, "you don't seem fine to me", he looked at me, a sort of sideways glance and said, "I'm happy, happy, HAPPY!!  Oooh-kay?"

He then fed Zenith & Ripley some treats. We watched a movie. He fell asleep before the movie ended. I still thought his breathing didn't sound good and gave him another breathing treatment, and before I went to bed, I gave him the second dose of Cipro, then suctioned out his mouth with the suction machine.  I was worried, but he assured me so many times he was "fine" and said that he did not want to go to the hospital.  I told myself if he wasn't better in the morning, I'd take him to the ER.  And I went to sleep.

At around 4:00 a.m., I woke up and the room was quiet, and I thought "good, his breathing is better, the Cipro is working" and fell back to sleep.

Then morning came, and he was gone.

Just like that.

I still can't believe it.

I did shake him, I did try to wake him up, I did scream his name at the top of my lungs. But he didn't wake up.

I will say that he looked peaceful, like an angel, like he was still sleeping with his eyes at half-mast. His sheets were still tucked in as I had left them.  It did not look as if he had struggled or suffered.  It seemed as if he had just slipped away.

I did call 911, and the dispatcher wanted me to start CPR, and she first directed me to "get him on the floor" which I tried, following her directions, to pull the sheets around him and pull him off the side of the bed, then when that didn't work, she told me to pull his feet, to pull him off the bed that way. But I couldn't move him and really, I knew, already it was too late -- he was so stiff and by that time the paramedics arrived.

The paramedics got out a defibrillator and started to put the paddles on Bob's chest, only to stop before they completed connecting him, to tell me that they were "sorry" and "my husband had already passed."

Zenith, his beloved cat, would not leave his side, even when the men in black from the funeral home came to take his body.  I had to scoop that cat out of his bed, and she struggled out of my arms and followed the stretcher to the door.

Zenith has since stopped eating, has been vomiting again and hiding under furniture.  I had to call the vet who brought IV fluids and anti-vomit shots, and something to stimulate her appetite, B12 shots and an antibiotic (just in case) plus a "kitty calming collar" to reduce her stress. She is finally coming around but is on three new meds and I have to give her IV fluids every other day....

We are all grieving here at The Pink House.  Boomer paces the floors.  Ripley sleeps on Bob's hospital bed.  Zenith is sick.  And I am just lost.

And, I tell you, I am beating myself up for not insisting he go to the hospital the night before.....

And thank you, all of you, for your kind comments and emails.  I do appreciate them.


Anonymous said...

After 4+ caregiver years and all that that entailed, the "nothing to do" or take care of will take some time to sink in, Diane. I wish that I was closer so that we could sit on your front porch and just stare ahead, shake our heads and cry. Always remember you did more than you knew you could do to keep Bob at home and comfortable. You are one heck of a gal and you will be okay - it'll take some time, but you will be okay. xoxoxoxo Trudy from Texas

DebbieL said...

Diane, I can't even begin to imagine the emptiness you feel. Please do not forget that you are an amazing person and that it has been your love that has been helped Bob so much since his stroke -- more than any therapy, doctor or medicine ever could. Please try not to second guess yourself. I would have done the same thing you did. There are no words, though, that seem adequate, so I am sending you, Zenith and Boomer a big hug.

Anonymous said...

I can't tell you I know you feel, because I don't. I can tell you that I'm famous for playing that cruddy "what if" game. And I lose that darn game every time. Probably because, as my hubby says, "There's no do overs in life, only go forwards." Smart man, my hubby is. And while my head agrees with him, my heart is sometimes a different story...I guess it's just part of being human.

I think what resonates with me the most as I read your description of that day and evening is that you and Bob spent it together, companionably together. Much like many of your prior days and evenings. I'm not sure a person could ask for anything any better than to spend their time with the person/ people they love the most (pets included). Sometimes the simplest things in life are the best.

I honestly can't think of many people who can say they know how much they are loved.
But it's so apparent how much you love Bob, and it's wonderful that he knew it, felt it, lived it with you and your 4 legged family members. I pray you'll stop beating yourself up...that instead you'll be comforted in knowing that your and Bob's love has touched (and in a way been shared) with so many people. What a tribute that is!
I also hope Zenith continues to feel better, and please take care of yourself too.
Kan and David

J.L. Murphey said...

You are loved. You are a writer too. It's evident in what you write. Sending you virtual hugs.

Jenn said...

D - Written so beautifully. <3 Love you very much <3

Anonymous said...

Diane - Please do not play that horrified game of what if. You never win and only make yourself feel terrible. You are a very strong person. You took care of Bob in the most loving way. He did not want to go to the hospital. Perhaps he felt his time was coming to an end and wanted to be home with you and Zenith and Ripley, instead of in a hospital. Take heart in knowing you were his rock. Please keep writing, your are so good at it, and perhaps it will help you in this time of grief.


Anonymous said...

It's difficult, but you need to get past the second guessing of "what if" or the "if only". Everything you did was based on 4+ yrs of knowledge and experience in caring for Bob post stroke. Your decision and care of Bob that day was the correct one. For whatever reason the good Lord had, He decided it was time to call Bob to His side.

You are in my thoughts & prayers.

Hugs, Dan

Lisa said...

Thank you so much for sharing your last day with Bob. It breaks my heart to read how difficult it has been for you, Zenith, Boomer and Ripley. He was so well loved and I know that Bob loved you for being his warrior, caregiver and cheerleader. Your love story is one of a kind and it has truly touched my heart.

Joyce said...

I dealt with so much guilt after Gary's stroke because the typical symptoms were not present and I did not recognize it right away. It took a long time before I quit doing the "what if" thing. I finally decided guilt does not accomplish anything and it takes a heck of a lot of energy. I see see so many similarities between Bob and Gary's situation, and I have had to make that call too many times, about what to do. It is just so hard. I just hope when it is Gary's time that it will be at home and not in a hospital. Love to you. Joyce

Anonymous said...

Diane, you don't know me but I read your column everyday. I lived the life you lived with Bob. I lost my husband in November, at home, in bed with me. I was his caregiver for 2 years after his stroke. I did everything just like you.

I will tell you I know how you feel. I miss him so much everyday, and would take him back here with me, doing all the hard, hard, hard caregiving I did. That's my selfish side. He is in a much better place and in the last few months was peaceful and content, and I believe ready to go to a better place. That's what I tell myself every night when I get in our bed and wish he were there with me.

I still feel lost after 7 months. You will too. It does get a little easier, and I ask God everyday to tell him I love him and miss him.

My prayers have always been with you and other caregivers, and you are in my prayers now to move forward. That's what I pray for me everyday and everynight. For God to continue to give me strength, courage, wisdom and guidance to move forward, just as he gave me all those things everyday to take care of my husband.

From reading your blog, you did everything the right way. I work in the medical field and I know you did everything the right way. Just as my husband did, Bob left exactly the way he wanted to. Rest in that thought. Nothing you could have done would change that it happened. It happened God's way and Bob's way.

Laura Romero said...

I had two strokes in 2010 at the ripe old age of 29 (due to a heart defect). I have been silently reading your blogs for about a year now and though, because of my age, I recovered very well for the most part, I still see a lot of you and your sweet husband in myself and mine. Roles reversed, of course. He had to become my caretaker until I could talk for myself, eat by myself and shower by myself. Now he is my greatest advocate. I admire your strength and stamina. It takes a special someone to take on such an important role in our lives. Thank you.

Barb Polan said...

I didn't know him, but I believe that Bob died as he would have wanted - at home, surrounded by his loved ones, and, as he said, "happy, happy, HAPPY."