I said, “Ok what are we talking about here?”
The doctor, who acknowledged me said, “Well we were talking with Mike and we think its best to proceed the way we discussed.”
What? Proceed? We? Discussed? Who is we? Him and Mike? All the doctors? All the doctors and Mike? Mike? Who was barely there due to the morphine drip, the Fentynal patches and Dilaudid they were giving him for pain. He did recognize me though. That was encouraging. He wasn’t completely out of it due to the meds.
Some of the doctors started to leave the room, as if to issue orders on whatever had been agreed upon in my absence.
My cell phone rang just then and it was Mike’s mother Teresa. She asked me, “What’s going on?”
Well I don’t know. I just think you and Bob ought to come. Now. Come now because I don’t know what’s going on and they are going to move Mike…somewhere. Mike’s parents lived in a different town from us, about 4 hours away if you didn’t pay attention to the speed limit. I didn’t know if they were in town or not. They had tired of me about that time and decided they’d go somewhere else and sneak in to see Mike when I wasn’t around.
It was later on that I discovered exactly where they were. I’ll save that for a bit later in this telling.
By the time I’d gotten off the phone the doctors were all gone. I went to Mike and asked him, “what’s going on?”
Apparently he wasn’t sure. He said something like, “they’re going to move me to do something.”
Do something? Like what?
“I don’t know.” He smiled then and said, “It’ll be ok. Don’t worry.” He hugged me and patted me on my back.
My thought was NO it’s not going to be ok! It isn’t! But I didn’t voice my thoughts.
A nurse came in then and asked if Mike was ready to go.
“Sure!” He said.
I asked the nurse, “Where exactly are we going? Where are you moving him to?”
What?! Why? He’s going to be released tomorrow! Why the ICU today?
I felt like I’d entered the twilight zone. Maybe I drove so fast getting to the hospital I entered an altered state or something. Everyone, including Mike, knew what was planned, where they were going and what was going to happen. Everyone knew but me.
All I could do was follow meekly along. Walking next to Mike’s bed as they wheeled him down a corridor, turn and go down another corridor. Ok, so we’re staying on the same floor. That’s good, right? I’d been to the ICU on the floor below. So maybe it’s a procedure of some sort.
Apparently there is an ICU unit on each floor of the VA hospital because that’s where we ended up.
While the nurses got Mike settled into his private room a doctor approached me. He asked me about Mike’s health history, about his parents, grandparents…why are you asking me all this? Don’t you know already? He’s been here for days! Has he had any kidney trouble? No. Asthma? No! Any history of this or that? No. Any problems? No! He broke his hip in a car accident a couple of years ago which resulted in him being in the hospital for 3 months while in traction and other than being a little overweight he was perfectly healthy until cancer slithered into his body.
Honestly, I did not know where Gabrielle was then. She rarely left my side through this whole thing so I knew she was around…but where exactly? She had a habit of materializing just when I looked for her. She materialized just then as the doctor was finishing his interrogation of me regarding Mike’s health history.
She told me that “people had arrived.” Who? She didn’t answer so I left the ICU unit to see who it was. Ryan? Mike’s parents? Who?
Tom a close friend of Mike’s had arrived. He lives close to us and he must have raced like I did to the hospital. Naturally he asked me what was going on. I had to tell him I didn’t know. Because I still didn’t have any idea what was happening.
Two other friends arrived, Robyn and her husband Matt. Gabrielle went through my entire phone apparently and just called every number I had in my contact list.
Hi everyone. Thanks for coming!
I heard the door to the ICU unit open and turned to look who had activated the door. It was a doctor looking for me.
He said, “Can you come with me?” Sure, happy to come along with you. Not really but one doesn’t refuse the treating physician you’re hoping will save your husband.
He was hooked up to monitors, all kinds of machines where scattered about in this tiny 5’ x 8” room. It was more like a cubicle with a window and a door. Standing room only for us.
In his room was all 5 of the doctors I had seen earlier, the “new” doctor who asked me about Mike’s health and the head doctor whom I had met a few days earlier. Again they stood around with hands in their pockets. Again I felt off kilter, confused as to what exactly is happening here?!
Mike was calm, cool and collected or just heavily drugged. But he didn’t seem worried. So I decided to follow his lead and not worry. I took a deep breath and braced myself to ask out right, what are we doing here? What is the plan? Why did you move Mike?
I barely got my mouth open to speak when the head doctor said, “You’ll need to say goodbye to Mike now. He won’t be able to talk to you again.”
Are you telling me I have to say my parting words to him? NOW?! While you all stand here listening, watching, and waiting impatiently for me to leave? WHAT?!
I didn’t say any of that of course. There’s something intimidating about all those men and women doctors standing in their clean white coats, standing waiting for me to get a grip so they can get on with their business…whatever their business was planned for Mike.
I went to Mike then, in his bed. He was still sitting up, remember it was the most comfortable position for him. He hadn’t been able to lay on his back for 3 months because the cancer made it just too painful, even with the pain medication he was taking.
I hugged him and started babbling. I started crying and babbling. He just hugged me. He didn’t say anything, just hugged me. Did he know what was going to happen? Because if he did I wanted him to tell me now while he could still talk! Why won’t he be able to talk in a few minutes?!
I babbled in his ear that I loved him, that he was a good dad, that I am so grateful to have been his wife. I told him that he’s made me so very happy…that sort of
thing…those sorts of things you say to someone you love who “won’t be able to talk” after this.
I probably went on for about 5 minutes on and on I babbled. Finally I ran out of words or my throat closed up with my tears and I stopped. Mike just hugged me, turned his head toward me and said, “I adore you.”
We stayed that way for a while. Mike said nothing else; he just hugged me with one arm–his head turned toward me. I was half-way lying on his bed with my arm around him; one leg wrapped across him with one foot still on the floor. I became aware of myself again. Aware of those doctors still standing around. They couldn’t have left the room to give us privacy? Oh well.
One doctor asked, “Is there anyone else that needs to say anything to Mike?” Goodbye? Goodbye to Mike? Ok now you’re really scary me! WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO TO HIM!
Instead I answered yes, there are people here. Our daughter…others. I left then to go fetch whoever was out there in the hallway.
More people had arrived. One woman Debbie was there with her husband Don. Don and Mike had gone to high school together so they’d known each other for years. Debbie started bawling. She was just utterly sobbing. I went to her and hugged her, told her it’s going to be ok, don’t cry. While I was doing that I thought, shouldn’t this be the other way around? Shouldn’t she be hugging me? Telling me it’s going to be ok? How do these things get so confused?
Anyway I told everyone if you want to say goodbye to Mike now’s the time to do it! You can go in now if you like.
The parade to Mike’s room began then. One or two people went in spent a few minutes and came back out. Each one crying, wiping their faces, turned away from me.
Mike’s parents had not arrived, neither had his son. But I had the sense there was some urgency to whatever the battery of doctors wanted to do so I went back into the ICU unit; to Mike’s room where the doctors still remained apparently not having moved at all.
One told me that “they have to get started.”
Oh alright!! Started…..
They invited me to wait in the little room off the ICU unit. I took some encouragement from that. If I’m supposed to wait then this isn’t the end, is it? Mike isn’t going to die tonight, is he? I didn’t ask. I was afraid of the answer. I didn’t want to hear them tell me tonight was Mike’s last night. I couldn’t bare it. I wasn’t ready. He can’t die! He’s too young.
About 45 minutes crawled by. Debbie and Don left. They’d said their goodbyes and they were done I guess. Not like I needed company or anything. It’s my husband in that ICU unit. It’s our life hanging in the balance. It’s my future that will be affected any minute now…but no I’m fine. Thanks. You go on home now to your comfortable lives, to your routine, to your healthy family. I’ll just stay here.
A doctor presented at the waiting room and told me that I could come in and see Mike. I jumped off the plastic couch and went into the ICU unit, into Mike’s room.
He was flat on his back which stunned me. That had to be impossibly painful for him. I stood at the doorway assessing the room, Mike, what was different.
He was sedated! They had put him on a respirator. Why remained a mystery to me still but I did think at least he isn’t hurting.
I broke then. Right then and there I broke. I turned and walked out of the room, out of the ICU unit and Gabrielle was immediately by my side. I couldn’t breathe, couldn’t think, couldn’t stop the tears from coming. I could not do this! I saw some people had arrived but I ignored them. I turned down the hallway and somebody asked me something. I ignored them. I started walking faster and faster away from them, away from the ICU unit…away. I finally started to run I indicated to Gabrielle to just stay back because she was keeping pace with me as I walked. Palm out to her, indicating stay! I had no words for her just then; she was 21 and had endured this battle with cancer just every bit as long as Mike and I had, and she was scared too, she deserved some words from me. But I didn’t have any. I couldn’t form a thought. I couldn’t form a sentence and I didn’t want her to see her mother finally lose her sanity. So I ran from her too.
The hallways were empty. No one was around. So I ran to the end of the hallway, turned and ran down the end of that hallway and turned and ran, down the hallway, turn and ran I passed the ICU unit and kept on running. I felt everyone’s eyes on me. I knew they were thinking—she’s cracked. Finally she’s broken under the pressure. They were right, I had. I ran around and around the hospital floor. I ran and ran and kept on running even after my heart was pounding; I was gasping for air; my legs screaming and still I ran. On my 4th pass of the ICU unit I managed to corral my thoughts, my panic, my fear and my tears so I slowed and walked to the few people waiting there for me. I walked up as if it’s every day someone runs laps around a hospital. I didn’t really care what any of them thought of me. I figured if they thought they could do it better, then do it. Right now it’s easy for you to judge me and how I deal with the stress of my husband dying.
My legs were shaking but there was nowhere to sit so I put my back up against a wall and slide to the floor.
I still had no idea why Mike was sedated. Why he was moved to the ICU unit nor what was going to happen next. I was powerless to do anything but wait and worry and pray.