Saturday, February 27th 2016
It’s Saturday morning and Allan cannot rise from the recliner. He is using his strength, exerting as much as possible, but he can barely move his body forward. That’s it, I’m calling for an ambulance, although he is protesting that he doesn’t need to go to the hospital. He will sleep some more and make another endeavor in a couple of hours.
No, I’m calling for an ambulance NOW! He seemed so much better the last three days, and especially last night, when he appeared to be his old self. I don’t understand it! I’m assembling various paperwork: a file with data on Allan’s doctors; phone numbers; records I’ve been keeping regarding his cancer treatments; I collect all of his RXs into a bag.
Two ambulance attendants – a man and a woman – are here, but Allan is still contending that he doesn’t need to be hospitalized. He’s giving the attendants a hard time. They are attempting to push him onto the stretcher, but he isn’t cooperating and I don’t know what the complication is. You would think these attendants would have it down, how to lift him or roll him onto the gurney, especially since Allan isn’t strong enough to obstruct them; he’s too weak to stand without the walker.
I can’t take it! I maneuver in between the ambulance attendants and I literally shove Allan onto the stretcher, with strength I never knew I had. I collect the paperwork, Allan’s meds, my handbag, and my phone. Once we are in the ambulance, I call Michael. He is astounded, because he agreed with me, that Allan looked so much better the last few days.
We are in Emergency, and I am just outside of the curtain, where Allan is lying. I am apprising Allan’s various medical conditions for a doctor. We converse about his esophageal cancer and the radiation that has weakened him to his very core.
Suddenly the curtain springs open and two doctors and a nurse run out and then back in, as I stand “half in” “half out” of the curtain, as to not be in their way but to see what the circumstances are that have caused the chaos and turmoil. There are two doctors and two nurses administering to Allan: his blood pressure has dropped to a dangerously low level, and they are also extremely distressed about his heart rate. Any questions they have for me are put to the side as they supervise and resolve how to treat these crises. During the commotion, Allan starts raving about Beaumont’s Caesar Salad! He also keeps asking for water – which he can’t have while they are performing tests.
“Would you please shut-up!” shouts one of the doctors. “We are trying to save your life!”
I’m not sure what’s happening, at this point. Nurses are running in and out; doctors are working to stabilize Allan’s blood pressure. I give one of the nurses Allan’s prescription bottles, which she puts into a large plastic bag, while I answer the occasional question. Mostly, I stay vigilant – watching the intensity – as if it was a film rather than real life. Allan’s diversion helps: only he would talk about food in the middle of a life-threatening moment!
I can’t believe any of this! Allan is the only one who isn’t distressed. I took some of Allan’s tranquilizers out of the RX bottle before giving it to the nurse, and I took two lorazepams, yet I don’t feel them at all.
Allan almost dies twice within six hours in Emergency – but you would never know it, looking at him. He has been unperturbed throughout the day and during the crises. He was upset when I called for an ambulance, but now that he’s in the hospital, he is calm and even seems cheerful, like he was last night. At one point, when I’m the only one with him, he tells me that he feels okay and knew that he wasn’t going to die. He reminds me, “I have a lot more living to do!” I feel like I’m the one who almost died twice within a few hours!
We have been in Emergency for over seven hours, and Allan’s medical condition, for the moment, is stable. One doctor and two nurses come in and out of the curtain, to keep an eye on him. I’m starting to feel very weak, so I take advantage of Allan’s stability and take the elevator to the Restaurant Level. I buy two turkey pitas and two ice teas, and take them back to Allan. One of the nurses allows him to have only a couple of bites from the sandwich, along with a few sips of ice tea, which he thoroughly enjoys. Only he could take such pleasure from so little!
I update Michael and he still can’t believe Allan’s in the hospital, or that he could have died this afternoon, had I not called for an ambulance. I tell him how fantastic Allan was feeling last night, that it was his best night, by far, in the last couple of weeks: physically, mentally, and emotionally. And then this morning, he’s too weak to lift himself up from the recliner. It’s incredulous. I tell Michael that I’m optimistic, hoping that Allan’s good mood replicates what’s going on inside of him, and that today turns out to be an aberration. I guess we will have to cancel his appointment with Meighan on Monday. I can’t believe this! What a nightmare!
I also talk to Joanie and Robbie. Joan is surprised but not worried; whereas, Robbie is acutely upset. I tell Joan that Allan’s condition is still critical but stable, and I suggest that she make a plane reservation, given that her father almost died twice today. Instead, she decides to wait, since he’s stable. She tells me she has a date for this evening, but to call her if there are changes in Allan’s condition.
It’s about 8:30pm and Allan has been moved to his own room for the night. He’s been napping on and off, for about an hour. I am told there’s a phone charger in the Visitor’s Lounge, so I leave him, briefly, to borrow the charger.
I walk back into Allan’s room and a doctor is there – he had just come by to check on Allan. He’s about to leave when Allan starts to tremble, again, like he did several nights ago. The doctor immediately orders Allan to be taken to the ICU; he informs me that Allan’s lungs are failing – he’s trembling because he cannot get enough air. I tell the doctor this occurred once at home, and that the lorazepam RX stopped his shaking. I can’t believe it’s because of his lungs! Oh My God!
Allan is transferred to a room in the ICU. They give him oxygen and are going to monitor his breathing and hope it soon stabilizes. Allan has a new doctor – who is blonde, calm, and lovely. I give Dr. Lovely the same information I gave to the doctors in Emergency. She advises that they will observe Allan attentively for the next couple of hours, but if he’s still struggling to breathe they will have to attach him to a respirator, because his distressed breathing is too taxing for his heart. The picture that pops up in my mind, immediately, is of Karen Quinlan, chained to a respirator, which looked like a giant computer and made awful gurgling noises back in those days – the mid-70s. Dr. Lovely explicates that if Allan has pneumonia or another type of infection, the respirator would be temporary, until the infection is contained.
I call Joan, to update her again, but it’s too raucous in the restaurant/bar, so she’s going to go outside and call me. I phone Robbie and he’s extremely agitated. When I tell him that I’ll be at the hospital all night, he resolves to meet me here tomorrow around noon.
It’s about 11:30pm and Dr. Lovely apprises that it’s time – his labored breathing has not improved and they cannot wait any longer. As I scrutinize a doctor and two nurses, who are preparing Allan for attachment to a respirator, I am stunned – tears are running down my cheeks – knowing that I may never hear his voice again. A nurse gives me a small box of Kleenex: I hate that I cannot control my tears! Dr. Lovely asks Allan for his permission to attach him to a respirator. Thank God, he acquiesces.
I am talking to Joan when Dr. Lovely walks by, so I ask her to clarify to his daughter why he needs to be hooked up to life support. She still has not decided whether to fly to Michigan.
A nurse proposes that I go to the Visitor’s Lounge for some rest, since it will take a couple of hours, as they are performing various tests and then attaching Allan to the respirator. I relocate to the Lounge, where there are at least six people, who look to be in their late teens or early twenties, sprawled out on couches, chairs, and even on the floor. There are all types of phones, iPads, and computers hooked up to chargers, as well. Everyone is sleeping. I find an empty chair and take one half of my sleep RX, to hopefully nap for a couple of hours. It’s clear that the next couple of days are going to be stressful and exhausting.
I sleep for close to three hours, and one of the physicians articulates that he came to the lounge to convey that Allan is stable, on sedatives, and attached to a respirator. He didn’t want to wake me because I looked like I was “out cold.” I didn’t tell him it was due to the RX.