Yesterday started out like any other day. My husband of almost thirty-nine years was the poster child of a night person. He would go to bed in the morning around seven, and get up at one in the afternoon. Yesterday, one o'clock came and went, and he wasn't up. I thought he might want to sleep later because he might have gone to bed late, so I didn't come up to wake him until two.
When I woke him up, he was groggy and I couldn't understand him well. I thought it was because he didn't have his partial dentures in, although I could normally understand him. He said he had woken up before but he was dizzy. I went downstairs while he was going to get dressed. My son, who was upstairs, said he was having trouble getting out of bed because he was dizzy. We told him to raise both arms, and one was lower than the other. He said he had to get up to go to work. He hadn't worked outside the home in over forty years, so my son and I said "uh oh stroke?" and called 911.
The paramedics who came were very professional and took him to the nearest emergency room. When we arrived, it really looked like a stroke because his left side wasn't working properly and he wasn't speaking clearly or understanding well. They took a cat scan and found some bleeding in the brain. There was some discussion about possible non-invasive methods for helping out, but then he had another stroke in the emergency room and he was no longer conscious. They took him for another cat scan, and the neurosurgeon explained, with the cat scan pictures, what had happened. It seemed he had a congenital malformation of veins and arteries in the brain, but it was at a particular bad spot, low in the brain stem. If they tried to do anything, he would probably never be able to eat unaided, even if they succeeded.
The doctor asked about a health care directive, which we both had, and which you should also have, just in case. I knew he didn't want to live that kind of life, so I declined a surgery that had a 5% chance of a success that wouldn't be a success. They took him up to a hospital room, and he stopped breathing. The nurse left and the next thing we heard was a "Code Blue" for his room. About five people rushed in with a lot of equipment, and I looked at them and asked what they were going to do. Then a sixth person ran in and said he was DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) and DNI (Do Not Intubate) and everyone left. He started breathing a bit and hung on long enough for us to say good-bye, and another nurse came by and apologized. I told her it was better to make a mistake in that direction than in the other.
My sons and I are in shock because it happened so fast. My husband was seventy-five, and we knew we were getting old, but this is something that came with no warning. He was my "househusband" before househusbanding was fashionable. He stayed home with the kids because that was what he wanted to do, and I went to work because that was what I wanted to do. I must admit he always put the family first in life, and he did the same in death. Once the finality of the diagnosis was made and we knew there was nothing to do, he didn't linger for days and weeks. We didn't have to wonder if he was in pain. I don't think he knew what had happened.
If you don't like personal diaries, I apologize. I am sitting here typing and crying, but it's what I feel I have to do. I miss him a lot already. He would have loved sitting in on the family time my two sons and I had today. My third son is flying in from China and will arrive tomorrow. If I don't think about it, I can manage okay for a while, but then I think of something I want to tell him and the absence of his presence makes me very sad. We were very different in some ways and very alike in others, and fit together like a yin/yang symbol. Now I feel like there is a hole in my life.
I have regrets about what I didn't say or what we didn't get to do, or what he had planned and couldn't carry out. He always used to say "Never a dull moment." whenever some small crisis or silly activity occurred. Well he has his dull moment now, and I am very sorry. I love you Donald, we had a good life.
5:27 PM PT: Thank you for all the comments. They mean a lot to me. I'm not responding to most of them, but I am reading them all.