After five nights in Critical Care, Donna was moved onto a transition floor in the hospital. She seemed to be improving, or so we thought. Because of the severe infection in one of her heart valves, Donna was taking strong antibiotics. Her blood pressure was stabilizing. However, every nurse that came in said something about her being very sick. One nurse stated that they had previously had a few patients that recovered from endocarditis, but they were patients that were otherwise healthy. No one was giving us much hope for her recovery.
Donna’s mind was still, well, all over the place. She could remember phone numbers. She could recall things I had told her the day after her heart attack. On the other hand she would do things like put phantom salt on a phantom sandwich she was supposedly holding in her hands. Oh, dear.
She would talk for hours and hours. She would stay awake all night talking. Then when she was given medicine to help her relax, she would sleep for hours and hours. It was a wild pendulum swing. This continued day after day.
Brief visits with family and friends was up to that point my only experience with critical care. When Donna was placed in CCU, I got up close and personal exposure to the intense care given to patients in that unit. We were allowed to stay with Donna round the clock, as long as there were no more than two people in her room at a time.
The rooms are small and designed for function, not family comfort. Darla and I didn’t mind at all, because we knew that Donna needed ‘critical care’ and we wanted nothing less for her. The nurses were the best of the best. They were professional and focused. They readily responded to our questions and concerns, but they did not spend extra time just visiting. If we accidentally had more than two people in Donna’s room, they quickly and pointedly brought that to our attention, and of course we immediately complied with the two person rule.
During Donna’s stay in critical care, she had periods of being very awake and periods of being unable to wake up. It was always one or the other. The electrocardiogram showed that she had two bad heart valves that needed to be replaced, as well as infection in one of the valves. The infection was called endocarditis and very serious. She also needed several heart bypasses. The kicker was that her heart was not strong enough for even an angiogram. Her cardiologist told us that Donna’s condition was very grave, and we should start getting in contact with her family, and getting her things ready…..
It was a typical late Saturday afternoon at my house. I was busily doing my typical Saturday tasks, preparing for Sunday’s worship and the next school week, when Darla’s call came. Donna had a heart attack and was in the ER. When she was brought in by ambulance, her blood pressure was 40/20 and her pulse was in the 180 range. She was conscious and responsive, but strangely she was completely lucid one minute and completely confused the next. The doctors shocked her heart (without sedation) in order to bring down her heart rate. Darla said her screams could be heard throughout the ER. The next post will be about Donna’s stay in The Critical Care Unit.
Donna’s health began to deteriorate in 2007 when she began to lose her ability to walk. She went to several doctors, had a multitude of tests run, and no diagnosis or treatment was ever decided. Soon after this, she began to have problems with her eyes. it was her eye doctor that found her diabetes.
Apparently she had been diabetic for at least a decade and didn’t know it. She was not one for getting regular check ups. The diabetes had done considerable damage to her eyes. During this time it was discovered that the diabetes had also severely damaged her kidneys. Within two years she was on dialysis, and within another year she had lost the sight in one eye.
Life was hard for Donna.
It has been quite a while since I added a new post to this blog. In a way, that’s good because it means that life has been relatively calm for our family. However, this last month, my sister passed away, and even though she did not have cancer, we did, as a family, walk down a similar path to those families dealing with cancer.
In the next several posts I will chronicle my sister’s passing and share with you the things I learned. I will share the love and the sorrow; the bitter and the sweet.
Amy was diagnosed several years ago with breast cancer. She passed away today after a valiant struggle with this disease. She left behind a husband and four young children. She taught us all about facing and fighting the biggest of obstacles with courage and faith. Please pray for her family. Rest in peace, Amy, you have fought the good fight. We miss you already.
It was a Divinely arranged moment, and in spite of the sadness of the occasion, it could have not been more perfect. We found out that our dear friend’s melanoma had returned on Tuesday. On Friday we had the opportunity to visit her. When we walked into her hospital room, she was alone. Her family had just left to go to dinner, and we had about 30 minutes of uninterrupted time. We laughed, cried, reminisced, and prayed. She said that she had a win-win situation going on. If she got well, she won. On the other hand, if God took her home, she also won. Our precious friend had it exactly right, and her attitude was comforting and inspiring.
When I held her hand just as we were leaving, I knew I was seeing her face for the last time this side of heaven. The next morning, she slipped into a coma, and God took her home the next day.
I am so thankful that God arranged our special last moment together.