The title tells it all. I’ve been under a black cloud that still hasn’t cleared. This time of year is the second anniversary of my husband’s stroke, and usually any sort of hope for the future evaporates about now. It has lifted before and I expect it will lift again, but I am just in a dark place.
Two years ago I was at work when my cell phone rang in the late afternoon with an unfamiliar number. I tend not to answer calls I don’t recognize, but this one I did. An ICU nurse asked if I knew my husband had been discovered in the parking lot of our condo complex and had suffered a major stroke. This was the first I heard of any problems. I had chatted with my husband on the phone about 11 a.m. and the ambulance got him to the hospital around 11:45, I discovered later. I left work, picked up our daughter and headed to ICU.
My husband was in a coma with a breathing tube down his throat and various machines beeping out his vital signs. We sat by his bedside until late in the evening. He didn’t move except for rise and fall caused by the respirator. The doctors wouldn’t have a diagnosis until the next day.
We did some grocery shopping after the hospital and I lost it in the soup aisle of all places. I had just developed a recipe Tom really liked that used 2 kinds of soups and I automatically reached for the soups, until I realized I wouldn’t need them.
The next day, the neurologist said he’s never seen so much damage in a brain and have the patient survive. He said there was virtually no chance he would come out of his coma. I knew Tom didn’t want to live like this, as we had discussed many times. A “Breaking Bad” character is in a wheelchair and can only communicate by ringing a bell. Both of us agreed we didn’t want to be like that. I made the difficult decision to remove life support. We got two ministers to perform the last rites, and I drew some comfort from their words. Around noon, the technician started removing tubes and wires. The technician said sometimes the patients expire right away or linger for a time.
Tom lingered on, and relatives from his side of the family gathered in a sort of wake, with so much laughing and joking that Tom’s roommate requested another room. Everyone left by nightfall and I was alone with Tom. Another doctor came in to check his vital signs and announced that Tom was waking up. He ordered restoration of fluids and nutrition.
My hope rose with the doctor’s orders, and even more so when Tom woke up. He underwent lots of physical and speech therapy in the hospital until his medical team decided that he should move to a rehabilitation facility. He did, on Mother’s Day 2010, so that day’s ruined for me.
Tom’s condition didn’t improve much, and for two years he’s been pretty much where he is now: unable to speak, eat, walk, or get out of bed. I see him every evening on the way home from work and on the weekends. Most days he falls asleep before I leave; sometimes I think he doesn’t know who I am.
Tom’s still here, but he’s not the man I fell in love with and married. I’ll stay by his side for the rest of his life, because that’s what I said I’d do in the wedding vows. This is the “… or for worse” part, and boy is it the worst. I am so jealous of older couples because I don’t have that anymore. I miss having those private jokes. Having someone know me sometimes better than myself.
I don’t have a great ending to this posting, except make sure you and your partner get that blood pressure checked and keep it in normal range. I don’t want anyone else sentenced to the half-life I have. The life you save may be your own.
See you next time.