slideshow widget

Friday, July 10, 2009

He knew no life without her

She was 91 year old mother, grandmother -- wife. Her hair was ruffled to a degree she never in her adult life ever let anyone see, yet I was seeing it. Her skin was pale, no makeup. Her kith and kin may not even recognize her.

She looked up over the BiPAP mask, the machine that was supposed to give her wet lungs time to heal. Her eyes were circled with signs of anxiety and sleeplessness. In her weary eyes I saw all the years of cooking apple pies, hugs and kisses, and love.

On the other side of the bed, holding her frail hand, was the great man she was married to for 75 years; the only man she had ever loved. If ever there was a sign of soul mates, this was it. A feeling of sorrow rushed through my veins as I couldn't help feeling sorry for him.

Although, in a discussion the day before with this man, he said, "Whatever happens it's what God intends. Whatever happens, we had 75 great years together." He smiled then. There was no smile now. He was somber. The decision was made.

I listened to the sigh of the machine as it assisted her with a breath, and the hiss as she inhaled through the mask; the tubing, the machine's exhalation port. The cycle continued again and again. Yet it was my job now to end it. "It's time for her to go home," her husband said.

A vision of yesterday rocked in my head. Dr. Adams walked into the room, shook the old man's hand. I imagine Dr. Adams was thinking the same thing I was thinking now, that for a 93 year old he looks healthy, perhaps not a day over 80.

The husband said to Adams, "I promised her I wouldn't let her suffer, and she hates that thing. I think it's time to take it off. It's time to let her go."

Dr. Adams sighed, said, "With more time we might be able to nip this thing. We can give her body time to heal."

The old man said, "It's time. Let's just do it."

I unleashed the Velcro straps that supported the mask around her head and lifted the mask off her face. She sighed, smiled, looked up at me, took my hand, held it tight, and lipped, "Thank you."

I held her hand what seemed like five minutes, and then I left the room. It was time for her husband to say goodbye -- her best friend. He did not know life without her. What was he going to do. Would he be able to cope? Those thoughts rushed through my somber mind.

Outside the door I turned and looked back: he had his head on her chest, his hand gently caressing her face. They were together as one. Oblivious of the circumstances, they were happy.

I got busy and never saw him again. At around three in the morning I got a page to call critical care. Instead of calling I walked there, and as soon as I looked into her room I knew what the page was for.


David from Houston said...

Dr. Adams sighed, said, "With more time we might be able to nip this thing. We can give her body time to heal."

Fortunately her Husband had the wisdom, inner strength, and compassion to let his wife go. Sometimes what is best for the patient is lost in the family's desire to hold on to a loved one. As time passes each us may face the same decision, and it is heart-wrenching.

My heart goes out to both of them, as I'm sure yours did. In the end we try to save the ones that we can, and try to have the wisdom to let go of the ones that we can't. I realize that you know this - you've been an RT for years. It's something all RT's have to deal with.

Anonymous said...

I understand. I want to live one day longer than my husband. The day is to see that all arrangements are made for him.

Steve said...

God Bless the husband for having the strength to carry out her wishes.

That's certainly one part of the job, I don't miss.