These last ten days have kind of been like a blur.  My Mom called them “undays” because it could a Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday, but in the end you can never really tell what day it is, as one just blends right into the next.  I need to kind of back track and write about the last ten days while it is fresh in my mind, because I am afraid I am going to forget.  How can I forget the details of my husband’s last days on earth, but I know the details will fade over time.

On November 24, Tony had a procedure called a right heart catheterization.  It was a test to determine if his heart was even strong enough to handle any kind of transplant surgery.  First it was a liver transplant.  Then a liver and kidney transplant.  Then they even suggested a heart transplant!  At that point he was sleeping a lot.  A doctor came in and asked if I was making decisions for him.  I looked at her and said “he’s lying right there – ask him anything you want.”

They needed his permission for the test because it was high risk.  She started asking him questions “What day is it today?”  He didn’t say anything, so she asked him again, in a bit louder voice.  I felt like saying “he’s not fucking deaf!”  He said . . . “I am thinking.” To which I said “he’s been in the hospital for two and a half weeks, of course he doesn’t know what day it is.”  She then asked “Who is the President of the United States.”  And without skipping a beat he said “fucking Obama!”  Yep, he was coherent alright!

I was with him all day on that Monday because it was a new hospital, new doctors, new tests.  Since it was Thanksgiving week I was glad for a short work week.  I planned on working full days on Tuesday and Wednesday and planned to visit him after work each night, and then spend the weekend with him at the hospital.  Here’s a weird thing though.  And I know I am being nit-picky here, but we had nurses who could see the condition my husband was in and ask “so what are you guys doing for Thanksgiving?”  Um, I am not cooking or going anywhere if that’s what you are asking.  So weird.

I was sitting at my desk on Tuesday and I always told Tony to call my cell phone because I would have it with me if I was at the copier, in the bathroom, whatever.  I look at my work phone and it’s Tony.  Now, his voice at this point was hard to understand, but he cleared his throat and said “two doctors came by this morning and told me I was dying.”  What?!  I was trying to comprehend what he was telling me, when I told him I would get there asap and hung up with him, when the nurse called me on my cell phone and said “you better get here as soon as you can.”

I was a fucking mess.  Tears started pouring down my face, and I looked into my bosses office, coat on, keys in hand and just said “I have to go!”  I ran to my car as soon as possible and a couple attorneys came out to ask if I wanted a ride to the hospital, and I remember yelling “he’s not doing well – I have to go!”  and I peeled out of the parking lot.

When I got there, I hugged him and kissed him.  He was sleeping, but my kiss woke him up.  I haven’t told his family yet, because it was just too painful at the time – still fucking is – but he said “I don’t think I have much time left.”   I waited until the next round of doctors came, and it was discovered that his heart just couldn’t tolerate any type of surgery.  His INR level was 6.5 – which means he’d bleed 6.5 times faster than anyone else, and he could possible just bleed out if they did any surgery at all.  He said “we need to make some phone calls.”

We called his Mom.  I cried and told her that there wasn’t anything else we could do medically for Tony.  I called his son Joe and told him and that I would fly him and his wife up from Austin.  I called his sister and nephew who were driving back from Tennessee for an early Thanksgiving with my SIL’s other son and family, and my nephew said “so is Joe there yet?”  I told him that I had just hung up the phone with him and I was going to try to figure out flights, etc., when he said “I think he’s already in town.”  Huh?  Well, Joe was in town and was going to surprise us.  He had made the plane reservations a couple weeks before and actually thought his Dad might be discharged by the time he got here – he wanted to take him to see the movie Dumb and Dumber 2.

So within an hour of me calling Joe, thinking he’s in Austin, he walked into the hospital room.  I am so thankful that he did come when he did, because each day that passed after that Tuesday, Tony got less and less responsive and really wasn’t talking very much.  It was so nice to have him there.  I had left work unprepared, other than to have my gym bag in my car that’s been left unused for a couple weeks.  I always have extra contacts in my purse because I have daily contacts.  Joe and I decided to spend the night at the Marriott a stones throw from the hospital.  I asked Hannah if she could bring me some of her clothes to wear, as she lives 20 minutes from the hospital.

As we said goodnight to Tony, he asked for Joe to come close to him.  I thought it was to hug him, but he said something like “be sure to keep your hands to yourself.”  A joke of course, but Joe promised we’d be sleeping in two separate beds.  Then Tony fell fast asleep and we left him for the night.  I always tucked him in like a bug in a rug.  He’s always cold at home so I was always asking for warming blankets to put on him.

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So on a day where I thought I’d just work a full day, go visit Tony in the hospital like I normally would, it ended with me, Joe and Hannah having food and drinks at the hotel bar.

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Hannah got there after Joe and I split a chicken quesadilla and she ordered a flat bread pizza.  Which they burned, which was why they refired the flatbread, and gave her a choice of dessert, which we all had a bite of, and for the record was definitely insulin worthy.

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Wednesday is a blur.  We still had droves of doctors coming in and out.  University of Illinois at Chicago is a teaching hospital, obviously and there were never less than five doctors coming in at a time.  I do remember that Wednesday was the day that they thought MAYBE a heart transplant would solve everything – the heart was causing the liver problems which in turn caused the kidney failure.  It was so good to have Joe there so I didn’t feel like I had all the responsibility on my shoulders, even though I knew I did.  We talked about funny stories.  We ate lunch.  Joe went back to his parents in laws house on Wednesday night – they were traveling, but he was staying there and using their car.  He needed to return it, and Joe’s Mom picked him up and brought him back to the hospital on Thanksgiving late morning.

My Mom.  What a trooper she was.  She had a trip planned to Hong Kong and Cambodia with a group of her friends, and once I told her that Jeff was most likely coming home for hospice, she canceled her flight.  I begged her to go, that Tony would want her to continue to live her life, but she wanted to be with me more.  She brought Joe and I Boston Market for lunch.   It was actually really really good.

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And I had a bite of apple pie while my husband lie sleeping.

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Joe had to fly back that Friday morning.  My brother Charlie and his wife Laura and his girls Sarah and Rachel left Thursday night after their thanksgiving with friends to drive up from Austin.   They drove up not knowing how long they would be staying, and had plans for the girls to fly back Monday to finish out their semesters in college.

Mid-morning we had a nurse tech come into the room.  A very flamboyant, mid-50’s Cuban man who introduced himself to us.  He said “My name is Ricardo and I take very good care of your loved one.”  He took one look at Tony’s beard and asked if it would be okay to “take care of your husband’s face.”  Huh?!  I finally figured out what he was asking and I said “when he wakes up, I’ll ask him if he wants to be shaved.”  He said “I take vitals, why don’t you go get some coffee.”  Mom and I went coffee, and when we got back, we found this:

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Ricardo finished shaving Tony and said “now I see what a handsome man he is!”

By mid-afternoon, after Charlie and his family had gotten there, a nurse came into the room and asked if I had a preferred hospice.  Um, no.  She handed me a piece of paper for their top four recommendations.  I picked the one that was based closest to our house.  U of I hospital is 55 miles away from our house.  Rainbow Hospice turned out to be an amazing choice.   And from the time I picked the hospice until the time they had Tony discharged was literally three hours.  When I discovered how fast things were happening, I texted Hannah immediately and told her I needed her to get to the house asap and do a clean sweep!  I’d been like a ghost in the night the last couple weeks before that.  Dishes were in the sink, mail was all over the place.  She received the hospital bed, oxygen tank and medications before I even left the hospital, that’s how quick it worked out.

She and her boyfriend were instrumental to me – always doing whatever I asked of them, sometimes without me even remembering to say please and thank you, but by now I have told them so much how helpful they were to me.

And by Friday evening, Tony was home.  I had them put the hospital bed in Hannah’s old room because there was only a desk in there with no furniture, and I wanted to have a door for privacy if we needed it.   I remember telling Tony that we were bringing him home and I could have sworn he mouthed the words “let me go” but I told him he had to hang on until we got him home and his parents got to see him.  When they wheeled him in the chair to bring him to the bedroom, he looked at his lay-z-boy chair and pointed.  Damn.  I think he meant that he would be coming home to his beloved chair, but that just wasn’t possible.  It broke my heart.