Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Saying Goodbye

It's one of those things that, even six days later, seems difficult and painful to believe. Sometimes a situation has no finality to it because you don't want to aknowledge it even started. This has been one of those situations. It has been six days since my mother passed away due to a spontaneous aneurysm.

I was awoken Saturday morning by my dad, saying that I needed to get up because there was a problem with Mom. So I got dressed and made my way downstairs to the kitchen. There she was, on the ground, aided by the paramedics. She was completely unconscious. Our first guess was that she had had a heart attack.

We rushed to the hospital, where she was sent to the cath lab to detect any possible blood clots. For a few minutes, my dad and I waited in the guest area, completely in shock. We knew she was going to be okay--maybe she would need a heart medication or surgery, but she would be okay. When the doctor came to see us, he said there was no blockage in any of her blood vessels, and the problem was likely neurological. I knew that either meant a stroke or some type of aneurysm, but I asked nothing. If it was a stroke, I knew it would be a long road to recovery. If it was an aneurysm, well, it couldn't have been.

A few minutes later, she was taken to a room in the cardiac intensive care unit. My dad and I entered the room to see her, hooked up to IVs and breathing tubes. She seemed peaceful, yet it hurt to see her in a condition like that. A few months ago, my aunt was waiting in the hospital for a liver transplant and she became very frail and sick. It was difficult to see her as well, but now I believe seeing that prepared me for seeing my mother.

The nurses and doctors began to run heart scans, brain scans, and blood tests. While that was happening, my dad scrambled to notify our family--some of my aunts, uncles, and cousins, who were camping together; my grandparents, who were in Seattle; the rest of my family, who was at home; and my brother, who was at college nearby in Waukesha. Shortly before my brother arrived, the doctor talked to my dad about the prognosis. I had overheard him saying it was an aneurysm and that the brain was damaged completely. There would be no chance of recovery. After the doctor left, my dad came back into the room and said, "You know what's happening?" I nodded and we both lost our composure. Even though it was my toughest experience so far, I am glad I knew what was happening then. Any bit of hope for recovery was destroyed, and I am thankful for that. Unrealistic hope is terrible for the mind. If I would have spent the next day thinking there was a possibility of recovery, I would have been crushed.

Over the next few hours, our entire family began to show up in the waiting room. The only other person who knew the exact prognosis was my brother.

The next few hours were very emotional as everyone came into the room to see my mother. The feeling of disbelief was undescribable. She had been so healthy, so young. She would always walk every day after dinner. The night before, there had been no complaints at all. There was no family history either. Why would this happen?

Naturally, the doctors decided to run a few more tests and scans to confirm what was happening. The results, of course, were the same. And by that time, everyone knew what was going to happen. There was no more denial. The chaplin joined our family in the room as we said a prayer of sorts. It was the most emotional experience of my life. Everyone was in tears and I must have hugged everyone as well. I still remember my uncle's words to me: "You have to stay strong, okay?" Technically, my mother was in a deep coma and the only sign of brain activity was a few labored breaths. Once it was determined that she could no longer breathe on her own, she was announced brain dead at 10:10 PM.

My aunt, as I mentioned, received a liver transplant roughly six months ago. She has regained a lot of weight since then and is healthier than she had been in years. Because of her experience, there was no question that my mom would become an organ donor. Until the next day, she would be kept on life support until the transplant operation. The operation, evidentally, went very well and she donated her kidneys, liver, pancreas, lungs, and heart valves. Until the next morning, though, my dad and I stayed overnight in the hospital. We tried to get a few hours of sleep, although it was hard because of the constant beeping and chiming of the hospital room. Not to mention, the stress of the situation made it difficult to sleep.

We are thankful that my mother's parents were able to make it to the hospital. Since there were thunderstorms and flooding around Wisconsin, their flights were cancelled and they spent the entire day in an airport. In fact, since they could not call us from the plane, we didn't even know which flight they were on. We used the nurses' computer to find that out and when they would be arriving. They finally arrived roughly an hour before my mother was sent to the operating room. So the four of us said goodbye and a few other things until she was taken away.

The funeral was Wednesday with a viewing on Tuesday night. So many people made it to the funeral--my dad's co-workers, my mom's co-workers, our extended family, and some of my friends and teachers from school. I want to point out how helpful everyone has been lately; donations to the school my mom worked at, giving us meals, helping with grocery shopping and laundry, and simply providing moral support. Our living room has been filled with the various flowers given to us. Yesterday had been our first opportunity to transition back to "normal". The funeral arrangements were finished and we had some time to ourselves for once. Of course things weren't normal then and they probably never will be. Obviously, we're discovering how difficult it is to run the house without Mom. I've learned how to do laundry, how to care for the garden, and how to clean. Besides that, it hasn't been easy to wake up knowing she isn't around. For a split second in the morning, I expect her to be downstairs making coffee or talking to our bird. Then reality sinks in and I realize things will never be how they used to. However, I'm confident that the hardest part is over. I know some days will be good, and some will be painfully hard. The only thing to do is to make it through each day knowing that, eventually, things will be closer to normal.


Anonymous said...

Once again, I will say that I know how incredibly hard this has been for you, and I'm amazed that you were able to write about this experience in a public way. I'm proud of how well you've handled yourself, and proud to be your friend.

BlackenedBoy said...

Adam, I am so sorry. Although we've never met in person, I feel that in these last few months I've come to know you through your blogs, and the person I see is strong, intelligent, resilient, and wonderful.

This type of loss is incomprehensible, like nothing I've ever experienced, and so I don't quite know what to say.

If I could give you one bit of advice, though, it would be to talk to someone regularly, whether it be a priest, a guidance counselor, or a trusted adult.

It is normal to grieve. Always know that you can cry, and don't let anyone ever tell you that it's time to move on.

You have my deepest condolences and prayers, and I hope that you will be alright.

If you ever need to talk, your blogger and real-life friends will always be there for you.

SoNotFastFood said...

I've only just discovered your blog, and I'd just like to express my sympathy and condolences. Your loss is unspeakable, and I can only guess how you're feeling.

It is evident that the way you're handling the situation is extremely intelligent and absolutely admirable.

Once again, my heartfelt condolences.