when life happens all at onceThis is the sixth in a series of blog posts about “When Life Happens All at Once.” It’s a story about losing a loved one, and I’m telling it one day at a time.

Saturday, October 29

I got to the hospital at 7:30 a.m., because I was told Dr. D is an early bird, and I wanted to be here when he came in to see Jean. She is not doing well. Her heart is being monitored constantly and her rate spikes wildly and then drops suddenly.

They have been giving her IV liquids. Unfortunately, she is not expelling much. They put her on a catheter last night. She didn’t sleep well, and when I saw her this morning, she was mad as hell. She said, “They’ve got a real racket going here.”

I said, “What do you mean?”

She said, “They are doing all sorts of tests just so they can run my bill.”

I said, “That’s not true, Jean. You are very sick, and they are doing everything they can to help you get well.”

She was quiet for a bit, and then she said accusingly, “And I let you bring me to the hospital.”

I said, “Are you mad about that?”


Surprised, amused, and a little miffed, I said, “Have you thought about what would have happened if I hadn’t brought you?”

“Yes,” she snapped.

She was quiet for a few minutes, then she said, “Get me a gun.”

I chucked and said, “Who are you going to use it on––the nurses, the doctors, or me?

She frowned but didn’t answer.

She was alert and hungry when her breakfast arrived. I helped her, and she ate a nice portion of scrambled eggs, two pieces of bacon, and a few sips or orange juice. She enjoyed it.

A few seconds after she finished, she started choking. I called for the help.  When the nurses came in, they said she was aspirating her food.

They gave her a vacuum tube that she can use to suction out the phlegm. She is miserable beyond words. I am still waiting to see the doctor. Hopefully, he will be here soon.

My son Eric called and said that he was going to bring his wife and two little girls up for a visit. I said, “I don’t think that’s a good idea. Jean is very sick, and I think it would be hard for Melissa (age 8) and Leah (age 5) to see her with all of the IVs, screens, and beeping machines.”

Dr. W came in to see Jean around 1:00 p.m. (Evidently Dr. D has the day off.) Dr. W said they were having a hard time controlling her pneumonia, and it appeared she might have some undiagnosed heart failure.

After he left Jean’s room, he took a seat at the nurses’ station and he motioned for me to come out.

He asked, “Does Jean have an advance directive?”

I said, “Yes, but she is very private. I don’t have a copy of it.”

He said, “Without an advance directive, we will be obligated to do everything we can to save her life. She is on full code. Do you think that is what she wants?”

I was taken aback. It hadn’t occurred to me that she might not get well. I thought for a moment before replying, “She would not be happy if she ended up in a nursing home. If she can’t get well, I don’t believe she would want you to take extreme measures.”

He made a note on the chart.

By 4:00 o’clock in the afternoon, my back and legs were screaming with pain. Jean’s friend Susan had said she would stop by, so I went home. After I rested for a bit, I called a friend who runs a senior referral company. I told her I suspected that my aunt would no longer be able to live independently and that I would need her help getting Jean into a good rehab facility.

I was sad. I knew Jean would agree to go into rehab. She had done that twice––once when she broke her leg and again when she broke her hip. I also knew she would never agree to moving into an assisted living facility. I decided we wouldn’t talk about that until there weren’t any other options.

I talked to the nurse around 6:00. She said Jean was stable and had asked about the World Series Game. I was hurting and tired, and I told her I was going to stay home, and that I’d be in early in the morning.