Thursday, August 10, 2006

step one - the day he slipped away

One of the eight grief recovery books I own begins with the end in mind. That is, it suggests that I begin my recovery by remembering the day that Dalton died. For me, this happened in two parts; the day he slipped away and the day he died. This is part one. Some of you may not have heard this story. You may not want to. I relive it nearly every day. Perhaps by writing it down, my brain will no longer feel compelled to dwell there; I don't know. I'm only following instructions.

...we had spent the better part of Tuesday at the City of Hope; Monday's consultation had resulted in a Tuesday visit with the wound care nurse. Dalton wasn't himself that day. He hadn't been on Monday either (needing a wheelchair and slipping in and out of confusion), but how would the doctor at COH know that? He'd never met Dalton before. Perhaps confusion and the inability to walk were part of Dalton's normal demeanor (sarcasm). Although we never saw the doctor on Tuesday, several of the nurses expressed concern about Dalton's physical condition (body temp: 95 degrees, oxygen: 89%, mental state: altered). I guess it wasn't serious enough to warrant a look by the physician. Whatever. They decided to order us some oxygen at home and see us in two weeks.

I went to my church meeting that night knowing things weren't good but unaware how bad that really was. Our friend Millie was at my house watching Iain. When I returned home, Dalton was in his usual spot in the living room chair, and their was an oxygen machine beside it. Iain was asleep in his room. I kissed Dalton goodnight and went to bed.

At five o'clock in the morning, Dalton came into the bedroom. He had just showered and was still wet. Hi legs were swollen. His shoulders were skin and bones. Dalton hadn't showered on his own for a month, so I was confused.

"Did you just take a shower?"

"Yeah, I need to get to school or I'm going to be late."

My heart sank. I ushered him into bed and curled up next to him. He was so frail that I was afraid I would hurt him, so I rested my head on his shoulder.

"You don't have to go to school today, Dalton."

"You say that now, but tomorrow will be another story."

I bit back the tears and took a deep breath.

"Honey, you have cancer, you're off work and school until you get better. Do you remember that?"

"Yeah."

We laid there for a few minutes.

"Why are you trying to keep me from getting to school?" he asked. "I mean, I like it, but aren't I going to get into trouble?"

"I promise you're not going to get into trouble."

"Ok, if you say so."

We lay there a few more minutes. Then he asked again.

Each time, I became a bit more panicked. Iain would wake up sometime around 6:30. What would I do then? I decided I needed help, so I waited until six, then started calling friends. I called the one closest to me geopgraphically. No answer. Next closest, no answer. Next closest, no answer. Finally, I got ahold of my friend, Anna, in Van Nuys and she left immediately. Along the way, she picked up Kelly, and both of them arrived with Anna's son in tow, sometime around 8:15. By then, of course, Iain was awake, but I had coralled him in the pak 'n' play and he was being entertained by the Sesame Street Alphabet video. I was still tending to Dalton.

I knew things weren't good, so I called Dalton's family who were in Las Vegas celebrating his sister's birthday. They said they'd head home later that day. Then I called the nurse practitioner at USC. SHe said to bring him in. While I was talking with her, Anna was watching the boys and Kelly was hanging with Dalton. He kept throwing up bile and trying to drink it. As she transported the full tupperware containers of bile back and forth to the sink, Dalton graciously apologized for being such a burden. To that, Kelly wholehearted replied, "Dalton, you are not a burden. You are my friend." and she took the next tupperware container to the sink.

When I came out of the bedroom and into the living room, Dalton said he wanted to return to bed. Since the home health agency had delivered an empty portable oxygen unit, we had to disconnect him in order to get him back to bed. As he was walking along holding my hand, I could feel him starting to collapse. I screamed for help, Anna threw her son on the floor and ran over while Kelly moved the chair underneath him. We frantically raced to get the oxygen reconnected. And Dalton slumped back in the chair.

His eyes had rolled back in to his head and his head was arched back in an unnatural position. I though he was dead Kelly thought he was dead. I turned to her and said call 911. At some point in the next few minutes, I managed to talk Dalton through some breathing and he became somewhat more alert. Kelly somehow communicated our address to the 911 operator and then we waited. It couldn't have been more than 5 minutes and I have no idea what everyone else was doing, but I think I was sitting on the ground holding my husband's hand and resting my head on his lap. I remember taking his head in my hands, looking him in the eye and saying, "I love you Dalton." Somehow, he found the breath to reply, "I love you too."

When the Fire Department showed up, they moved in and began asking questions. They gave him more oxygen, asked me about his history and told me where they were going. Anna and Kelly said they'd take care of Iain, so I got in my car and follwed them to the hospital. When I arrived at the ER, I was told that Dalton was extreremely critical and that they needed to incubate him. He was desperate for air and maxed out on the oxygen. The ER doctor suggested I call a pastor.

Dalton was septic (an infection of the bloodstream) and had pneumonia. He'd been that way on both Monday and Tuesday while we were at City of Hope. For whatever reason, though, they had missed it. They would do everything they could to treat the sepsis and the pneumonia, but they would not promise anything. In the meantime, they would keep him comfortable.

3 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tricia,
Thanks for blogging. I have followed your blogg because a friend told me about your case. I just lost a relative due to cancer. It is the most terrible disease on earth! I can't even imagine loosing a husband due to that! You have helped me in so many ways! Thanks again, you and your son are in my prayers! I know God is with you whether it seems like it or not. He will give you the strength and peace to go on. Don't give up, take a day at a time! That's all we can handle!

10:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I looked back at your Monday entry that week in May; it seems that was the day the doctor told Dalton that his cancer was incurable. Did the doctor not think that sepsis was curable either?

My heart aches for you and your pain, and the pain that Dalton went through. I hope you are damn angry at the doctors.

I'm just an anonymous person (not the idiot who tore you up earlier)reading your blog and wishing the best for you. You deserve it.

9:27 AM  
Blogger Amy T said...

Tricia,
We met at HPC and I ocassionally got to see you at Ecclesia.
I pray that you continue to take each day moment by moment. Some moments will be tougher than others. The good news is that God is holding your hand through it all even when you can't tell. That's what I learned in grieving my mother.
In Him,
Amy T from Ecclesia

4:20 PM  

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