I didn’t get to say goodbye

Originally published on KevinMD

I slipped and fell. My hip fractured, surgery would make it better. But it didn’t. My body was too weak to fight. I couldn’t cough and deep breathe; I stayed in bed. I had nausea and vomiting. I couldn’t breathe. I became weaker and weaker, until my family noticed. The medics rushed me into the ER. My blood pressure was 62/34. For how long? The ER nurses and doctors tried to “jump start” me. They gave me lots of IV fluids because I was dehydrated. But I couldn’t urinate. My kidneys had shut down. My liver was in shock, and my skin was yellow. Jaundiced.

I ended up in the ICU. The ICU doctors talked to you two. My darling daughters. He said I wasn’t doing very well. That my body was septic. I started to fade away. I’d mumble one minute, and the next minute I was clear as a whistle. I faded in and out. I knew you would stay with me. In that ICU room. I knew you wouldn’t leave me alone.

I knew I was going to die. But I was OK with that. I was 84 years old. I had a wonderful life. 60 plus years of marriage to my high school sweetheart. He still made my heart flutter.

And you girls. Those beautiful long curls you had. That silly laughter. That special bond we had. I was kind of a mother or friend. And I cherished you. All of you.

After the doctor told you that my organs were failing — my lungs, my kidneys, my liver — I knew you would stay with me that night. We could hold hands and laugh about that slumber party of 15 giggling girls at our house when you were 8 years old. Or that incredible beach trip. All of us, spotting that dolphin. Or the prom and your beautiful dresses, or when you walked across that college platform to get that diploma. Your wedding. Both of you. I couldn’t stop crying. Tears of joy. And that newborn baby boy I held in my arms. That instant love. That baby smell that I so missed. I was going to be the best grandma.

I thought you would come that night to hold my hand.

But you didn’t. You told the nurse you needed your sleep. That you’d be there for me in the morning.

You told the doctor not to let me die. You told him to put a tube in my lungs and let a machine breathe for me. My kidneys shut down, and now the doctor had to put a big catheter in one side of my neck for dialysis.

The other side of my neck, the doctor had to puncture me with another needle, so I could have special IVs. Strong medicines to keep my blood pressure from crashing. Levophed, epinephrine, vasopressin, bicarbonate.

You told the doctor not to let me die. So he did what you told him to do.

I slipped into a coma that night. Hours before I slipped into that coma, I was talking. We could have talked. We could have laughed and held hands.

But you weren’t there.

You came the next day. Both of you. With my favorite quilt. I had already died. It was just a matter of time.

I died that day. Stiff on that ICU bed. My entire body mottled.

We could have talked and laughed and held hands.  Instead, you had me on those machines.

I died a thousand deaths.

Because I didn’t get to say goodbye.

To you.