In Memorial

Bad News

When last I wrote it seemed as things were looking up, and that my grandmother was improving.  So I got up yesterday morning thinking this, and as I went through training I kept expecting to get a text giving me a status update on how thing were going.  I had just finished eating lunch at Chipotle when I got a text from my father.  Now normally my dad is jovial at all times, but this one was rather somber saying only “call me as soon as you can”.  When I saw it, my heart sank because I was pretty sure what was going to say.  Sure enough when I went outside to call back he said “grandma is no longer with us.”

Things were in fact going as planned yesterday.  She was visibly improving, and they had taken the ventilator and feeding tube out.  She seemed to be breathing on her own just fine for a bit, but then apparently her blood pressure shot up rapidly and she suffered a heart attack.  Apparently there is only roughly an 11% chance that a young and healthy patient is going to make it back from going “code blue”.  However when it is someone who is either very sick or very old, it is almost futile.  My grandmother unfortunately was both sick and old, and even though they tried to revive her there just wasn’t really a chance.

A Normal Life

After she had passed the doctors said that she was never going to have a normal life again.  This had been a fact that apparently no one shared with us, or at least not the right people at the right time.  Apparently it was highly unlikely that she would have ever left the hospital and returned to normal life after what she had been though.  She would have been in some form of a medical assisted situation from that point on.  She had already been tied to an oxygen tank for several years, and as much as she hated that…  she would not have tolerated more very well.

I don’t believe they had fully roused her from sedation yet when it happened.  So I hope that means she went relatively peacefully.  She had been “under” since last Friday evening when they did so to try and force her to rest.  As a result the majority of this week she has been sleeping relatively peacefully.  I am very thankful that I spent the time with her Friday, holding her hand and letting her lean against me as she struggled to breathe.  While she shifted in and out of lucidity, I know there were moments that she knew very much that I was there.  I got to spend at least a few moments with my grandmother before they put her under.

Bereavement Special

The thing is… I have been through so many deaths in the family at this point that I end up falling into funeral mode.  On the way up to my home town we stopped in at the grocery store to purchase what I jokingly refer to as the “bereavement special”.  People bring you all sorts of stuff when there has been a death in the family, but no one ever thinks to bring the most important thing… toilet paper.  So when there has been a death in my family or someone else’s I tend to bring a package of basics… because those are almost always the first things to go.  So last night I gathered up Toilet Paper, Paper Towels, Napkins, Disposable plates, cups and silverware and a huge box of trash bags.

The hardest thing about last night is realizing that this is likely going to be the last big family get together.   My grandmother was the glue on my mothers side of the family.  Her house as the focal point of the holidays.  When my grandmother on the other side passed away several years ago, we watched as slowly any semblance of a holiday fell apart.  While I realize that I will still have the holidays with my parents, gone will be the big gatherings.  My generation is really not as close knit as the older ones, and while I get along fine with my cousins… we all have our own lives and things to do.  We rarely make the time to get together in any fashion, even though the majority of us all live within an hour of each other.  So this funeral may be the last time I see some of them until the next funeral.

Haunting Malaise

In all honesty, it really has not hit me yet.  I am so amazingly thankful for my friends and the insane outpouring of support that I have received so far.  You guys are all amazing, and I love you all dearly.  Right now I think my body is in mental shock, and at some point I will absolutely lose my shit.  I am not sure if it will be before or after the funeral, but for my Grandmother on my dads side it started during the funeral and continued on for a few days.  Honestly that death was the beginning of a downward emotional spiral, and I am hoping that I can stave that off this time.  I was in a really bad place mentally after that death, and I am hoping I can go into this one knowing that is a possibility and keep it from happening.

In part that one was towards the end of this insane streak of deaths in the family, and I think I just couldn’t take any more.  There was a period of time where over the course of 5-6 years we lost 14-15 family members.  I think I have mostly recovered from that, and I handled the death of my Grandfather okayish, and that has been about two years ago.  I guess in a way I am thankful that I saw her last Saturday.  At that point they had put in the ventilator and fully sedated her, and she was just lying there peacefully hooked up to all these machines.  It was at that point that it entered my mind that it was possible she would never make it out of that bed.  I have had the better part of a week to chew on that image in the back of my head.  Right now I think I am in a better place to deal with her being gone than I would have on last Friday, when everything was immediate and fresh.

My Childhood

No matter how prepared I am, this is going to hurt a lot.  My earliest memories from childhood are from my Grandmothers house.  My mom went back to work pretty quickly after my birth, so from infant on I spent every single day with my grandma and grandpa.  There are so many stories of me as a child, and at this point I find it hard to sort out the ones I actually remember and the ones that have been recreated in my memory based on the stories of others.  I do however remember laying on the floor in front of the television watching Mr. Rogers, and doodling.  I remember running around her house with a towel safety pinned around my neck as a cape.  I remember my grandfather chasing me around the house with a cattle prod, and me hiding behind grandmas legs for protection.  It was years later that I found out that the cattle prod he was using was completely broken, and he was making the buzzing sound with his mouth.

So much of myself I owe to my grandmother.  I am pretty certain that my love of games in general comes from her.  Every single day, for hours on end she would sit at the table playing solitaire.  Sometimes she and I would play candy land together, or trouble… to the point where both boards were completely worn out.  She was my caretaker and my constant companion as a little boy.  Hell the fact that I don’t use a recipe when I cook is almost certainly directly tied to her.  She was one of those rocks that you can place your world on as stable and unchanging.  I miss her so much already, not having her around is going to be hell.  I’m getting emotional writing this, and I have to go to training yet today so I am going to cut it off here.  Thanks again for all the support, I greatly value each of you in my “internet family”.

More Than Just Bandaids

Lack of Sleep

This morning is likely going to be a deeply personal blog post.  Yesterday was a pretty horrible day, for many reasons… most of which did not make it into yesterdays post.  For starters like I said yesterday I only managed to get about two hours of sleep thanks to a massive panic attack over the health of one of our cats.  She is the closest thing I will probably ever have to a daughter, and she’s been with us since 1999.  Turns out I was partially right to be concerned, and partially just being a nervous parent.  I went to the vets about 11 am yesterday and they gave her some more meds, this time a steroid and she seems to be improving.

However while I was at the Vet I got a text from my mom.  It seems like she found my grandmother on the floor completely unresponsive.  At that point they thought she had really bad pneumonia, and rushed her to Nowata General Hospital in the town I grew up.  Something of not…  Nowata General is a bandaid station and nothing more really.  Its great if you need stitches, or are dehydrated and need fluids… but they lack the kind of equipment a modern hospital should have.  At that time the paramedics that came to get her thought she likely was just really dehydrated and she could come around with some IV fluids.

Black 3 Red 4

Since I was already off work because of the sick animal I hopped in my jeep and drove the hour to my home town.   When I got there… grandma was not the grandma I would recognize.  Firstly she was struggling to breathe and was breathing in a very panicked fashion.  Here eyes were wide and pupils dilated… and she wasn’t really responding to us.  Instead she kept saying things like “yeah a black one”,  “black three”,  “I think red four”, “red twelve”.  We immediately thought she was playing solitaire in her mind, since she does this and has always done this for hours.  She didn’t really recognize who I was, or that I was there… when I tried to tell her she would say things like “yes he’s my grandson”.

She acted like she could not see the world around her.  Finally after a time I realized after a time what she was doing when she started to say “black T” or “big black E”.  She was reading an eye chart.  During the day Thursday she had a really busy day with my mother.  They went to the eye doctor and out shopping, and I think she was in a way having a dream while awake about going to visit the eye doctor.  When we told her that the eye exam was over she responded “good” and closed her eyes and went to sleep for awhile.  If I didn’t know better she was having some sort of a nightmare, but one while her eyes were wide open.

Moments of Lucidity

When she woke back up about twenty minutes later she was lucid again.  She knew who I was and talked to me a little bit.  What makes this whole thing all the more difficult is the fact that she has really poor hearing, even with her hearing aides.  So something just feels wrong about “gently screaming” at your grandmother that you love her.  The thing we noticed is that she seemed to be unable to recognize anyone directly in front of her.  If I sat off to the side she could register who I was immediately, and throughout most of the afternoon she grabbed hold of my hand for dear life and squeezed it tight.  However when the nurse or doctor was standing directly in front of her, she could not see them or make out any details.

For being a bandaid station, I have to say the nurses at the hospital were extremely good with her.  One in particular worked with her and helped her transition from bed to chair to bed again.  She would say “now give me a big hug” and would help lift her across so gently.  Thing is I sympathized for Grandma, because I know how panic inducing simply not being able to breathe can be.  On an absolutely perfectly day she is about 50% lung capacity thanks to pretty bad COPD, but yesterday she had to be down significantly further.  She kept wanting to sit up and lean forward, and having done that myself so many times I knew how much better it felt to breathe like that.  So I would sit there holding her hand, trying to let her lean against me or at least be there to try and keep her from falling.

More Than Just Bandaids

It was about 5pm that the doctor decided that she needed something far more than what they could offer there.  Something was wrong with her that kept causing her to snap in and out of lucidity.  At this point she had gone back to reading the eye chart, and not really responding well to anyone in the room.  Thing is the hospital did not have a CT Scan or even a respirator, so they really needed to transition her to Jane Phillips hospital in Bartlesville.  I am wondering how things would have gone had she just been taken there in the first place.  No offense to the local hospital but there is never a situation where I would have ever asked a family member to be taken there.  Essentially that hospital is equipped with exactly the same kinds of things that a modern ambulance is… and nothing more.

They got her situated in ICU where at least she has around the clock monitoring for her vitals.  The other hospital was primitive enough that she was not even hooked up to any form of a monitor.  They had to come in with a little cart and take her vitals periodically.  She seemed to calm a bit, and they cranked up her oxygen significantly.  I talked to her for a bit, and she recognized who I was, and who else was in the room with me.  My mother arrived at the hospital again from taking my aunt to dialysis, so I decided that was a point for me to transition away.   I wanted to make sure there was someone there lucid enough to respond to the doctors when they talked to us.  At this point I was getting near a place where I was not sure if I could safely drive home if I stayed much longer.  So I said my goodbyes and stopped off at QuikTrip to get an energy drink.

Ten Hours of Sleep

When I got home I picked up some food from Arby’s, and immediately after eating I gathered up Little Shit and went to bed.  She snuggled into me and I was asleep before I knew it.  At one point I woke up because my wife was changing the ferret cage, and needed help with our oldest ferret… who is really barely hanging on in the world.  So I remember helping her clip his nails but I went back to sleep and don’t remember much more after that.  According to fitbit I got a little over ten hours of sleep last night.  I can’t say I feel completely rested, but I am in a much better state than I was.  I had grand plans for this weekend, but pretty much they are all out the window at this point.

I just got off the phone with my mother and it seems that my grandma took a turn for the worse last night.  They have now put her on a ventilator but as she improved over the night they are tapering it back.  I think she said it is now down to 40% and when they reach 30% they can consider pulling it back out.  Right now she is not responsive, but her vitals look good otherwise.  If I had to guess she is just flat out exhausted from fighting.  She had a busy thursday, far busier than normal… then all day yesterday she struggled to breathe, and for a woman that normally goes to sleep 3 or 4 different times a day…  she is just past the point of going.  I know at some point we will head back to bartlesville and visit, but I need a little bit of downtime before having to deal with my family again.

My Family

Throughout the day yesterday it was the best I could do to tune my aunt out.  She was trying to put grandma in the grave even when she was being perfectly lucid.  She is one of those people that knows everything and always has an answer to whatever the problem… and the answer is generally some tinfoil hat theory.  Needless to say in general I am not comfortable around my family.  My grandmother is the exception.  Even from a young age she got me on a level that no one else in my family has ever been able to.

From infancy until elementary she was my babysitter, and I was there every single day.  So her house has always been as much of a home as my own.  Seeing her struggle like this is rough on me, but even when she is not lucid… she is still there as she grips my hand tight.  So at some point we will go back and participate in the vigil.  Right now I need a few minutes to myself before going back to the madness that is my family.  I want to thank my internet family yesterday for showing support.  It really meant a lot to me.  Your friends are the family you choose.