Write It Down

Posted by Christy Steele on

The Friday morning before I was to go back to school, my phone rang. It was my mom telling me she was in medical distress. We spent the morning in Urgent Care because her doctor couldn’t get her in, and the ER had a 19 hour waiting time. She spent the night with me. The next morning my sister and I knew we had to get her to the ER. As I write this, it is a Tuesday…the tenth day in the hospital. In her moments of awareness she has said she wants us to write a book to tell her all that’s happened in these so very difficult days. I don’t know about a BOOK, but here’s a chapter in your life’s journey, mom. When we got you to the ER Saturday, your heart rate was very low, and you created a concerned frenzy in the examination room. We were very scared. But we felt so blessed that you were able to be seen immediately. You were taken to ICU. We were so thankful a bed was available, and you were getting help. We sent out smoke signals to all our prayer warriors. As we suspected, the evil source of your distress was high potassium levels. It was attacking your heart and kidneys. We were hopeful as the potassium level sllooowwwlllyy decreased. However your heart rate continued to hang around the 30’s and 40’s. We were all there with you. We were worried but trying to be optimistic. Saturday turned into Sunday. It was decided that you would need a pacemaker. The stinking potassium just did too much of a number on your heart. A temporary pacemaker was discussed, but something about the procedure (insert doctor explanation) required injecting a dye that could further damage your already injured kidneys. So the plan was to wait a few days and install a permanent one. Every time the Nephrologist came in he would say those kidneys have to keep improving to avoid dialysis. We were praying. Sunday morning was better. You looked better. You were more alert. Sunday was your sweet granddaughter, Caitlyn’s, birthday. We had all been in to see you and felt like we could slip away for a birthday lunch to give Caitlyn some happy on her day. Every report was a tiny bit better. Steps forward. The potassium level was creeping down. The kidney functions were slowly getting better. The heart was still an issue but in a few days…in goes the pacemaker.  You had a brief FaceTime with your worried sister. I snapped a screen shot of the moment of happy. The nurse came in, and we were all commenting on how you were looking better. You mentioned your chest was still feeling tight, and the nurse decided to put in a request for dopamine. She turned around to type at the bedside computer. You were looking at me. And then it happened. The event that will forever be etched deep into my mind and heart. You started seizing. And then you died. Your heart just stopped. In about 5 seconds there was a room full of people on top of you. I was at the door. The next several minutes I won’t describe. What I saw should never be seen happening to someone you love. Maybe someday I can verbalize it. Not today. Today it is a deep, raw wound that I can’t take the risk of opening. There by your bed at the urging of a room full of people, I spoke what I feared would be my last words to you. They watched you to make sure you kept breathing, while I frantically tried to voice a lifetime of love to you. But the blessing that I cling to when my memory tries to turn there is that you were in the hospital when it happened. At least three medical professionals told me you would not have had a chance at survival otherwise. I wish I knew the names of every person there that afternoon. I will spend the rest of my life being grateful to them. The incident, as explained to us, was a “fluke”. The cardiology team had never before seen it before. When reviewing your heart’s rhythm at the time of the code, everything happened at the precise time to be a perfect storm. So at that point things had shifted dramatically. You were intubated. Now the pace maker is top priority. Every time your eyes would pop open, we would repeat over and over, “You aren’t having a heart attack. You’re in breathing distress and pain because you have broken ribs now. You couldn’t speak, but your eyes showed your fear. I should probably pause now, mom, to say our prayer warriors were getting frantic texts and calls. They were praying boldly for you and we were praying in agreement. The amount of concerned texts I was receiving was overwhelming (in a strengthening way). You are loved. Our family is loved. The pacemaker procedure would be done hopefully the next day. As we took turns standing vigil by your side, it became apparent you couldn’t wait. The cardiology team was watching your reports. They weren’t looking good. At one point one of the men on the team was on the phone with the doctor. He told us excitedly, “She is doing your mom next! I hear her literally screaming at someone on the team to go get her now.”  All of our eyes were glued to your monitor praying it wouldn’t go flat again. The team was by your bed waiting for the signal. They even had the bed turned with the end at the the doorway ready to run. We felt blessed. Blessed that you were next. Blessed that you were traveling with a cardiac team equipped with a crash cart. We held our breath for 15 minutes until we got the call that you made it to the OR safely. The next call came so quickly telling us the procedure was complete and a success!!  PTL! Let’s recuperate a couple of days and get out of here. My first day of school is in two days! Ha! Wouldn’t that be cool if life worked that way?  The next few days were filled with extreme pain from broken ribs as a result of the CPR.  (you probably didn’t need a reminder about that), anxiety attacks because you kept feeling like you couldn’t breath because, well, broken ribs, inability to pass swallow tests after intubation tubes were removed, and so many other hiccups in the journey. The first day of school came and went. You had panic attacks without us there, so Tami and I traded sleep for peace of mind. One night I pulled my car over about a mile from home to shake myself awake because I knew I couldn’t go further.  On another night I fell asleep in my car for a while when I finally returned home.  I told Chris I didn’t know how much longer we could go on. His reply was, “ You will do it until you don’t have to anymore”.  That’s right. I will.  I’m not telling you this part, mom, to make you feel guilty or sad.  I could have left that part out of the book of events you wanted us to write for you. But I’m adding it because I hope it shows our fierce love and devotion to you. I hope it shows you how important you are to us. I hope it is one tiny gift back to you for all you’ve given me. I hope it makes you proud of your daughters standing in the gap on your behalf.  By Friday (day 7 in hospital) they decided to put you in a step down room. The panic attacks were unmanageable. You were moved back to the ICU and put back on a by-pap machine. Everything was one step forward and one step back. But what a blessing there was a bed available again! The following Monday you were moved to a regular room. Things were going better. You had a good morning. Then the bladder spasms started. Like an unexpected left punch out of nowhere. That night was bad again. The ICU doctor, as well as others, were consulted about a return once again to ICU. But you hung in there. Tuesday we had a good day. I was praying for a good night. I slipped out of your room in the early morning hours and drove home, collapsed a couple of hours, then got ready to teach my sweet First Graders another day. And I felt blessed. Because the day was better. Blessed because you hadn’t asked me if you were in a morgue anymore . Blessed because nothing looked “ghoulish” to you today. I felt blessed because my sweet mother and father-in-law, who have also been  ill this week are doing better. As I have sat and prayed for you, I have also prayed for them. I have prayed for a man in another state, who is on a vent and needs a miracle that my sweet friend asked me to join her in prayer for. I have prayed that my class will not see my fatigue and heart break each day, (Don’t worry, mom. They’re fine. My work family has prayed me through it.) I have prayed for my sweet cousin’s wife. See, as I sat and pleaded for you, she lost her mom. And that screenshot I took of your FaceTime call to your sister…the one taken moments before you died… I deleted it. I can’t look at your face in the picture. You were so unaware of what was about to unfold. Through this journey, we have all rejoiced in the steps forward and felt deflated at the steps back. But it’s nothing compared to the battle you have been fighting. We know you are tired, but you haven’t given up. And we feel blessed. On what would be the last night you would spend in the hospital before being moved to the rehabilitation facility, I walked out to my car feeling hopeful. I passed a man, who asked me how I was. My first reaction was to hurry past him without answering because it was late, and I knew I was vulnerable. But my heart said to ask him how he was as well. He told me he had just lost his father in law earlier that evening at 4:57. And again I felt our blessings rush over us as I hurt for him. I’m so thankful our story isn’t the same. The next morning, as I drove to work, I heard the Holy Spirit whisper into my heart, “Joy cometh”. And I know it wasn’t my voice because I haven’t been able to imagine joy the past couple of weeks. And like all the other days of school this year, I cried on the way there. But this time it was because joy cometh.

1 comment

  • I hate that ya’ll have went through this but thank you for the reminder that whatever we are going through, that joy comes in the morning. We will make it through. This to will pass. God bless you!

    Martha Weir on

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