Wibbly~Wobbly

Hello my dears,

My last post on here was really broke my heart to write, and I fully planned to follow it up with something a bit lighter. An interview with someone fantastic or perhaps a Fizzy Follies in which I lost my pants in public yet again.

Alas, the universe seems to have had slightly different plans.

I think I’ve reached the point where I need a pretty concentrated dose of therapy because I need to talk about this, but quite plainly, I don’t have the time for therapy right now.

2014 blew. And I mean it blew super hard. Things haven’t been the same since the heart attack. My brain is still glichy as fuck. Medical bills are like, strangling the life out of us. I really hope we have a house when this is all over. That sort of thing.

So I had wicked high hopes for 2015. I just really did. I’m working on a new book. I haven’t had a health emergency in a few months. My brain is supposed to be on the road to recovery. So much hope.

Then my freaking dog died.

Okay. Not a great start. Bad start.

I’m going to just come out with it; my uncle died last week. Quite suddenly. He was sitting around with his wife, daughter, and granddaughter. They were chatting and chopping strawberries and he suddenly said he couldn’t breathe. Three minutes later he was on the floor and he never woke up again.

The official word is he had pneumonia that no one realized, his airways had become so constricted he wasn’t getting enough oxygen, and his heart stopped. The lack of oxygen to his brain caused so much damage that even though they were able to restart his heart eventually, he was in a permanent vegetative state and there was nothing to be done.

His advanced directive stated he didn’t wish to be attached to machines to live, and so the decision had to be made.

My Uncle Fred was like my second dad. I am really close with my aunt and uncle. We all live about three minutes from each other.

I’ll go into all of those things later. I’m not quite ready for that yet. The funeral is next week, so I expect I’ll have some feelings when that rolls around.

After he collapsed, he spent days in the ICU. We didn’t know straight away how bad things were. They ran all manner of tests, and we did everything we could to get him to wake up. Some people shouted. Some begged. Some tried to make him angry.

I sat beside him and poked his feet and hands and told him dick jokes because that’s the kind of person I am in a crisis. Laughter is the best medicine or something.

Plus, that was our thing. We joked. I think he would have appreciated my efforts.

Eventually, they delivered the news that he just wasn’t ever going to wake up, and that there was no chance of him recovering. The family knew his breathing tube would have to be pulled.

But during this catastrophic five days, my aunt had gotten sick, and because the universe is a big fucking jerk, she’d gone deaf and lost her voice completely.

We thought she understood what was happening, but she didn’t so much.

Fred’s wife and kids set a time with the doctors to take him off the machines, to get the grand kids prepared and in to say goodbye, to wait until his sister and other crucial family members could land their flights.

I stood watch those days. I dealt with awful people. I snapped at insensitive doctors. I ran errands. I hugged people. I kept poking Fred like the doctors said to, just in case he might surprise us all and wake up. I didn’t sleep a lot. I lost a few pounds. I developed a literal eye twitch. I didn’t see my kids for what felt like forever.

No one did. ICU is kind of like a black hole. You don’t even know what time of day it is in there. It’s a bit surreal, actually.

And I had it easy, comparatively. My cousins and aunt did a lot of sleeping in chairs and eating things out of plastic bags for the week.

So, anyway.

The afternoon before the family was set to let him go, everyone had eleventy billion things to do. My aunt had gotten sick enough she needed to be taken to a doctor to see if they could help with her hearing and get her on an antibiotic. My cousins needed to get prepared to lose their father in the morning. I told everyone I had things totes under control, and I’d stay with him while they went home to grab showers, run to doctors, grab a meal that hadn’t come out of a vending machine, etc.

I was alone with him for about 4 hours, I think. As soon as everyone left, and I mean within an actual sixty seconds, his chest began to spasm. It had happened before and was easily one of the most disturbing things I have ever seen in my life. It sort of looked like his body was attempting to dry-heave without him being conscious for it. The doctors explained it was just the muscles in his body reacting without control from the brain.

But this was so different. I had been staring at him for five days straight and it was wrong.

Since the family had made the arrangement to have him taken off the breathing tube, Fred had been listed as a DNR after that. Which meant that if his heart stopped or he crashed, they would just have to let him go from that moment on.

I brought in a nurse to check on him since things looked not okay, and they assured me all was fine, it was just his muscles acting up again.

Shit got so real after that.

I’d seriously been watching Fred like a hawk for five days. I knew every little beep. I had gotten to where I knew when an alarm would go off before it went off. I could tell when his blood pressure would spike before it spiked.

I stood at the foot of his bed watching the monitor because I knew it was about to start screaming at me. His chest was seizing, and a horrible strangling sound was coming out of his mouth. He hadn’t made a sound the entire time I’d been in there with him.

I ran for the nurses before the alarms went off. And they did go off.

“He’s dying,” a frustratingly calm nurse told me. “This is what happens when someone in this condition dies.”

You have to understand my situation here. No one else was at the hospital. His wife wasn’t there. His kids weren’t there. They weren’t ready. I know that if Fred had been ready to go at that moment, it would have been his time, and everyone would have been okay with that.

But something was wrong. And not like, this is just a dude dying so suck it up wrong.

I tried to explain to the nurses that the strangling sound wasn’t right. They said it was likely the “death rattle” which could we please get a new term for that?

The seizing of his stomach was getting worse, his blood pressure was ungodly high, his pulse was freaking out, his oxygen saturation dropped to nothing, it was horrible. I will need actual, legitimate therapy from watching him twitching there like that. The sounds, you guys. Jesus.

They gave him a sedative to try to make him as peaceful as possible but it wasn’t doing anything. I kept thinking the ungodly strangling sound wasn’t right.

AND NO ONE WOULD FREAKING LISTEN TO ME.

It was all normal, they said. They understood I didn’t want him to die, but this is what happens. Would I like them to call me a chaplain?

I knew he was about to die. I totally got that. But I was certain this wasn’t like, his moment had come, but there was something fixable that was happening. If his heart stopped because his heart had had enough? Peace be with you, Fred. But for him to go without his family there because of something we could fix? I couldn’t handle it. I legitimately could not.

I’m going to be straight with you, I was starting to panic on the inside, and it’s not like I have extensive medical training or anything. But I was sure, like, to the depths of my fizzy little soul certain, there was something about the sound he was making that wasn’t okay.

This is when I climbed up onto the bed with Fred and did my best to Sherlock some shit. The breathing tube was taped into his mouth and there wasn’t supposed to be any air escaping. But I realized that’s the sound I was hearing. I couldn’t find anything else to use, so I took my watch, my freaking floating TARDIS watch and held it up to his mouth. With the glass face of the watch, I saw it fogging up and that’s how I realized there was a goddamn leak. He wasn’t getting any air from his breathing tube.

There was a super kind respiratory therapist who was doing rounds and came in as I sat up there with my wrist wedged under Fred’s mouth. She’d been in a few moments before when the alarms started going off and hadn’t found anything wrong. Not gonna lie, kids, she gave me one hell of a look finding me in that position.

I explained in a bizarrely calm torrent of information what I had been seeing from him for the last 15 minutes, and made her look at my fogged up watch.

“His wife isn’t here. His kids aren’t here. I can’t be the only person here with him when he dies, dude. Please. And I get that you guys see people die a lot, and these alarms get really old, but he is the most important person in the world to all the people who aren’t here, so if this is something that can be fixed, I’m really going to need someone to fix it.”

And then PEOPLE.

People everywhere.

Yep. There was a tiny leak on his breathing tube. It took a tiny puff of air through a syringe to fix it. That’s it. I think I heard someone say 5CCs of air.

Then it took another three hours, lots of medicines, and numerous calls from the ICU doc to get his blood pressure stabilized.

Eventually the seizing in his chest slowed down, his pulse went back to a calm level, and his blood pressure landed at a number which was a hell of a lot lower than mine was at the time.

The next day, we all let Fred go. He was surrounded by his family and he went peacefully, and quickly. I was so happy for that.

It was nothing, nothing like what the previous afternoon had been. Without his family and chaotic and horrible.

I figure if you have to go, calmly in a room full of people who love you is the way? I dunno. I’m not great with death as a general rule.

Like I said, I’ll have a more fitting tribute for my uncle soon when I’m not in quite so deep a shock. I just really needed to purge that particular bit.

And for the record, I’m not upset with the staff at the hospital. They were so good to us the time we were there. After the drama settled, they explained something they call “alarm fatigue” and how sometimes they do forget that things aren’t what they seem. They were very grateful I’d been a persistent little pest about the whole thing.

Anyway. That’s how I helped keep my uncle alive for an extra 24 hours with the help of a TARDIS watch.

And if this year wanted to take an upswing at any time, I’d be super excited about it. Like, so ridiculously on board.

I hope you all are having a better go of things.

Until next time,

Peace, Love, and Fred

14 Comments

  1. Oh, Summer. I have words, but none of them are coherent right now. I just want to say that I love you, and I have my own horrible version of this story. And my god, it sucks monkey balls to go through this kind of thing. So, I’m sending you extra hugs and if I can think of one, I’ll totally tell you a dick joke. Because I’m also a fan of laughter, mostly the inappropriate kind. *wink* <3 <3 <3

  2. The Universe can be a bitch. Hang in there. <3

  3. All the hugs. I hope you and your family are doing ok.

  4. Stephanie Scott |

    I work in healthcare admin and one thing we promote to the hospitals that work with us is patients have the right to speak up and be heard by medical staff. To actually do that and be heard is so hard. You did a good, good thing Summer. As well-meaning as nurses are, truth is in most hospitals these days they are overloaded and doing twice as much as nurses used to. So much that some of my nurse friends say what they love about the job has disappeared because there is simply just too much work and not enough time to be the caring person that brought them into the job. It sucks.

    The “death rattle.” The nursing home staff told my mom the same thing when my grandma passed almost two years ago. My mom was the only one there, had driven in a snowstorm, and said it was haunting. But grandma was 93 and her body was giving out over time. It wasn’t sudden.

    Hugs to you. I hope you have family looking after you too. And take care of yourself best you can.

  5. So sorry to hear about your loss! It’s a most difficult thing to stand by and watch a loved one die. I’ve been there. And it can haunt and consume you if you aren’t careful. I think it’s fantastic how you persisted with your uncle’s condition to make sure those that needed to be there could do so. And I’m sure he loves and appreciates you!

    I hope 2015 goes smoother for you milady. I’m keeping you in my thoughts!

  6. Oh, Summer. This made my heart hurt. I do hope and believe things will improve, there will be good news, and edifying triumphs this year for you! It is a hard thing to face loss, especially a series of losses compounded with a series of horrible blows. And it is incredibly brave to write about it. It is also incredibly essential.

    2014 was one of my hardest years to date. January of 2015 was one of my hardest months ever. So much of what you have been going through mirrors my own life. My grandmother passed away in November — two days after my 30th birthday! I fell from a ladder that leads up to my writing nook, and was pretty messed up. My dog was attacked last week…and that’s just the last three months.

    I don’t know if it will help, but if you want some solidarity, you can look here. I have also written about some of my THINGS.
    https://rebekahfaubionbooks.wordpress.com/2014/11/06/she-was-loved/
    https://rebekahfaubionbooks.wordpress.com/2014/12/01/on-nanowrimo-winning-or-why-that-wasnt-my-goal-this-november/
    https://rebekahfaubionbooks.wordpress.com/2014/12/29/goodbye-2014/
    https://rebekahfaubionbooks.wordpress.com/2015/01/10/never-beaten/

  7. Sorry to hear about your uncle. I’ll keep you in my prayers.

  8. I hate so much for you that you’re having such a crappy time of it lately. Hugs, and all my best wishes for a major upswing really super soon.

  9. Oh, Summer. I’m so sorry for your loss. 🙁 (((hugs)))

  10. I’m so sorry for that awful, traumatic experience. You have been through the ringer!!!

    On maybe a more positive note, I wanted to thank you for your honesty in your post last month about your horrible experience in middle school and the teacher who could have saved the day… but didn’t. It stuck in my mind. My second son is in 7th grade and its been a rocky year and a half. When his grades came out two weeks ago, I was shocked to see them so far down the drain. I sat him down and started doing the Mom lecture. When I asked how things could have gotten so bad, he started crying and telling me that the bullying that had let up before, was back on, full strength. The kids who make life just generally miserable, hadn’t faded into the background (like I’d assumed because he’d stopped complaining). As I held this gangly boy in my arms, I remembered your post. I remembered all sorts of other things, but that FizzyPost was in the forefront of my mind. And I knew at that moment, things were gonna change. My boy wasn’t going to go through hell any more. So, we talked some more, talked with Dad, talked with a couple of friends of ours that homeschooled and decided that’s what we’re going to do for the next year and a half. My other four boys are staying in public school (though they wish otherwise). But just one week has made an amazing difference. My miserable, sarcastic, gloomy 12 year old has started smiling again. He’s made a list of all sorts of things he wants to learn from electro-magnetics to the Cuban-Missle Crisis and the Cold War. We’ve gone to the library and left with arms loaded down with books and movies and … he’s happy. There is no price on that. I just wanted to give you a huge thank you and hope that maybe this can be a glimmer of rainbow glitter silver lining on your cloudy season in life. Thank you Summer. It means everything to me and my son. 🙂

  11. Oh my darling Fizzy! You did an amazing thing for your uncle, and perhaps more importantly for your aunt and cousins. I could just hug you so hard right now.

  12. I’m so sorry for your loss and I hope for you the same joy and laughter you bring others by simply being in the world and doing what you do.

  13. I am so sorry for your loss. And that you had to go through all that. So many hugs. Just…so…many…hugs. ((((hugs))))

  14. I don’t know you, but you still touched me.

    And I care and am upset for you.

    My love and empathy to you and yours.

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