Friday, April 24, 2015

Errol, My Husband, My Love ~ September 25, 1946 ~ April 22, 2015

My beloved husband, Errol, died Wednesday afternoon in the liver transplant ICU at UCLA. A doctor called in the morning and explained that nothing they had done to try to curb the very vicious and highly unusual bacterial infection and sepsis had worked and, because of the infections, his new liver had now failed. 

She said he was on the maximum of all drugs and still getting worse. I agreed that they not resuscitate him should his heart fail. Then I drove, once again, through the desert into the Los Angeles traffic jams. It was a cold, gray April morning, with clouds hanging low over the mountains, matching how I felt perfectly.

Errol's brothers, his sister, Debra, her daughters, a newborn grandbaby, nieces and other relatives and a few friends were gathered around his bed. I spoke to one of the doctors and we agreed that when we were ready, they would begin to remove the various medicines, the kidney dialysis machine, and finally the breathing tube. I held my husband's hand the whole time. Debra sang Amazing Grace, in her hauntingly beautiful voice, his brothers sang another song, we prayed, I said my favorite old Hebrew prayer in Swedish, we told stories of Errol's life, laughed even. 

He was heavily sedated and it didn't take long. Once the four - at max - medicines to keep his blood pressure up were removed, his blood pressure went down fast, his heart continued beating for a while, then stopped. It was very peaceful and beautiful. You know, I always liked to hold his hand. It made me feel secure and loved, somehow. His hand was still hard and calloused from all that contracting work, building all those houses he did all his life. Now I had to let go, let his hand go. 

Errol touched many lives, even in his final days in the ICU. The social worker came up and asked if she could stay. Of course she could. She kept her hand on his shoulder and told us she had loved him since he was in the hospital last summer. She said they became friends then, he was going to make her gumbo. The ever optimistic attending physician, his surgeon, I told you about earlier, was devastated. He came in and talked to us, said he thought the last surgery had done it, said the last CT scan looked good, said he was so sorry he couldn't save Errol's life. Said he was some guy, so strong, such a fighter through it all, said he had been so inspired by him. 

I believe my life for a long time to come will be filled with both tears and joy. I have so much support from family and friends. Monique and Kenny were here yesterday with their girls and Subway sandwiches. That helped, family will help with everything. I don't have to go through this alone.

I have much to do, of course, and will take a blogging break for a while. 

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for all your support this past year. You have helped me so much, you have no idea. You have shared your own losses and showed me that life can go on; you have sent me gifts, cards, incredible drawings you made of Samson and Faith, beautiful stories you wrote, and you have left wonderful, encouraging comments and emails.

Thank You!

P.S. Don't worry, we'll take good care of mommy.
~ Samson and Faith

Monday, April 13, 2015

Three Doctors Give Opinions ~ Another Update & Some Blogging Notes

The doctors, nurses, social workers, and transplant recipients associated with the UCLA transplant program are the most positive-thinking and optimistic people I have ever encountered. My husband's attending physician, the surgeon, the optimistic and caring Dr. K., led me to believe that this last surgery would really take care of whatever needed to be taken care of. He also had a long talk with our friend Tom, and said pretty much the same thing. 

So when I walked into the ICU yesterday, I expected something better than what I saw. I have seen my husband sedated before, but yesterday, it was different. It was easy to see that the nurse, they change nurses most every day, so I had not met her before, it was easy to see that she was deeply touched by my husband's struggles. We were all wondering how much he felt, how much he was aware of. When he has been awake, he has mouthed (he can't talk) to both Tom and me, "help me, help me." That alone is certainly enough to break my heart.

Yesterday, as they were "rounding" as they now call it when doctors do the rounds, checking on patients, the second in charge, Dr. G., comes into the room and proceeds to tell me what I already know: My husband is the most ill person, by far, at the UCLA Liver Transplant ICU. Neither the procedures done, nor the antibiotics have cleared up his massive infections. Since the new liver was transplanted into a very sick environment, it is not performing all that well either. 

Then he says, "but we are doing all we can and we are not giving up yet, so don't give up hope." I tell him that I don't like hope, that I'm a realist, that there's no need to sugarcoat anything, that I prefer the truth. "We will continue to treat your husband, we are not giving up, and if/when we know we can no longer help him, you will have a decision to make," says the good doctor. I tell him I appreciate his honesty. Then I look at all these lines, dialysis, stents, bags -- and I think bad thoughts about modern medicine. 

Then doctor number three wanders in, an older guy, a liver specialist, who confirms that my husband's liver, while not failing, is having problems that don't seem to be getting better. But he, yet another optimist, sounds like he believes everything will be OK, my husband will get better. Then, on his way out the door, he turns around and says,"and when he does, of course, he won't remember a thing of all this." The nurse, Tom, and I look at each other, astonished, since this is what all three of us had wondered about earlier

Finally, about blogging. I will continue to post these updates, hopefully mixing them up with other news and pictures from the canyon. 

I have decided to use the Reply to comments funtion from now on. I feel the caring that goes into each and every comment and I am touched by what you write. So, using Reply will allow me to communicate more directly with you. And it may just alleviate some of that guilt you tell me not to feel when I don't have the energy to read/comment on your posts.

So, if you have the time to come back.......

And thank you so much for being there for me. 

I just noticed today's date. Tomorrow, it will be two months since we took my husband to the ER and all this started. I'm trying to remember what his voice sounds like........

Friday, April 10, 2015

A Turn For The Worse ~ Again

Only two years ago, we went to this park on the other side of town, had a picnic, 

walked around the lake, watched birds, so different from those in the canyon. We were happy. 

In my last post, I shared relatively happy news. My husband, my love, was doing better. Then he took a turn for the worse. And last night I gave consent to yet another surgery, to repair another or the same leak in his abdomen. 

I talked to his attending physcian, the surgeon, whom I trust. He said my husband has a strong will to live, and he had been a strong man, physically. Although he no longer is, he can can get through this, said the surgeon. 

I gave my consent to the surgery. I can't hold his life in my hands. I don't like to have to make these decisions. The operating room nurse called at 2:37 this morning, said they were wrapping up the surgery. Couldn't/wouldn't tell me how it went. 

When I called this morning, the nurse said he's very critically ill. She told me of a few procedures they had to do. Left me feeling that even if he recovers, he will never really recover, will never be the man he was happy and content with being. 

I don't know what this will mean. Will he still want to be alive? Will he be depressed?  Will he have the mental fortitude to work through all the obstacles ahead? Will I? 

Or should I prepare myself for the end of our lives together, for the end of his life? Practically, yes, that I can do, but emotionally? 

Tom was going there this morning to see about my husband. He will let me know more. I will call the surgeon later. 

I wanted to let you know. 

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Springtime In The Mountains & A Short Update

These pictures are from 2012 and 2013, before it got so dry here. We still have California poppies all over town right now, about a month earlier than when I took these in late April, early May.

The scenery on the other side of town is very different from that in the canyon. 

My hubby is doing better. I take it as a good sign when I get a call from a physical therapist, instead of a surgeon. Hubby's friend, Tom, flew in from Denver yesterday. The first thing he wanted to do, was to go to the hospital and visit his friend. 

 As for me, I started to feel ill on Monday, went to the doctor on Tuesday, and got some antibiotics for a minor infection. So now I'm tired and missed my Wednesday visit with hubby. Since Tom will be with him most every day this week and some other friends and a couple of his brothers will be visiting too, I don't have to worry about being missed.  

This would have been a nice picture for Thursday's Fences (if you can se the fence, that is). I'm sorry I haven't participated, but I still have some good fence pictures to share later.

You know, I said to myself that I would not post another post until I had visited and commented on all your posts. You have been here and left comments and been so kind, so that's the least I could do. And it also cheers me up to see what's going on in everyone's lives. But since I got sick, I didn't manage to visit everyone, but I will keep going. 

I don't want to own a laptop, an iPad, or smartphone (not that I can afford one right now, anyhow) because I don't want to get hooked on that part of modern life. I want freedom from devices for the rest of my life. I am very clear on that. I also switched to the cheapest DirecTV plan, once I realized I would be alone here for a while. And I hardly ever turn the thing on. I have my Kinldle because I love to read and it comes in handy for instant book purchases.

However, I must admit that a device I could hold in my lap would be a good thing right now. I could then connect with you so much easier, sitting on the couch or in bed, resting, while reading the latest from your blogs.

I hope spring is on the way to where you live and that you will have a nice rest of the day. Thanks for everything, your caring comments mean so much to me right now. 

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Husband Update, A to Z Challenge, And A Walk With The Dogs

With my husband so ill and me so tired, I have decided to not participate in the A to Z Challenge this year. It was a difficult decision since I enjoy it so much. But I can't keep up with my current blogger friends. Friends who have been so kind and supportive during this difficult time. So now is not the time to post every day, read new blogs, and get more followers. Just wanted to let you know, in case someone from there stops by.  

Can you see Puppy Faith? She's 11 months now and will not grow to be the very big dog she believes herself to be. 

It has been such a long time since I took the camera with me on our morning walks. Sometimes though, it may be good to force oneself into a creative mood. Camera or not, I walk the dogs every morning. It keeps me balanced and as happy as possible.  

Hilary wrote me an email from England, saying she suspects I am having a torrid time. And that word, torrid, says it all. Last Wednesday, the 25th, the doctors noticed a change in my husband's demeanor and did two CT scans, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. After the last one, they determined something was going on in his abdomen and decided on surgery. I had just walked in the door, after spending the day with my husband, when the phone rang. Once again, for the 5th time since March 7, I gave consent to yet another surgery.

Serious things were going on, a leakage from an intestine, if I understood correctly. The doctor told me later he was concerned that my husband would not make it. Surgery went on until 2:30 in the morning. Serious infection once again. The doctor also said they would know if the mesh they installed would work in a week. Husband survived, his new liver doing so, so, worries there as well, and my torrid week went on. Long story short, yesterday, a week later, while I was there, another surgeon appears and says they have decided to operate again. Too much infection, we have to go in and try to clean it up. And replace the plastic mesh with one of a natural material, like from a pig. So I sign more forms to give consent. When I called this morning, the nurse said that his vital signs are good. Wait and see.

Wait and see is not a talent of mine. But when you have no choice, you will do it, and therein lies some personal growth. So all is not bad, even in an impossibly bad situation. Oh, and then, Sophiedoodle, I met a labradoodle therapy dog in the hallway. Just your size, but a lighter brown. I asked if I could pet him. Then I did, he was so sweet, and he helped me a lot. I thought about you and how I miss you and my blogger friends, furry and not.

I have always admired wildflowers here in the desert mountains. How they can grow among the sand and rocks. I came upon this one, all alone, very tiny, but still so cheerful looking. And I smiled. 

Spring is bringing many new arrivals to the canyon. Two baby calves were born to our neighbor's cows. They are so feisty and adorable. The house finches are back and settled in their old homes. I wish they would build some new adobes, as their old ones are full of guano from at least three previous years. I see they used some of Samson's fur to decorate the top of one of their nests. It looks really cute, actually. Ground squirrels are back and gophers are driving Samson to distraction. Scrub jays are here and I also saw a pair of doves this morning. 

Weeds are growing like crazy and I'm trying to keep up, using the electric lawn mower. It's going pretty well. I may take a neighbor up on his offer to bring his tractor over and just rake it all up, later this spring. I am so glad to have met really good neighbors here in the canyon. Another neighbor of mine, a Native American woman, a little bit younger than I, said the other day, after I told her about my husband: "If  you ever get scared or need some help over there, call me. I've got a gun!" I will never forget that offer. 

See how big my tongue got? Do you think I could be a poster dog for that rock band, Kiss?

Me:  Samson, I am so blessed to have a therapy dog of my very own, here at home. 
Samson: Who's that mommy?
Me: It's  you, of course. Do you know what's between your ears?
Samson: No, mommy, what?
Me: My favorite place to kiss you.
Samson: OK, mommy, you can kiss me there any time you want. Maybe I can get one of those chicken cookies? 
Me: I will get you some, because you are the bestest dog. Ever!
Samson: Thank you mommy, I try. 




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