This post is going to be a hard one to write and quite possibly…a long one. I’ve had quite a few people ask where I went and then why I deleted all my posts. For some things…there are no words or explanations. For others, there are far too many words that will be so difficult to write.
It has been a tough year. Don’t get me wrong, it hasn’t been all bad. There have been tons of ups, but the downs are so heavy and hard that they are the most memorable. It’s like there being a glimpse of sun in the sky before a dark rain cloud moves in front of it. You can see the sun shining on other areas and know it’s there, but the rain cloud is preventing you from enjoying it.
Thanksgiving started like any normal thanksgiving. Too much food and not enough stomach. Wondering why I didn’t put on my favorite pair of LuLaRoe leggings and one of my Carly dresses instead of uncomfortable jeans that were now making me feel very fat. I was on the way to Thanksgiving number 2 of 3 when I received a text message from my dad. They decided to have our thanksgiving on Friday to make things a little easier and had gone out to brunch with some cousins.
My brother, Mike, had enjoyed some green bean casserole (one of his favorite thanksgiving foods) and it just didn’t go down right. He barely ate after that. On the way home he told mom and dad he was having a harder time breathing and felt like he was choking. The plan was to take him to a clinic, but Mike told them to go to the hospital. Between the expressway and the hospital (less than a 10 min drive) he stopped breathing and lost consciousness. Due to his disability they kept going and drove right into the ambulance entry and got the ramp down and wheeled his wheelchair right out of the van and into the ER. The ER immediately bagged him and got him breathing again quickly.
So, here I sit having a message from my dad saying they took my to the ER because he stopped breathing and went unconscious from choking.
Texting him back….no response.
Texting mom….no response.
Calling dad….no answer.
Calling mom…..no answer.
Desperately trying to get more information. Something. Anything.
Turns out they had no signal. I wasn’t eating. Wasn’t drinking. Nothing. I needed to be ready to leave at a moments notice. I’d have left already if I’d have known what hospital they were in. Finally I got a response saying he was ok. Just running some tests on his lungs and wanting to do a scope thing to make sure he wasn’t aspirated. (Like my technical jargon?) So, they were keeping him.
So, I headed over to mom and dads house to grab a few things for them and headed to the hospital. My In-laws were all great and helped take the kiddos for me since the hospital was an hour from home and I’d be back late. I was told I didn’t have to go, but damn it….I wasn’t about to not go. I’d been panicking for hours at this point. I needed to see Mike.
When I arrived, I found out Dad went home and would be returning early in the AM. Mike was awake. He definitely looked tired, but his sense of humor was still there! Oh, what a relief. I hung out much later than I should have, but the huge weight of worry about him had lifted from my shoulders. While I was still worried about my baby brother (28…almost 29yr old baby brother) and wanted him to recover fast, I felt happy and almost light knowing he made it through ok and was in good hands.
Black Friday I worked in the AM. (I swear, we may be the only daycare in Wisconsin open on Black Friday.) As soon as I was done working, I got my kiddos and some stuff and we were on our way back to the hospital. The boys were worried about their Uncle Mike! We got their and their smiles to see Mike sitting their smiling back at them was priceless. They adore him! My brother J and his girlfriend were their with her dog Rex too. Mike loves dogs. Having Rex there and sitting with him and doing tricks was a highlight! We were happy to know his oxygen levels were good. They were going to do the bronchial something medical terms scope in the morning and if all was clear…he’d get to come home!
So…My brother J and his girlfriend, and I left with plans to takeover mom’s thanksgiving dinner making so that we could have it ready for when they got home! After all, They all still didn’t have their thanksgiving dinner yet! I arrived bright and early! The scope-thingy came back clear! No fluid or anything in his lungs! All clear to come home!
While the Turkey was cooking, I took the kids to a nearby town parade. Hubby was hunting and his dad lives in that area so, we’d get to see him. It’s kind of a tradition. Cold, but always a good time. Mom and Mike arrived home while we were at the parade and waited for us for lunch. I felt bad that they waited for us, but we were ready to devour when we got there.
Poor Mike looked exhausted from his procedure. He sure was happy to be home and finally getting his traditional Thanksgiving meal. Eating seemed to be a chore. He kept coughing and coughing. Mom turned to Dad and mentioned his Cough Assist machine (which was at his apartment a few hours away and with his disease it is a wonderful machine that helps him clear phlegm and stuff when he has a cough) and Dad immediately got up and left the dinner table mid meal and left to go get it. After hearing the story multiple times of Mike’s ER trip and how he stopped breathing, Mike’s coughing worried my youngest LittleSki (7) who turned to me and said, “Is Mike dying mommy?” I looked at mom then the panic in my brothers eyes and prayed that he didn’t hear that. I tried to quietly console him, but Mike’s coughing did not stop. He was still looking at me, but he said to mom “It’s happening again.”
My mom told me to call dad and tell him we were taking Mike to the hospital. So, I called him and told him, but then I turned to mom and said it would be better if we called an ambulance. He lost consciousness last time and since my parents live in the country it would take twice as long to make it to a hospital. So, we called 911 and told Dad to come back. J (who is an EMT) said they have a tool in the ambulance to use to clear airwaves when choking. He quickly improvised and grabbed the turkey baster and started working to clear his airwaves. He was getting some stuff and it seemed to be helping. I remember the sights and sounds like it was just earlier today. I remember gripping the phone and praying over and over. Then, Mike stopped responding and breathing in a split second.
I vividly remember screaming his name. I remember digging my knuckles into his breast bone like I learned in CPR because it’s painful and should get a response. I remember slapping his cheek and when that didn’t work watching for breaths. Everything from this point on is partially vivid and also half blurry. I don’t know if I blurred it myself or if it was because of my fear and adrenaline. I can’t tell you when I realized that my children were still in the room, but the moment it hit me I screamed at my brother’s girlfriend to get them out and keep them out. I remember my mom and J moving him to the floor. I remember grabbing my mom’s phone to call Hubby who was hunting in the woods behind the house over and over. I remember him texting me on my phone and barely being able to type something like “come quick and get the kids” I remember the EMTs coming in and him immediately getting a tube and the squeezy breathing bag thingy. I remember my brother taking control and bossing the other EMTs around. I remember running outside barefoot looking for something the EMT needed. I remember J started CPR. The EMT was getting some stuff going and Mom was doing the air bag breathe squeezing thing. J was doing compressions and the EMT was just about to take over. Then mom started shaking and tearing up and I told the EMT she was not ok to be doing that. So, he took over for her. I remember telling J I’d take over compressions and the look he gave me was that of disbelief. He asked if I was sure. No, but I’d be damned before I’d just sit here and do nothing when I was trained on what to do to help. So, we switched.
In CPR certification class they warn you that you may feel ribs crack and that if they don’t crack you aren’t doing it right. That comment meant nothing till I went down for my first compression and felt it myself. I cringed inwardly and immediately felt like I was hurting him and needed to stop. Then, training kicked in and I got my head in the game. The comment in class was nothing to prepare me for it in real life.
I counted aloud and kept tempo by singing over and over in my head the tune “staying alive”. Yes….the old disco song. J and I switched after my two mins. I don’t remember when Hubby came and got the boys. I know I sent the kids out and didn’t let any of them back in the house. I remember hugging him and thinking he smelled wonderful like the woods. I remember telling him to get them out of there now. I don’t remember them leaving. I barely remember J’s girlfriend being there. I know she called a bunch of J’s EMT friends for him. I remember the sheriff showing up and me kicking mom out of the room to talk to her. I remember each and every turn of compressions I had. I remember the paramedics arriving and knowing one of them. I remember watching them hook up and IV and were talking Meds.
I don’t remember when my Dad got back, but I will never forget the look on his face as he stood there watching. He was ghost white and his knuckles were gripping the counter so tight. He wouldn’t sit down and listen to me. He wouldn’t leave the room. He didn’t look good and I was sooo worried he’d faint or something worse. I remember telling Sam (J’s girlfriend) to help keep an eye on him. I don’t remember seeing mom. I didn’t look for her. I was too focused on Mike. The AED was hooked up. No AED shocks advised. More compressions. I remember two of my brother J’s EMT friends arriving. One even got down and helped with CPR. I remember hugging one and making a comment about how going this long with no pulse or anything can’t be good and how he didn’t look at me but hugged me tight. One more round of CPR. Then J’s friend that was helping with CPR found a pulse. Someone else confirmed it. They got the stretcher in and him on it and to the ambulance they went.
J’s friends helped Sam and I clean up Thanksgiving dinner and the EMT/Paramedic garbage. Dad packed a bag and was going to drive himself down, but I made J and Sam go with. I said I wanted to check on the kids and I’d be down. I was talking to Hubby about how they were dealing when I got a text saying he wasn’t doing well again. We hurried and dropped them off at Hubby’s mom’s house which is a mere few blocks away. We were in the car on the way down when I got a “Doing CPR again, hurry!” Text.
I lost it. I shouldn’t have waited. I should have rode down with Dad and J and Sam. I should have worried about the kids later.
At this point I was happy Hubby was with me because I lost control of my emotions. All the should haves I could possible have thought of were going through my head. I should have stayed home instead of going to the parade. I’d have had more time with him then. I should have left with them. I should have done this. I should have done that.
I got another hurry text. Hubby was going to drop me off at the door then go park. I was running into the building when I saw my mom’s best friend/my brother’s god mother. I told her I was told to hurry as I ran past her so she’s understand. Sam had someone ready and waiting to take me in. I heard Gin behind me complaining to the desk people about why she couldn’t be let in. I didn’t care. The guy walking me in was moving slower tan molasses in January in Wisconsin. I was half walking ahead of him. Noooo sense of urgency. I wanted to SCREAM.
I couldn’t tell you what the hall looked like. Or the room I walked in to. But….I can say that I knew before I saw. As I walked through the doors of what I am assuming was the triage room….I saw a group of people walking away from a curtained area sweaty and exhausted and not happy. I was too late.
Mom and Dad saw me and I just walked right into both their arms and J joined in too. We stood there in the middle of all the chaos and equipment and cried as a family. I felt like mom and dad were ready to collapse and was thankful for J’s arms in the mix because I knew we could help them together. I don’t know how long we stood there. It could have been seconds. It could have been minutes. I don’t know. There could have been more doctors and nurses running around for someone else. I don’t know.
You know in the movies where they show a character living through something in a soundless kind of slow motion. That is exactly how this felt. My life was moving in a soundless blur. I don’t remember hearing my family cry, but I remember their bodies shaking under my hands in our hug so I know they did. Maybe I was blocking it out or maybe my own sobs were too loud. I don’t know.
I remember them ushering us into a room where we could sit and mourn this loss together. I remember going to get Gin and Sam from the hallway. I remember Gin looking at me…searching my face for some sign of good news and all I could do was cry and shake my head. I don’t remember walking to her or her walking to me, but I remember the hug. The tight “hold on because you feel like your world is falling apart” hug. I remember her sobbing “No! No! No!” Over and over.
I remember telling myself that now is the time to cry and tomorrow will be the time to be strong. They’re going to need me, I need to be strong for them.
I have no idea how long we stayed in that room. Eventually they brought Mike into the room for us to say goodbye. I remember telling stories. I remember tears and laughter. Our pastor came and said some words.
It’s amazing because right there in that little mourning room, we came to terms with what happened. I’m sure many would have been upset or angry or sad, but we were able to find peace. We were able to find comfort.
*We realized that if this had happened when he was in his apartment alone we’d have worried that he was scared or in pain or that it was slow and horrible.
*Him coming back to us on Thanksgiving gave us extra time with him we otherwise would not have had.
*He was Home with family. We know everything that could have been done to help him was done.
*If mom and dad would have been alone, it would have been worse. Or if mom had been in the car driving with this happening in the back of the van. J and I were there and able to start CPR.
*If he hadn’t have gotten his pulse back to make it to the hospital, we wouldn’t have found out it was a clot or some other heart defect. J would have always wondered if he could have done more and now he knows there isn’t. His heart was done.
Plus, when he was Diagnosed with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy…we were told he wouldn’t live to 20. He made it to 20 and then some. So, we essentially got about 9 or more years than we ever though we’d have. That alone is a huge blessing. He left us while he still had an amazing quality of life for his disease. It was his time.
While saying goodbye isn’t just hard…let’s be honest it down right sucks….these things make it a little easier to deal with. They give us the extra peace we need to keep moving forward.
Now, while I’ve come to peaceful terms with his passing, I am having one heck of a time. I’m not sleeping well. When I do sleep I wake up in cold sweats or crying. I’m reliving the sights and sounds of doing CPR on my brother. I’m reliving cracking his ribs. The image of him on the ground with a tube in his mouth and shirt cut off and AED strapped up to him will NOT leave my mind and it’s haunting me. I haven’t talked to my doctor yet, but a few people are saying their guess is PTSD or depression.
So, why did I delete all my posts? Why did I disappear? Now you know a little of why. This is also the reason I am writing again. I need an outlet. I need a way to get things off my shoulders that I have a hard time telling people. So, essentially I’m prescribing myself with writing therapy. I can write what I need to write and whether or not someone reads it is up to them. Who knows…maybe what I’m going through can help someone else. Even if it’s just knowing they aren’t alone.