It is hard to describe the emotions: Fear, most definitely. Lost, absolutely. The person whom I had relied upon for over half my life was not able to help me if the car broke down or if one of our sons got hurt. Even when he was in Korea, we could at least keep in touch via e-mail. For the first time ever, I would have to rely totally on myself for life’s little emergencies.
Once again, no matter what else was going on outside of the hospital, at 10:00, 2:00, 5:00 and 8:00, I was in the ICU. For the first several nights he had two nurses caring for him. It was gratifying to watch how they were so coordinated in what they did. My oldest son, who always has a million questions, was true to form: he asked if the blood transfusions that his dad received were already thinned….I had never given that a thought. The nurses were always so patient with him as they answered every question.
It was during this time that I decided, in order to keep my sanity, I needed to search for gratitude. I began each day with a grateful heart, being thankful that we had all made it to another day. I learned how to keep up a positive front for our boys, telling them it would be all right…when inside I had no idea if it would be or not. Over time, I began to believe it myself. I was grateful for the random kindnesses of strangers…..the man who took the parking space that I was waiting for: I had only 10 minutes to get to my husband’s bedside, and when he quickly moved into my space, the frantic look on my face as I honked furiously prompted him to back out and look for another space. Anyone who gave a kind word or a smile was a recipient of my gratitude. I then ended each day being grateful that we had all made it through.
There were difficult times: when they had to let him off the sedative for a ‘sedation vacation’. He would try to get the tube out of his throat by gagging, or trying to cough it up. It was very difficult to watch. Sometimes when I was alone in the middle of the night, it seemed like I was the only one whose life was falling to pieces. It’s a very lonely feeling.
After what seemed like weeks (it was 5 days), he was finally weaned off the respirator. I will never forget the look on his face as he came out of sedation. He had gone in for a routine procedure and 6 days later wakes up, not realizing how hard he had fought, how hard the many dedicated doctors, nurses and staff worked for this day. I could read his face as if he spoke the words, and I automatically said “the boys are fine…we are all fine”. He nodded his head, and the relief showed in his face as he closed his eyes for a brief rest.
When I came to see him at the next visiting cycle, he was sitting up in the chair in his ‘room’. I was amazed to see him up so soon. As I walked over to give him a hug, he looked at me and said, “I can’t feel my left side”.