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  • marybacon7

GUTS


“You know, you can go ahead and climb up on that table with him if you want.” Lauren  nodded towards Andrew on his unforgiving hospital bed. 

I looked into Lauren’s face, her crystal-clear blue eyes full of soft, steady guidance,

 “It’s perfectly ok.”

She gently squeezed my arm as she left the  ICU room, following 

the small circle of friends and family who’d just witnessed my husband take his last sip of air - and with that gentle inhale - leave us all behind.

The room fell impossibly still - just my 12 year old boy and I, breathing, on either side of his father’s ravaged body; the BP machine a flat zero, the heart rate monitor  having ceased it’s insistent bleeping, the flurry of nurses now gone, the  whirring dialysis machine quiet, the breathing tube and the ventilator now dangling lifeless on the bed’s mechanical side arm; death calmly descended, powering it all -off. 

Any clue of what next to do - 

I was grateful for.

None of  my peers had ever been or would be in this situation. 

Save Lauren, whose young husband Michael she’d failed to resuscitate on the beach after he’d gotten caught in a riptide and drowned in Tulum 13 years before.

The right thing to do? 

Rather, what would I regret not doing?

Lauren knew. 

In the crushing vice of the past three weeks -every capricious minute a critical shift to better or worse status of his liver, his kidneys, his lungs,  his heart- I  was asked  permissions for countless emergency procedures;   permission to ventilate, permission for a chest port, permission to install a central line in his neck for life-saving dialysis that his arms’ veins could not deliver, permission to take it out to give him a line holiday, permission to reinstall it. 

Just a few days ago,  the third reinstallation, the young attending Jibbon with a habit of delivering sober news with upward inflections?

I was always  questioning his certainly about any major procedure I was asked to allow. Look,  they were all impossibly young, those warriors attempting to outwit the voracious staph infection the icu docs called a fire in the body;   first put it out,  then asses the damage, it’s wily strength keeping them always playing catch up.

This 3rd and  final time,  Jibbon began reciting a now familiar long list of grave risks accompanying installing a central line into a major vein.

 I stopped him mid-sentence,

“Jibbon, what are the risks of NOT doing it?”

He blinked at me.

“The risk is death, right? Loss of life?”

He slowly nodded. 

“Are you doing the procedure?’

 ‘Yes?” he quivered.

I put my hand on his shoulder.

 “Jibbon, you’re gonna do a great job.

I trust you. Take care of Andy.”

And he did. He did a great job.

But none of this took guts from me. 

And it didn’t take great courage to be with his body for this last time. I stripped it of all the medical devices, the ivs, the inflatable padding around his legs to keep his circulation going, and dropped them to the floor. I  stood at the end of his bed. It didn't take nerves to crawl up with him as Lauren suggested. To trace his cheek and his nose and his still warm forehead with my finger,  to hold his hand in mine.  I rather felt hungry to lie with him, it had been weeks since he’d been free of so many needles and pins and tubes everywhere…I hadn't seen him in wholeness for a while. Our son crawled up with me. We kissed his cheek, we laid our heads on his chest. We gently stroked this body we loved.

None of this took guts. 

We’d already been through so much; the seemingly innocent trip to the hospital when his flu took a strange turn for the worse,  when he could no longer stand up by himself, when his legs began to swell. Tell tale signs of a staph infection that had begun its attack on multiple organs- if you knew what to look for.

We didn’t.

We laughed in the emergency waiting room with him and our friends who came by for company.

We went through a transfer to a bigger hospital; I’d been up all night in three different ers and trauma units. I’d taken a shower  in a spare scrub room with no curtain and a big drain in the floor, and no soap; I’d lathered up using foaming Purell out of the hand dispenser above the sink.

None of that took guts.

(And by guts,

I mean the strength needed to perform an action with these requirements; it must be  unavoidable, it must be the next right thing to do, and above all,

it must go against every instinct in every cell within your body, mind and soul.

Just so we get on the same page.)

After we had spent…as long as allowed.  The nurse, so kind, brought us little bottles with slim pieces of  ticker tape paper of his heartbeat, and a lock of his hair. And told us we could stay just a few moments more - it was almost 2. 

He had died at 12:05. Was it 1:55 already?

Yes. 

I had to rise from that bed with some grace - our son was with me, after all. 

Otherwise I might've had to be dragged off.

Nonetheless. 

I gently climbed off. 

The coroner was waiting. I don’t recall packing up the things I brought to the room, the little “hope always hope”  and “fight on” signs from the gift shop, his Yankees hat, the few cards. His clothes, in a plastic bag, his glasses, his wedding ring. But I must have- maybe I stalled for time as I gathered these. 

My son had stepped aside, waiting.

I must go. 

I kissed Andy’s forehead one more and one last time. I stroked it. 

I said,

I’m sorry. I’m so, so sorry sweetie.  I love you. 

I backed out of the room to keep my eyes on him as long as possible. He wasn’t separated into body and spirit yet, in my mind. He was still all of him. In union. On that bed.

I looked down to encircle our son’s hand in mine, and with great effort, forced myself to turn my body away from Andy-we walked down the pale yellow hallway, past the open rooms  and thin curtains shrouding other critical hospital patients, past all the comforting sounds of machines sustaining life.

Walked away from Andrew…and into the new life ahead without him.  

That took guts.

 



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1 Comment


Rachel Fowler
Rachel Fowler
Jun 06

Absolutely beautiful. Absolutely heartbreaking. Absolutely truthful. xxx

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