Monday, July 14, 2008

Debbie


Seven years ago this weekend, I had to make a decision. The doctor told me he could keep her alive, but didn't know the extent of the damage. As far as he could tell, she had a stroke. He didn't know if she would ever regain conciseness again and even if she did she probably would be a vegetable at best. Debbie had already beaten the odds. She was diagnosed with cml, chronic myelogenous leukemia, in 1997. She had a bone marrow transplant in Oct of that year and was doing pretty well. So good if fact that Stanford Hospital had asked her to be included in their monthly conference calls for people facing this disease. She had a wonderful outlook on her life. I would asked "why you" and she would answer "why not me?" Then one morning in March 2008, she woke up very tired. She made it from the bedroom to the couch and spent the rest of the day there. That was the beginning of the end. She had , what is called, graft vs. host. Her body was rejecting it's new marrow. Even with all the pills she was taking, it couldn't be stopped. Stanford gave her six months to a year at best. Her small body was mangled and twisted by this complication. Her airways were blocked, she was trached and put on a ventilator and her short term memory was damaged, but still her faith was strong. One year, two years, three years went past. She seemed to have stabilized but in hindsight it was obvious she was slowly slipping. On the morning of July 14 2001, Debbie awoke in a good mood feeling as well as she had in a while. She asked for her favorite Chinese food for lunch. I got it for her and after eating, she said she was tired and wanted to nap. She slept most of the rest of the day, I would check on her as her sleeping that long wasn't unusual but always worried me. She finally woke up around 6 PM. She told me she was having trouble breathing. I turned up her oxygen and still she couldn't catch her breath. She began to panic. I started to "bag" her, squeezing a bag forcing air into her lungs. The bag was difficult to squeeze, telling me that her lungs were not working properly. I called 911. She cried and told me she didn't want to die, I told her I would not let her. She was taken the the old UMC hospital and into ICU. I was with her until, after receiving a lot of drugs, she told me to go home and take care of the kids. She was in a good spirits and had calmed down. She wasn't scared anymore. I reached down and kissed her. She said I love you, I told her I loved her too. That was the last words she ever spoke to me. It was 11:30 PM. I received a call from the hospital at about 1:30 the next morning, July 15 2001. The voice told me I needed to came back, she wasn't expected to make it through the night. I arrived at her bedside minutes later and was met be the doctor. I was told by Debbie two years earlier, that if she "crashed" again, she didn't want me to allow them to bring her back. Now I had to make that decision. I prayed and then told them I didn't want her to feel anymore pain, she had had enough of that. The doctor assured me that she would feel nothing. I held her hand kissed her forehead and talked with her for the next four hours as she slowly slipped away from me. I told her that it was ok, the kids would be ok, I would be ok. She had fought a terrific battle and it was ok for her to go home. She did at 6:32 am July 15 2001.
Over the years I have wondered if I did the right thing, by allowing the hospital to let her die. Did I really have the right to make that decision? She had said that was what she wanted, but also told me she was didn't want to die. A week after she died, I had a dream of her. She appeared in a white gown. She just smiled at me and said "I'll always love you". That was it. I have wondered if I made that decision for her, for me or for both. I had taken care of her, while she was bed ridden, for the past three years. I kept her at home so she could still be a part of the lives of the kids and me. It was very hard on me physically and mentally, but I know it was hard for her too. I think the decision was made for all of us. As God was taking her out of my life, He was bringing in Yvette. In the end, I did all I could for Debbie, but I still wonder if I had washed my hands a little better, or if I had reacted a little sooner...what if??? I know I can't play those games but still...what if?
So every year when July rolls around, I remember 2001. I remember the good times she and I had and the bad times too. God put her in my life for a reason, then when that reason was complete, her took her back out and brought in Yvette to comfort and take care of me.

3 comments:

Mike said...

Jeff:

I sit here with tears in my eyes and know that you did all you could. I know its a hard thing to live with, but you did what was best. Your writing of this could not have been easy, but you did a wonderful job.

Be good to yourself. You are a good man.

Mike

Jarre said...

I will never forget that morning. God say's that your days are numbered like the hairs on your head. It didn't matter what anyone did, He was ready to take her home. I'm glad you have Yvette,and every night I pray that God keeps the two of you and your family safe. I love you Brother and you I'm proud to be your Sister.

Lori said...

This was heart-wrenching to read.

I once heard something that I'll always remember:

People do not die for no reason. Either they are too old to live, too hurt to live, or too sick to live.
Our bodies aren't meant to live forever and getting to know your heart, I am absolutely sure that you did everything humanly possible to make Debbie's life sing. Loving someone isn't always easy and though we always want him/her with us, sometimes we have to love them enough to let go.

And then...thank God that He sends angels to show us how to keep on living...