What it was like for me to nearly lose my beloved wife.
| I love my wife Lisa more than I love myself. She is the most kind, loving person that I have ever known. She cares for others more than she cares for herself. She is a true empath. She is the only person who could put up with me for all these years. I can be hard to get along with sometimes. She keeps me stable and grounded, or at least more so. There is a good chance that I would be dead by now if we hadn’t found each other. There is also a very good chance that she would be dead by now if we hadn’t found each other.
Lisa has Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, or COPD. It lands her in the hospital way too often. She has been intubated twice in her life. This is about the second time that she was intubated, when she came the closest to death.
Lisa had a COPD exacerbation which caused her to be hospitalized. After a little over a week she was improving. She no longer needed to stay on the Bipap machine twenty-four hours a day. She only needed it at night when she was sleeping. Her blood oxygen saturation was staying up where it should be most of the time. She was doing well enough that the doctors decided to move her up to the Progressive Care Unit on the third floor later in the day.
Since Lisa had improved so much, I finally felt comfortable enough to not keep watching the monitor all the time. Lisa was taking a nap. I was reading a book. I heard something and looked up. A nurse was standing at the foot of Lisa's bed. She said that Lisa’s oxygen saturation level was dropping. I looked at the monitor. Her oxygen percentage was in the sixties and dropping fast. Two respiratory therapists and a doctor came in. The therapists started trying to get the oxygen level up using what is called an Ambu bag. The doctor asked if I wanted to let them intubate her. I had a life or death decision to make.
After the first time that Lisa had to be intubated, we had a serious talk about what she would want in case it happened again. She said that she would rather not be intubated again. I also asked her about resuscitation. She said that unless it was hopeless, she wanted to have a fighting chance.
I looked at the monitor again. Her oxygen percentage was then in the forties. I had to decide between having her intubated, which I knew she would rather not do, or watch her die. I had only a very few minutes to decide. I was not ready to lose her, and I remembered that she said she would want a fighting chance. I said “do it”.
The nurses rushed me out of the room and told me to wait in the waiting room. They would come let me know what was happening as soon as they could. I had to calm down. I ran outside and hotboxed a cigarette. I had to smoke it fast. I didn’t want to be outside when they came to talk to me. I burned it down as quickly as I could and rushed back to the waiting room. I waited and worried and tried to hold it together. After what seemed like forever, Susan the nurse came in and sat down with me.
I had some things in common with Susan. We both had been to Peru. I went there to study Spanish in a summer study abroad program. She had spent a good amount of time there as a volunteer nurse. We also both had an interest in traditional medicine. She was a highly trained nurse, but had seen enough of the medical traditions of other cultures to know that they often work. These things gave us something to talk about. Lisa had been in that ICU several times. Susan and I had become friends. She took it on herself to come talk to me rather than another nurse who I didn’t know as well. She told me that the intubation had gone well, and that Lisa was stabilized for the time being. She asked how I was doing. When she looked into my eyes, I couldn’t answer her. I completely broke down and bawled. I hadn’t cried like that since I lost my mother.
I don’t remember what Susan said to me, but she was able to get me calmed down. After learning that Lisa was alive and reasonably stable, I felt just a little bit better. I am very grateful to Susan for being there for me.
The whole thing was terrifying. It was the first hill and valley in what was to become a very long, scary and painful emotional rollercoaster ride. I went from thinking that everything was going well, and that Lisa would soon be out of the ICU to nearly watching her die in a matter of only a very few minutes.