Early Tuesday Morning
I followed the firemen and Wayne down the stairs. As they got him onto the stretcher and started to load him up into the ambulance I called Wayne’s parents. I didn’t want to worry them too much because after what the firemen had said, I figured that this would just be a trip to the E.R. for a breathing treatment or two and then we would be back home. They wanted to come to the E.R. anyway, so I told them how to get to the hospital and they started their 1 hour trip to the hospital.
The bishop said goodbye and headed home as I got into my car. I drove to the hospital alone. As I was pulling into the parking lot, so did the ambulance that carried Wayne. They had him stable enough so it wasn’t a lights and sirens type of occasion. As the ambulance drove over to their entrance, I parked and entered through the other E.R. entrance where admitting is. When I walked in, there was a man and a couple of other people sitting in the waiting area. The nurses desk was empty. As I stood at the desk waiting, I heard someone call for a repertory team to the E.R. over the intercom. It was almost like a voice in my head, clearly said that it was for Wayne. I still wasn’t too worried. Maybe it was a bit more serious than we had thought, but it would probably just be a day or two in the hospital and everything would be fine.
I am guessing that at this point, the man in the waiting area could tell I was getting a bit anxious and he told me that the nurse had gone down the hall to the patient admitting desk. I walked down there and found her working on Wayne’s paperwork. She was really nice and said that she understood that I wanted to get this done quickly so that I could get back to Wayne. We quickly went over our insurance information and I paid the $100 copay for the E.R. visit. She then told me what room Wayne was in and started to walk me through and point me in the right direction. As I walked down the hall, I noticed that there was quite a commotion going on in one of the rooms. Suddenly a security guard came running out of the room, put his hand up and said “she can’t come in here.” The nurse from the desk said “this is his wife.” The security guard looked and me and said “you can’t come in here, wait right there.” It was only then that it dawned on me; the commotion was coming from Wayne’s room.
I stood there in the hallway, rooted to the floor. I couldn’t move. I didn’t know what to think. After what seemed like an eternity, but I am sure it was only a matter of a minute or two, the same security guard came over and took an office chair from the trauma nurses desk. He pushed the chair up against the wall across from the desk and asked me to sit down. I sat there in a kind of daze, only half aware of all the noise coming from Wayne’s room. I just stared straight in front of me…in a sort of trance…watching the bleep bleep bleep of the heart monitors on the trauma desk. Then I noticed that one of those heart monitors didn’t look right. Just as I noticed that it was different than the others, it flat lined, and the words “Time of Death” appeared above it. My stomach hit the floor…had I just watched someone die? Then the line started moving again and the words disappeared.
I just sat there staring at this person’s life weaving in and out. Then my brain started working in over drive. It was like there was something there that I needed to know, that I should know but I couldn’t put my finger on it. I counted the heart monitors. There were 4. I looked up and started to count the rooms lined up in front of the desk: 1,2,3,4. It was monitor 1 that had flatlined…Wayne was in the 1st room.
While the reality of the situation began to sink in, I was still in complete denial. I immediately had thoughts of going into his room after everything was okay again and holding him while I told him how close we had been to losing him. It never occurred to me at that point that he might not make it. I was scared enough to call his parents again. I called and asked how close they were. Wayne’s mom told me where they were and then asked why. I couldn’t tell her what I had just seen. The words “Time of Death” just kept flashing through my mind. I told her that I would tell them when they got there. She started to cry and I followed up with “I just don’t want to be here by myself anymore.”
Almost as soon as I hung up the phone, a doctor came out of Wayne’s room and walked up to me. She said that as they were taking Wayne out of the ambulance his heart had stopped and he had stopped breathing. She said that they were doing everything they could and that she would be back out to give me more information as soon as she could. Suddenly I couldn’t take my eyes off of that heart monitor. I just kept willing his heart to keep beating. The sounds coming from his room were suddenly so clear it was almost as though I were in the room. I heard them calling for X-Rays, and blood transfusions, and things that I had only before heard on hospital drama television shows. I had to be dreaming right? I was still in my bed with my husband sleeping nearby…it was just a nightmare. I had to wake up.
Wayne’s parents got there and ran up to me asking where he was. I pointed to the room and tried to tell them that they wouldn’t let us in. Wayne’s dad barreled down the hall. No one was going to tell him he couldn’t see his son. The security guard stopped him. They started a vigil next to me. I think I tried telling them what I knew, but it is all pretty much a blur. It is like at that point I no longer had to carry the burden alone so it was finally okay for me to go somewhere else in my mind for a few minutes and try to get away. I know that at some point someone got a chair for Wayne’s mom and she sat next to me. I remember staring at that heart monitor; all the bells and alarms that kept going off every time that his heart stopped. I began to be able to tell the difference between his heart actually beating on its own and when they were doing CPR. I couldn’t take it anymore, so I got up and went to the bathroom. When I got there I just wanted to cry or to throw up or something…but I couldn’t do anything other than sit there and stare at the blank wall. So, I went back to my post, watching the heart monitor.
The doctor came back out to talk to us. She said that they had done everything they could and that it just wasn’t taking. She said that they would get his heart started again and then it would just stop and they would have to start over again. She said that they would try one more time, but if he didn’t pull through this time, she was going to call it. Wayne’s dad asked the doctor what she meant. She looked at him straight and said “We don’t think he is going to make it.” She told us that if we wanted, she would let us in the room with him this time. She warned us that it was pretty ugly in there and that we would have to stay back. I couldn’t do it. As much as I wanted to be with him, I just couldn’t bear the thought of seeing him like that. Wayne’s mom couldn’t either. Wayne’s dad went in to the room, and didn’t leave his side as far as I am aware.
I called my sister. I told her where I was and that they didn’t think Wayne was going to make it. It was when I finally allowed myself to say the words out loud that the tears started. She said that they would come and I told her how to get there. A few minutes later the hospital chaplain came and took us to a waiting room. It didn’t seem like it was much longer after that when they came in to tell us that Wayne was gone. Somewhere in the midst of this Wayne’s brother and sister came. I don’t remember if they got there before or after the doctor called it. I remember my sister, her husband, and my mom coming in shortly after I had been told Wayne was gone. I looked at them and asked them if someone had told them. They said no. I had to tell them that Wayne was gone. My brother came shortly after that. I called my bishop and told him; he was in shock. I called my boss to tell him that I wouldn’t be in to work for a while.
After that it was like we all just sat together in stunned silence. Eventually they moved us to a bigger waiting room because our group had gotten so big. I looked around the room and realized amidst all the grief that I was truly blessed. Within an hour or two, I had gone from sitting alone in an office chair in a brightly lit hospital hallway watching my husband’s heart stop over and over again to being surrounded by so many people who loved both me and my husband.
I did cry a lot while I was at the hospital but I tried not to cry too much. I didn’t want to hurt Wayne’s family more by letting them see how much pain I was in when they were already hurting so much themselves. But, most of all I was afraid that if I lost control that I wouldn’t be able to stop. People started asking me questions about funeral homes and arrangements and I couldn’t even think. I had no money to bury my husband with. I didn’t know what to do. Wayne’s parents said that they would take care of the cost, but they still wanted me to make the majority of the arrangements and I was completely at a loss. I was only 29. I didn’t know what to do. My sister stepped in and helped make arrangements for a funeral home to come and pick him up. At that point, I just wanted to go home.
Everyone kept trying to get me to go somewhere other than the house, but I needed to go. They didn’t understand that I needed a few hours to allow myself to grieve alone. I finally talked them in to letting me go home for a few hours by myself and pack a bag before I would go up and stay with Wayne’s parents for a while.
I went home and put on one of Wayne’s favorite sweatshirts that hadn’t been washed since he had worn it last. I walked down the hall and saw his cane still on the floor where he had tried to use it to stand up. The bowl I had held for him lay forgotten on the bathroom floor along with one of the washcloths I had held to the back of his neck. All of them sitting there like ghosts in the morning.
I crawled into bed and cried like I have never cried before. I called out Wayne’s name and begged him not to leave me like this. I told him that I didn’t know what I was going to do without him. I told him that I loved him and that I was so sorry that I hadn’t done more for him. I yelled out for him. And then I fell asleep.