Tag Archive: ambulance

Call the Ambulance

For almost all of the time that I have known John, he had asked me to promise, and I did, many times, not to call an ambulance if I found him unconscious.

He knows how I think, that I put great faith in modern medicine, and that with love and support and science, any medical problem can be overcome.

He also had a belief that he would be dead by age 48, the age at which his father died. He was 46 when the stroke happened, he’s 53 now.

So I had promised, many times, that I would not call an ambulance.

That Monday morning, when I couldn’t wake him, I was torn. I wanted to honour that promise.

Our daughter was telling me that we needed an ambulance and I explained. Her response: “Well I didn’t make any fucking promises.”
So the ambulance was called. I was relieved, because I know in my heart that I’d have done the same.

These promises we make are made on an intellectual level, at least so for me. At the time of making those promises, I really believed I’d stick to them, and perhaps I would have if our daughter hadn’t been there. I really don’t know.

I have asked John many, many times, if I did the right thing. He always says yes.

I wonder though, what our lives would have been like if the ambulance hadn’t been called.

I certainly wouldn’t have spent a year next to him, unemployed, because I wouldn’t leave his side.

I wouldn’t be watching him live a half-life.

Our children would only have a memory of him as a strong, loving man who looked after all whose he loved and could be counted on, no matter what.

Instead they now live with the reality of their once huge father living in a nursing home and dependent upon strangers for his daily needs.

So their memory of their father will always be coloured by what has happened in the last (almost) seven years, the ongoing pain of seeing him completely dependent upon others, with limited communication and cognition.

As their mother, I wish that I hadn’t woken that morning, or that I’d had the strength to not call that ambulance. I’d have saved them so much pain.

I know though, that I’d have broken that promise, even if I’d been on my own, because of my faith in medical science and because I believe, still, that where there’s life, there’s hope.

And that old bastard just kept on breathing!

I’ve asked John, so many, many times, “Did I do the right thing, calling the ambulance?”.
He always says yes.

And I always wonder, knowing him, if he’s trying to make me feel better.

Five Years

Monday morning
I’m awake early, a lot on today.

You’re taking me to work, but you don’t wake.

I shake you
Shout at you
Throw water on you
But you don’t wake!

There’s a promise that was made, and repeated often.

So I call The Girlie

Her response:
“I didn’t make any fucking promises”

The ambulance comes.
Four of them to take you.

Take you, and me, us
Into that netherworld.

A world of:
The kids and me
Ushered into a special waiting room at the hospital
So we know it’s bad.
They’re cutting off your clothes, intubating you.

A doctor crying while he gives the bad news
(It’s a stroke)
And me, saying:
“That’s okay. Five years is all it will take.”

A medical retrieval
(a nurse saying: “I really wish I’d known him”)

ICU (Level 6)
That waiting room

Strangers, suddenly our best friends.

And the news filters out.
Family, friends
All coming
To comfort, to cry.
We don’t know if you’ll live

Central line.
Family conference.
We’ll go on, because if any man can make it, this one will.

Look how he responds when I sing lullabies, sedatives turned off.

There’s a whole new universe to navigate.
You are at the centre.
Suddenly I know how to suction a trachy.
Every 15 minutes, because the nurses can’t cover it,
And the Ethics Committee is trying to shut you down (too expensive).

Your score on the GCS is 6, not viable.
So I say:
“Play dead!”
A least you can obey that command,
Though the poor registrar looks horrified.

Yet you keep breathing
And those damned monitors show that you know
When we are there.

You have a tube in your stomach to feed you
Because I will not have you starve to death.
You survive the pneumonia.
(At least the MRSA means you have a room to yourself)
You survive the nurse who made an almost lethal mistake.

And then they say you are well enough for rehab.
You’ll be allowed eight weeks.
We stay there four months.

Your paralyzed eyelids open,
Your first words: “Hey Em!”

And we are in a different reality
Of physiotherapy
Speech therapy
Occupational therapy
Recreational therapy

And while all this goes on,
My mother is dying
And you will never know that she is gone
Because you can’t remember

Then, the decision is made
No more money can be spent to help you
It’s a nursing home
And another reality

Now life goes on.
You are now walking
When they said you’d never get out of bed.

You eat
Where they said I had “condemned” you to a feeding tube.

You speak
And, more importantly, read and write
Where they said you could not possibly do that.

It’s been five years now.

And always
You are the same, gracious, loving, peaceful man
Who carried our family on his shoulders.


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