Wednesday, March 25, 2015

A year ago today, 2

This time a year ago we were still in the cardiac ICU, holding hands.

A year ago this morning it was clear Kevin was on the road. He had made his peace overnight and was as ready as he could be. He was laughing, smiling, talking with people we couldn't see or hear. From time to time he would come back to us and would look at us with such incredible love. He held hands. He hugged. He would purse his lips for me to kiss him. I kissed him every time.

Around 11am the gentle cardiologist from the night before came to our room. He said, "You wanted to revisit the DNR and comfort care. Have you had a chance to talk about it?" Kevin was far away. I don't think he was sleeping. I know he wasn't. He was scoping out the road ahead, the path beyond. I stroked his forehead until he could focus on me. By now he was barely speaking.

I reminded him that last night we said we would revisit the DNR, we would decide if he wanted to remain in comfort care or if he wanted to fight, even knowing the fight was done. It took a few tries for him to focus enough to hear me. When he was as close to present as he could be I asked, "Kevin, do you want to let go? Or do you want them to do everything they can to revive you?" He looked at me without answering, so I asked again, "Kevin, do you want to call off the DNR?" After a moment he shook his head, no. "Do you want us to let you go?" Another moment, and he nodded.

Writing this, I am struggling not to cry, just as I was then.

I turned to the doctor and said, "We'll stay in comfort care."

He said something, I don't know what, and left the room. I turned back to the man I still love.

A few minutes later the doctor asked if I could come out into the hall. My heart sank. There was something else? What other decisions did we need to make?

In the hall I found the cardiologist, a couple of the ER doctors and a bunch of interns. The cardiologist drew me into the group and said, "I have never seen anything like that. I wish you could teach our doctors and families how to be so patient and help the ones they love." I thought of all the years Kevin and I had listened to one another. All the years that were stolen by cancer. This was a new kind of listening.

"I know I had legal power to make the same decision but I wanted it to be his choice. He needed to be able to do that."

One of the ER doctors and a couple of the interns were crying.

I don't remember what else we said. It doesn't really matter.

I went back into the room.

Later that day we were moved to a comfort care room, a big space where we all could fit. Kevin's beloved children arrived. He continued to weaken at the same time as he talked without speaking to people we couldn't see. He kept pursing his lips for kisses. He hugged his kids and told them, as best he could, he loved them. He kept venturing forth into the other world and coming back. I wish he could have told me what he saw.

A year ago today he still held my hand.

(c)2015 Laura S. Packer Creative Commons License


  1. No words, Laura. How beautiful.
    I hope the memory comforts you...knowing it was Kevin's choice, that you patiently drew his answer from him.

    You know, working with doctors-to-be might hold some interest for you eventually. You would surely be an amazing teacher. Narrative medicine.


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