Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Vale Dr P: his last day

To write is pain. To remember is pain. To forget or to obliterate is worse.

On Sunday, knowing that old friends were to visit him, I had a sort of day off. I went to the crochet clinic, and then saw a film, after which I went home by bus, and then drove straight to the nursing home, and stayed with Dr P for almost two hours. He enjoyed seeing his friends, the widow of a friend, whose life he saved, he said, by diagnosing a rare illness she suffered from, and one of her sons, another former colleague. These families were close for many many years, but as they aged, contact became rarer.

I had telephoned to let them know Dr P was in the nursing home and she organised her boys forthwith. Another friend had visited him on Friday, from Adelaide. They used to share a house and were good friends for many years. This friend intended to visit Dr P again on Monday, but it was not to be.

His catheter had been changed earlier that day, which he said was most unpleasant. When I left Dr P on Sunday evening he was in pain, not in the lower back, but around the shoulder area, which evidently was not relieved. The nursing home telephoned me twice during the evening and told me he had been given a a morphine patch. I thought all would be well, and there was nothing I knew of to indicate otherwise.

During the night his condition deteriorated, and they sent him by ambulance to hospital at about 4 am. The nursing home rang my mobile phone, which was downstairs, and I knew nothing until I checked the mobile in the morning and found the message. I telephoned, and was told he had gone to hospital, but it was not clear whether he would be sent back again. I was unable to contact the friend who was shortly to pay his visit. While I hesitated about where to go, a doctor rang me from Emergency to tell me of his condition. He had an infection from the catheter, had gone into toxic shock, his pulse and blood pressure were extremely low, and there were indications of heart attacks. Treatment of one condition could cause further problems with others. The doctor told me that if it were his father, at such an age and with such conditions, he would not choose intensive interventions. I drove immediately to the hospital and on arrival saw the doctor, and another one. I telephoned his daughter, and the doctor spoke to her. She came to the hospital and he son arrived some time later. Another doctor from the Intensive Care came to assess Dr P. The risks of intervention were high, and would most likely be futile. We decided against intervention.

When I arrived, Dr P was conscious and aware, but intermittently. He knew me, and where he was, and I told him he was very ill. He responded to my words and my touch and caresses. Gradually he became comatose, and failed to respond to any stimulus.

We knew he was gravely ill, and would not recover, but did not realise his death was imminent. They took him to a ward, in a single room, and within 20 minutes he died. I held him, stroked him, kissed him, told him gently that we were with him, and loved him, recollected our good times together, thanked him for our life together, and told him it was all right for him to let go.

There were two exhalations, and then no more.

We stayed with him for over an hour. His daughter telephoned her sisters, one of whom had booked a flight to arrive next morning. Then his daughter and grandson left, and I stayed longer with him, still stroking him, until I was ready to have him prepared for the mortuary. I helped wash him, and clothe him, farewelled him, and then drove home, to begin the task of telling people of his death.

He was my husband and I loved him, and I mourn him greatly. I am glad he was spared a lingering death, and more suffering. It is three weeks since he was taken to hospital. We knew then that he would never come home again, and that our life together was over. We could not know then how little time remained.

It remains to endure until his funeral on Friday. It will be a good one, I believe.


Mary said...

You remain in my thoughts.

Anonymous said...

How wonderful that you were with him until the end. You would have been an immense comfort to him. How fragile life is; none of us truly know how much time we have left.

VioletSky said...

Oh Persiflage, I am so sorry.
I hope it is a comfort to have been with him as he left.

Anonymous said...

My sweet P, I send you great hugs, great warmth and many many peaceful thoughts. I am thinking of you. x

Meggie said...

You have my utmost sypathy and all my thoughts, in your grief and sadness.
It was so good that you could be with him, to the end. I know this will give you solace, in your coming days of mourning.
I send you hugs and mental love, to sustain you, in the coming days.

Pam said...

Oh, IP, I'm so sorry. You've had a dreadful time recently. Thinking of you and hoping that you get comfort from having done all you possibly could for him.