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May 12, 2018 Latest post:
May 13, 2018
Thursday Morning at 2:30 am on May 10, 2018, my father (Bob) called me at my home in Cedar Falls and told me my mom (Jennifer) had fallen and he had called 911. During this conversation, I heard the paramedics enter my folks' home in Waverly. I told my dad I would meet him at the Waverly hospital. For my mother, it was not unusual for her to be awake late at night reading, so I was not too worried at the time of this call.
Once I entered the Waverly ER, the ER doctor and nurse told me it was serious and she would need to be life-flighted to Iowa City or Mayo. My dad and I quickly agreed on Mayo, and she was on her way north in a helicopter. The Waverly ER doctor took me aside and told me this was very serious because she had "so much blood on her brain." However, she was responsive in the ER, trying to tell me in garbled speech to get her book. The diagnosis was a blood hemorrhage or "brain bleed" that completely filled the right side of her cranium leaving her with the classical signs of a stroke victim: drooped face, inability to talk, eyes closed, flaccid left side (arms, legs, etc.).
As I drove my dad to Mayo, my thoughts were on logistics and how our family was going to take care of Mom as she would endure a stroke-like recovery. Upon our arrival, she was in a hospital bed being rolled to CT imaging with the goal of putting a drain in the left side of her brain to take brain fluid out of her skull and create space for her brain and this new blood (blood clot). Ultimately, reducing pressure on her brain by removing any fluid possible, so the brain could start recovering from this traumatic event.
The supposed "30-minute" wait time for the new CT scan and drain placement took a few hours. But, this is Mayo, and they're the best; so we were not worried at this point. As Dad and I waited, my brother Matt from Grimes (Des Moines area) and my wife, Maggie, arrived. About this time, the neurological team asked us to join them to discuss treatment options and informed us the drain surgery had not been attempted, as they determined it too risky once the second CT revealed the severity and mass of the bleed. The neurological team, consisting of 3 neurologists and 3 neurosurgeons, performed another neurological exam on mom as we watched. Just hours after her arrival where she was showing limited response, able to give the Mayo neuro team a thumbs up on command, she showed zero response on this exam. She had rapidly declined in just hours.
So...The Mayo neurological team discussed our situation with my dad, my brother, my wife and I. My mother's brain bleed and clot was so massive that the team gave her only a 20% chance of surviving over 30 days if she were able to even survive the surgery to remove the expansive bleed and clot. IF she survived, she would be confined to a wheelchair, feeding tube, unable to talk, and unable to read; basically sentenced to a vegetative state. My father made the decision to let God take her and let nature run its course. Everyone agreed with his decision including every doctor on the Mayo staff responsible for her care. The Mayo neurological team is extremely professional and courteous, and after his decision, I have felt a sense of respect from the Mayo team to our family rather than a sense of sympathy. My father made the most difficult decision anyone would ever have to make regarding their spouse.
Matt's wife, Vanessa, arrived shortly thereafter, and we have held vigil at her bedside. Thursday evening, Mom was moved from the neurological ICU to a general neurological floor where things are quiet and more spacious for our family.
Friday was uneventful as we said our goodbyes. Mom continues to breath on her own and has no tubes or machines hooked up to her.
Today is Saturday. The internal medicine doctor watching over Mom just completed his evaluation with no significant changes except her right pupil is showing signs of the brain swelling taking over and her breathing has slowed. She is not struggling to breath and the nursing staff administers morphine time to time for her comfort. She appears peaceful. This doctor believes she will pass at any time but within a couple of days.
I told the internal medicine doctor, I feel like the weather reflects my feelings. Thursday was shockingly nice. Friday was rainy and miserable. Today it is sunny but breezy and chilly. For my mother, on Thursday, her brain vessel broke open causing her to lose conscientiousness and ultimately her life--shocking us all. On Friday, we all cried and wept knowing Jennifer is gone as we know her. Today, we must accept our loss and celebrate what she means to us all as we grieve--sunny, but still chilly and breezy.