I still don't really know what story I want to tell here. The one about the love I had with Greg, the one that tells the tale of his last days, or the one that describes how it is getting harder to get out of bed every day rather than easier. I feel I may run out of words. Or will.
So this will be part one. The days leading up to his death. The technicalities. Some of the answers to the questions such as 'how did it happen?' and 'how did he go so quickly, he was doing so well?' The moment of his death is a chapter all its own, and I will do my best to summon the emotional strength to delve into that pool one more time for you.
On Monday the 11th he was having a lot of trouble breathing. After seeing his doctors, they upped his anti-rejection meds and steroids and the line between his sickness and his side effects started to blur. It was a hard week. He barely slept. He had to sit down from breathlessness from just going to the washroom. He didn't eat. He was miserable and uncomfortable all the time.
"I have a follow up appointment on Tuesday, Mee. Let's just give it the weekend for the meds to do their thing..."
So we did.
|The last photo he ever took with the caption "Good morning sunshine #nofilter #rejection?"|
"Baby, are you scared?" I asked him.
He started to tear up and he nodded.
"I just don't want to leave you."
Leave me. Not die. He was never afraid to die. But this was the first time I had ever seen him afraid that he might not make it. And it terrified me.
On Monday I came home from work at 10am. He was having what I can only describe as an escalating panic attack from not being able to catch his breath. I called the ambulance. Once they came I packed his overnight bag, as I always did when he had to stay at the hospital, and went to meet him in Emergency. On the 15 minute drive to the hospital I saw three dead animals on the road. I started to cry.
When we got in to see him, there was something not quite right. He was agitated. He wasn't faintly smiling like he always did. He looked worried. These are things Greg almost never expressed when he was in the hospital. It was always much more important for him to feign casual comfort for the emotional stability of his family. He would always fake a smile, crack a joke, anything just to see me smile, too. And he could barely look at me.
"It's just because he hasn't gotten any sleep and he has been miserable this entire week," James said. I nodded.
But that wasn't it.
By the next morning the doctor decided it would be best to sedate him while the body healed. This is also known as putting someone in a medically induced coma. It was for the best, they said. It will just be for a couple of days, they said.
|This was the last text I ever received from him.|
That was the last time I saw him awake. The last time I told him I loved him and knew he could hear me. The last time I felt him squeeze my hand back.
In lieu of telling the same minutia of medical and emotional drama that followed the next 2 weeks, I will share with you excerpts of the Evernote I was sharing with Greg titled "The Hospital Diaries." My plan was to document life as he slept so when he awoke he would have stories and something to fill in a few of the blanks he may have. Excuse the typos. I have left it unedited for posterity.
Note: The Evernote audio files are usually just me singing our silly songs to him and telling him I love him through muffled tears and outright sobs until I compose myself and apologize and tell him I will try to do this again tomorrow. It always ended up the same way.
And that was as far as I got before it started to become much too scary for me for carry on. I couldn't conceive of documenting anything as just getting through the day was a feat. There were complications, "set backs", improvements, and the unexpected. It was a fucking ridiculous roller coaster and every day became a bit more grim than the last.
Until the Friday when they said that his prognosis had stabilized and his oxygen was excellent. They took the dialysis machine off of him, they had quit his plasmapheresis and it looked like they could start taking him off sedation by Saturday. The family was so excited we went to the Tymofichuk's for a celebratory barbecue. We raised our glasses for Greg and my heart felt lighter than it had in weeks.
And then James got off the phone with the hospital.
"Greg had a stroke."
By the time we got there, the doctors explained that the stroke may have been bleeding for days. The damage was "extensive." They couldn't guarantee that he would have the brain function to keep himself alive on his own.
I recall standing beside Greg's bed, reading Tina Fey's Bossypants to him and laughing, when the devastating reality was explained to us. Behind me, I heard Marie collapse in wails. I heard Randy, the rock of the family, reduced to tears. I heard James start repeating "no... no..." until they, too, became ruined sobs. I rested my head beside Greg and stroked his hair, softly telling him that I loved him and that I would be okay and that he could go. I didn't even believe that I would be okay, but I knew that the only thing that would keep Greg clinging to this life was his desperation to stay with me and take care of me. I was so intent on making sure he knew he could move on that I don't even think I remembered to cry myself.
"You have to make a decision..." the doctor said. We knew what she was talking about.
As soon as it became clear that the Greg we knew had already slipped through our fingers, we left for a sleepness night only to return in the morning with a unanimous decision.
"I would love that man if the only part of him that remained alive was his left foot but I would never do that to him."
The family agreed.
We were all together the next morning; Randy, Marie, James, Anne, and his best friend Nathan. The shock and sadness was trumped only by the overwhelming love and support everyone had in that room for each other. And for Greg.
"Leave it to Greg to wait until we could all be together before he passed..." I said.
"He was always so fucking considerate."
It was good to hear everyone laugh.
It would be awhile before we would do it again.