I could take this blog post title in a couple of directions. What I planned to write about today was May 7, 2006 ... but as I wrote that title it brought to mind how different things would be right now if Vern were still alive. Let me go there first.
I will turn 60 this month. It's a milestone I was looking forward to, as it would have allowed me to retire from my job after 25 years and be with Vern 24/7. We had talked about it, had made some plans, were hoping that he'd feel well enough to do a little traveling - but, if not, then we'd just enjoy spending time together talking, reminiscing, maybe take some day trips, watching all those sports programs .... (ah, what we do for love). But now he's gone. My first thought was to just keep working. Why not? It fills my days, provides me with an excellent salary so I can afford to do things I might want to do, gives me plenty of days off (I do love the 4/10 work schedule that gives me 3-day weekends), and most days I really do feel I make a difference there. But my thoughts have been changing lately. If I was going to retire for Vern, why am I so quick to dismiss retiring for me? So I'm starting to get comfortable with the idea of retiring. I'm playing around with a date in my head. I promised myself when Vern died that I wouldn't make any really big changes during the first year. So I'll wait just a bit to make my final decision, but I'm beginning to like thinking about all the things I could do.
So now there are the memories of what might have been back on May 7, 2006. Well I nearly became a widow that day ... guess I actually was for a short time; but I didn't think about that fact back then. Vern had had his initial surgery 2 days before to remove what they could of that spinal tumor and repair his vertebral compression fracture. They put a titanium cage around his spine to stabilize it (oh - fast forward to the summer of 2009 when we learned that a screw in that cage had apparently moved and knicked his abdominal aorta, causing a leak which caused a pseudoaneurysm and endovascular surgery to repair it). But I digress .... He was doing very well the day after surgery and we were hopeful that he'd be able to walk again and that chemo and radiation would push the cancer back. When I arrived back at the hospital the morning of May 7, I learned he had been moved to MICU - a good sign - but I had to wait for a few hours before they would let me in (they were very strict about the 11am entry time here). I can still remember walking into Vern's room. His color was gray, he said he felt bad. I went out to the nurse's station and, of course, only one nurse was there. I was told Vern's nurse was on a break (!) but I proceeded to tell this nurse how Vern was feeling. Her response was that he just needed to have a BM (can you believe that?!); I asked that she send Vern's nurse in when she returned. I went back into Vern's room to try to calm him, to massage his feet, to hold him - but he continued to complain of how badly he was feeling and even said "something is wrong". I went back out to the nurse and told her she had to come in to see him. She grunted and said she'd be in. When I returned to Vern's bedside, I went to the opposite side of the bed so the nurse would have first access to him. That's when I saw the bag from the chest tube was full of bright red blood. I ran out of the room screaming for the nurse and miraculously there were finally others on the floor. Chaos ensued. The vascular surgeon who had been in on the first surgery was there in moments. Four units of blood were administered stat as they prepped him and got the OR ready. It was like a TV show. I squeezed myself to the head of the bed so I would be out of the way but still able to touch Vern, so he would know I was there. And then they were off.
I waited in the OR waiting room. A couple of hours later the surgeon appeared. He sat down next to me and touched my arm. Time stopped. He said that Vern had survived, but he nearly lost him. His heart stopped. He went into cardiac arrest and kidney failure. They had to use the paddles. And then he said he had to use his hands to massage Vern's heart back to life. I couldn't breathe... but then he said "I don't know how this happened, but he was given 4 units of the wrong type blood." What?! He has a blood cancer! Are you kidding me? But I said nothing for a few moments. I then asked if that would have an impact on his treatment. Dr. C said he was concerned about that and had consulted with several oncologists who all felt it would not. OK, I could breathe again. I had to wait a long time before I could see him. He was on a ventilator and heavily sedated. The anesthesiologist came by. He told me it was miracle he was alive. Yes, a miracle ... a miracle that gave us another 4-1/2 years together.
I'm not sure why these memories are flooding back to me now. But I felt I had to write this out. Perhaps it's a way to finally put them to bed once and for all. Vern suffered so much, but through it all his spirit was strong. We were one in this battle. He had to endure the physical pain, but I was there to take away as much of the emotional pain as I possibly could. They were difficult times, but oh the joy was there, too. The realization that our love was strong enough to endure this, to fight this battle, to move past the mistakes and the medical personnel who should have chosen a different profession. Faith - Hope - Love ... and the greatest of these is LOVE.