On September 13, 2022, my husband had a complete cardiac arrest. It was fatal, but he was resuscitated by the EMT’s who arrived on scene. It took 30 minutes and 6 shocks from the defibrillator to do it. I was herded into my husband’s office by a cop and some other guys, who had me sit down in a chair in there and told me that it’s too traumatic to watch a loved one be resuscitated. Every few minutes, a guy came in breathlessly to ask if my husband had, per chance, completed a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) form, which he hadn’t. So, they continued to work on him, and when his heart re-started and appeared to be beating on its own, they took him out on a stretcher.
Earlier that afternoon, I had been to the supermarket to buy a few things and was preparing to bake a pie later on. (Baking is something I like to do, but I shouldn’t do it too often or I’ll soon weigh in at 250 lbs., which would be quite heavy for me.) It was about 4:30 pm when I mixed up the spices and thickening agent to put into my spiced pear pie. The scent of these spices was pure heaven, and I had the strangest thought go through my head. It was almost like an independent voice in my head that said, “anyone who’s alive should smell this.” I decided I’d take the bowl into the bedroom where John was hanging out watching TV and playing solitaire on his phone and give him a whiff of this fantastic aroma. He stuck his nose towards the bowl I held up for him and declared that it did indeed smell delicious.
I headed back to the kitchen to begin peeling, coring, and slicing the pears for the pie. Just then, I heard the strangest noise. It sounded something like a giant snore, or perhaps even the sound of a wild animal outside the window of our house. The windows at the side and back of the house were open, as we have a swamp cooler, and that directs the cool air where we want it to go. It was still unbearably warm in mid-September where I live. It was such an odd sound, that I stood at the end of the hallway and looked towards the back of the house, not sure what to do because I wasn’t sure what was going on. I looked over to my left, where the cats were curled up, napping in different parts of the cat tree in the catio. The house was a scene of domestic tranquility up until then, but now the cats were sitting up with their ears extended, also listening to this strange sound, and looking in that general direction as well. I knew something was wrong. There was several seconds of silence, and then I heard it again. I walked to the back of the house, and to the place where the hallway dog legs to the left. I saw John sprawled out on the bed. His feet were planted on the floor, but the rest of him was lying across the bed, face up. His eyes were glassy, and half closed. I started calling his name. I knew I would need to call 911. I had left my phone out in the kitchen, and I ran back and got it. By now, I was beginning to really freak out!
I got 911 on the phone and told the operator what was going on. She asked me if he appeared to be able to breathe or speak and I told her no, he appeared to be deceased. As we were speaking, John fell forward out of the bed and bumped his face on the corner of the nightstand. He landed face down between the bed and the closet. John started making noises like he was expelling air.
The 911 operator asked again if he was trying to talk, and I said no, and he wasn’t breathing either. His back or his chest was not moving up and down like he was breathing. She then asked me if I could roll him over. I told her there was no way I could do this. The room is small, and he was wedged between the bed and the closet, face down. She told me to see if I could drag him out by the ankles. I put the phone on speaker and grabbed John’s ankles and tried to pull. No way! John is a large man, over 6 feet tall and just about 260 pounds. Not happening!
I explained this situation to her, and then she told me to go to the front door and let the officer in who was out there, which I did. My house was suddenly swarmed by cops and emergency personnel and the resuscitation procedures began. It took four young, burly guys to get John out of the bedroom. They pushed the bed out of the way and opened the closet door to get to him. There is no way I could have moved him. I’m not big enough or strong enough.
Oddly enough, John and I had re-done our wills and our Power of Attorney forms in August, as well as the form that’s kind of like “My Dying Wish” which tells medical personnel what you want done in case you’re in a life-threatening situation. It doesn’t include a DNR but does give a couple of options you can choose from regarding the use of life support. I know that my husband doesn’t want to be on extended life support, if there is nothing else that can be done for him. The cops and emergency personnel who were with me encouraged me to find those forms, which we had just completed and had notarized only about 3 weeks previously. I looked through every file in our personal files and couldn’t find those forms, or our wills, or anything else. I think I was just too freaked out. The cop asked if he could look. I told him to go ahead, I have nothing to hide. He looked but couldn’t find them either. When they were ready to transport John to the hospital, they told me not to worry about that right now, and they called a Victim’s Advocate – a volunteer – who gave me a ride to the hospital because I was too out of it to drive anywhere. I was grateful for that girl I’ll tell you that.
Thus began a one-month journey in the hospital, in which John was, at first, not predicted to survive. He was in a coma for several days. I called his sons in Portland, Oregon. One of the cardiologists told me early on, that I should suggest his sons make the trip to Colorado if they wanted to see their dad alive again. They did fly out and arrived a few days later. One of my daughters also came out to stay with me for about a week. My sister came out from Denver to help me so I wouldn’t go through this alone. She arrived the day after his cardiac arrest. I’m so grateful to all these people for helping and doing the right thing by me when I really needed it. This was, undoubtedly, one of the most traumatic events of my life. The last thing anyone wants to witness is the death of their spouse at home and right before their eyes, when up until that moment, everything seemed fine. It really brings home the truth that, even though we think we have everything under control, there’s plenty of things we don’t have control over. The good news is, that The Grim Reaper was foiled again, and like John has often joked, may “be incompetent.” I hope he remains incompetent for many more years of John’s life, and our lives together.
So we’ve been given a reprieve – an extension of time – for how long, we have no way of knowing. John underwent surgery last week to have three stents placed in the arteries of his heart. These should keep the arteries from getting blocked or collapsing again. The doctors will be keeping an eye on him, to see if, at some future date, he’s a good candidate for open heart surgery, but for now, the stents should keep him from having another event like this.
Soon, the bills will start coming in, and I have no idea what to expect. My husband is 78 years old and will turn 79 in January. He does have Medicare and a Medicare Supplement plan, but I have no idea what to expect. I can’t imagine how big this bill will ultimately be, but I’m thinking somewhere in the millions. I also can’t imagine off the top of my head how much will be covered and how much we’ll still owe. I’m bracing myself for the worst. I would like to be pleasantly surprised and find out it’s something manageable, but I’m not feeling overly optimistic about that outcome right now.