It’s easy to get a little reflective on New Year’s Eve but this one in particular marks a major milestone for us. A year ago today. on New Year’s Eve morning, I received a phone call from the hospital with an ICU doctor on the other line. He told me that Rebecca was not able to maintain her oxygen saturation levels even with 15 liters pumping through the canula. He stumbled through his words as he tried to explain the seriousness of the situation and that Rebecca was on BiPAP in the MICU…whatever that meant. I raced through the house doing a whole lot of nothing at a pretty fast pace until I reasoned with myself, “You don’t have to perform surgery, you just have to show up.”
I got to the hospital and she could barely talk. I would help to hold her mask so I could sponge a little water into her mouth every few minutes. That was the worst I had seen her. When they told us she would need to be placed on a ventilator, it was one of the first times I had ever seen her that afraid. I did not have to see that for long because they kicked me out of the room for the procedure. The doctor had to tell me that she had said “I love you” because her voice was too weak to be heard from the door.
I went downstairs and immediately called all of her family to bring them up to speed. It was a call that I always dreaded. I did not have many answers for them. I didn’t know how long she would be sedated. I didn’t know if this was normal. I didn’t know if she would survive or how long she would have if she did. I had to make the calls anyway and do my best to keep everyone calm but informed. It was sometime near then that I set a goal for myself to keep them (and everyone else) updated on what was going on because she had so many people that cared about her.
Updates alone were not enough, the information needed to be accurate but not delivered in an alarming way. There wasn’t much I could do in this crappy situation but I could do something that might be of a little value.
I returned to her room to see her looking so uncomfortable, sedated with the breathing tube down her throat, and all of a sudden it was just me. I had always expected that the two of us would be dealing with this together but that would not be the case. I remember the first time she coughed and wondering how she could get anything up around that tube. I remember the first time I heard the doctors say that she had “end stage CF”, I remember asking a LOT of questions…some of which I didn’t want the answers to…I remember way more details than I would like to from last New Year’s Eve. I knew we were going to have our New Year’s Eve in the hospital but I didn’t realize that it was not going to be a celebration.
Rebecca woke up for long enough to find out that I was staying the night and spent 10 minutes trying to communicate with me that I should ask for a cot. She was sedated and intubated and worrying that my chair would suck. I supposed she also thought that I didn’t have enough sense to ask for one myself. It seems that I really set the bar low in our previous 17 years together. It was okay though because they brought in a “nice” recliner for me to sleep on and I settled in for the long haul.
Reflecting on this past year, I could say it was pretty shitty. Between Becca being ventilated for six months, multiple pneumonias, a mechanical lung (ECHMO), several discussions on her (unfavorable) odds, being turned down by five transplant centers, an emergency medical flight, and the end of my new job that had brought us to Cincy in the first place…I could definitely say “good riddance to a bad year!”
I’m not going to say that though… It was a tough year with some very bad parts but Rebecca started it unconscious and now she is awake. She was on a ventilator and ended the year with no need for supplemental oxygen. She was given “days to weeks” and a year later she is healthy and able to travel to Connecticut for Christmas. Last year this time, I was in a recliner sweating into a plastic gown and this year I’m in the living room while Bec takes a snoozer. 2015 was the year that Rebecca received her lung transplant and I’m going to call it a good year.