There is no rhyme or reason to when I feel like shit. Baxter waking up at 4:50 am this morning may have contributed... but I also think I had a dream last night about Mike's nurse, Carol.
Carol was his nurse in the NICU when things went from bad to worse around July 11th and 12th. He had his "successful" surgery on July 7th, and then he went into DIC on July 10th or so and was stepped up into the NICU. Carol was an amazing nurse. She was calm, super-knowledgeable, and so invested in Mike's case. Those two days were horrible. Hopefully the most horrible of my life. It was then that Mike's body blew up with fluid, his heart started beating erratically - pulse down below 60 and up to like 190 within seconds. He was doing this horrible gagging-thing. Dry heaving and having what looked like convulsions with his body - as though it was struggling to get air or something.
Late that afternoon, Mike had to have an emergency hemi-craniotomy (july 11th). I rushed back to the hospital to be there. When I entered through the double doors, Carol's face dropped.
"Shit! They JUST took him down to the OR. I tried to make them wait for you, but they couldn't wait anymore." She seemed flustered for a second and then grabbed my arm, "Run with me. Let's go." I followed her as we ran down a stairwell and through the back winding hallways of JHN. She really thought we could catch him so I could say, "i love you" before the surgery. We were at a full out sprint through the hallways. I kept yelling to her, "Carol, it's ok. It's ok if we don't make it. It's ok." She was relentless. I screamed to her, "Carol! It's OK! We've done this so many times. I'll be OK if we don't get there in time!"
When we got to the holding area outside the OR. Out of breath, she asked the one male nurse, "Mr Young!? Where's Mr. Young?"
"He's in the OR. They just rushed him in."
Carol whipped around towards me. "SHIT," she said exasperated. She slammed her binder down on the floor and hit the wall in front of her. When she turned around, tears in her eyes, she apologized. "I'm sorry. I thought we would get here in time. I tried. I did."
I said over and over again that it was ok, that we'd been through this so many times - that it was ok. If Mike didn't know I loved him by now... then... well... then that would just be nuts.
After that surgery, Mike started to code. That was when the female resident told me he might not make it. But he did make it. He was even responsive after that surgery, sqeezing my hand and looking in my eyes.
It was thursday, July 13th that I told him that if he needed to go, it was ok. That we'd all be ok. That he had fought so hard that he could continue to fight and we'd be there to support him ... but if he couldn't it was ok. At that moment, he was looking right in my eyes. I know he heard me. I could feel it. He had been responsive throughout that day. I would squeeze his hand three times as I said I love you, squeezing once with each word as we always did. He would squeeze back four times, a little harder on the fourth squeeze, denoting, "I love you, TOO." He was in there. Thursday was the last time he was really responsive at all. I have to imagine that my words at least told Mike that he could go in peace.
It's insane how quickly everything changed in that time period. After his surgery on Friday, July 7th, I had him back. It was almost as if Dr. Andrews gave me a gift of 3 hours with the old Mike - but once post-op swelling set in, the wheels were in motion for the end to come. In a fucked up way, I have come to think of that as a good thing. I mean, without that surgery, Mike might not have died that week, that month, or even that year, but he would have been living a life not worth living - as far as Mike's standards of life are concerned. So, that surgery gave us the old Mike back, it gave Mike a chance to truly hear and understand just how many people loved him, and then it ultimately brought him - and all of us - peace.
On that Friday night, Susan Murphy brought us cheesesteaks and soda - and cheese fries per Mike's request. Mike was able to identify everything on his tray. It was as if relieving the pressure posed by that cyst opened up his visual fields and allowed his memory to work again... if just for a short time. We "introduced" mike to the nurses who had taken care of him for weeks upon weeks. He met Cindy, from the cardiology team (who had seen Mike everyday). She told him how I had promised her one of his pecan pies. He laughed. Everyone was so happy. Tears of joy everywhere. After about 10 minutes of chatting, when Cindy went to leave, Mike called after her, "Nice to officially meet you, Cindy!" Watching his short term memory work was such a gift.
We joked and talked, I recounted the tales of the previous four months. He was astounded - and so apologetic. He left voicemail messages for friends, saying, "I'm back from the dead. Didn't know I was gone, but here I am." Including Dr. Andrews, who was almost giddy (as giddy as he gets). I laid on Mike chest and he ran his fingers through my hair, and kissed my forehead. I put on music, Sting's "Brand New Day," and told him how it really was a brand new day. That I had my smoosher back and he promised he wasn't going anywhere. That he wasn't going to die.
As Mike died on July 18th, I put that same song on and hugged Kevin for what seemed like an hour. It, too, was a brand new day, but not the same kind of new that I thought we were facing on July 7th.
So, why revisit these events now? I don't know. I think the impending new year is serving as an impetus to move in a new direction. I'm already heading in that direction, but maybe I feel like I need to really grasp just how much this whole thing fucking sucked. I have an overwhelming urge this morning to fly back to philly today - to pack up all his clothes from his closet and his bureau. The one task I have been unable to do. I think I might do it as soon as I return. Maybe as a symbolic gesture looking to 2007.
As I write this, large flakes of fluffy snow are falling outside. It's beautiful. And Baxter's happy and healthy - and sassy as heck.
I don't know what to do with all this... but I feel better having gotten it out there.