“Courage is not the absence of fear or despair; it is the capacity to continue on despite them, no matter how great or overwhelming they become.”–Robert Fanney
Friday, April 4, 2008.
Dorinda couldn’t get a blood pressure reading out of either arm this morning. Joanie’s pulse was elevated, she was dehydrated, and not drinking enough. She wasn’t eating anything at all.
Dorinda and I talked outside after they were done cleaning and straightening up her bed, and she wondered how Joanie was able to keep going. I told her I didn’t know, except that I used to joke that she had the constitution of a bull. She was, after all, a Taurus. Dorinda did tell me that Joanie had told her again this morning she was going to get better and get out of here.
Joanie slept the rest of the day after they left, until around 7:00 that night when she called for me. I could barely hear her by this time. She asked for some water. I got some fresh, cold water, and put the straw in her mouth, but she couldn’t suck anything out. I told her that was okay, and I went for a spoon and was able to get water in her mouth that way. I succeeded in getting a modest of amount into her mouth so she could swallow.
She tried to tell me she couldn’t talk, but she did so in a barely audible voice. I sat there in the half light of the living room as she dozed off, and watched her sleep wondering how it was possible she was hanging on.
She only called me once during then night, and that was about 2:30 in the morning. I got her an Atavan and some water and she went right back to sleep until around eight o’clock.
Saturday, April 5, 2008.
The Home Health Care folks came in the morning, and Joanie seemed a little better than she had been yesterday. That is relative of course. She was still getting weaker, still couldn’t drink from a straw, and you had to get really close to understand what she was saying.
The nurse did get a blood pressure reading this morning, albeit a low one. There was still no question of solid food, and by now, Boost was even out of the question. She might take a spoonful if I bugged her, but not much more. I would sit there encouraging her to try, ever so gently, and I knew she was, but between spoonfuls of water or Boost, she was apt to doze off. I would just sit there and wait, knowing that her eyes would open again and she would be ready for another sip.
I had also picked up some of those small sticks with a sponge on the end, like the ones they use in hospitals to help keep your lips cool and wet before you can drink anything after a big surgery. That seemed to help ease the dryness she was feeling. I had also cranked up the humidifier on the furnace to help ease the dryness of the air in the house.
The pain at that time seemed to be under control, and the Atavan was helping to keep her relaxed and able to sleep, which she did for the most of Saturday night. I slept on the couch that night, since I wouldn’t have been able to hear her if I’d gone into the bedroom, even though that wasn’t but a short distance from where she lay on the bed. That night she didn’t call me at all, and it wasn’t until early morning, around seven or so that she asked me for some water, her Dilaudid and Atavan. Then she dozed off again until the Home Health Care staff arrived to tend to her needs.
Sunday, April 6, 2008. Day 37 since she had come home from her office.
This morning, one of the nurses, John, who had been the first nurse to deal with Joanie when we started on the Home Health Care routine, was checking her blood pressure, and he told me he just basically “guessed” at what it was. Outside of checking her vital signs, they didn’t do much this morning, preferring to leave her alone. She had waved them off when they asked her if she wanted a bath.
I hadn’t sent out an email update to her friends since last Sunday, and I knew interest in her condition was mounting, my phone indicated that.
This was the email I sent out this day:
“Weather here in the environs of 1205 N. Mandan St., continues to present its usual unpredictable April picture. Snow was promised, almost gleefully, by the weather folks on all of the TV casts, however their prediction of up to 6 or 8 inches of snow has not come to pass. The sky this morning is leaden and the wind has a cold, spring chill to it, and though it is warm inside our humble dwelling, the grayness of the day insinuates itself inside.
“I don’t have anything encouraging to report, and that is perhaps why I haven’t sent out an update since last Sunday. If anything, the situation continues to decline on a daily basis. Today marks 37 days she has been home, and this last week saw the decline more pronounced.
“On Friday, the Home Health Care nurse was not even able to get a blood pressure reading our of either arm, and I saw that as a portent of things to come. Also her pulse was escalated and she is getting dehydrated. On Saturday, the nurse was able to get a reading, abeit a low one, but considering Joanie has historically had low blood pressure it was not as alarming as the situation on Friday. In any event, she continues to hold on to the idea that “I’m going to get better and get out of here,” for that is what she told Dorinda on Friday. I have waited for signs that she is giving up on that idea, but so far have not seen any, and I am loathe to introduce the harsh reality of the situation and destroy that notion if that, indeed, is what is keeping her going.
“I wish I had more positive news to send out, however I don’t.
“Again, thank you all for your support and kind thoughts. I assure you they are appreciated.
I never knew during these later days, if Joanie really knew what was going on, for it was on only a couple of occasions that she broached the issue with me. I think she did, but she had lived with these fears for so long, she was still determined to keep on fighting, even as her body was betraying her, as if she had a chance to live.
That was the part of her courage and spirit that amazes me to this day.