Thursday, August 21, 2008

Reality of Death

Not once did it ever cross my mind to become a doctor or a nurse. The thought of having to memorize so many technical terms scared me. But the thought of blood, tubes and having to deal with internal organs totally closed the deal for me. It scared me. It scares me.

In 2004, I came face to face with one of my greatest fears. After having collapsed at home, I found myself standing beside my father who could no longer talk, in the emergency room of the hospital. Things for him went downhill so quickly. The next day, he was already in the ICU on the respirator, with a catheter and many other tubes inserted into his very gaunt body. His eyes were covered with eye patches after he suffered a stroke and could no longer control his eyes. His chest would rise up perfectly with the rhythm of the machine. All I could do was hold his hand and assure him things were going to be ok even if deep down in my heart I knew he was a goner. A DNR form was presented to us and it didn't take long for Mom and I to decide to sign it right away. The nurse just kept monitoring his blood pressure which was dropping by the minute. Then the nurse said he was going. The machine beside him just kept beeping until all we heard was one long beep.

How was I supposed to know that 1 year and 6 months later I would have to face almost the same scenario again? Standing in the ICU of the St. Lukes Hospital, I stared at her at wondered how long she had to suffer. Conscious but on the respirator, the tube hung out of her mouth as her chest, exactly like how I remember my father's, rose in perfect timing with the machines pumping of artificial air to help her breathe. Sweat trickling down her bald head. She was sweating profusely because her heart rate was so fast. At 180-200 beats per minute, her doctor said it was as if she had been running a marathon for the past week. With the sound of a drum is if it were coming from inside her body getting stronger and stronger, we found out that the tube had been displaced. Reinsertion had to be done. The nurses moved swiftly, closed the curtains. All I heard was her struggling. It must have been a blessing that I didn't see her during her very very last hours. After being revived, I heard her eyes were popping out and had no more focus. As if they revived her just so that family members could see her "alive."

The first few months after his burial and her cremation were hard. Much as I would have wanted to remember him as the man who when I would embrace him felt as if no one could hurt me, all I could see when I Wold close my eyes was his lifeless body full of tubes. Same with her. Instead of the energetic and full of life self she always was, I would close my eyes and see her 4"8 frame so pitiful on the hospital bed.

We can never really choose how we die. I given much thought to how I would want to go. In simple terms, I'd want enough time for closure with the people I love but I would not want them to be burdened with them having to care for a physically suffering me. I'd want to be remembered not by who I was during my last days.

But you know, death can never really be bargained. The when or the how. More so the why. Death is something we hate to talk about. We feel there are more important things to think of. We never plan for it. And because of this stigma, those who are left behind -- those we truly truly love, end up hurting so much.


Heather said...

It's just difficult to deal with no matter when it happens. I fear the deaths of those close to me. My grandparents all passed before I graduated high school. Since then, I've been fortunate to not lose anyone really close to me. I don't know how I will handle that eventuality.

Sophiagurl said...

I admire your spirit for being able to survive that. The scars will but the memories will always live on. God bless you dear - now you are surrounded with life. And you are creating one inside you. You make your parents proud=)

Sandy C. said...

Oh my heart breaks reading this. I've witnessed death more often than most in my career, but like you said, it is always the family and the loved ones left behind that hurt so much. It is the faces and hardships they face that always stick with me.

I am so sorry your family had to endure and witness the loss of both parents. I'm not sure I would make it through that.

You are one strong woman for trudging forward and building a new family. I know your parents would be more than proud.

Adrian said...

Wow, that is a powerful post. I have also lost both my parents and my in-laws as well. I am fortunate that I was spared the deathbed scenes that you were part of. I regret it in a way, but on the other hand, I'm happy to have more good memories to remember them by.

It's a strange feeling, being in the world without your parents. I feel like my safety net is gone and there are so many little things like family dinners and silly birthday presents and phone calls that you took for granted at the time, but now you miss so much. Even just having a house you can go to any time day or night and they are always happy to see you. You just can't do that with friends.

I think we will always miss them, but we have to carry on as best we can and concentrate on making the good memories for our children.