The monitor wouldn’t stop beeping. A red warning flashed across the screen telling us, & reminding her, that her body was failing. Her heart rate was through the roof. X-ray came running down the hall. Her left lung was collapsed. Transfer wheeled her to CT. The radiologist called as the images were transmitting.
On the phone he said he’d never seen anything like it.
Tumors. On the uterus. On the ovaries. In the abdomen. Attached to the bladder. Around the liver. In the pancreas. Growing on the intestines. Everywhere. Gas gangrene was building in her abdomen. Her nurse drained 1.2 liters of stool from her stomach via her feeding tube.
Her cancer had spread. Despite the chemo treatments. Despite the hair loss & nausea, despite the desperation to live. Her cancer had spread…grown…and taken over.
And now it was killing her. Right in front of me.
She stopped squirming. Her eyes focused on her husband as he held her hand. And then they rolled back. She didn’t talk after that, except for the occasional groan. The wiggling stopped.
Her husband stood by her side. Her mom paced the hallway. Her sister dialed numbers from a black address book. And I had to turn away. It was all I could do to maintain my composure. I stuck my finger in my eye—the finger I’d just cleaned with hand sanitizer. It burned. But I didn’t cry. I saw a few more patients—people who’d come in for things that certainly were not emergencies. But I didn't cry. Phone calls were made. Surgeons were consulted. Her case was declared a surgical emergency. They wanted her transferred. She would die on the trip. Heck, she would die in the ER if somebody didn’t do something quickly. Her monitor beeped. The man in room 2 who had overdosed on narcotics hit the police officer & was restrained. Her chest heaved. The woman in room 1 wouldn’t stay in her bed. Her husband cried. But I didn't cry.
I watched her husband. I watched her mom. I watched her sister. And I peeked in on her.
Her monitor beeped. Her chest heaved. Her eyes rolled back. Her husband cried. But I didn't cry.
And I had to walk away. Out of the ER. Out of the hospital….where the tears finally came in the car. And again over dinner. And again in the shower I took just to feel the hot water on my skin—a reminder that I’m alive. And they’ll come again tomorrow. When I look into my own husband’s eyes…when I hold my own husband’s hand…when I talk to my own family…when I look in the mirror & see that I’m alive.
Yes. They’ll come again tomorrow. When I ask God for the millionth time: WHY?.
Tuesday, December 09, 2008