Sunday, October 04, 2009

Tom's Final Days

We're still at U of M hospital. It's been 24 days.

Our plans of using hospice didn't work out. He needs more physical care than I can manage, meaning that at-home hospice wouldn't work. Both of the Kalamazoo area in-patient hospices were unable to take him. We will remain at U-M until the end.

The hospital was finally able to find him a private room, which has made both of us much more comfortable. The staff even ordered him a special air bed from a local medical supply company - it's big and thick and soft, and he's enjoying it very much. They even arranged for meals to be brought for me, so much appreciated since the hospital patient food is so much better than the cafeteria.

Tom's now on his final journey, and is resting comfortably with plenty of morphine to quell his body's disagreements. He sleeps a lot now, but occasionally wakes up to find me holding his hand and talking about whatever is on my mind at the moment. He hears me talk about family, friends, our cats, knitting, the great nurses we've been blessed with, the now-changing Fall colors outside our window, the U-M hospital helicopters that we see frequently through our big picture window. Most of the time he just rests with his eyes closed, sharing an occasional smile.

Once in a while he still talks, though usually it doesn't make much sense to anyone but him. The other night he talked all night long, but most of it wasn't understandable. The morphine has clouded his words. I agreed with everything he said, just in case.

He sees people in the corner of the room, and when he tells me who, it's someone I don't know. But I'm glad he has company visiting him. He told me he saw snow on the ceiling. He told me there were "little Emilies were all over the floor - lots of them!!" Turns out he was seeing little baby Emilies, dozens of them. We don't know any Emilies, adults or babies. But it gave me a smile.

His humor is still strong. His night nurse - one of our favorites, a man who has truly connected with Tom these past weeks - came in the other night at the end of his shift:

Bill, the night nurse: "Well, Tommy, I'm about done with this shift and just wanted to know if there's anything you need before I leave?"

Tom: "Yeah . . . "

Bill (patiently waiting, since it was taking Tom a few moments to get it out): "What can I get you, buddy?"

Tom (with a huge grin): "A hooker!"

I laughed so hard I was crying. Leave it to Tom to come up with such an unexpected, hilarious answer. After a moment of re-grouping, hysterically-laughing Bill the nurse said: "Tommy, you are one in a million!"

That exchange made my day. And there's been other funny moments, as he meanders though his life's final path. The other day he was picking something imaginary off his blanket, then motioned that he wanted to place it in my hand. Holding my hand out, I watched him carefully place it in the center of my palm. I asked him what it was that I was holding for him, and with a look of digust (what was wrong with me - couldn't I SEE it??!!) he then loudly said "Butter knife!!!!!"

Well, heck, I didn't know he was collecting imaginary butter knives . . .

This all from a man who is completely comfortable with the concept of dying. He told me the other day that he's not afraid, and that he's looking forward to seeing loved ones who have gone before. We've talked about serious subjects, and laughed about silly ones too. We are okay.

Even when he's sleeping, he hears me. He squeezes my hand sometimes. It's comforting to me, and I appreciate his attempts to connect even though lately he's not been able to say much.

I've been staying at the hospital most of the time now, sleeping when I can in the big LazyBoy recliner the staff set up for me. Time is getting shorter for us, and I'm trying to be there with him as much as possible.

His sons Shawn and Shane have flown up from Florida for the weekend, and have been here most of the time. Sometimes he's awake enough to recognize them. He's not talking much, but I can tell he really appreciates that they are here. Me too.


p2pix said...

My thoughts are with you and Tom as you continue through this as one. Good to hear family is there too.

Twinsanity/Spinsanity said...

Oh, Beth. I'm so sorry you're not able to be closer to home through this. At least it sounds peaceful. Hugs to you and your Tom.

Anonymous said...

My thoughts and prayers are with you. Thank goodness for knitting. It's been almost a year since my brother passed from cancer and it was quite a journey.

Strength to both of you while you go through this process. It's the toughest thing I've ever done.

Jonara Blu Maui said...

Beth...I am so sorry..I had lost touch w/ you and did not know Tom had taken a turn for the worse.

As I read this I am laughing but with tears of sadness running down my cheeks..I have been in your exact spot but w/ my mother inlaw but cannot imagine going through it with my husband :( I remember the mumbling all through her sleep (I had my turns spending the night in her hospital room w/ her)and esp the funny things she would say..a combination of the morphine, the toxins in her liver and her funny personality. One time she thought she saw ninja cats, another time she pulled a themometer that wasn't really there out from behind my ear..and another time when my husband handed my son back his gameboy..she said in a mother repremanding way "Paul! what are you handing him?! Drugs?!" (that one must have come from her experiences in the 60's?)Those are just the ones I remember..there were more. When we would snicker or get a look on our face of suprise she would crack up at herself and say "I"m halucinating again aren't I?" We would just laugh and laugh.

My thoughts and prayers are with you and your husband. Big HUGS, Love and aloha to both of you.

mrae said...

My thoughts and prayers are with you.

goodie2needles said...

Beth, I learned recently of your and Tom's extended stay in Ann Arbor. Since then, you've both been in my thoughts and prayers. A lot of what you've posted here brought back vivid memories of my dad's passing last year. I was able to spend his last few weeks with him at Meijer Heart Center and was also very grateful for the wonderful nursing staff and the opportunity to have that time with dad. How wonderful you and Tom were able to go to Florida to see family, especially grandbabies. Surely memories to be cherished. God bless you. You'll remain in my thoughts and prayers.