Monday was a bad day. One I don't think I will forget. Larr and the kids went to visit with Eleanor before going to school. They've done this nearly every day since we found out that Eleanor was ill. Monday found her clutching Don's hand and pleading for help, "Don, please get me help. PPPLLLEEEAAAASSSEE!" (These were the first clear words we've heard her utter in many weeks.) It frightened the kids. It frightened everyone, actually. There was nothing Don or any of us could do so by noon she was moved into the hospice. We had hoped that she could die at home, but this really was the best answer. Her pain had become too intense and we had no means to curb it more than we had already tried. At the hospice they were able to give her other medications that worked like a charm. The change was really best for all involved. Eleanor's pain was managed. Don could just be the loving, dedicated husband he has been throughout this ordeal. He no longer had to be his caregiver, too. From that point on she was not very concious. Her blood pressure went up and down. So did her breathing. I was beside myself and met with Skye, the head nurse for the crew that evening, otherwise known as a angel in disguise. I calmed down after a while. I had to try and keep some of my stress to myself. I was upsetting Don. We thought she would be stable. Larr and I went home. Larr was called back at 11:30 p.m. They could not find her pulse. Larr and Don rallied. Eleanor perked up, sort of. None of us slept well that night. My stress and anxiety produced a back ache, a stomach ache, all of my teeth hurt and I had a head ache. I was a wreck. Larr attempted to sleep on a pullout couch bed. Don slept in a recliner next to Eleanor.
Tuesday she began to make that terrible gurgling sound that comes from the liquid in her lungs. Towards the end the blood simply can't power all of the function and something has to give. The arms and legs become colder. The thinking is fuzzy because the blood is making slower trip through each segment. The organs in the torso fight for controll. The lungs eventually lose the fight. At around 4:30 Bonnie came in to help me do a casting of my hand holding Eleanor's hand. This is an amazing and wonderful service she offers and it will be an item I treasure. (I will write about it more on another day.) She mixed up a power liquid item and dipped out hands in it. We held still for about five minutes while the mold gelled.It is the same stuff used to make imprints for dentures. We removed Eleanor's hand first, then mine. About 10 minutes later a thick burgandy-black liquid began to be expelled from Eleanor's mouth. It did not seem to bother her, but was terribly alarming to us. It looked like old blood. We called the nurse. She checked Eleanor's vitals and noted that her color was beginning to drain from her face and limbs. Larr and Don held her hands. Ethan comforted Don. I tried to comfort Larr. He bent forward and whispered in her ear. We were told that hearing is the last sense to go. Larr could feel her life force leave her body. Her face was peaceful and the gurgling sound had quieted. We sat there for some time, hoping that the heart would jump into action, but she was gone. The ending was as good as it could be in such a situation. She was peaceful and we were with her. We were all so sad. We were relieved, too. Her suffering had ended. Calls were made. The minister, Paul, came by for the second time that day. We spent the evening together. Don's leg was hurting. We thought it was from stress. We would soon find we were wrong.
Wednesday Larr found Don unable to get out of his bed. His lower leg had swollen to an enormous size and had change to a shade of deep wine red. Instead of going to take care of funeral arrangements Larr took his father to the doctor. After many tests it was discovered that Don has a blood clot in his leg. Alarmed, we are on full alert, again. Larr had to go out of town so the kids and I spent the evening with Grandpa.
Thursday morning Don's lower leg hurt even more. Uncle Mark and I went over to get him out of bed. Mark took him to the doctor again while I cleaned the house. I tucked away all the evidence of Eleanor's illness and washed her clothes, putting them into her closet and closing the door. There to be found, but not out in the open as to remind Don of his loss. They doctor ran more tests and found that Don's blood has been behaving badly.The red blood cells have become sticky and clumpy. They slow down the flow of blood. As a result, the other cells have created more blood and now he has too much. The nurses removed a cup of blood today and will do the same again tomorrow. They've also given him a new blood thinner. We've kept him in bed. The hospital bed that was for Eleanor is now serving Don, helping him feel better. There was a large number of visitors today, helping to keep Don entertained. This evening Doug (Larr's middle brother) arrives and he will take over the care of Don. Tomorrow I go back to work. I have not stepped into the school since last week.
Eleanor's death does not seem real, yet. I am not sure what it will take to get there. Perhaps we are still all too shell shocked to feel the full impact. Perhaps it is being kept at bay with this new wave of concern that has been shifted to Don. Perhaps it will visit little but little, letting us get used to the grief that will settle on our hearts like a bird on a branch. Days, or rather weeks, like this make me thankful for the time (the exciting and the mundane alike) we have with our family