4:02 AM

I awoke with a start. Blinking a few times, I tried to remember where I was and it dawned on me. In Tom’s hospital room. I was sleeping on the sofa while he snored in the bed. It was 2:00 pm.

I sat up and watched him sleeping.   He was recovering from another heart attack and blocked stent in his heart. Thankfully, the blockage had been removed. He spent a couple of days in the ICU and then was transferred to a regular room, which was where we were today.

I gathered my things together…my laptop and briefcase and purse and walked silently over to the bed where my husband slept. I kissed him on the forehead to wake him up.   I told him there was no point in both of us sleeping at the hospital and I was going to go home to check on the kids. The doctor had been in earlier and had released Tom to go home in the morning. I was tired, he was tired…we were just TIRED. He sleepily said that he’d call later and I gave him a kiss and I left. I was to return at 9 am to pick him up.

When I arrived home, my son Greg and his fiancé Brianne were holding down the fort. They had picked up my daughter, Emma from school and were preparing to make dinner. I slid into my usual spot at the breakfast bar and opened my lap top to do some writing…but the tiredness overtook me and I ended up just sitting and chatting with the kids.

We had dinner together and around 7 pm, the phone rang but I missed the call. It was Tom…his message went to my voicemail, but I knew it was him, so I didn’t check the voicemail and just called him back. We chatted briefly and I told him how excited I was that he was coming home tomorrow. He was excited too. He was still feeling weak, but ready to be home. Shortly after I talked to him, I fell asleep on the sofa, but at some point moved to the bedroom and sprawled out on my stomach, taking up the extra space since Tom was not home.

The phone rang. I was instantly awake and on my hands and knees, grabbing for my phone that rang incessantly on my nightstand. Oh God. I knew the number.

“Is this Mrs Thompson?”

“Yes…what’s wrong”

“We need you to come to the hospital immediately. Your husband stopped breathing and they’re working on him.”

“OH MY GOD. Is he okay?”

“Mrs. Thompson we need you to come right now. Get here as fast as you can.”

I hung up the phone and called Greg. He and Brianne lived in the apartment above our carriage house. Greg answered the phone groggily…

“You have to get me to Deaconess, something is wrong with Tom, they told me he stopped breathing and I have to get there right now!” I struggled into my pants and a shirt while I tried to explain to Greg that we needed to leave. I hung up the phone and met Greg at his car and we raced through the empty streets of Evansville to get to the hospital. It was 3:47 am.

Greg dropped me at the hospital doors and I ran into the lobby where I found people who were waiting for me to help me get to Tom’s room.   The elevator took years to get the second floor. When the doors opened, I raced around the corner to my husband’s room and stopped dead…the hall was filled with people.   They had called a Code Blue.

I ran the rest of the way to the room where a nurse stopped me but it was too late. I’d seen him.

Tom was laying flat on the bed. A small nurse was frantically doing chest compressions. His body shook and convulsed with the pressure of her compressions. He was barely clothed. There was a tube down his throat and a respiratory therapist delivered air to his lungs with a bag. Tom’s eyes were slightly open. The doctor at the end of the bed asked for a rhythm…there was none. He ordered another dose of epinephrine. The nurse that was pushing the drugs said to the doctor that it was the last dose they could do and…

….and I stopped listening and took a step backward in the hallway. I watched them work on my husband and they never tried to hide how they were pounding on his body…one of his legs hung off the side of the bed.

Greg came running down the hallway and asked if Tom was all right and then he too was confronted with the code scene. My senses were shutting down. I whispered “Oh my God they’re coding him, Greg.”

The doctor called “Where’s the wife, is the wife here?”

A nurse grabbed me by the arm and pulled me into the room. The doctor asked if I was Tom’s wife…I nodded numbly…they were still doing compressions, still bagging his lungs. I kept whispering “no.no.no.no.no” The doctor was talking but I couldn’t understand him…he seemed far away in tunnel and then I woke up on floor.

They dragged me out of the room on chair.   As I reached the hallway I heard the doctor say “Time of Death: 4:02”.

I lost it. Right there in the hallway of the hospital where other patients were trying to rest, I screamed and cried at the death of my husband. One by one the nurses and doctor filed out. One of them, another doctor, said they did all they could but they never got a heart rhythm back. He said he was sorry. He turned and left.

Greg was holding me as I wept when the nurse invited us to go into the room.

The room was now dimly lit by the over bed light. Tom lay in bed, his body askew and he had been hastily covered with a sheet and blanket. His clear, hazel eyes were slightly opened and his pupils appeared normal. I waited for him to blink. He didn’t. His face was perfectly smooth, even the worried line that would appear on his forehead between his eyebrows was relaxed. His lips were perfect. I kissed him. He was still warm. I held his hand and cried and told him that he promised me that he wouldn’t die. He PROMISED. I stroked his hair back from his face that was still pink and warm. I whispered to him. All the things that I wanted him to know. I told him I loved him over and over again while Greg wept behind me. Greg asked the nurse for a chaplain. She went to call him.

I stayed with Tom. Holding his hand, begging him to come back, begging him not to go. The chaplain came and said some brief words that made no sense to me. I finally asked him to leave. Greg and I were alone with Tom. I was lost, crushed, devastated and shattered. I lowered my face to Tom’s cheek and wept.

The nurse came in again and told us that they were going to get him “cleaned up” and that we could return later. I was still holding his warm hand…but it had stiffened in my grip. I carefully removed my fingers from his grip and straightened his hand next to him on the bed.   Then, I wept while I carefully removed his wedding band and transferred it to my finger. The nurse burst into tears.  Clinging to my son, they escorted us from the room.

 

 

3 comments

  1. Rosalee S. says:

    I remember the moment Chris died. I wanted to be alone, and I’m not someone who usually wants to be alone. I did the same thing, clung to his body, marveled that it was still warm and wanted so much for that raspy death breathing to start again. My sisters came and we wept all together holding each other in a group. The nurses came in about half an hour later and asked me if it was okay for them to come in and clean Chris up and I said yes, we needed to go. Then I looked back and him and said, “Oh, my poor Baby! I’ll never see him again!” and went back over to hug him again for as long as they would let me. The memory of the seeing him for he very last time still pierces my heart and I am sobbing while remembering this. Tears are rolling down my face as they have been since reading your accont of what happened your last moments with Tom. It’s been 3 years, 6 months, and 4 days, Chris. It still hurts sometimes like it was yesterday. God be with you. You are in my prayers.
    I am so very sorry for your loss, Chris.

  2. Terri Wolowinski (Fred Bagel) says:

    I’m sobbing. I can’t breath. Being a cardiac nurse my whole life, this really brings back memories. Every patient that I lost, I cried for and for their beautiful loved ones left behind, going home to an empty house without their loved ones, to a “new” normal. They all broke my heart. Love to you, my friend.

  3. Nicole Radoumis says:

    This is almost identical to the blog post I wrote after my husband’s death 3 years 11 months and 4 days ago. It is unimaginable. I’m so sorry for your loss and experience. Even as a nurse, it still is the most excruciating experience I have had to endure.

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