Greg and I cried in a waiting room while waiting for the nurses to get Tom “cleaned up”. We couldn’t seem to get ourselves together. We were there, alone, crying for what seemed like an eternity. Greg made phone calls to family, in between trying to comfort me. He’s only twenty-three and held me while I sobbed and asked “why?” over and over and over again. He had no answers for me. He couldn’t understand either. His grief was as deep as my own. We waited. We cried. We questioned. We sat there stunned. I finally couldn’t wait any longer and I said I was going to Tom’s room.
I walked around the corner to his room. It was about 5:00 am…maybe later…and the nurse’s aides were just finishing up and leaving the room. The nurse stopped me in the hall and told me that I could go in, but I ran to get Greg first.
We walked the short distance from the waiting room to Tom’s room together. I paused at the door and went in with the nurse following us.
Tom lay in bed covered by neatly arranged blankets up to his chest. His legs had been straightened out. His eyes were closed. The light from behind the bed, dimly lit the room. His face was mottled and an unnatural color. The breathing tube had been removed from his throat. I stopped short of the bed,
“What did you DO to him??” I said to the nurse.
She tried to explain about changes after death and I stopped her. I’m an RN. I know about the changes after death. I moved closer to Tom and touched his face.
He was cold. He was gone.
I began to weep harder and said “No…he’s gone now….he’s gone…I can’t see him this way”, and I started to back away from the bed. I didn’t want to stay there anymore…at the scene of his death…where they had worked so hard to try to revive him. Greg asked the nurse what happened. She told us that Tom had called around midnight saying that he was having chest pain. She gave him a dose of morphine. Hours later he simply stopped breathing…and they called a code. Tom had sleep apnea and wore a CPAP mask to sleep at night. It kept his airway open and kept him breathing. The hospital had not ordered one and everyone with medical background knows that morphine can knock out the drive to breathe. I didn’t ask her any questions. None of her answers would have mattered. The man that I loved wildly was gone.
We decided to leave. I needed to return home to Bri and Emma and Tom’s mother who were all waiting for us at home. Greg had called Bri and she was sitting with Emma and Ida, who were confused and afraid.
The nurse handed us Tom’s personal belongings. The bag of clothes that I had so carefully folded and put into a belongings bag on the day we came into the Emergency Room and his knee brace. I took the bag into my arms and Greg offered to carry something. I said I’d carry it and we walked to the elevator.
The security people who had let us in through the front doors of the hospital were still there. We walked with our heads up and tears streaming down our faces. They expressed their condolences. I nodded and Greg thanked them and we walked to the car. It was cold and we weren’t wearing jackets. I hugged the bag of clothes and the knee brace swung slightly in my hand as we walked.
Our world as we knew it had just ended and somewhere in a place I could not reach, my husband’s new existence was just beginning.