Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Silk Strand of Life

Lisa and Mike 2009

So, "so much has happened since the last time I wrote!!!!!!!" That is how I began every entry of my journal as a teenager. And then I would drivel on about this boy or that, who was my true friend or not, how I could possibly survive my life during adolescence without so and so, and the lameness of every person in my household. "I just can't deal with it anymore!!! See ya soon!!!!!!"

Lord help anyone associated with me during that time. And then just recently, I blathered on to a friend about how I just couldn't keep my plants alive, how I seemed to be spending the summer in the car, how there just wasn't time to do what I wanted to do. She agreed, oh, she agreed. Blather blather blather. The injustice of womanhood, how it eats away at our very souls. How it disrespects our true needs!

And then real life came last week and smacked me across the head and humbled me to my knees, no, to my very belly.

Life is so real. Life is fragile. Life is tenuous. Life is a thread, a beam, a silk strand, the wind's whisper.

There is no way to describe my sister Lisa's anguish when she heard the words, "I'm not sure there's much else we can do for him," from the doctor's mouth. Or her horror when he said, "You'd better call the family," and "Come back now and see him." Or the flicker of hope in her eyes when he added, almost as an afterthought, "We may be able to do another angiogram to locate the bleeding." That was the only lifeline he gave her, this doctor, who has sworn above all to preserve,sustain and heal human life. We clung to it.

An unexplained rupture of the illiac artery had flooded my brother in law Mike's abdomen with blood and was drowning out his other organs. By the time he was stable 101 units of blood had been transfused into his body, replacing his own blood supply many times over.

"We've never seen a burst artery without some sort of trauma or accident," one doctor said. "Touch and go," said another.

There was the arrival of family, his 16-year old son, who was allowed back to see his dad as he was prepped for the "last ditch procedure." The aging parents who were dumbfounded by the news of their youngest son. A beloved brother, whose vow to give up cigarettes was put on hold indefinitely during his harried drive to the hospital. The 13-year old daughter and 8-year old son, who were not allowed back to see their dad, but cried in the family waiting room, their idyllic summer morning suddenly upended by catastrophe. Another brother saying on the phone, "I knew I should have stayed home, I just had this feeling . . ."

I stood in the hall and called and called everyone who loved Mike and Lisa and who needed to come. My own mother stood with me, walking from me to the room to Lisa and back to me. "I can't stand this!" she whispered. Thank heavens for contact lists on cell phones. Really, how did people used to do this? I watched Lisa talk to Mike, telling him to hold on, being so strong.

And then waiting, praying, and waiting some more until another doctor came in and sat down in the "consultation room." Ten pairs of eyes bored into him, gauging his facial expressions, his body language before he spoke, trying to decipher the outcome.

"He is stable," he said. "He is stable." Three beautiful words. "Not out of the woods yet," he continued, "but headed in the right direction." Not so beautiful, but still hopeful.

A week later he is still stable, in a semi-conscious state. His abdomen has still not been stitched closed because his organs are still too swollen. They were able to save his right kidney. He has had two operations since to remove clotted blood and check organs and another one will happen later this week. The tube down his throat can't be removed until he is less sedated. He fidgets with it and tries to spit it out. But when they reduce sedation his pain levels go way up. They are searching for the right balance. He has bags of antibiotics and nutrition flowing into him continuously.

If I know him, when he wakes up fully, he will want a Dr. Pepper.

Meanwhile Lisa holds his hand for most of the day and tells him funny things the kids said or who came to see him. His eyes flicker open in understanding and awareness but then close again as too much awareness of what he's been through could impede his healing.

And as for the 100's of us who love him, not healing is unacceptable.

Get well Mike.


Marshall and Alison said...

I am so sorry Ellen. Your family has been in turmoil too. Sorry for not being sensitive to that fact. I will include him in the many prayers that are being said at our house :)

Kirstin said...

I am so sorry Ellen! Life is so precious, thanks for sharing so I could remember.

Trisha said...

Wow Ellen. I'm so sorry for all of you. You will definitely be in my thoughts and prayers. Hang in there!

Macy said...

This post made me cry, again. What a heart-wrenching experience. I am SO, SO glad that your brother-in-law is okay.