Two CasesPosted: March 16, 2009
This is the hardest thing I’ve ever written. I probably shouldn’t be writing it. But I might as well get it out and be done with it. It has bothered me for eight months. I didn’t understand it at all. Now I think I do.
It goes back to the day I took my husband to the doctor and then he went by emergency ambulance to Williamson Medical Center. On my way to the emergency room, I called my sons who live in adjoining states 5 and 7 hours away. I also called my friend Currie to tell her where I was going. In the first hour, she showed up, and I was never alone after that, except for about ten minutes. It was what happened during that ten minutes that has bothered me.
After an hour or two, they moved my husband upstairs for evaluation and monitoring and surgery, and they moved me upstairs in a waiting room. No one else was there — no other families sitting vigil. Currie was with me and then Colleen showed up after we told her not to. She’d had a hysterectomy three days earlier, but she told us she’d do whatever she wanted and she’d come if she wanted and we should just shut up about it and not try and boss her around. We all compared hysterectomy scars, as we’d all had the same surgery within six months. (Mine was the best.) Then the two of them went to get Colleen some iced tea; Colleen has to have iced tea. My brother-in-law was on the way from West Tennessee, and Currie had called the sons to come home. But for the moment, I was alone.
The waiting room was deep and wide with dozens of empty chairs lining the walls. I had chosen a chair against the far back wall where there were big windows. I sat there trying to squelch the panic — unaware of how serious my husband was, aware that he’d be in surgery soon and he’d be there for quite a while. He had the best vascular surgeon in Middle Tennessee. I felt some comfort in that.
Then a woman about my age walked into the darkened room. She kept walking, she was aimed right for me. I thought, Surely she’s not going to come all the way back here and sit by me. But she did. What the hell? She chose a chair stuck squat up next to mine and took a seat, her right shoulder one inch from my left. I eyed twenty silent chairs up one side of the room and twenty up the other. I’m sure I frowned. I know I was shaking because I shook for 38 hours. I’m sure I wanted to ask, Why are you sitting here this close to me? My heart beat hard and fast. I folded my arms. I let the wrinkles in my forehead deepen.
She asked why I was there. I told her my husband was having emergency exploratory surgery. At that point, we did not know what was wrong with him.
Then she told me her story. She was there to visit her husband, who was in intensive care. She’d be taking him home in a couple of days. The previous Sunday he had gone to play golf. He fell asleep and ran off the road and hit a concrete bridge abutment. His car had On Star and 9-1-1 was alerted. Paramedics arrived on the scene and took him to the hospital. Emergency room doctors checked him over. A CT scan was ordered to make sure there were no hidden injuries, and doctors discovered an aneurysm that was leaking between the layers. It had nothing to do with the accident. It would have killed him within days or hours, though, … had he not hit the concrete … had his car not had On Star … had the doctors not ordered a CT scan. She was so proud and happy and grateful to God that everything had worked together to save his life. Call it divine intervention, call it a miracle, call it luck.
Currie and Colleen came back into the room and took their seats to the right of me. The woman got up and left.
It was 7 or 8 hours later that we learned my husband had an aneurysm that had leaked between the layers, too. Only he had no divine intervention, no miracle, no luck, no CT scan.
The inner layer went pfffft! and sloughed away, stopping up the pipe, causing mesenteric artery occlusion, shutting off blood flow to major organs, killing the bowel, killing him. Cause of death: intestinal ischemia.
Two similar cases. One in which everything went right. One in which everything went wrong.