Sunday, November 30, 2014

Knocking on the window

So as I was asleep in my bed earlier, I was awakened by a knocking at the window.  It wasn't very loud but it was the same rhythm that we started years ago when we were first married. And it kept repeating.    

We lived in an apartment that was completely indoors without any exterior openings.  Probably not the most ideal apartment but it was what we could afford and it worked for the time being.  He had school and he worked at Subway.  I was very much pregnant at this time and just sat around our apartment because most of the time I was so sick.   So as he left our apartment every time, he would knock on the wall as he walked back down the hall opposite where our apartment door was.  He knocked three times, which meant "I love you".      And sometimes he would knock on it as he was coming down the hall to come home.  It made my heart jump when I heard it and I was always anxious for his return.  

So while laying in the bed asleep I kept hearing this knocking sound on our window.  I didn't actually look out to see what might have been causing it, but in my mind I was brought back to that time, and as soon as I made a connection that it was him telling me He loved me, the knocking sound stopped.   

He's still around and he's still here, but I'd much rather have him here and tangible.   Boy am I ever anxious for our reunion, but hopefully I get to experience more life with my kids before it's my turn.  It's not going to be easy, but hopefully with time I can enjoy life once again. 

Suffering a Great Loss

As many already know, my husband, my children's father,  Chris Randolph passed away unexpectedly Thursday night November 13, 2014.    

A night that forever changed our lives.  My heart was broken from this sudden loss, and I'm deeply saddened because my best friend, my lover, my husband and the father of my children is no longer with us here physically.   

The pain of the night that it happened is a pain I never want to experience again.  It's so real, it's so painful, and is worse than anything you can imagine.  

I've noticed though, that in telling my story about that night it's getting easier to cope with it.  So I want to share it here for anyone that is interested in knowing what happened.  I can't explain why it happened and I'm not going to attempt to either.  

My husband came home from work on October 17th and said he felt like he was coming down with something.   Sure enough by the next morning he wasn't feeling well at all. He had a fever going on, but was still his playful self.   A week went by with what we thought were symptoms of the flu (in hindsight).  After one week of feeling that bad we went to a family practice clinic to have him checked out.  They did x-rays and blood tests and after 1.5 hours in the office came into the room and said, "Yes, you are definitely SICK!"   They had taken a few chest x-rays and had the radiologist look at them and said, it looks a little hazy but it doesn't look like pneumonia.    He was already having difficulty breathing by this point.  We had been doing breathing treatments at home, and nothing seemed to be making it better.   He was still forcing  himself to go to work though. However, he missed the primary program at church that next day and he felt so bad that he had to miss it.  He just seemed to get worse through the next week.  He was showing up at work later and staying later and his coworkers were telling him he should be at home resting, and I think maybe even said he should be in a hospital for how bad he was.   He was so winded with everything he tried to do.  Just taking a shower was so hard.  

He missed going with our family to an indoor trampoline park a few days before Halloween, and even though it was lots of fun I wished he was there with us too!  We were in the process of buying a new house as well.  Things were seriously crazy!    I was gathering up those papers as I needed them, and had him sign as he needed to.  We were excited for that next adventure in our lives.  The setting was ideal and we were dreaming of all the stuff we could do with it.  On November 1st - later in the day around 9pm or so he was groaning on the bed and it was really as close to crying out in pain as he could get without actually crying.  Must be a man thing ...?? Not sure.     So, I instantly knew we should take him in, but he swore it was a pulled muscle from all the coughing he had been doing.  He said we could go in but lets wait till morning because he was tired and wanted to get some sleep - he was convinced it was a pulled muscle.  I got a little bit annoyed with him and left the room saying that if he didn't want to take my advice that was fine, but I was going to go back to the projects I was working on in the other room.   (Seriously there isn't much I could do to help this situation when he doesn't want the help.)

About two hours later he got up to use the bathroom and called for me and said that I was right.  We should get him in now.   His breathing was labored, it was painful and he felt the need that we should take him in to the ER.   So I told my older girls what was happening.  

We drove to Timpanogos Hospital in Orem, Utah - which is where our insurance is good at.  I pulled up to the ER entrance and ran inside and asked if there was a wheelchair, luckily there was one sitting right there in the hall so I grabbed it and ran back to the van where Chris was still sitting.  We got him in the wheelchair and got him inside the whole while he's holding his right ribcage.  We scanned in his drivers license and the lady behind the desk was printing stuff off and we finally got buzzed through the doors after a few seconds.  We were guided to a room beyond the triage area. They hooked him up to oxygen right away.  And started poking and prodding him with all sorts of needles and such.   They took him for an x-ray and sure enough he had pneumonia in both lungs and it was pretty severe.   The ER doctor told us that he was having us admitted and there started the 9 day stay at Timpanogos Regional Hospital.  He was on oxygen the whole time, he was doing breathing treatments around the clock, he was on morphine the first few days and he was not able to talk very well because his throat was pretty raw from all the coughing the last two weeks.  His appetite was not good.  This was a Saturday night.  Sunday - my hometeacher and his wife brought our family dinner after church that day. After I had a chance to eat I went up and visited with Chris.  A few other members from our ward went to visit him as well.  The visits were great but it was draining him of energy.   His Dad came later that same Sunday and they sat and watched a football game together.  He was there way after I had to leave and get home to my kids.  I hated to say goodnight to him.   I came back the next morning after the kids were at school and had my three year old with me.  We were there for about 5 hours and in that time I had to help him with his shower.  And I mean everything that needs to be done, I did for him.  I kept thinking to myself, if this isn't love, I don't know what is. 

 We spent time together over the next several days, most of it in silence but that was okay.  We just loved being with each other.  We are a team and we love doing things together. That Monday I brought the kids to see their Dad, and it was a circus for sure.   Needless to say I didn't stay very long that visit. The rest of the week had me going in the morning time and then come home for a few hours make sure the kids had food for dinner and then I'd go back in the evening for a few more hours.  Which I would help him brush his teeth, and occasionally we would watch a movie together.  That time was so precious to me now. (In sickness and in health - I was with him all the way)  I really hated leaving at night because I was afraid something would happen to him and I wouldn't be there to help him.  After a few days he didn't need the morphine as often and eventually stopped it altogether middle of the week. About that time his appetite was coming back.   Throughout the week several of his siblings came to visit him, some a few different times. 

I had to fight feeling guilty because I was spending so much time at the hospital while my amazing children were holding down the fort at home.   The kids were amazing through this.  I kept telling Chris how great the kids were being, and as such said, "Go ahead and start netflix for the kids.  Just be sure and tell them that I'm not going soft in the head but it's because they are being so great through this."  So on Friday I set that up for them (us) so that they(we) could be entertained here at home and I wouldn't feel as guilty being gone with my husband at the hospital.  I was forgetting to eat at home, so I would only remember as I was already heading up - so I stopped somewhere pretty  much every day and picked something up to eat back in his room.   We did jamba juice one night and just enjoyed being together.   Oh how I wish I could have that again.   I was getting really antsy for him to be back at home, with the rest of us where he belonged.  But his breathing was still having issues.    Saturday night we were informed that they would do a CT scan the next day to make sure they didn't see anything new or different and that as long as it was okay we could go home on Monday, November 10th.   They performed the CT scan on Sunday morning and nothing new was revealed.  So the doctor felt like it was okay to head home, however, he was hesitant in letting him come home.  Well, it sure took a while to get the okay to leave and come home. The kids enjoyed him being home, and he even had a stay outside in the fresh air bundled up sitting on a chair in the sun.  Esther had finally interacted with her Dad on her own accord, because in the hospital she didn't want anything to do with him.  

We got set up with oxygen here at home, and had a concentrator plugged in.  And I grew a serious appreciation for nurses especially those that cover the night shift.   He basically stayed in the recliner that we have in our living room and I'd still help him with all the things I was already doing while he was in the hospital.   Tuesday was a rough day since he didn't sleep well Monday night, so he had a hard time feeling like he could catch his breath all day. Tuesday night he slept better, and Wednesday was an AWESOME day.  We were finally hopeful that he was on the road to recovery. 

He was smiling most of the day felt really good, he was playing games with Esther, later that night we were watching Quantam Leap on Netflix, and sharing a big bag of dark chocolate m&m's.   And Esther especially loved that daddy was sharing with her!  Things were good, peaceful.  He stayed in the livingroom and I went to my bed to sleep.  Nervous as heck like the previous two nights at home and all the nights while he was in the hospital.  

We woke up the next morning, and from the start he was having a hard time catching his breath.   We headed down to Payson for a Dr. appointment as a followup from the hospital visit.   It was a cold day.  Chris was so winded by the time we got him into the building from the car, and he looked terrible - like he should have been in the hospital.  After a few tests, x-rays and breathing treatments in the office he was looking so much better.   Still extremely winded and difficult to feel like he was getting enough air.   According to the x-rays there he still had the pneumonia clear throughout both lungs and all over in the lungs.   We headed home, and it was now snowing.  And I remember telling him, "Gosh, this is when I wish you were well enough to be driving"  (I hate driving in tricky weather conditions).  

Upon getting home, we had a little bit of time before I had to go get my kids from school.  I remember sitting on my couch after the kids were home and thinking, "Oh man, I've got to go get something figured out for dinner, but I'm so exhausted)    No sooner had I finished saying that, one of our dear neighbors was knocking on the door with an armful of stuff to eat for dinner.  I started to cry when I realized that they were inspired to bring some food over.  Dinner was now taken care of.

My sister in law had come over to do piano lessons with my kids since it was that day of the week.   She brought two of her four kids with her, and we had a houseful of happy fun noise going on.  Chris didn't mind it at all.   Around 6 or 6:30 I proceeded to warm him up some of the food that was brought over which is some of the best stuff around.   And he had about 5 or 6 bites from his bowl before he needed to go use the bathroom.    So we pushed the table away from the recliner, and he got up and walked in there and sat down on the toilet and he was breathing so hard and so heavy (like he normally would when walking into that room, which wasn't very far away) and he asked me to rub his back and shoulders as this has usually helped to calm his breathing down previously and after 10 minutes of me doing that it wasn't getting any better.   Esther our three year old who is potty training and nearly there came running in, I have to go potty!   We only have one bathroom and I started to panic not knowing what I could do so that she wouldn't have an accident but ... the first thought that came, run her next door.  So I ran her over and luckily the neighbor was home and let us use their bathroom.  And as I was leaving, her husband was coming in from being at work or something like that.   I ran back home, and put Esther down, and ran to Chris and saw him laying on the floor between the sink area and the toilet/tub area.    I almost got a little freaked out right then, till I realized he was conscience and I ran up and knelt by him and rubbed his head and asked him if he fell.  He said, that he didn't fall but that he felt light headed, so he laid down.    I ran to get the oxcimeter we bought just a few days ago, that helps monitor the oxygen level, and pulse rate.   The first time I put it on, it read low 70's for his oxygen level and mid 40's for his pulse rate.  Now I started to freak out.   I told him we needed to get him to the hospital.

Because he is a big guy there was no way I could do this on my own.  I ran back next door trying to remain as calm as possible and recruit Kawika.  He came over, and I sent a daughter to the other neighbor to get him.  Chris was down on the floor for at least 30 minutes and could not get up on his own.  We helped get him up to the chair that I put in there and he suggested to swap it out with the black desk chair that has wheels.  Brilliant on his part - like he always is.   So we got him to the black chair, and in this process realized he was covered in sweat - just from laying on the floor.  I knew something wasn't quite right.   

We got him in the car with the help of another friend that was walking by right at that moment and I had pulled the van up onto the lawn so that we didn't have to go to far to get Chris in the car.   Once in, I left and just took off.    (I had already arranged a ride for my 10th grade daughter to get up to the high school since she was part of Pirates of Penzance).     On the way to the hospital before we got on the freeway he was still telling me how to drive.   I could hear him breathing since it was pretty darn audible.  And I was nervous as heck driving him up to Timpanogos hospital where we had just been released three days earlier.   By the time I was at the intersection right in front of the hospital, halfway through the turn, it got eerily quiet and after I finished the turn I looked over and it was pretty.  My sweetheart had stopped breathing on me.  I was crying and pleading that he stay here, and as I pulled into the parking lot he was falling over into me since we hadn't buckled him in.  So I put up a hand to hold him up and his face was so lifeless.  Right then, I knew things were never going to be the same.   I was honking my horn as I was pulling up, and screaming for help.  Luckily two people were walking out just as I pulled up and I fumbled to remember how to get my window down and once I did, I screamed that he wasn't breathing!!   They ran inside and within seconds here came a team of people running out and the first doctor opened up the car to check the situation, and I'm completely hysterically crying he assured me that I did everything I should have.  He wasn't breathing but he had a pulse.  It was a weak pulse, but it was a pulse.    They had a hard time trying to get him from the car to the gurney, and off they went running into the hospital.    I came running, and crying right behind them. 

 The people at the desks were so kind and helpful asking me who they could call for me.  And the first person that came to mind was my sweet sister in law Amy.   I knew her number and they called her.    I hadn't remembered to bring either of our phones so I didn't know anyone else's number.  However, I did remember to bring my kindle fire with me, and left it in the van.  I gave my keys to one of the ladies and told her she could move it out of the way too.   So I pulled up LDS Tools to get my bishops number and from there, I can't quite remember anything else except reaching my parents was pretty hard.  And we managed to call his Dad.      These amazing people were doing there best to make me comfortable and calmed down as much as I could be under those circumstances.   The Dr. was very honest and upfront with me, and said it really was serious and didn't look good.   Remember, I already knew it wasn't going to be the same.   Through a crack in the ER room they pulled him into I could see them doing the chest compressions and that set me off about the reality of the situation, someone noticed my view from there and adjusted the curtain so that I couldn't see.   

Eventually Amy showed up and she had no idea what was going on, other than it was about Chris.   So she was with me, and they had us head back to a private room away from the craziness, and we just cried.  The Dr. came in again and said that they were doing everything they could and had this been a nursing home patient they would have stopped already.   They worked on him for 15 - 20 minutes before they came in and called it.   My bishop was in the room and of course, Amy.   So I wasn't alone, but felt so alone.  

I had some of my good friends from my neighborhood end up at the hospital along with Chris's Dad.   And the whole thing was just surreal.  The doctor told me that when I was ready I could go in and see him.  It took a little bit of time.  I just kept thinking this isn't happening.  My husband didn't just pass away.   

After some time and priesthood blessing from Chris's father, and my bishop I felt like it was time to go see my sweetheart.  They warned me that he had a tube coming out of his mouth.  That he was basically naked, but that a blanket was covering him up.  And they had cleaned the room up.   It was definitely hard to go into the ER room where he was at, but it helped me understand how real this situation really is.  I kissed his forehead, and searched for his hand under the blanket.  His skin was so cold, but he did look peaceful.  His illness was now over.   

But that's when my journey was just beginning.   It's not one I would suggest.  But really the spiritual side of everything I was roaring like a lion, but my heart and body weren't there yet.   They probably won't be for a while, and that's okay.  From what I hear it takes time some longer than others, but it takes time. 

So upon getting ready to leave I had a friend drive my van home with me sitting right where he had just been.  Luckily my role in the van this time wasn't the same so it wasn't too hard for me, but it did take a few days before I got up the courage to face that difficult challenge.    

This story will continue in another post.