Friday the 29 th of July 1996, I was driving back from Montreal accompanied with a driver (commonly known as a car jockey in the car business). We had just delivered a used car to a new car dealership and we were heading back home to Ottawa, only 120 miles away. As I was driving back I would often reminisce and think how thankful I was, that life was finally good to me since my divorce. My business was great, my health was, I considered to be good. Non smoker, occasional drinker, divorced now living at Rachel (my sister) place for the last 4 months. Finally I was going to built me a home, yes, finally a home of my own. It was going to happen in 2 weeks. My mother would then stop telling me to get a roof over my head and I'm sure Rachel would be looking forward to seeing me leave her condo, after all, her private life had also suffered with me being there every night I arrived home at approximately 5 PM. After driving my jockey to his house, I was happy this was Friday night. Always loved that day of the week. Rachel had brought Mom for the weekend from the retirement home. Her and another sister of mine take turns to have her for the week-end. This was Rachel's turn to have her.
I was, as always, so happy to see Mom. She got a stroke on the 13th of December 1995 and lost her speech and the use of her right side. Poor Mom, just thinking about it makes me so sad. She, of all women did not deserve this at all...not Mom...she raised 5 kids alone and on welfare...no God, not Mom. After reaching over to her and embracing both of them and happy to see them, I reached in the refrigerator for a cold glass of beer and walked over to the balcony with my week's review. I've always kept an agenda, and this like every evening, I would take a count. How many cars did I buy. How many did I sell and how much money did I make. It was so lovely outside and kept thinking that in only 2 weeks I would be starting to dig for the house of my dreams.
Just as I was doing some daydreaming, I got a urge to go to the bathroom. I sat for a few minutes, and seeing nothing was happening, I attempted to get up and zipper my jeans, and Whammm...fell hard on the side of the bath, cutting myself on the forehead. I fell just like you had cut both my legs off. I had an awful cramp below my stomach. As I laid flat on the tile floor, motionless and so helpless, I could hear my sister in the background screaming and my mother trying so hard and desperately, to speak out, but just mumbling words is all I could hear. Rachel screamed, Mom...Ray just got another heart attack, and she yelled...help...help help... She came over to me and I told her I was dying for a breath of fresh air. Air, please Rachel try to get me some, if you can't get me any, I won't make it, please Rachel...Please... She came in with an portable oxygen tank she borrowed from the woman next door. As I held the mouth piece to my mouth, I complained that there was insufficient amount of oxygen coming thru..I need more oxygen Rachel, please...
I heard her call 911, still laying on the bathroom floor, I could hear my poor Mom, helpless as she was in her wheel chair way back there in the living room, trying to speak , and crying out loud at the same time, wishing there was something she could do. I cried just hearing her, I wanted to tell her I'll be OK Mom...don't worry...but I couldn't bare the pain I was experiencing and I couldn't have spoken loud enough to her even if my life depended on it. I ached so bad...below...Rachel...I kept saying..., nodding with my head, that it wasn't my heart. I knew what a cardiac arrest was, I had experienced that ordeal just the year before. Triple by-pass, and double cardiac arrest.
I kept saying to myself while on the floor, what in the world am I having now... What the "hell" is going on... The medics took only about 10 minutes to get here. But, to me it really seemed like it took an hour. They tried to find out from me where the pain was coming from, as I kept asking them for more oxygen, and when I overheard that they were giving all they possibly could, I knew then there was a big problem here. I was hoping to get to the hospital real quick. I felt like I was running out of breath, and that this was slow death. Every breath I took, I wanted it to come as far down as my toes. I needed all I could get...gosh did I want AIR...
We arrived within minutes to Montfort Hospital, about 4 city blocks from Rachel's place. As they wheeled me in the ER, there was 4 or 5 of them on both sides of me, and they all seemed to be concentrating on the bottom part of my body. I asked for more oxygen, and mentioned that my right leg was hurting, but silence was in the room no reply from no one. A nurse whispered in my ear and said, are you awake Mr Barrette? I nodded, she continued and said, we are going to take you to the Ottawa General Hospital. We have called them, and they have arranged to have a cardiovascular doctor on duty waiting for your arrival. As we sped down the city streets in the ambulance, I recall seeing two men next to me. I was fighting so hard for breath, that I felt I had no energy left to ask for more, but instead I worked on meditation, kept saying to myself, try to relax Ray...breathe deep and slow...you'll make it...you'll make it.
I felt, shortly after that trip that I was being pushed on that stretcher at about 50 miles an hour in the ER room and minutes later I said, Doctor....I can't bare it any longer...please knock me out, give me a pill or a shot...do something Doc...I need air...gives me some...lots...lots... I recall asking them to put something like a pillow under my right leg, to try to relieve the tension and the hurt, gosh, my leg hurt, this heavy and tired sensation. I was also aching bad from the rear of my waist and my right hip was tremendously in pain, just below my back, like real time. Speaking to all of them I thought was like speaking to a cement wall. It seemed they didn't hear a word I was saying, about the ache in the right leg and the slow oxygen intake. I was going to give up, when the Doc, came over close to my face and said, Ray, it won't be long now, we'll put you asleep. I was so relieved to hear him say that, I immediately passed out.
Apparently, before undergoing surgery, while I was still conscious, they gave permission to my father (he lived not too far from the hospital), and to my sister to come to see me, and I was told that I told them both, that I would be OK and not to worry, and I squeezed both there hands. They were also told, that the survival rate from a person that ruptures a AAA is about 10 to 1. Surgery took more than 4 hours, I had ruptured my abdominal aorta aneurysm. It had exploded in my abdominal cavity, cutting all circulation in my right leg which explains the pain I was having.
Right after surgery, my dad and sister were asked to come to see me, and that my chances of making it were very slim. We did all we could said Dr Coles, now it all depends on him. Is he a fighter, and does he want to live, will depend whether he recovers or not, he told my Dad and Rachel. Dad said that I was so big and fat looking that I looked as if I had gained 100 pounds overnight. And he continued, Ray a fighter, you can count on it, he will survive. When I awoke, I had more spaghetti around me than an Italian restaurant has in his kitchen. Wires here, tubes there, seemed I was full of them.
So happy to be still living, I recall smiling at dad and reaching over for his hand so I could squeeze it as Rachel hugged my side of the bed close to me. The Doctor came in, and he talked for awhile and he told me that I came a hair of loosing my right leg. He continued to say that it was a gamble they took and they hope they had chosen the right thing to do, and not to amputate my right leg. Could not have imagine waking to an absent leg. Oh God, thank you for sparing it. I know I have another, but I do appreciate the two of them.
Well recovery isn't easy. For about 7 months I was unable to have my foot spend the night in bed with the rest of me. I could not even endure a sheet cover over my foot, that's how sensitive it was. I spent many nights without sleeping, praying that things get a little better, just a little I kept saying. My sister Rachel I would not have made it without her. She massaged and bathe me every night. She was so good to me. Day in and day out, she watched over me, fed me, encouraged me to get stronger again and start new goals again. I was so weak and felt so helpless. I couldn't even get out of the tub alone for the first month. I had lost 25 lbs in approximately 15 days. Walking just to the door was a chore. Hey, I thought...open heart was peanuts...compare to a rupturedtriple AAA.
To this day, my foot still hurts, although not as much as it did last year. Doctor Robert Coles, cardiovascular surgeon at the ottawa general hospital, had warned me that it could take as long as 36 months to heal. You see Ray, when you were deprived of blood circulation,due to the explosion of your aneurysm, tiny arteries to your foot were destroyed and damaged. Those tiny arteries will grow back at the speed of 1 inch per month, and you will need 36 inches of them which equals 36 months. In other words, please be patient is what he was trying to tell me. Well I am...
Before I close, I must tell you what I told my mother in a letter shortly after she got her stroke in December of 1995. Dear Mom...and I wrote, you Mom, of all people, don't deserve that. Being the oldest in the family, I'll ask God to carry the cross for all my brothers and sisters and Mom and dad. I would be willing to sacrifice a leg so that He may spare you and give you back your speech and/or walk again. Well, someone heard me. Six months later I got struck like a lightning with a rupture AAA and almost lost my leg...strange.
Now, recently, I discovered another burden I must live with. Besides living thru, open heart surgery in 95, ruptured abdominal aorta aneurysm in 96, abdominal hernia in 97 and believe me, they have cut me up from the throat down to my testis, now I can no longer ejaculate. Thanks a lot, I'm single, divorced, 55 years old. I guess there goes my sex life. I am so ashamed of even taking my top off at the beach, not alone going to bed with a woman.
What a shock to learn, nearly 12 months after a AAA, retrograde ejaculation is the result of dissecting tiny nerves that lied over the aorta to repair the aneurysm. Where does it go? I'm told into my bladder. Is it ok for it to go there? Gee what else is going to happen to me here... But...I'm strong...I'll survive...but I swear, the next time a shadow of death flies over me, I'm letting go...there will be no more fighting to survive.
And to all the medical teams out there...without your continuous effort to save lives not all of us would still be out here...Thumbs...UP...and... Thank you all...
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