My name is Deedee, Debi and I met thirteen years ago at a Back-to-school-night for our 3rd grade daughters. We hit it off and our friendship blossomed and grew stronger with every new thing we shared. And believe me, we did share. Between her and her husband Norbert, their four children Tara, Katie, Scott and Megan, and me and my two children Jeff and Jill, we were never without something new to share. Good, bad or ugly, we shared it all and always survived. Even when I married Curt and moved 4 years ago from down the street to 150 miles away, we survived. In fact our friendship grew stronger and with the help of e-mail we were able to stay in constant contact without a huge phone bill. Then 2 years ago we survived her cervical cancer and everything that went along with it. Our children have been our most cherished accomplishments in life and we had always said that my kids were her kids and her kids were my kids and that NOBODY messes with our kids.
Everything changed on Sunday May 4, 1997. As I was getting ready to leave town and return home from a weekend visit, Debi's daughter Katie called me at my mothers house and told me that Debi was at the emergency room and had suffered a ruptured brain aneurysm. At first I thought she was kidding because of the calmness in her voice, but it only took a second to know that Katie would never kid about such a thing. I said I was on my way, and went straight to the hospital.
Tara was the first one I saw and she gave me the update that her mother had suffered 2 seizures and the doctors were trying to stabilize her so they could do a cat scan. She had been put on a breathing machine to help her breath because during the seizures she had gotten fluid into her lungs. And she was heavily sedated to keep her calm, and to help with the pain in her head. Norbert came out and told us that they would be doing some tests soon and I was allowed to see her.
When I first entered her intensive care room, her eyes were closed but soon she looked up and squinted. As she recognized me she reached for my hand, and with tears in hers eyes and the breathing tube preventing her from talking, she pointed at me and mouthed out "how are you"? Now that was the type of person she was, always caring for everyone around her and putting herself last. I fought the tears and said I was fine, and for her not to worry, I gave her a kiss and said I would stay as long as she needed me to. I left the room so they could take her and do the tests.
They took a cat scan but there was to much bleeding to get a clear picture. A few more tests were done, and the Neurosurgeon on call said that Debi required a very serious surgery to clip this aneurysm. He said because of the location, which was right smack in the middle of the brain, he did not feel comfortable doing the surgery himself and would like to call in a Neurosurgeon who specializes in only this very specific surgery. It was Monday morning when the Specialist came in and evaluated Debi. He told us that in order for her to have the best chance of survival, he would need to transport her to another hospital which had the specific type of microscopic equipment he would need to use. In the mean time she was kept on heavy sedation to keep the pain level down, and to keep her still.
I went in to visit her again and she opened her eyes and picked up the pad of paper and pencil she had on her lap and wrote out: Please get on the Internet and find out all you can on aneurysms and give it to Norbert, and then she wrote, unless you already have! and I smiled and said it's been done. She wrote, how did I know that?? Then her eyes teared up, and she wrote, who is with my kids? I said I was and would be for as long as they needed me. I said remember...your kids are my kids and my kids are your kids!! She looked up at me and gave a big sigh and tried to smile, but she had suffered a slight stroke and only the right side of her mouth turned up. I cant tell you what it meant that I could bring such comfort to her, by her knowing her kids were with me.
Tuesday came and they transported Debi to another hospital via ambulance. By this time they had removed the breathing tube and as they lifted her into the ambulance, she was heard calling for cocktails, she still had her sense of humor! Wednesday came and so did the surgery. 5 hours and it couldn't have gone more perfect. Her whole family was there including her Mom and Dad, Sister and Brothers, Nieces and nephew, Aunt and Uncle and of course Norbert the kids and myself. We were all ecstatic and almost tackled the Surgeon as he told us the good news. He did remind us of what might come later...brain spasms due to the trauma on the brain from surgery, but we were nothing but optimistic. The worst was over and she had survived!!!
Curt and I decided that with Debi doing so well, and her mother and sister there for the kids, that we would return home and to our jobs while she recuperated. I kept in contact with Norbert and Debi was doing great, in fact Friday night the nurse helped her get out of her bed and sit in a chair, at Debi's request of course! She was not one to lay around, not even after any of her 4 Caesarean Sections she had with the kids. Debi ate a full meal that night also, no clear stuff, she ate the whole thing!!
Norbert called Saturday and said that Debi wasn't doing as well and that they were keeping a close watch for any brain spasms. Sunday was Mother's Day and Debi had taken a turn for the worst. The Neurosurgeon had decided that Debi was in fact experiencing brain spasms and decided to go back into surgery and drain the fluid that had accumulated and to insert an instrument to measure the pressure on the brain. It all seemed to go well. On Monday morning I called Norbert at the hospital from work, and he was quite worried. Debi had gone into a coma. I called Curt and told him I needed to go immediately and he picked me up and drove me to the hospital.
The Neurosurgeon came in and told us that in his opinion Debi had suffered to much damage from the pressure of the spasms and that she had been brain dead since Sunday morning, but he was going to have another specialist come in and give a second opinion. The other doctor confirmed the diagnosis and since Debi had requested not to kept on life support, and had signed over power of attorney to Norbert, he had the difficult job of acknowledging her wishes and requesting that life support be stopped.. The nurses removed all of the equipment and made Debi look as peaceful as possible. I took the two younger children, Megan and Scott into Debi's room and joined Norbert, Tara and Katie to say our last good-byes. I remember forcing myself to be strong for her kids, and also knowing that she wouldn't have left them if she had had a choice. I wondered why this could happen to such a loving giving caring person. She was so young, she had survived cancer! How were we going to survive without her?
I went to the kids' schools the next day and talked to the counselors and requested any and all information and resources they had for situations like this, and received much support from them for the kids, and was informed of many programs available to the family.
I went with Norbert and Thelma, Debi's mother, to the funeral home, and we spent the next few days making all the arrangements. We decided to celebrate Debi's life, rather than mourn her death.
When I returned home from this ordeal, I found an e-mail message from Debi, she had sent it the night before her aneurysm, and I had not had a chance to see it during the crisis. I cried as I read it and was awed by what she wrote. She spoke of how life was not a dress rehearsal, and that now is the time to decide what you will do with it, and to make the changes you need to make to be happy.
Well, I have decided to make those changes, I will be driving solo (I have had a driving phobia) next week, to participate in a tree planting in Debi's honor, on what would have been her 43th birthday, and 24th wedding anniversary. Also, I will be moving back so that I can be close to Norbert and the kids, and also to my family.
Debi is with me now, and she will be in my heart always, and in my thoughts often, I believe she is now our Guardian Angel, as there would be no other reason for her to leave this world.