On September 23, 2003 while watching television with our family my husband and father of our four boys died suddenly of a Ruptured Thoracoabdominal Aortic Aneurysm.
Three month's prior John went to our doctor's office (almost a first in his life) complaining of lower back pain. Suspecting a kidney stone, he was given a prescription for Valium and sent home. He never had what would have been a "typical" passing of the stone, but a week later the pain subsided. He never filled the Valium scrip ("I don't need that stuff"!)
On Friday, September 19th, my husband left the house to run some errands in town. At 11:00 am I received a call from our doctor stating that John had come into the office with chest pain and that he was being admitted to ER for further tests. He told me upon arrival that he felt as if he had been kicked in the chest by one of our Belgian Horses (large drafts, weighing over one ton), had excruciating back pain, a numb big toe and was dizzy and saw stars. After blood work, x-rays (which were shown to me), urinalysis, EKG etc., John was sent home told to purchase Tagament or Pepcid and try that for a week and let the doctor know. Not being able to lay down on his back for these tests, and throwing up a stomach "cocktail", made the long hours of laboratory testing hard for him. We were told, "This is not life threatening."
Because I work a at our local hospital as a Human Services support employee, I knew every person in the ER that day. I often had lunch meetings with the local doctors. I trusted and felt confident that every test had been done to rule out a "heart attack".
On Tuesday, September 29th, John awoke feeling worse than ever. He kept stating that someone was standing on his chest and that his back was "killing" him. Obviously the Tagament he had been taking along with 12 Advil daily was not touching his pain or solving the problem. He called to make a doctor's appointment. I asked if he wanted me to go with him and he told me that "there's no reason for you to waste your day to".
When John returned from the Doctors office we talked for nearly two hours. The Doctor was assuming it was a back problem, gave him a bag of sample Ultracet (a narcotic pain reliever) and told him that if his back was not better in a few days they could try some shots in the nerves in his back.
John took two Ultracet (while I looked it up on the internet), at about noon. He spent the day mostly in his recliner, (a man who was a self-employed business owner for 15 years and a rancher who never spent the day in a chair). At 4:30pm, while in the kitchen with our youngest son who had just returned form school John came in and took two more Ultracet, saying that they must be working because he could tell they were wearing off.
John had a good dinner and was in good spirits, spending the evening with our two boys who still live at home. He was watching television with our youngest while our high school senior and I were shopping for jeans on the internet.
I heard a scream "DAD!, MOM, MO..... I knew immediately.
After reaching the living room and seeing my 41 year old husband laying over in the chair, I picked up my 200#, muscular, physically fit love of my life, put him on the floor and started CPR. I had just been certified in CPR three weeks prior, and had actually received my card the day before.
Our 18 year old called 911, while our 15 year old was hysterical with no one to comfort him. Living in a rural area it was over 5 minutes before a sheriffs deputy arrived and assisted with compressions. When the ambulance crew arrived I just knew that they could shock him and he would come back. "NO SHOCK ADVISED" were the worst words I ever saw in my life.
The ambulance crew worked for 30 minutes, airways, fluids, a call for a stimulant - to no avail. A "hot" trip to town. He was gone.
When I saw the doctor, all I saw was devastation in his face. Knowing all the staff and seeing "the best" had been called in was comforting, but can't bring him home to us today.
Three days later, typing into the browser on my computer the cause of death reported by autopsy - I see that my husband had classic signs, for those who have any signs at all.
We have a strong family. Our oldest son married in August of 2002, asking his father to be his best man. My husbands proudest day! We just sent our second son off to college this fall. Number three will graduate this May, and works hard everyday after being diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy at the age of four, to keep up with this active family. Then there is the baby - only fifteen, and just becoming "Dad's best friend".
And my tears flow.
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