It was just like any other day... At least it started out that way, but ended in a nightmare.
I work at my parents house with my dad. On the 15th of August, at a little past 3 in the afternoon, my dad opened the door to the office and said "Karen...come here!" and was gone before I got even got turned around from my computer. Something in his voice scared me bad, and I immediately ran after him. He went into the bathroom in their bedroom, and there was my mom, on the floor in front of the toilet, aspirating her own vomit, completely unresponsive and breathing with a loud snoring sound. My heart sank to my knees, because I knew that something really bad had happened inside her head. Dad picked her up, but we couldn't get her out of the bathroom, so I told him to hold up her head so she could breathe better, and I turned and ran for the phone. I told the woman at 911 that my mom had a history of aneurysm and high blood pressure and that she had either had another aneurysm or a really bad stroke.
In 1966, an aneurysm that was behind her right eye had been clamped off. A couple of days later she threw the clamp, and they went in and re-clamped it. That clamp held. In 1994, she suffered a ruptured iliac artery in her abdomen. The doctor repaired it and she survived, but barely. The doctor who did the repair said he thought it was an old seat belt injury. I had my doubts, and I asked her if she thought it could be related to the aneurysm in her brain, and she said that the doctor told her he didn't think so.
EMS came and got her out of the bathroom and onto the gurney very quickly. They intubated her and put into the ambulance, where they had to stabilize her before they could even leave for the hospital. At the hospital here in Kerrville, they suspected that she had in fact either thrown the clamp on the old aneurysm, or ruptured a new one, and that she had severe bleeding in her brain. They talked of doing a CAT scan there, and then sending her by Critical Care Air Ambulance to San Antonio. My mother was so unstable, they decided to just send her on to San Antonio after speaking with the neurosurgeon there. They let us see her, and the flight nurse told us that she was so critical she may not even live through the 20 minute flight.
Dad, my 14 year old daughter Jennifer and I left for San Antonio immediately. It was a very long drive. Two months earlier I had made the same trip after my daughter was in a serious car accident and had been airlifted to San Antonio. I knew in my heart how bad it was, and I tried to gently warn my dad about what to expect. He would not really listen though, my dad always tries to stay on the positive side of everything.
When we got to the hospital, we were sent to the Neuro Critical Care Unit. We were met immediately by the neurosurgeon in charge of my mom's case. He told us that she was stable, but deeply comatose, unable to breathe without a ventilator, and with almost no ne neurologic functioning. He explained the tests they ran, and said that my mom had basically no response to any of it. A CAT scan had revealed another aneurysm had ruptured (the other was still clamped), and that it was in the middle of the front part of the brain. She'd suffered a massive hemorrhage into her brain, and that every space in her head not filled with brain was filled with blood, and it was even in her spinal fluid. Nothing could be done surgically for her. He said that he had never seen a patient in the condition of my mother survive. Then he said that she would be a candidate for organ donation. You see that on TV so much, but you can't even begin to fathom how it feels until you are sitting there yourself hearing those words. Dad looked so stricken, and my daughter started to cry. I just went numb. Dad asked him if there was any chance at all of her recovering, and the doctor said it would take a miracle. I couldn't believe the day had started out like it always did, and then we were thrust into such an incomprehensible horror. Mom never said one word about feeling bad, was in a good mood, had just got done eating lunch...she never even had a headache. There was no warning at all.
For my father's peace of mind, we tried to give her as much time as we could to come out of it. But she slipped further and further away and began to fail on her own. So 6 days later on the 21st of August, 2000...they turned the ventilator off and we were told that my mother became the first non heart beating organ donor at Methodist Hospital. All that we could donate was one of her kidneys, but it went to a 53 year old woman in end stage renal failure. Last report she was doing well. We also participated in tissue donation. It helped make my mom's death a little easier to bear knowing she would be helping others. It was what she wanted.
By the time we let her go, she was ready and so were we...even though it was the hardest thing we have ever done in our lives. My mom was no longer really in that room, and she was never coming back. It was so hard to say good bye. She was only 54.
The unreality and shock of it all is with me still...every day when I go to work at my parents house and her presence is no longer there. It is so hard for me to get used to the idea that she is never coming back.
One thing that we have since learned, is that mom should have been monitored since the first aneurysm was operated on. Her medical history has followed her everywhere she has been, through several different doctors, in several states. Not one in 33 years, including the one's that repaired the first aneurysm and the ruptured iliac artery ever even to our knowledge suggested it. That makes me angry because this could have been prevented, if even just one would have said something.
The world still turns everyday, and life goes on as it must. But it will never be the same. I'm 34 and I feel like a lost little girl and I don't think the shock will ever go away. I will miss her terribly.
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