Thursday, February 14, 2019

5 years

The wind woke me at three this morning. It was howling and the windows were rattling. It was the kind of storm that makes you brace fro a crashing tree or a breaking window, but nothing like that happened. I was warm and comfortable in my bed, but I still didn't go back to sleep for a very long time. I found myself remembering that terrible Valentine's morning 5 years ago.

It was a little later, like 4:15 or so when I heard Maggies' nurse yelling for help. I ran down there as I had so many nights before that ready to deal with the emergency du jour. We were used to them and very good at handling them.  But not this time.

Maggie wasn't breathing. I suctioned, but her airway was clear. I tried mouth to mouth - or to be accurate, mouth to trach. That had worked one time before. Nothing. I changed the trach. Nothing. The nurse was on the phone to 911 but she was too upset to convey information clearly. Steve took the phone from her and the firemen were on their way.

They seemed to get there immediately, but it's likely that some of those efforts above were after the call. So many things about that night are crystal clear but the timeline is not one of them.  They swarmed into the house and started doing all the things I had done. Nothing. They were doing CPR. Nothing. They kept trying. Nothing. Steve and I stood holding on to one another just outside the french doors leading to Maggie's room. We could see everything because the doors are glass. I can still see her lying there. She wasn't responding.

After about 15-20 minutes, the head fireman looked at us and said we will try for another five minutes. FIVE MINUTES MORE. We were terrified. Then the paramedic said, "I have a heartbeat." It had been 25 minutes since the nurse yelled for help. I knew.

They transported us to the hospital and I sat in the front of the ambulance for the short ride. It seemed to take an hour. I was conscious of the siren but amazed that it was so muffled inside the truck. I remember passing the entrance to Golden Gate Park on Stanyan and still think of that whenever I pass that intersection (which is often). We go to the hospital.

There must have been 20 people in "trauma 1" where they were working on her. All of the ER personnel and all of the paramedics and firefighters and Steve and I. We probably answered questions and likely filled out forms, but I don't remember that. I only remember the amount of people and the frenzy. A hospital chaplain came and stood quietly with Steve and I. And I knew.

Maggie was whisked up to the Peds ICU. We were right next to her and as we headed out I saw the young paramedic look up from where he was doing his paperwork, Our eyes locked for a minute and he just nodded very solemnly. He knew too.

Maggie never regained consciousness and died 36 hours later. It was awful staying there knowing there was no hope, but it gave us time to get her brothers here and to "prepare ourselves" for the worst. We didn't know then that there is no way to be prepared.   

And now it's been five years since that day, the worst day of my life. I don't know why anniversaries are so difficult - I mean I miss her every day, not any more today than any other. But on February 14 and 15th we have to relive it all. 

And the ending never changes.

Miss you, Maggie. Keep watch over us.