Sunday, April 6, 2014

Coming Home - Going Home

Julie, Bob and the Root Beer Float

In early March my niece, Julie, was visiting Bali for the first time and staying in my house while I was in the States.  Having heard a lot about Bob, she decided to visit him even though she’d never met him. Knowing how much he liked root beer floats she brought one. They had a nice time together – she feeding him his float and talking with him in whatever way seemed appropriate.  
A few days later she was having beach time on a nearby island when I got a Skype call in the States. Bob was back in the clinic running a very high fever. The doctors wanted permission to send him to the hospital. 

After consulting with his daughters we agreed we wanted him sent home.  He had pneumonia again and we wanted to honor his Advanced Medical Directive that clearly stated he did not want antibiotics or heroics in this situation. 

Julie abandoned her beach time and immediately returned to take care of Bob. As an ICU nurse and this was right up her alley. It seemed like Bob was ready to ‘go home’.

I considered flying back to Bali but I had so much left to do in the States before my return that I decided to stay. I’d said good-bye to Bob and put everything into place before I left so that if he didn’t survive my absence, all would be taken care of. Still it was a difficult decision.

Once home from the clinic, Bob steadily improved. Without my knowledge or permission, the clinic had been giving him antibiotics.  When I found this out I could have been angry but it felt so out of my control that all I could think was, ‘there must be a reason Bob is still with us’. 

Finally he improved enough that the IV was removed. He was eating again and getting stronger, although he couldn’t hold his head up unaided.  

I came home to Bali on March 21st. That day Bob stopped eating. I went to see him on the 22nd, our 28th wedding anniversary. His breathing was difficult and burbling.  He was in and out of consciousness. Still I told him how much I love him and what a great husband he was to me. I told him stories of our time together, of our life in Bali these past 25 years. 

It was clear he was dying. He breathed shallow hard breaths. We propped him up higher in the bed and that helped ease the struggle. Bob had always been my protector so I whispered in his ear, “It’s Ok to let go Bob.  I’ll be alright.”

Julie came later in the afternoon. We decided to call the clinic. It was painful to see him struggling so. They checked his heart – irregular and weak. His oxygen level measured only in the 60’s so an oxygen tank was sent round to aid his breathing.  Liquid valium was added to his hydration IV to bring peace to Bob and his wet lungs.

Skype brought his daughter, Michele, into the room from Hawaii. “I love you Dad, and I wish I was there with you. Thank you for being my Dad you’ve been a good one. It’s OK to go. I love you.”

I couldn’t get a hold of Dawn, his other daughter.  There was no turning back from this, no miraculous healing, no Bob outliving us all as had happened over and over in the last years.  I felt swept up in a phenomenon totally out of my control.  All I could do is make Bob as comfortable as possible.

On Sunday the 23rd I went to see him first thing in the morning with a friend who wanted to say good-bye. Julie joined us later. I told him again it was OK to go, I would be alright. I told him how happy I was that he waited for me to come home. I continued telling him stories of our wonderful life together traveling the world and living in Bali.

Gusti, who was the caregiver for that day, told us another man he’d cared for lasted like this for a week, so I had in my mind that Bob was not leaving just yet.  Jet lagged and tired I went home to my own bed that night.

At five the next morning Bob stopped breathing.  He died peacefully, well-loved and well looked after. 

I have felt this entire journey, even in its darkest hours, was somehow blessed.  In some magical way everything we needed was provided. People showed up – angels I call them – like Julie at just the right time.  Bob’s cottage came to me when I could no longer take care of him and thought I’d have to put him in a Alz unit in the States.  Daisy the Dashound needed a home and he needed a pet and he’d grown up with Dashounds.  It all fell into place when the time was right. People, with things to teach me, appeared like the Australian couple, he a retired geriatic physician and she a social worker for families dealing with Alzheimer’s. They trained me and the two new caregivers I’d hired in 2007,

I have so much to be grateful for in this journey into Alz World. And most of all I’m grateful that my adoring and adored husband and I had such a fulfilling and fantastic life together, living our dreams.  I have no regrets – this is the life we were handed and I think we did the best we could with it. Thank you, Bob.