On Thursday evening , May 29, Clint was in so much respiratory distress that I was afraid to go to sleep, so on Friday, I called for home oxygen. That night we both got some rest, but he continued to deteriorate. His son Robert, helpless as the rest of us, wanted to help his father with his breathing treatments, so I turned them over to him. Though Clint was never able to complete a treatment, Robert hung in there and got as much medication into him as he could.
The sound of the O-2 concentrator made me physically ill, reminding me as it did of the one my brother John had when he was dying of kidney cancer. It was the sound of death lurking around the corner, but I continued to tell myself that it would not come right away, that we had months more time with Clint, maybe even a year.
Denial is an incredibly strong emotion. I am a nurse, for God’s sake, and I could not see that my husband was dying before my eyes. I listened to his chest, hearing breath sounds that weren’t there, calling them muffled or diminished. I did not check his blood pressure.
We struggled along. Clint became more and more confused, but I couldn’t see it - called it fatigue. In Robert’s absence, he tried to give himself his breathing treatment, not wanting to bother me, and he tore up the adapter and I had to call for another one.
The days were filled with long naps, coughing spells, useless breathing treatments and attempts to watch old movies. Clint was cranky with me and I was exhausted. Why did I not see that he was not himself? Why did it take me until the following Wednesday night, June 3, to realize that if I didn’t take him to hospital, he would die at home - in agony?
Late that evening, I called 911, asking for an ambulance only to help me transport Clint to hospital. After I called them, Clint got into his chair, wheeled himself into the bathroom, brushed his teeth, combed his hair, gathered his dop kit and peed. By the time the EMTs were here, he was coming around the corner into the living room with his dop kit in his lap saying he could get himself outside to the ambulance. He could hardly breathe, but he put up an incredible front.
Since the stretcher was already in the living room, the EMT very gently suggested that they go ahead and put Clint on it, and he acquiesced. (The ambulance had arrived, siren blaring and with a fire truck close behind, thundering and honking). So much for asking for transportation only. I’m sure everyone on the block was awake to see the ambulance pull out of our driveway.
I followed in my car, scared out of my mind that he would die before I got to the hospital.