The gardenias didn’t bloom last year until after Poppy died. Today, I’m at my desk, looking out over the back yard, and it is filled with hundreds of blossoms and the perfume sneaks around the closed doors and windows. Maybe they bloom for him? Or me?
A year ago, early in the morning of May 4, 2009, around 1 AM or so, Poppy was restless and pulling at his tubing and fussing at me. The ER doctor walked into our little room - not even a real ER room because they were so busy.
“His ammonia level is over 330,” he solemnly reported.
“Oh,” I said. “That explains his crankiness and confusion.” (Normal ammonia levels in human beings range from 10 to 40). I asked for the papers, the ones I swore to Clint that I would sign if there were no hope.
“Care and comfort only,” I said. Try to get him stable enough to take home. He does not want to die here.”
I called Kristy, and she came right away, then we decided to call Robert. We saved our call for Gretchen until after daylight since she was 1200 miles away.
Clint was transferred to a real ER room, and a friend of our family, Donny Robinson, a chest surgeon, drained a liter and a half of fluid from Clint’s chest cavity. It was not pleural fluid, it was abdominal fluid called ascites which collects in the abdominal cavity in the last throes of liver failure. There was so much fluid, it had breached Clint’s diaphram and was what was causing all his dramatic shortness of breath.
I stood at the head of his bed and whispered “Fight, Darling, you have to fight. I know you can do this. Don’t give up, keep fighting.” He looked into my eyes and slowly moved his head back and forth to say no. I could read in his eyes that he was too tired to fight, so I told him we would go home. He nodded yes.
“I’m ready to start the discharge process,” I said tearfully to Kristy and Bert. “Poppy is not going to get well this time, and I want to take him home to die.”
“I have to hear it from the doctor,” said Kristy. I don’t believe he is dying right now.”
“Then let’s talk to the doctor and see what she says.”
We made an appointment to see Dr. Bickley on her lunch hour. She agreed that this was Clint’s terminal episode, but she had good news, too. There will never be a way for me to thank Kristy for insisting on seeing the doctor. Dr. Bickley asked to keep Poppy overnight, saying there were some procedures to bring down his ammonia level so he would be more himself. Then we could take him home.
We called Gretchen and got her on a plane.
They moved Poppy to ICU, so we couldn’t stay with him, so on Thursday night I went home and tried to rest. Gretchen got home at 2 AM, and I got up at 4. I dressed and went to the hospital and begged the nurses to let me in to be with Clint. His nurse told me that, three times during the night, he asked her to call me to come get him and take him home.
We made hospice arrangements, and I went to tell Poppy we were going home, and that we would be taking hospice with us. He said, “I think that’s a good idea.”
His mind was clear, his ammonia level was normal, but it was only a matter of time before more fluid would build up and his ammonia level would, too.
So we went home, but not before he ate a lunch of roast beef, mashed potatoes and gravy and green beans