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In the Face of Death

by Amber LeBlanc 3 months ago in family · updated 3 months ago
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Life is Sweeter

Photo by Amber LeBlanc

Many of us have faced the loss of someone we know or love in the past couple of years. I have lost people in my life before, but the past couple years hit different. The face of death was becoming one that I recognized and I didn’t like it.

In November of 2020, I lost my Grandpa. He was 82 years old. He lived a full and happy life, his body just started breaking down over time and his heart couldn’t take it anymore. When I lost my Grandpa, I was okay. I had already lost a full set of Grandparents by the time I was thirteen. As an adult I knew the time would come eventually. It didn’t make me any less sad or miss him any less, but I had peace.

Five months later we had my Grandpa’s memorial, that was the last weekend I saw my dad. Two weeks after his own fathers memorial my dad died. It was unexpected. He wasn’t in poor health, he was an avid bicyclist. He worked full time and was looking forward to retirement in a few years. He was young. There was so much life left in him. His death wrecked me.

I didn’t fall down and cry when it happened. I stepped up, supported my mom, coordinated details, filled out paperwork and did what needed to be done. I didn’t let myself grieve as I should have. It took weeks and while I never broke down and cried, I lost it. I was ready to give it all up and move away. I didn’t realize how much of an impact my dad had on me until he wasn’t there anymore.

Less than five months after losing my dad, my husband got sick. Not just a cough or a cold, but very sick. I could see something wasn’t right. I asked him if he was feeling okay, if he wanted to go to the doctor and he waved me off, until he couldn’t. He was non-responsive. He was breathing but barely. I called 911 to get an ambulance on the way and then held him and kissed him. I told him that I loved him, in the time of covid I didn’t know if or when I would see him again.

It was 9pm on Sunday, August 21st. The Paramedics came in and I saw their machine as they took his stats, his oxygen level was 37.

I knew I probably wouldn’t get to see him but I went to the hospital anyway. I waited for any word, any news. They intubated him the moment he got to the hospital and they were treating him with Tylenol because that was all they could do for Covid. I was angry.

Hours later they came back and told me that he had pneumonia and they could treat that. They were finally doing something. At 1 am Monday morning my only options were to live in the waiting room or go home. I knew I couldn’t stay and I had to face the reality that my husband wasn’t coming home that day.

I couldn’t see him, couldn’t talk to him, after spending the last week by his side while he was sick, I was no longer able to be near him. My heart was broken and I was a little lost. I had to do something, so I did. I called the hospital, every few hours. I made it my job to know everything. I didn’t understand all the terms but friends who had medical backgrounds helped me translate. My life was consumed with his stats. When he was doing well, so was I. When he was doing poorly, so was I. If not for my daughter I don’t know if I would have eaten some days, not for lack of food but lack of desire.

The days dragged on and the nights were never ending. I knew the probabilities, I had heard the statistics. The longer he stayed on the ventilator the less chance he had of coming off it. It was 11 days before they were able to even wake him up. They called me on the phone and let me speak to him. I fumbled with words and didn’t know what to say. He didn’t respond, he was awake but not aware, like an infant who can’t communicate. He couldn’t have spoken if he wanted to as he still depended on the ventilator to breathe. It would be 7 more long days until he was off of it.

Life went on outside the hospital, and there were the things that people don’t talk about when this happens. We paid separate bills. I didn’t know where or how to pay some, and if he didn’t recover I wasn’t sure how I would handle them. Every day was touch and go, inside the hospital and out.

After almost a month in the hospital he was finally out of ICU. The minute they called me I threw my shoes on and rushed out the door. I was at the hospital every moment I could be. The man in the hospital bed was not the same man who had gone in. He couldn’t stand and had partial use of only one arm. He lost weight and his face looked gaunt and unhealthy. Even though he was okay it would be another 3 weeks in a rehab facility to get him functional. There was no promise of getting him back to normal. The goal was to get him functional enough to walk with assistance, put on his shoes, brush his teeth, and feed himself. The fighter in him wanted more but there is only so much the body can do.

After almost two months it was exciting to have him home. It didn’t last long, within 2 weeks he was in the hospital again. He spent another three days in the hospital. They sent him home with a heart that was a ticking time bomb. It was not evacuating like it should and he was in heart failure.

Every day was a struggle, the nights terrifying. I prayed that he would wake up every morning. He was on the cusp of sudden death for 5 months. Time and medication got him to a place where the danger is not as imminent.

It has almost been a year and life is still not the same. There are days that go really well and others where it seems like a step back. He has made great strides.

The time he spent in the hospital was agony. Every day I didn’t know whether he would live or die. When he was out we didn’t know if our life would have any semblance of what it used to. The months of fear of his heart failing seemed endless, but they did end.

Unlike my dad and my Grandpa, my husband is still with me. None of this journey has been easy. I have never had a day where I felt like things were going according to plan. Those who say there are things worse than death don’t see what I see.

I see a man who fought bravely in the face of insurmountable odds. A man who against all odds is nearly back to the life he once knew. I will take the scary, the hard, and all the battles that come with it to have my husband home with me.

Death is certain and final. Life, however uncertain and hard, means it isn’t over yet.


About the author

Amber LeBlanc

A writer with a passion for life. I enjoy tech but have a Masters in English, Bachelors in Communication, and a Certificate in Nutrition. Fiction to non-fiction, I write it all.

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