My Newest Angel

On Tuesday November 13th, my best friend Debbie came to our house to exercise with me. She had lost 30 lbs in about the last 6 months all on her own by eating right and wanted to keep going so I decided to help her and we’d been doing light weights and cardio for about a month or two. Soon after we started that morning, she got dizzy and I made her sit. She got sick and I asked her if I needed to call 911. Something inside me just told me it was serious. She nodded so I grabbed my phone and called. She fell back and was unresponsive. The EMS arrived within 5 to 7 minutes. I calmly called her husband. I didn’t want to scare him although I knew it was bad. I told him she had gotten sick and asked me to call an ambulance. He told me to take her to Brookwood Hospital and he asked if she was conscious. I had to tell him no. He asked me to please ride in the ambulance with her which I had planned to do anyway.

The ambulance driver told me I would have to ride in the front. Two of the EMS (fire department) went in the ambulance as well. Even before we left the house, they had her on the bag to breathe so I knew she wasn’t breathing on her own. It just wasn’t good. No need for all the details. When we got to the hospital, I asked to go in with her. The ambulance driver told me I needed to go in the main entrance and register. I waited until they brought her out of the ambulance and I kissed her forehead as I ran along side. I basically threw her insurance card and drivers license at the registration clerk and took off into the room where they had her. There was a doctor there already. They told me I would have to leave so they could get her stabilized and they put me alone in a small waiting/consultation room. I just felt like I was going to throw up.

Scott, her husband finally arrived at the hospital and wanted to know what happened. I told him everything. The doctor came in shortly and told us that she coded as they brought her in but they had revived her. They were sending her for a ct scan. He asked about what happened and I explained. He said we would be able to go in after they got her back from CT but that she was currently on a ventilator and not breathing on her own. By the time we went in, Debbie’s mother was there as well. The doctor told us that she had several vessels burst in her brain and the damage was extensive; the outlook for her was bleak and we should prepare for the worst. I then left so the family could be with her.

She spent two days in the SICU, never regained consciousness and two subsequent scans showed no brain function. Scott removed her from the ventilator on Nov 15th and she was gone. I know she was gone when it happened. Poor Scott just prayed and prayed for a miracle.

Please know, I have a great therapist (thank goodness) and I am doing ok. I have good days and bad days. But I am comfortable knowing I did all I could and all that could have been done. I’m thankful she was here with me and not alone, driving or with her husband or kids. All my pain and sorrow are of the selfish sort; me missing my best friend. We never had an argument and every memory I have of our times together involve laughter and hilarity. We ended every visit and phone call with an “I love you”.

Debbie leaves behind two boys ages 12 and 7 as well as a helpless husband. Scott’s (retired) parents have moved in with him for the next 3 months. He asked them to and they are wonderful people. Poor Scott keeps texting me and is worried about ME. My friend Betsy and I took him out last week on our scheduled girls night out that we had with Debbie. I think he felt awkward at first but truthfully, we didn’t talk about anything we wouldn’t have otherwise and it was good for all of us.

Like I said, I just wanted you to know and I wasn’t sure I could tell the story again. A friend of mine offered me this advice that I’m finding to be helpul: “Regardless of all the crap that happens today – tomorrow is a new day and the sun is going to keep coming up – so put on your ‘Fuck It’ shoes and take it one step at a time.” So that’s what I’m doing.

Debbie and Me

Notes I sent to friends after:

Nov 14, 2012:  She was with me when it happened. I did everything I knew to do and called 911 and rode in the ambulance, but I knew it was bad. Really bad. This couldn’t have happened to a more undeserving person. Bless her. She was my running buddy here. She was the ONE person I KNEW would be here if I needed anything. She helped me with so much when my mom was sick…kept my kids, brought food, walked my fucking dog. I always felt I could not possibly do enough to repay her for that. And she rarely asked me for a damn thing. I got no buddy. I got no go to girl. Her two boys have no mommy. My 11yr old son asked my husband last night, “What will Jake and Hudson do without a Mommy?” How can life be so cruel to such undeserving people?

Nov 18, 2012:  My friend Debbie was with me when this happened. And I fucking kicked it like a NINJA to get the EMS and ambulance here. It couldn’t have been done any better or faster. My house is right by the fire department. I was calm, and I loved on her like I would my own child. But I knew she was gone when it happened. Her husband just could not help but pray for a miracle, God bless him.

I am doing ok. I just feel like I want to vomit. I wish I could vomit and just “feel all better” but that’s not how it works with this type thing. I have a good therapist, thank God. And I will get through. But she was my ONE person. I’m a ONE person girl. And she is gone.

I keep talking to people and telling stories like I remember doing with my Mama like she’s still alive. I can’t stop doing that yet. I can’t believe it. But I am SO GLAD I was the one there and not her husband, or her kids, or her alone or her driving. I wouldn’t have it any other way. Every story I tell about her ends in laughter and hilarity. That’s how we rolled. But even just tonight with my sister here, I can’t tell a story without her being there or involved. And it makes me sad to think she’s gone.

So be it. It has done some wonderful things no matter how horrible it is for me. When I had to tell my kids, they knew she was in the hospital and very ill, I was honest from the beginning. But I happened to have a moment alone with my son on Thursday night and told him. My daughter wandered near shortly after. I went to tell her and started closing doors but Cole wanted to be in there, I could tell. I asked him if he wanted to be there with us and he did. So I let him. He stood with his back turned while I told him, tinkering with her toys. And after I told her and she was crying, he came over. I explained to them that they are brother and sister and they will have each other for times like these. I said, “Cole, you love your sister, don’t you?” And he said, “Yes, ma’am.” I said, “Will you give her a hug?” and he embraced her. He did, no questions asked. A big ole genuine hug. Then he walked out. Two seconds later, he came back with a Dum Dum out of his Halloween candy and said, “Here, Ila. I want you to have this.” And the two of them have been playing together peacefully and joyfully since. THIS HAS NEVER HAPPENED!!!

It may not last but some good things may come from this. It just sucks for me, you know?


“Hey sugar!”

Two years ago tonight, I was at home. My sister was at my house to see my mother who was ill with cancer. My mother was no longer coherent or speaking. About 8pm, my sister called on me telling me my mother’s breathing had changed. I went up to check on her and indeed her respiratory functions were much slower. She was already on a catheter at this point and had not been out of the bed in a month or more. I immediately called the hospice nurse line. The return call I received was from a nurse we’d never dealt with and was filled with lots of questions about how my mother was breathing, etc. The nurse had just gotten out of the shower at home but said she would be over as soon as she could. My mom had only been on hospice care for about one month.

The nurse arrived shortly after 9pm. Tracy and I were in the room with my mother and luckily, both children were already asleep in the basement. Luke showed the nurse up to the room where my mother was.  She came in and took my mother’s pulse and listened to her breathing with her stethoscope. She then looked at Tracy and me and said, “You have about three minutes.”

I had read all the brochures and information the hospice group had to offer about the different signs of death and preparing for the end. One of the most important things was to let your loved one know it was ok to let go. I didn’t want my mother to continue to suffer so I bent over to her and told her in her ear that I loved her and that it was ok for her to let go. Within three minutes, just as the nurse said, she gasped for her last breath.

Two years have passed and there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think she might come through the door at any minute and say, “Hey sugar!” like she always did with open arms for that hug and with her big smile.  I miss her.