A community of peers created by the Soaring Spirits Loss Foundation
People often recall the exact thing they were doing when JFK was shot or when the Twin Towers collapsed. They remember the television broadcasts in intimate detail. As they relive the moments, disturbing memories come to life. Why? Because these were unforgettable tragedies that impacted our country in ways we never imagined or expected. We saw the wickedness of evil minds unfold and in conjunction with that we stood in disbelief. We didn’t have words. We were in shock.
Similarly, on March 12, 2012 I watched a tragedy unfold right before my very eyes. As I sat in the radiology waiting area with my husband, we chatted much like we had for the past 25 years of our married life. We could always find something to talk about. But this conversation was different because it ended abruptly when, in the middle of a sentence, he dropped the glass of water he was holding. Unbeknownst to me, he was already gone.
The next several minutes alternate between a mixture of vivid memories and a complete blur. Instantly I called for help while asking him if he was okay. Rick was unresponsive so my former EMT skills kicked in: ABC’s, I reminded myself. I needed to open the airway. I struggled. My frustration quickly grew when I couldn’t get his head to tip backward. It rested against the chair and the wall and he was too big for me to easily move him. Finding him pulseless, I had immediately called a “Code Blue”. Only seconds had passed before hospital employees raced to my rescue. There was a flurry of activity as they moved him to a cart to begin CPR. They intubated him and connected him to a defibrillator which delivered multiple shocks – albeit unsuccessfully. The cardiac meds were injected, but nothing changed.
I sat motionless with tears streaming down my cheeks. Overwhelmed by disbelief and encircled in shock, it all seemed so surreal. I wasn’t really losing my husband, was I? This is just a bad dream. Someone, wake me up – NOW!!! I can’t stand it any longer. I glance at the doctors and I’m certain the look of desperation in my eyes spoke volumes. I felt utterly and completely helpless. My hope rested on them and in the prayers that I was raising up to God.
But on that day, my prayers weren’t answered. I didn’t get a medical miracle. God had far different plans than what I had envisioned for Rick and me. All my hopes and dreams were shattered like a mirror that had been slammed into a concrete floor. I watched as the tips of Rick's earlobes changed to a dismal gray. My medical training told me that oxygenated blood was no longer perfusing and circulating to the tissues; my heart told me he was truly gone – a realization that I had not wanted to accept.
How could this be? How could this possibly be happening???? Here was a man who was completely active and who had only been to a doctor a few times in his adult life. It didn’t matter that his cholesterol was only 160… or that his EKG had been normal two days before… or that his heart enzyme tests all showed he was doing fine… or that his oxygen saturation level was perfect. None of that mattered now. The test results were meaningless. Instead, I was left to face the stark reality of his passing. I was hurled into uncharted territory, thrown onto a path for which there was no GPS to provide directions. I felt so lost.
The sadness and pain which would seep in over the coming weeks were temporarily placed on hold as a result of the impending shock and numbness. But once they started trickling in, things quickly turned into an avalanche. It was the worst, most excruciating, indescribable pain. It was as though a knife had been ripped through my heart, piercing me to the very core of my being. I couldn’t breathe. My nauseated stomach was twisted into knots. The heaviness in my chest weighed me down, like a massive anchor on a ship. I questioned how I could go on without Rick by my side. I didn’t want to move forward. I wanted to be in Heaven with him and I wanted it now. Patience was never one of my virtues; it certainly wasn't my forte' now.
Even though weeks continued to pass, for me time had literally stopped on that Monday morning in March. In a single heartbeat, my life was forever changed.