Saturday, January 3, 2009

Past December, finally.

December is always my worst month. Didn't use to be. For most of my life, I looked forward to the holiday season. I was one of those annoying people who started shopping just after one Christmas for the NEXT one. Generally, my shopping was done by September, and everything was wrapped in October so that I could enjoy doing all the baking and just kick back and watch while everyone else scurried around from Black Friday forward. I was chomping at the bit to get my Christmas tree up (although my husband insisted that I wait at LEAST until December.)

All of that changed after December of 2000. My son was 13. I had been married for sixteen and a half years. We celebrated my husband's 45th birthday on the 13th. Good times. Went to several Christmas parties, insulted the 13 y/o by having Grandma come stay with him while we had dinner out and attended one particularly late party the weekend after my husband's birthday. Excellent times...and there are pictures to prove it.

Three days later, everything fell apart. Hank woke me up at 3 am to tell me he wasn't feeling so well and thought he needed to see a doctor. Smart ass that I am... my sleepy reply was, "So, if I make an appointment, are you actually going to GO?" He said, "uhm...I think maybe we need to go to the ER." I promise, those words make you instantly awake. In retrospect, it's weird how organized I was... I managed to call and get someone to cover his call (he volunteered with a rescue squad), called my mom to come stay with our son, got my clothes on and hair brushed, before he finished getting dressed. Weird fact: rescue volunteers never call EMS... It wasn't til we were almost in the hospital parking lot that Hank started describing symptoms. I pulled up to the ambulance bay doors, he went in, and by the time I got parked and came in to registration, he was in a room, hooked up to a zillion beeping things... and they knew he'd already had one MI. (heart attack).

It's odd. so much of the next month is a blur, yet that one day I can give you almost a minute-by-minute rundown of what happened...who was there, what was said... all of it. I won't, cos that's not the point of this.

The cliff notes version is that he had me call Mom to bring our son to the hospital that morning before he was sent to IC. Things never stablilized, so finally we had him transferred to another hospital, and Hank died within 18 hours of waking me up that morning. The cardiothoracic surgeon said that even if he'd been standing next to my husband when the big attack happened, he wouldnt have been able to change the outcome. Most people would have died on the spot. Hank was in such excellent physical condition that he survived, pretty much by will... for nearly a day.

I have been blessed many times over in my life... those hours are one of God's greatest gifts to my son and me. We both know it. We both dread Decembers anyhow.


  1. Thanks for sharing this very personal story. In 2004, my 36 year old partner had a heart attack and died right in front of me. It was over within less than 5 minutes. I have beaten myself up quite a few times even though I know that he had a history of heart problems. He had 2 heart attacks when he was 30. Luckily he survived them. I still can't believe it happened.

  2. I'm so sorry for your loss, Craig. I hope that you've stopped beating yourself up.

  3. I am so glad that the doctor had the presence of mind to communicate to you that he (or anyone else) could not have done a "better" job by reacting more quickly. That single sentence can make a world of difference, especially in those silent moments of sleepless staring at the ceiling.

    The older I get, the more difficult Decembers become. As soon as I let go of one person, someone else needs to be released. I cannot even imagine trying to face what you have faced. We had one overnight cardiac stay with my husband when we were still engaged, and I banned bacon and deep frying from the house (completely. There's never been either in the house since LOL).

    I hope the good has begun to come back to you without the ache that seems to be always tangled in. I don't know if that makes sense... I'm having trouble putting it into words.

  4. Makes perfect sense to me... and I thank you for your words. You've sparked an idea for my next bit of writing.

  5. Elaine, thank you so much for sharing your story. For many years December was very hard for my family, too, as my 16yo brother was killed in a car wreck 2 days after Christmas. It seemed so strange to me for us to be putting up decorations and celebrating when the memories and emotions of that time were not something I wanted to celebrate. Of course I was just a teenager too, and age has brought wisdom - or at least more insight and acceptance. I hope you are also finding some peace.