This is a continuation of part 1.
After he was taken away, one of the nurses gave me the address for the hospital where he was being transported. It was going to be a 45 minute drive in Chicago’s rush hour traffic. I had no idea how to get there and felt more alone than I’ve ever felt in my life. As I pulled out of the parking lot, I saw the helicopter in the air taking him away. I didn’t know if he was alive or dead. To this day, seeing helicopters in the air can give me brutal, tearful anxiety attacks.
Once I arrived at the hospital, I was greeted by the neurosurgeon who told me that the prognosis was not good. He told me that my husband had a grade 4 bleed and grade 5 was instant death. I was told that ⅓ of aneurysm patients never make it to the hospital, ⅓ spend the rest of their lives in nursing facilities, and ⅓ live with deficits to some degree. Throughout this ordeal, I was given the worst case scenario at every turn, yet he continued to defy the odds.
I did not leave his side for the first two days that he was in a coma, so I decided to go home, shower, change clothes, and make a few phone calls that needed to be returned. When I came back from the apartment, I walked into the room to see him sitting up, eating animal crackers, watching cartoons, and talking nonsense. I cried. I cried harder than I’ve ever cried in my life because there was hope. I never expected to see him do normal things again.
He spent the next two weeks in the ICU. He’d sleep, at most, a half hour at a time. I stayed awake when he was awake because he constantly tried to pull out the tube in his head that was draining excess fluid. It was at this point that I became like a rabid dog – another reaction that you don’t think you’d have. I screamed at him, cursed him, and yelled at him to leave the fucking tube alone. He managed to get it out once after I’d ran to the parking lot to take a quick smoke break. He was left unattended, so he yanked it out, which put him at a severe risk of infection.
A nurse came in and told me that he pulled out the tube because he knew that I was going out to smoke, so his nicotine craving made him try to get outside. I asked if he’d said that directly. She admitted that he had not, so I completely lost it on her. I couldn’t walk out of the room for ten minutes to leave him under their watch, yet she wanted to blame me. Oh, hell no, honey, you have no idea what you’ve just unleashed.
During those two weeks, he saw many doctors, most of whom contradicted each other. The only ones I could trust were the neurosurgeons. I’d tell them what the other doctors had said or the new medications that they prescribed, then they’d change things back to the way that they wanted him treated. My frustration pushed me past my breaking point. None of the experts were on the same page. I went from someone who was intimidated by doctors to someone who said on a regular basis “No, fuck you. You aren’t changing anything until you ask the neurosurgeon first.” Trust me, made no friends at the hospital. I became like a caged, overprotective lioness watching over a cub because he was unable to be his own advocate.
At the end of two weeks, I was told that he would be released. Normally there is a step-down process where he’d be moved into a regular room for a while, so I don’t know if it was an insurance issue or what, but he was coming home. I was terrified because he was still having hallucinations and clearly not back to his old self again. Was I able to care for him? What should I do if something happened? The fear of that responsibility was unlike anything that I’ve ever experienced before.
(To be continued)