Saturday, September 5, 2009


After the helicopter took off, I hugged my son and headed toward the hospital. I stopped and got fuel for both the car and myself (in the form of 3 packs of smokes) and called my son. We had to have a horrid discussion between ourselves before we confronted what lay ahead. The human brain has around 6 minutes before atrophy or brain damage begins. As close as the doctors could estimate, between the three codes, Richard had been down between 30-40 minutes. Under any circumstances, our lives had changed in the blink of an eye. I had no formal diagnosis but my spirit told me that he was gone.

After finishing with my conversation with him, I called my Bestie. She is however in Brooklyn, NY so she couldn't come to me. She could calm me and make me sane enough to drive. Now, I have driven to this hospital well over 100 times. Seriously. Crawling, crippled or crazy, I can find this place. However, on this particular day, I got lost. Like I said before, God made me head blind. I turned at the wrong blue "H" and went to the wrong hospital. Every street I took was under construction and blocked. It did provide me the necessary distraction to make me kick into business mode.

When I made it to the hospital, I parked on the roof of the parking garage. I always do this as it is much easier to find my vehicle when I have to leave. Normally it's like 11 days later so basically it's habit. My mother in law had already made it to the hospital and was outside the room. She said they were trying to make her sign some papers for a procedure and she told them she couldn't that I would take care of it. I advised I would be there momentarily and that nothing was to be done until I arrived. The room number was 7717. I raced thru the hospital and made it to her, her husband and my husbands youngest brother who had come from 2 hours away. When I arrived they went downstairs to get coffee while I waited. They were putting a blood pressure monitor in Richard femoral artery. I made a couple of calls, where is my son, my best friend here, my parents, etc. Basically just burning time. When I had enough I went into the room and they promptly threw me out. Less than 10 minutes later, although it felt like 10 hours, the doctor and a nurse came out. They asked where my family was and did I want to wait for them. I said "No." They offered me a chair. I refused. "Just tell me" I said. His exact words were these... "He has no gag reflex, no cough reflex and his eyes are not responding to stimulus. We have him on two kinds of life support. He cannot breathe alone and a drug called Dopamine is causing his heart to beat as well as show some blood pressure. Mrs. Blankenship, I'm sorry but he is brain dead."

Evidently, I passed out. Knowing something in ones head and knowing it in your heart is another matter. I became heart blind at that moment. I was in the business of making this as easy for Richard, my son and his family as humanly possible. When they revived me, I was in the chair they had offered. I was screaming and crying uncontrollably. He started laying out the options when I had composed himself. I could, if I wanted, end it right there. I told him he had family on the road coming from the entire southeast. I asked if they (the family that went downstairs) knew. He said that they "couldn't grasp the information." At that moment I made a fateful decision that I still reap the rewards for everyday. I told him that he and all of the staff was to speak to no one regarding Richard's condition but me. Anything that I wanted shared I would tell them but that this was my husband. There was to be no debate as I would not entertain it. I would have this handled with dignity and that if anyone became hysterical they were to be escorted from my presence.

This may sound harsh. I had a durable power of attorney for my husband. He had trusted me with his life for well over 10 years and had never revoked my privilege. I had made life and death decisions many times and he knew I would always do what was best. Had I not made this determination, there would have been doubt and distention among the ranks of his family. They trusted me as well so my word became law. My son and I would make all of the decisions together and I would bear the brunt of anyone's anger.

We determined that we would wait for the last brain activity tests until 9am the next morning and at that point life support would be disconnected. This would allow his family to say goodbye and to adjust to the situation. I realized then that I would never have the opportunity to do these things as I already knew too much. I went into see my Richard. He was so small and still in that huge bed. I took his hand and the nurse brought me his wedding ring. I put it on my left thumb where it remains to this day. I've never had it off. I felt my tears running down my face as I spoke to him. I told him that it was okay. We will be okay. I love you and I understand. I will make this stop. I cried rivers as I spoke the things that wives say to husbands. I would handle this with dignity and the strength he loved me for. I will take care of this for you my love.

Then the door opened and his mother walked in with the others. I politely asked if they could give us a minute and they left the room. I told Richard I would be strong for him and for them. I steeled myself to tell the worst news of a lifetime and walked into the hall. As I closed the door, my son rounded the corner and I called him to me. I hugged him and took him into the room with his father. When he looked at Richard in the bed he looked at me. Tears filled his beautiful chocolate brown eyes as he said "He's gone Mama?" and I sobbed "Yes baby, he is." I don't think I have ever uttered as hateful a phrase in my life. My heart shattered and the boy I raised turned into the man that is my son before my eyes. He held me and let me cry with him.

We talked about the discussions and decisions I had with the doctors and he agreed with me. Nothing is irrevocable I told him. I can change anything. He said "No mama. It's what must happen. I love you and we will do this together." We stepped out into the hall and I delivered the worst thing one can ever say to another mother. She didn't want to believe it. She didn't understand it. His youngest brother ran from the hall. His oldest brother met him coming out and he told him as well. My son held on to me as the winds of change swirled thru our life and no one but us could feel them.

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