Friday, July 5, 2013

Doug's last 2 days

This has been lost in my "drafts" for a long time. As 2017 begins, it again reminds me of my amazing husband and the precious faith we shared. 

On Saturday morning in Seattle, Kathy, Sam and I had left for the afternoon at 1:30 pm. We returned about 4 hours later to several messages, the last one telling us that we were to call Eagle Ridge Hospital immediately. The call had come  at 1:36 pm. We made the call and were told that Doug had collapsed at the manor that morning, been transferred to Eagle Ridge Hospital and then been taken to Burnaby General Hospital. We were told that he was seriously ill.
The 3 of us arrived at BG at about 8:30 pm on Saturday evening. Sam was picked up by K's friend Kerry and Kathy and I went in to find Doug on oxygen and multiple intravenous lines. His blood pressure had crashed. Not long after they had to intubate him as well. His condition would not allow him to be moved for tests but they suspected an issue with the liver, pancreas, or an abdominal stroke.
When we returned early the next morning, we were told they had almost lost him in the night. He was now on maximum life support. Finally, late Sunday morning, they managed a CT SCAN which suggested an ischemic bowel.  Doug amazed the doctors because he was fully conscious despite his condition and the extreme medication levels. Carolyn our oldest daughter had arrived by then as well. She and her family had also been away that weekend to their Church family retreat near Princeton. The 3 of us started to sing hymns and Doug mouthed the words along with us. I'd ask him if that was a good one and he'd nod and smile. He tried to tell us something, but because of all the medical apparati, there was so much that we couldn't catch. We tried to spell the words out but that did little to help. 
And so it was for about 2 hours when finally the surgeon and anaesthesiologist called us in for a conference. Their message to us was that the untreated condition was fatal. They also told us that intervention in the form of an immediate high-risk, invasive operation would also likely be fatal. Doug was too weak. He could say goodbye now or likely die in an operating room. Together, prayerfully and of one mind, we made our decision. We were prepared to say goodbye, and Doug would be released from medical support.
Not long after, we reentered his room, and Doug was resting comfortably without the wires and machines. Again we sang. It was hard for him to talk, but he still mouthed the words of these songs he knew so well. He told me that he loved me. He told each of the girls he loved them. He beamed to hear that Carolyn 's news that Ellie had asked Jesus into her heart a few days earlier.He gestured for the girls to come closer at one point. His final words to them, so Doug-like, were "take care of your mother". It made me weep.
And so together we sang, and cried, and talked, in that private room with the door wide open. So many of the old hymns became so precious with each stanza - Great is thy Faithfulness, Have Thine Own Way, When We all Get To Heaven, Like A River Glorious, Because He Lives, and more.  I suggested we sing “Beyond The Sunset” , an old hymn often played as a violin duet by my own mom and dad. Up to this point, the girls had been using Carolyn's Iphone to coach them on the words in the later verses of many of the hymns, but for this song they weren't even sure of the tune. So we played a You-Tube version as lead. On the 2nd verse Doug stopped “singing” and stared upward. Then he just stopped breathing. That was the end, before the song was done, and as we heard the words  - "When, with our Saviour, heaven is begun, Earth's toiling ended. O, blessed reunion! Beyond the Sunset, when day is done.""

It was an amazing passage – quiet, gentle and surrounded by the presence of God. It had been 16 years of struggle. There had been many questions. But we had seen God at work through the pain. We serve a God who is bigger than our plans and our understanding. 

That day, together Carolyn, Kathy and I embraced in a quiet hospital room as Jesus welcomed Doug into the perfection of his forever home.

Sad, Sad News

On May 26, 2013 Doug passed away at the Burnaby General Hospital intensive care unit after collapsing at Eagle Ridge Manor at noon the day before.
It is a terrible loss for family and friends. Many have asked how things have been in the last while so I feel I should fill in some of the blanks. As you will see though, I am having some formatting problems - please bear with me for now.
Doug had been doing pretty well since his episode at the Royal Columbian in September. On the advice of the Manor nursing staff, he no longer came home as often and, like they hoped, he then fell into the routine there. Thus the family spent time more often at the Manor and enjoyed the programs and people there with him at least every other day. On special occasions, we would do family things at home or at one of the girls' homes - birthday, thanksgiving, Christmas, etc . But  in the Manor Doug found new joy in caring. He was always on the lookout to assist other residents come and go.  He faithfully cared for the geraniums, mixed and stirred the latest baking project, and reveled in sharing the joy of the first signs of Spring in the garden. He loved it when others joined as he traveled the world watching the Oasis Channel on the big screen TV. He became quite competitive at Wii bowling and had friendly rivalries with Evelyn, Muriel and others. He enjoyed being part of the Bell Choir. And in the past few months,, especially with the help of Monica and Marvin Steinway from the stroke rehab program at the adjoining hospital, the 4 of us took on the hymn sing on Wednesdays - and we once again heard his wonderful bass voice. There were still days, one or two a week, when he would choose to stay in bed. There were times when he would admit to again facing those same feelings of despair. But then he would engage again and be the encourager once more. Both Doug and I made good friends there including residents,their spouses, and staff. It was like a big family and we came to love and appreciate them in their joys and struggles. 
Doug still complained of debilitating pains - in his shoulder and hip and then in his wrist - but these lessened with the reintroduction of the Neurontin at previous levels. He worried about the family and about me being home on my own. But still he would light up whenever I would arrive there and we would walk the garden, the hospital paths or the hallways together. Even if he was down for the day, he was always ready to do a crossword puzzle. We often worked on one in the evening  by the fireplace. Other times Kathy or Carolyn would take him on. We would strategize, give the clue, and fill in the answer, but he loved the mental exercise of getting the word. He loved to see the girls and his grandchildren. He enjoyed walks around the property or down by the inlet. Occasionally we would walk by the Fraser, and Sundays we often went to Swiss Chalet. He had lots of visitors too. Some were regulars like Jean Jones, Hugh Little, Maureen Peters, and Pastors Walter and Garrod from Willingdon Church.
He never once complained about being at the Manor. In fact it increasingly became a place of safety as he battled growing fears of being caught too far from a washroom. His digestive worries fluctuated but seemed to be increasingly unpredictable. They were giving him several laxatives and supplementing 2 meals each day with high calorie Ensure. But he worried about eating and continued to lose weight. He was about 130 pounds by the beginning of May.
Earlier in the Spring, Doug began to have issues as well with a sudden drop in standing blood pressure. They reduced his blood pressure medication but his balance was still shaky at times. Early in May Irena, the physiotherapist, recommended hip protectors because of several minor falls and continuing blood pressure abnormalities. There was little else to protect him as by this time Doug was basically skin and bones.
Doug's brother Gerald, his sister Carol and their spouses (Gloria and Bob) came out from Ontario 5 days before their May 24, one week, Alaskan Cruise.  It was exciting for them and us. I had arranged for Doug to come home for the duration. We had a wonderful BBQ at Carolyn and Michael's on the holiday Monday. The whole family was there. But it was enough and that same day, Doug asked to return to the Manor. He spent Tuesday in bed. He came home Wednesday afternoon – to a BBQ steak dinner courtesy of our family  visitors. Doug so enjoyed this special time with his sister and brother but again returned to the Manor immediately afterwards. Thursday morning I got a call that he had fallen. I arrived to see him in bed with a huge open bump on the back of his head and a cut above his left eye. He reported that he had fallen off the bed after rolling over to see the time. When they found him, he was  partially under the room-mates bed unable to get up and quite disoriented. He also said that he had had no sleep all that night on account of stomach pain.
He remained in bed that day but was wanting to do a puzzle before I left. Carol and Gerald had a good visit that evening, said their goodbyes, and reported that he was looking and feeling better.
It was a travelling weekend.  Shortly after breakfast Friday morning Carol, Gerald, and spouses left for their cruise. Kathy, Sam and I had arranged to go to Seattle for a few days while Gary and the boys were on a boys' club camp out. Carolyn and her family were off to a Church family camp in Princeton. 
I had lunch with Doug at the Manor before we left. He was up and eating but you could see he was weak. Even his voice was weak. I thought it was still the shock of the fall. I thought he should have assistance for walking and, in fact, spoke to Magda (Patient Coordinator) just before I left. We agreed that he would soon be assessed for a walker. He was OK with us going to Seattle and walked me to the door, gave me that wonderful hug, a gentle kiss, and stepped outside to wave goodbye as he often did. 
We left our hotel phone number in Seattle with the nursing station just in case. We planned to return 2 days later, May 26, Sunday afternoon.