Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Nana's Last days

It's been over a decade since my entire family was gathered together in one place. I really think we should do it more often, although hopefully under different circumstances!

On Saturday morning at about 3 am my mom got a call from her sister that they were transfering my Nana from a hospital in Moses Lake, WA to Wenatchee, WA and that it was serious. By the time my mom got there my nana was doing quite well and almost her "normal" self again, minus the oxygen and medications and such. My mom called me to let me know what was going on, her first call being that Nana wasn't doing well and we might need a family gathering this weekend. Her next phone call had much better news with "nana on the mend" and that all was looking well.

On Sunday I got another phone call from her, they had done an echocardiogram on Nana and only about 30% of her heart was functioning, the other 70% was severely damaged. She was also on an oxygen machine that was blowing oxygen into her nose because her oxygen saturations were in the 40% range when she was taken into the ER. When nana was given the news about her echocardiogram, she pretty much told my mom and aunt that she was done and was ready to die. My mom called me immediately and Mark helped me pack up the kids (and make some snacks!!!!) and we were out the door in about an hour.

I picked up my dad and we drove over Stevens Pass. We got stuck on the pass for about 1.5 hours during avalanche control, and Mark's cooking came in handy for the kids, it was a lifesaver! We arrived in Wenatchee around 9pm and I really wanted to go see nana. Almost immediately after I walked in the door she said to me, "Hi sweetie, I'm dying". Leave it to that woman to be brutally honest!

We spent some time with her and then went and got dinner (yes, dinner at 10pm-ish). Monday morning she looked well and was talking and doing nana's version of cracking jokes. She was talking to the kids and talking with everyone in the room. She told my mom and aunt several times that she was "ready to die" and that she wanted to "do it right now, take the oxygen off". My mom and aunt had to remind her that there were other grandchildren and family members on their way in to see her. She decided she ought to wait for them. She did however switch from the pressurized oxygen machine to a regular nasal cannula for her oxygen. You could tell the difference within an hour, her fingertips and lips turned a slight blue tinge. As the day wore on she slept more often, but she'd be awake for about 30 minutes and then sleep for 30 minutes, repeating this all afternoon.

On Tuesday morning most of the family had arrived and by about 10am everyone was in the room to see her. She had really changed since Monday. We could no longer keep her awake for more than about 30-60 seconds at a time, and she would sleep for 30-40 minutes in between waking up. He color had changed also, she was almost an ash color and her lips and fingers were actually blue now, not just a blue tinge. Sometime around noon she started yelling out that she wasn't ready, saying "please God, please God, I'm not ready, I'm not ready, I'm not ready". My mom and aunt and uncle were asking her what she needed to be ready, was there anything they could do for her? However, she wasn't responsive to their questions. She settled down for about 10-15 minutes and then started yelling the same thing again, over and over again. The doctor came in to see her and recommended some Atavan (anti-anxiety), to which the family agreed with. Nana also started saying she was having some pain, so they upped her morphine. We also called in a preist (upon her earlier request), to come read her last rites. Suprisingly she was aware of his presence and acknowledged him being there and seemed to understand what he was doing. That was around 1pm.

That was the last time I remember hearing her talk or say anything, and the last time I remember her waking up. There were a couple episodes where she didn't breathe for a good minute or so, we all fell silent and stared at her until she started breating again. It became clear to us that the end was drawing near.

JR, Uncle Lon and Aunt Sue (her grandson, son and daughter-in-law) hadn't made it yet. JR's plane got delayed, he was suppose to arrive Tuesday morning, but didn't make it in until about 4:20. They were then going to drive over Stevens Pass to come see Nana. Unfortunately they didn't make it. No sooner had JR's plane landed (this information we all discovered later), than Nana passed away in the presence of her family at 4:30 on March 17, 2009- St Patricks Day nontheless.

Something strange did happen though, I'm not sure what to call it, or if there even really IS some sort of connection, but I'll share anyways. About a minute before we all noticed that Nana had stopped breating (and my mom couldn't find a radial pulse or hear a heartbeat with the stethescope), my kids all started crying. And this wasn't a wimpery cry, they all started having a "freak out" kind of cry. I was trying to comfort all of them and my mom asked me if I needed help. She came over and grabbed Cassie, while I was on my knees hugging the boys and asking them what was wrong. At one point I looked up at her and said, "what the hell is going on?" and she shook her head to indicate she didn't know. This screaming and crying went on for about 60 seconds and then just as suddenly as it started, it stopped. Just then we all noticed that Nana wasn't breathing, and called in the nurse who confirmed that she was gone. I'm not sure if the kids could "feel" something or what, but it's just to strange not to mention.

It was a bittersweet moment for me, to hear Nana express that she was ready to be done, that her earthly body was giving out on her and that she didn't want to fight it anymore, gave me a lot of peace that we were doing the right thing by letting her go. This was what she wanted. However, it's never an easy thing to say goodbye to someone you love, and it is ever more difficult (in my opinion) to actually be present when they pass. I'm sad, but I'm happy for her, knowing she's in a better place with my grandma Ann, my greatnanny and my papa!

1 comment:

The Koza's said...

Julie, I have to say that the kiddos definetly knew what was going on! They felt the pain of everyone in the room and "acted out" so that no one in the room would actually know what was happening to your nana. They did a great job distracting you and your mom! I am sorry to hear that you had to be in the room when she passed, and I know how difficult it can be. Remember that if you need to vent or just to talk, let me know. I am always here for you!