Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Final Post

For those of you who have followed Vickie's battle with cancer for the last three years I have heartbreaking news. Vickie lost her battle this morning at 11:55 a.m.

Vickie's pain got better, but as it did her weakness and confusion got worse and she developed terrible mouth sores -- so bad she could not eat or drink more than a few small swallows a day. Wednesday she called Dr. Brooks and he said for her to go in and take a shot, and to keep coming in for shots for the next four days, until Saturday. The shot was supposed to raise her blood count and maker her feel better, and it usually works. She took the shot, but they also did labs. As expected, her counts were low. She went back in Thursday and then Friday.

By Friday morning I was very concerned because Vickie wasn't getting better, and told her I might ask the doctor to hospitalize her. She didn't want me to, but I made no promises. She had been scheduled for labs Friday anyway, so they gave her the shot and drew the labs and we waited for the results. When the nurse saw the results she called Dr. Brooks, who came down to the infusion lab to see Vickie. When Dr. Brooks saw the sores and the blood counts he admitted her to the hospital immediately, taking the decision out of my hands.

Saturday morning Vickie was still weak, but after a night of fluids and antibiotics the doctor saw small improvement in her mouth sores and she was completely lucid and able to focus for the first time in days. Everyone thought she was improving, though slowly.

Saturday afternoon about 2:00 or 2:30 p.m. I was in the room alone with Vickie and noticed a change in her breathing, which became faster, shallower and more labored. Shortly after that she was hallucinating or dreaming and waving her hands around, something she normally never does. Within a few minutes she asked me to help her to the restroom and I noticed that she was much weaker than before. When I got her back to bed I asked if she was feeling worse and she nodded yes.

I immediately called the nurse to come look at her. They took her temperature. About two hours earlier her temp had been 97.?. Now it was 100.?. They called Dr. Brooks and he came to see her within a much shorter time than I expected. After checking her over he called in a critical care/lung specialist and an infectious disease specialist. After checking her over some more and conferring, they moved her to ICU.

Dr. Wait, the critical care specialist, then became her main doctor. She told me I could expect Vickie to get worse before she got better, but said that while there were no guarantees, Vickie should improve. They gave her more antibiotics and put her on life support, so her body would not have to labor to support itself and fight off the infection at the same time, because she was too weak to do both. Dr. Wait said Vickie would be in ICU for two to three weeks, if everything went well.

Through the night things seemed to be going pretty much as expected. By this time I had been up about a day and a half. I called some of the family and told them I needed some help as someone needed to be with Vickie. They made plans accordingly and Tony drove up through the night, arriving about 5:15 a.m. on Sunday morning. After talking with him for a while, I left the hospital and drove home to get some sleep.

Tony called me about 9:30a.m. and told me that the doctors had told him Vickie had turned for the worse and nothing was working and that I needed to come back up to the hospital. I arrived in less than an hour and met with Dr. Wait. She told me that Vickie had turned worse in the early morning and that, while she had a few more tricks up her sleeve, it didn't look good. We discussed how far I wanted the treatment to go. I told her that she would have to make the medical decisions as to what might work, but as long as there was reasonable hope to proceed, and when there was not to tell me and we would stop.

They made several further efforts, calling in a kidney/critical care specialist to see if dialysis would help. He checked her over and found there was swelling of the brain and after a discussion between the four doctors involved, it was decided that the point had been reached where nothing would work. I was involved in most of this conversation, though they stepped outside to work through some details and arrive at their final consensus. They came back inside the room and told me their consensus and I made the decision to stop action and remove life support. This was the absolute right decision as is was something Vickie and I had discussed often in the past. Within five minutes, she was gone.

Vickie would want me to say here how hard the doctors tried to save her life. They did everything they could do and told me they would not stop until I was ready for them to stop. They were exemplary both technically and personally.

Not long before Vickie passed away the final blood cultures and scan results came back. The scan showed there was a huge tumor near her appendix and the doctors now believe the cancer was probably widespread in her body, including in her bones. This set off a pair of infections, one of which was very resistant to treatment. The combination of the exceedingly aggressive cancer and the infections overcame her body and was what finally brought her down.

It is perhaps gratuitous for a husband to praise his wife, so let me just say here that there is hardly a person who knew her who doesn't feel better for having done so and worse for having lost her. She was truly one of a kind and I was the luckiest man on earth to share her life and her love for thirty-eight years.

8 comments:

Abigail said...

David,
I am sorry to hear the news of Vickie. She was a special person. You and the family are in our prayers.
Abigail Johnson Weaver

Janell said...

David, Thank you for continuing the communication Vickie had done so often. My sympathy is with you. She will always be in my heart. I am still in a state of shock.
Co-worker, Janell Case

Linda said...

David, It breaks my heart that you had to write this, but I'm thankful that you did so we know about her last few days. Words can't express my sorrow. I will be praying for you and your sweet family, and for God to provide for you. Thank you for calling me. Linda

Debbie Bouler Smith said...

David,
My Heart hurts for you all.
You all are in our Prayer's and thought's.
Vickie was a wonderful person she has touched so many lifes in so many ways she is truley is a special Angel! And I know she is dancing in Heaven today and Heaven will shine much brighter for us all because of her.
I love you Brother!

Rest in Gods glorious Peace Our Precious Angel Vickie you will be miss here by all that know and love you But What a wonderful day it will be when we meet again in Heaven I Love you sister!
Debbie & Gary & Family

Becca said...

David,
I never met Vickie, but only worked with her via email or phone at Unitrin. She was always a pleasure to work with and so fast and efficient. I never even knew of her struggles until last month when she sent an email to everyone telling us her cancer had returned. I read her blog and was impressed by her strength and her faith. I know God saved a special place for her in heaven and I'm sure she is getting everything organized up there! Rest assured she is smiling down on you and telling you that you did indeed make the right decision.
Becca Metoyer - Co-worker

nadia said...

Dear David,
I was so sorry to read what happened, Vicki has been in my thoughts and hopes for recovery. Although I did not ever met Vicki in person, we talked on phone and email often. She was a wonderful person with a big Texas heart and will surly be missed.

Nadia
Unitrin, Woodland HIlls, CA

Sandi said...

Dear David,
Thank you for sharing your final post with us. Vickie was truely a special angel from God. We are blessed by having known her and will miss her terribly. My prayers to you and your family for God's comfort.
Sandi Clements, Friend

Vanessa Wooten said...

You are in our prayers. We just lost my father-in-law to cancer in the early morning hours of August 11th. I know he and Vickie are in heaven now and no longer in pain - praise God.

Thank you for writing and sharing about her final days on earth. God bless and keep you!