Waiting for the call

Friday afternoon, Kim was in a horrible accident.

She was driving a Mazda Miata convertible and the other vehicles involved were a semi and a van.

You don’t need to know the details. I wish I didn’t know what I know.

It was a horrible accident.

She suffered severe brain injuries at the scene and there was also damage to her hand.

The social worker who called me from Metro Hospital told me about her hand injuries but didn’t say anything about her brain.

They told me she was concussed.

I asked if she was conscious and was told “no”.

I drove to the hospital fearing the worst. When I got there Kim’s dad was already in a consult room. The social worker came in the room and told us about the injuries to her hand. She only told us a little about the injuries to her head. She had a left brain injury and had a little movement on her left side and none on her right side.

The injuries to her brain were severe.

You don’t need to know the details. I wish I didn’t know what I know.

They took Kim up for surgery around 3 pm. Maggie had arrived by then as had Kim’s mom and aunt Mary Kay. I called other people who needed to know what was going on.

Kim was prepped for an hour and in surgery for two and a half hours.

Friends, family, and co-workers began to arrive.

After surgery we were called back to meet the surgeon. This was our first inkling of how bad the situation was. I brought Maggie, Mary Kay, and Kim’s parents back with me to hear the surgeon’s report.

Kim lost a lot of brain matter at the scene. They had to remove more dead brain tissue while she was on the operating table. The surgeon had done all he could do and was not optimistic.

I know. It doesn’t sound very good.

Kim was moved up to ICU Friday night.

The nurse said there was a 60 – 70% chance that she would make it through the night.

I called her priest.

Friends and family came back a few at a time. I mostly stayed in the room with her – sometimes wandered down to the waiting room.  I hugged friends, family, co-workers and traded stories.

Father Gary arrived. He’s an amazing man. He is so grounded and warm and real that he provides instant conform always choosing the exact right words.

Kim’s brother and sister stood behind Father Gary as he gave Kim her last rights.

I’d only seen last rights administered once before. It had been Father Gary giving them to Elena ten years ago.

On the other hand, it wasn’t Kim’s first time receiving last rights. She was born way before her due date and was given last rights then.

My father called to say my brother was taking the red-eye. My sister would fly in the next morning.

Kim’s mom and Mary Kay decided to spend the night. I chose to head home and try to get some sleep. A friend of Maggie’s drove her home.

In the morning I looked through Kim’s iPad and got the number of more friends that needed to know.

I drove to the hospital met the Trauma doctor. He was wonderful. His manner was perfect and his facts were clear. He showed Kim’s mom, Mary Kay and me the three CAT scans and discussed what he thought they meant.

So many people arrived. They supported us. The visited with Kim. They wept. They hugged.

The trauma doctor wanted to talk about plans moving forward. I asked Maggie, Kim’s  mom, and Mary Kay to join us.

Kim had been very clear on what she wanted – most people who knew her knew her wishes. She was terrified of surviving a head injury.

After making sure the others were ok with the decision, we told the doctor that Kim was DNR. He asked about other situations and we made choices in accordance with her wishes.

He told us that he didn’t expect Kim to have cardiac problems, he was expecting her to proceed to brain death.

We asked about organ donation. Kim always wanted to donate her organs.

The doctor explained the process of organ donation in the case of brain death and in the case of cardiac failure. He told us which of our decisions would have to be modified in the interest of the organs to be harvested.

The nurse set up an appointment with the transplant representative.

The transplant representative explained that procedure in great depth and we authorized some preliminary blood work that would speed up the process.

The nurse removed the Fentanyl  drip so that the determination of brain death would be clear in the morning.

By the morning the doctors had determined the Fentanyl had been supressing more than they thought and they couldn’t test for brain death.

Maggie, Kim’s Mom, Mary Kay, and my brother Ethan joined the transplant representative in the consult room to fill out paperwork. The medical history for Kim was easy.

Authorizing body part by body part was tough.

It’s what Kim explicitly wanted.

Father Gary returned and said last rights with Kim’s dad in the room. He comforted many as he visited with us.

The trauma doctor came back at the end of the day. Kim wasn’t getting better – she would never get better – but she wasn’t getting worse. She was not progressing towards brain death but she would never have a meaningful recovery.

We made the tough decision to honor Kim’s wishes and allow them to turn off the machine.

On the one hand, it was explicitly what she wanted. On the other hand, it was the hardest words I’ve ever had to say.

I invited Kim’s family and friends to come in and say goodbye. My friend Mark also said a blessing over Kim that was familiar and comforting.

Right now the hospital is waiting to line up organ recipients. Once they have done so, Kim will be taken to the operating room and the doctors will will turn off the respirator.

If she is able to breathe on her own for an hour then they will bring her back to her room.

The expectation is that she will not be able to expel the carbon dioxide and it will be a painless death. They will then intubate her, restart her heart and begin to harvest the organs.

The hospital will call us four hours before they take her down to the operating room.

We’re waiting for the call.

 

Published in: on August 21, 2016 at 9:52 pm  Comments Off on Waiting for the call  
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