Monday, August 13, 2012

the last 4 weeks

It all started with what I thought was a simple phone call. Steve got out of the bed, and said that we had to go to Orlando. Now, I had sworn off Orlando for the summer so I knew that something was going on when he said, "we". So, we got ready, packed some clothes and were off for what we believed to be a few days.

Getting there, we found Steve's dad in Florida East hospital with horrific sores on his legs and bottom. It was awful.....he screamed for pain medicine constantly and NOTHING could make him happy. He was on the first floor, and those nurses weren't the greatest at meeting his needs. He didn't help matters any being so contrary. Poor Steve couldn't even sit down for his dad yelling for him to do something. Day after day this continued, and I kept thinking, "what are they doing to help him?". The answer was, not much! We left and came home on that Thursday only to receive a call from Steve's nephew on Friday that his dad was trying to check himself out of the hospital. Steve got on the phone and calmed him down; but that meant that as soon as church was over that Sunday morning, we needed to leave to go back.

We got down there and Monday was more of the same, while Tuesday certainly was not. When we got to the hospital, they had moved him to the 5th floor where we had much better nurses, but were still not getting anywhere. By the end of that day, we had moved to PCU (for about 5 minutes), ICU, and he had been intubated for a procedure that the doctors felt needed to be done. He was losing blood, and his lungs were in a mess.

They found a bleeding ulcer and cauterized it, and took some samples from the junk that they pulled out of his lungs......and we waited. In the meantime, we had to gown, glove, and mask up to go into the room. To make a long story short, we went through lung lavages, and waiting several more times all the while he was intubated. Each day they tried to wake him up by reducing the sedation, and each day they failed. His heart rate and blood pressure couldn't stand the stress. It seemed like each morning when we arrived there was bad news.

Finally, a nurse mentioned that he would have to have a tracheotomy soon (you can't have that tube in your throat indefinitely), and Steve knew that the end was coming. His dad had a living will, and while he had signed consent for them to intubate him while undergoing the procedures, he did not want to be kept on the ventilator indefinitely.

On Wednesday, August 8, with his main doctor wanting to do a very aggressive, invasive surgery, Steve decided it was time to turn off the ventilator. It was not a decision that was made lightly, Steve had wrestled with it and prayed over it for many days. Finally, around 6 PM after all the doctors had signed the paperwork, the nurses unhooked him from all but the IV that was administering pain medicine. Steve, Shea, Stevie, and myself watched over him as he struggled to breathe, and about 6:40 took his last breath.

I've never seen such love poured out of a person than while Steve was caring for Don in those last 40 minutes. He kept telling him he was sorry and wiping his face. This was the picture of love in its rawest form. Heart-wrenching to watch.

I believe that Steve is still in shock. He's had to be strong for his mom, and he preached today on Psalm 121. I know it's going to hit him full force soon, and he will have to grieve in his own way for his dad, his hero. Whatever he goes through, whatever he needs......our kids and I will be by his side to administer the love and grace to walk through this valley.

William Donald Leigh:  1937-2012, buried at sea