But it continues because of My Mother"It's a brain aneurysm that leaked a little," began Dr. Kim. "The recovery can be on a scale of 1-7, with 1 being death, and 7 being full recovery. We have no way of knowing until months after the surgery."
I was 29 years old, had a pregnant wife, a crumbling business, the FBI going through my files and records, and my mother -- my mentor -- in intensive care. "Old Friends" of mine came out of the woodwork to suddenly want to be in my life again . . . until Joe Balson (my attorney) told world-famous private investigator Clyde Wilson to "keep these guys away from me." I never heard from them again. Crazy? Yes it was!
|Rachel and Katie circa 1987|
Thankfully, Mother was cognizant enough to sign the consent form for the brain surgery. If I'd made that decision, I would never be able to forgive myself for what that poor woman went through for the next year and a half. It was a 2. (Remember the scale of 1-7?) 2. One number above death. She lived on her deathbed -- in and out of intensive care -- for a year and a half. She never regained her memory, her ability to walk, or smoked another cigarette, though she did pretend with the straws on her lunch and dinner trays!
For that year and a half, Mother went from ICU at Heights Hospital, to rehab at Memorial Northwest, to TIRR, to Skilled Nursing, back to ICU at Heights and Memorial Northwest over and over and over again, never regaining any cognizant reasoning skills. I went to the hospital every day and hand-fed her because she couldn't feed herself. Every day, every meal. The nurses simply didn't have time for a level 5 care patient.
On April 7, 1987, about a year and a month before Mother died, Katie was born. She gave all of us a renewed spirit, a drive to keep at it. At one point, I had Rachel in Heights Hospital having a C-section, and Mother in Memorial Northwest ICU fighting for her life . . . and me bouncing between the two. (Fortunately, that's about a 10 minute drive!)
Work kept me going. My friends at the VA and at HUD continued to assign properties to me for management and sale, and I had shut down most of my business and was working out of my home and taking care of my girls. I'd say I became a man in 1987. Interestingly, at the time, I weighed in at about 350-375 pounds . . . but I got motivated to lose weight for the first time in my life.
I joined the Downtown YMCA and went every morning at 5am and worked out until about 10am. Yes, 5 hours per day, 7 days a week. The stress relief that it brought me was remarkable! I lost over 150 lbs and shrunk to about 215 and was in marathon shape. The support from the other members of the Y was incredible, and they even put my picture on the wall in the downstairs gym! And I rode the MS 150 3 years in a row and competed in 2 or 3 Biathlons (run-bike-run) and was featured in a local magazine, "Human Powered Sports" (now defunct). Go figure! (I did tell Katie and her husband Travis just last night that they can now sell my racing bikes in their upcoming garage sale.)
On May 18, 1988, my "Aunt" Joni, one of Mother's long-time best friends who had helped me through a lot of this, told me that I needed to focus on my new daughter and not go to the hospital every day. I needed to ween off to every other day.....and she was right. So, on that day, I spent my last hour with my Mother trying to get her to play checkers with me and watching the 3:00 "million dollar movie" on Channel 13. That afternoon's movie was ironically entitled, "Death by Natural Causes."
So I didn't go to the hospital on May 19.
About 1am on May 20, my telephone was ringing incessantly, waking Rachel and I from a sound sleep. Jumping out of bed on the third or fourth try, I answered to find out that Mother wasn't breathing, and that she was being intubated at Heights Hospital. "NO, I screamed! Don't do it! I'll be right there!"
Rachel and I grabbed the baby, threw on clothes, ran to Heights (we only lived about 3 blocks away on 17th Street) and got there just as they were wheeling Mother into an elevator and were hand-bagging her (a term for manually pumping her lungs with air). "STOP IT NOW," I screamed. "Don't do it! Let her go!"
"Well, since we've already intubated her, we can't stop now," the nurse told me.
"Yes you can," I shouted. "Get the head of this _____ hospital down here immediately and let God take her. She's been through too much! Stop! I demand that you stop and let her go! Call Dr. Choi!" Dr. Choi was the kindest, smartest doctor we encountered through the whole process -- I'll never forget him. (I'll also never forget the time we were trying to get Mother to talk . . . Dr. Choi came into the room, and I asked, "Mother, do you know who this is?" She shook her head "yes." Then she spoke, "Dr. Chink.") (Really, Mom? The only words you spoke??? To the nicest man in the world?) Even he got a chuckle out of that one!
"Well let me call the doctor. Now wait up on 5."
When they finally let me into the room with her, Dr. Choi arrived, but they had removed the tube. She passed peacefully, and Dr. Choi teared up a little and said, "I could have done more." To which I asked rhetorically, "and bring her back to what, Dr. Choi?" We all agreed. She was better off now.
We were all in a better place. Life got better after that . . . and today? I simply say, "bring on your best shot."
As I am finishing writing this blog episode, the feelings I went through during that period have all come back to me 100%. Tears are streaming down my face and I prepare myself for the easy day ahead. I have a beautiful smart daughter and equally handsome son-in-law, a thriving business, and good people around me. If you're still reading at this point, you know that you're one of the good people around me. For you, I am grateful. I love you dearly.