When it rains, it pours (part 1)

Posted: April 3, 2011 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , , , ,

And my family has been dumped on these past few months. I’m tired. Tired of almost losing a loved one.  Things have spiraled out of control and I can’t seem to catch my bearings. My poor dad has overcome life threatening illnesses, one after the other, like a champ. After his heart attack, he had several conditions and several stays in several different hospitals. Not an exaggeration.

After going for a much prolonged colonoscopy, it was discovered my father had tumors within his colon. At that time, it couldn’t be conclusively decided whether it was benign or cancerous from a biopsy of the mass of the tumor. However, tissue taken from the superficial surface wasn’t cancerous.  So, we preceded making arrangements for surgery to remove them without too much of a worry, after all, the top layer of the tumor wasn’t cancerous and the doctors were optimistic.  Before we could fully follow through with surgery arrangements another health condition arose sending my dad to the ER. Since he was planning on surgery there, they just expedited the process. It took a few days to treat the condition that sent to him the ER, but after that his surgery was arranged and carried out in the very same stay at the hospital.

The day my dad had surgery to remove his colon tumors, I was waiting in a waiting room, well, not even a waiting room, a hallway like space all day. Again, not an exaggeration. All day. They took my dad at 9am for surgery. I was there waiting all day with little reassurances from the staff and no visits from the doctor. I was told he was out of surgery at 4 in the afternoon and was in recovery. That line was all they told me for hours, despite my loud mouth and persistence. After a while, I took out a book and read to keep me from flipping a chair, on purpose this time. Also, to keep me sane. You won’t believe the things that go through your mind in situations like these. Sitting there all alone while my best friend is in class and my fiancée is at work and mother and brother were at work as well.  Relatively alone with one’s mind is far worse torture than anything anyone can conjure up.  Finally, at 6pm my mother and my fiancée join me- the hospital staff feeding them the same line.  Exasperated, we do the only thing we can… we wait. We’ve become quite patient people over the past few months, it tends to happen when you’re loved one is constantly ill and in constant need of recovery. But, give it time.  Time helps heal all wounds. I have to admit though, my patience have been improving however my tolerance for stupidly is none existent and my fuse is as short as bristle.

The waiting area empties and the three of wander about the space. I remember leaning my head against the window pane staring out at the wintry night, snow still heavily littered around. Omar, my fiancée, sensing my unease grabs my hands and takes me to buy me a cup of coffee. The warmth of the coffee and support of my best friend re-energized me. When we made our way back to the waiting area, my mother was in tears. The doctor finally came to speak to us, but having walked away I just missed him. He bluntly told my mother the tumor was cancerous and the tumors had already begun to spread outside of his colon.  Receiving this news was one of the hardest and saddest moments of my life. Little did I know, things would get harder real quick.

The doctor said they removed the entire tumor. But still, it was cancerous and he will need treatment. I remember tears. Lots of tears.   But, I don’t remember my own. Omar cried. My mom cried. I remembered I assumed my position of leaning on the window pane and remember seeing water pellets on the window wondering if it was raining or if I was crying. I was unmoving. I was scared for my dad.  How much more can this poor guy go through? He has been through several life threatening illness and now cancer? I was sad. I felt like the world would never be bright again.  I couldn’t help the images of my father when he had his heart attack several months before. I couldn’t stop the memory of the flow of doctors telling my aunt and I, it was a fifty fifty chance he would make it. I thought I’ve long overcome the trauma from my dad’s heart attack, but in that moment, faced with another life threatening condition, I couldn’t help but rehash all the emotions. It was almost unwillingly, having succumbed to my emotions. I reckon it didn’t help that I was the very same hospital. The months of my dad’s recuperation flashed before my eyes. My father, so weakened, had just begun to heal. He was down to skin and bones. My thoughts interrupted as we were told he was being moved out of recovery and into intensive care.  I could already hear the ominous beeps of the heart machines and breathing machines ringing through my head. I just stopped hearing them in my dreams a few weeks ago.

After that, my mom fought her way to intensive care to see my father and he was there mumbling and mumbling “my daughter is on the fourth floor. My daughter. My daughter is waiting for me. My daughter is on the fourth floor”. When my mom walked up to his beside he was mumbling this and he didn’t even know who she was. My mom told him “Jimmy, it’s me, your wife” but all he kept saying was my name. “Tashie, she’s waiting for me. Let her know I’m alright.”  It took awhile for her to calm him down saying “Okay Okay, I will, She knows.”

When he calmed down some, he then seemed to recognize my mother and said “Cat …come close”.  She leans in close to him and asks “What’s the matter Jimmy?”  To which my dad responds very loudly in her ear “I feel like I gotta shit!” It wasn’t until then my mother laughed and breathed a sign of relief. It was another anxious long couple of weeks as my dad was recovering in the hospital but from the moment he said “I feel like I gotta shit” we knew he would be alright. My mother came back to Omar and I in tears and I remember coming home, refusing to leave my room all night because my dad’s room (he moved into the living room, too feeble to go up and down stairs and not enough strength to be far from the bathroom) would be empty.  The following weeks that followed my dad recovered as much as he could. He’s still recovering, still sick and still weak. But he was released from the hospital.

A few days later, my fiancé went in.

It was a normal regular night. He came home from work. I bought him Chinese food. We watched a little netflix. And because he always falls asleep with the TV on and I can’t fall asleep until it’s off, I wake him up to turn it off out of spite…like I do every other night. Yes, I’m awake. Yes, I could easily turn off the TV myself. And Yes I’m that spiteful. I wake him up and he turns it off and then we both drift off to sleep. At least, that was the way it was supposed to happen.  This time, both our lives changed radically, maybe not forever but definitely for a significant amount of time.

Cause you see, what happened that night…  My fiancé let out this primal sound and his arms and body became rigid. I thought he was being a dick, pranking me, cause, well he never needed a reason to prank me. His head slightly turned and looked like he was eying me over his shoulder which turned out to be complete coincidence, but at the time furthered my thoughts of him pulling a prank on me. Then his arm knocked EVERYTHING off the nightstand.  I’m angry and said ” Babe. What. The. Fuck.” That’s when his whole body started to shake and convulse.  He went into a seizure for the first time in his life.  Time slowed down. My brain never worked so hard in its life. Simultaneously, I’m trying to process what’s happening, recall what to do when one is having a seizure (my niece had seizures when she was baby), and get help all at once.  I ran to my mom’s room ass naked and said Omar is having a seizure, ran back to my room putt on some pj pants and jump onto the bed to get a wrangle on Omar.  My mom, the poor woman, everything she has been through with my dad and my brother (oh yeah my brother has medical conditions too, he is going to need surgery or waste away to nothing. He is down to 120 pounds), she thought she finally lost it. She thought she was hallucinating. But my screaming lured her down the hallway. My brother and Ralphee come out the room. Those poor fools. Ralphee starts screaming “Give him a hot towel! Give him a hot towel!” And my brother, bless his heart, came running with a full size towel soaking, dripping wet. Meanwhile, I’m screaming to call 911  while trying to handle all 200 pounds of Omar so he doesn’t hurt himself while seizing or choke on the blood and saliva in his mouth ( from biting his tongue) . My mom is on the phone with 911 and she was so panicked she could barely give the address.  My dad, who can’t walk up stairs, came -almost popping his stitches- walking up the stairs, scared.  It seemed like forever but his seizure lasted under two minutes and all this happened.  And the FDNY emergency response people? Hot damn! I swear as soon as all this blows over I’m rallying to save the fire departments or raise a HUGE contribution for them. They arrived in 3 and half minutes after calling 911. Mind you, this is a few days after the snow storm. If you know my block and know how much snow is on this block… I don’t even know how they got the truck down the block. But they did. And did it fast. Talk about rapid response.

I wish that was the worst of it. But it was the best of it (if there is a best in this type of situation). I mean he came out of the seizure. He walked to the ambulance. He was talking at the ER. We made friends with the EMT workers and they stood by our side after delivering us to the ER. They were quite fond of Omar.  One of them rallied for us to push for an urgent scan of his head. You see, we thought Omar had a brain aneurysm- since that is genetic and his father has 3. But everyone at the hospital thought he was a drug addict. What we learned, people don’t just randomly have seizures unless something is seriously wrong. One tends to have a history of seizures, like epilepsy. But he doesn’t have any such history. And one look as his pony tail and tattoos, they just didn’t believe he was straight edged. They were polite to us and didn’t question our response, but their eyes remained guarded and ordered a blood test and tox screen. They put us in a room and with the insistence of the EMT workers I walked straight up to his assigned doctor and told him to order the CT scan. The EMT workers left with optimistic spirits that everything will work out and with a few jokes with Omar.   The doctor came over then and told us its protocol to do a scan of his head when one has a seizure ( but I doubt they would have done it if I didn’t walk up to all 250 pounds of him and demand one). He said he would have ordered it anyway cause of Omar’s father history of brain aneurysms but that’s neither here nor there. He turned out to be a really cool guy and chatted with us for awhile explaining about seizures. His analogies to explain what happens to muscles were hilarious “ Yah brah, it’s like lifting weights, like lifting the heaviest rack you’ve ever lifted and holding it , and holding and holding it ten times more than your body can handle. That’s what happens to your muscles every second. So you’re gunna be sore brah.”

Now, that the immediate danger was out of the way, and the proper care and tests were in order, we had time to finally LOOK at his doctor …he was a big buff   Italian mafia looking guy whom we instantly started talking about the moment he walked away in our typical Omar-Tash gossip fashion.

An hour or so later, Omar was taking a nap and a transporter came to take him to the CT scan. I was welcoming the release already planning on hitting the free coffee machine in the waiting room. I was welcoming the burnt coffee offering I’ve become so familiar with. After all, this is the hospital I’m at so often people ALWAYS ask me what my job is, in what department.  Plus, memories of the day my dad was brought into the ER here, the day of his heart attack was flooding my memory.  Already planning burying those memories under a few extra packets of sugar, I gathered my bags and began striding to the call of coffee when that primal grunting sound bore through the silence of the ER in the middle of the night and stopped me so suddenly in my tracks I swayed. The transporter guy stopped for a second confused but obviously he’s seen some stuff. With a shrug and conclusion Omar was probably special, he took another step but I started screaming he’s having a seizure! And sure enough he started convulsing again even harder and more intense than before actually catching height with some of his conclusions. And for a scary 30 seconds, no one came.

I started cursing and started screaming “Where are the fucking doctors!” Then two nurses came, and then Omar’s big Italian doc came.  Let me tell you, even under the seriousness and shock of the situation, I was laughing at the nurses. The big doc held his right arm down. Made it look like a casual hand on the arm. I mentally was aware how hard it is to hold him down, having just wrangled to keep Omar on the bed and slightly to the side so he doesn’t choke during his first seizure. But I managed alright. So I watched his doctor in slight awe, while an Indian doctor came running and laid across his legs to hold them down. Two nurses held his left arm down. And another nurse held his head. During the convulsions his iv line got snagged and pulled out. So another nurse was trying to get a line in his hand to feed him anti-seizure medication but the moment she touched him, Omar convulsed and she went flying. From that moment on they started calling Omar “Big Guy”.  The nurse had to throw herself on top of Omar to put the IV line in.

They finally got the IV line in and started pumping him full of anti-seizure medication. But the seconds ticked into minutes and the minutes tocked into more minutes. And Omar was convulsing harder and harder. Finally, the doctors decided he was having an abnormal seizure. While the doctor was nice to us and all, humoring us in ordering the tests and taking the time to chat with us, they all really thought this was all drug related.  Which was a little offensive but we didn’t care as long as the tests was getting done. So when this abnormal seizure occurred, they realized something was very, very wrong.  And they didn’t know what to do.

I was shocked silent and glued in one spot. This is when they declared a state of emergency in the ER. Kicking everyone not a patient and in a hospital bed out of the ER into the waiting room. I was still stuck in the same spot. A nurse/friend (meaning she knows me from before when my dad was in the hospital the previous time) silently placed me in a corner, out of the way but trying to help me-keep me around so I know what’s going on. But finally a security escorted me outside.  It was the longest hour of my life. Finally they came and got me.  They had Omar in an isolation room guarded by two nurses- one who couldn’t leave his side. They were medically paralyzing him and medically inducing a coma. But the seizure was so severe he wasn’t coming out of it. But they couldn’t let him remain in a seizure; it would cause too much brain damage. So the only thing they could do was incubate him, put restraints on him and pump him full of drugs. The nurse had to give him a shot every 20 minutes. Even with all this he was still convulsing- though it was tamed. It looked like he had the shivers.  Until it was nearing the end of the 20 minutes and the medicine was wearing off, then the shivers gradually got more and more aggressive and they had to give him another shot. They finally sent him off to do the CT scan. I don’t remember much the hour or so while I waited for him to return from the test. I know I was diligent. I made the phones calls I was supposed to make. I texted the people I was supposed to text. I offered the comforting reassurances I was supposed to be offer. I was oddly hollow. Oddly detached.  The only thing that matter was seeing my fiancée again. Too see him, regardless of how bad he looked, hooked up to machines, in restraints, breathing machine. No matter how terrible he looked, seeing him was all the validation I needed.  In his presence, it’s all the strength I need and I know together, no matter what, we will get through it all. Which is a good thing because we will need to lean on each other heavily for what’s to come.

I saw from across the room where I was seated, they were rolling Omar back to his isolation room from the CT scan. I was striding across the ER back to the room they were putting him in when I was intercepted by a nurse. I remember in my head thinking how good an actor would make as a nurse. I vaguely remember the nurse trying to appropriate the right comforting sounds and words. But, it wasn’t really fooling me. But, regardless of how she said them, what she said still caused my walls of world to come crumbling down. They found a mass in his head. I can’t say we were surprised though. We knew his father had two brain aneurysms and in a sick twist of fate, that same night Omar was admitted, his father was on his way to a hospital for surgery for his brain aneurysms. It was that day they determined Omar’s father had ANOTHER, a third brain aneurysm.  So with Omar, finding something there wasn’t a shock. After all, brain aneurysms are hereditary. But after some studying of the scan, the doctors said it’s not an aneurysm. It’s a mass. Though, they couldn’t tell what kind of mass- inflammation, blood clot or tumor. They just knew something was there. They immediately began the process of having him transferred. I’ve lost count of the people that tried to tell me to go home. I didn’t even know where the hospital was we were going. All I knew it was in long island. I didn’t care I don’t have a car, so I don’t drive. I didn’t care or worry for a second how I will get home. I just knew I wasn’t leaving Omar to be transported to an unknown hospital in an unknown location. I couldn’t bear the thought of him waking up and not knowing where he was or what was going on. I didn’t think I had the strength to be away from him either. So I fought them and told them I’m going.

I rode alone in a second ambulance. They needed two ambulances for the man power. They gave Omar some heavy duty medication to transport him and had 3 EMT workers in the back with him. I remember starting at the misty windshield from my ambulance which was driving behind Omar’s ambulance and seeing Omar’s nappy red hair sticking up in all directions. I wasn’t aware of anything around me. How long the ride was. What we passed. I just knew I entered the ambulance and sometime later it stopped. When I got out of the ambulance the only female EMT worker stepped out of Omar’s ambulance and said “Welcome to North Shore University Hospital, we’re taking him to 9 tower” Confusion flooded my face. One because we just came from North Shore University Hospital and while I knew North Shore University Hospital has several location, the place we entered was more than one building. It was more than one block. It was several buildings, several blocks. Second, I had no idea what 9 tower meant. She gently pushes me inside the doors and instructed me to follow. I’ve haven’t felt so young, so child-like since well, since  when I was a child. So, 430 am in the morning,  following stern motherly instructions, I following 5 EMT workers pushing Omar down the biggest and fanciest place with more wards and hallways and elevators then I’ve ever seen in my entire life. The emergency room was single rooms, fully equipped with stainless steel spotless appliances spacious enough to fit two or three people. We walked passed that. I seen wards dedicated to famous people one I remember because well I’m a college student- the Kaplan ward. We walked past that too. It was the most intimidating walk of my life. I’ve lost track of where we entered, what we passed.  I do know we passed several sets of elevators before finally reaching the Tower elevators. Later I learned the buildings have names and a set of elevators for each building. Finally, we reached the appropriate ward and I’m placed in a family waiting room with assurances a nurse will come get me when Omar is transferred and settled into his room. Not knowing what else to do, I sit obediently in a half lit waiting room on a big recliner like couch. Almost immediately a nurse came and asked me a million and one questions about Omar. I answered not knowing what I was answering too. I kept asking “Can I see him? When can I see him? Is he okay?” I remember, she telling me they have to do evaluations and tests and transfer him to his room from the bed we brought him in on. But I just kept asking “When can I see him?” She finally pats me on the shoulders and said the night shift is ending the morning shift is starting and she’ll inform the day nurse to come and get me the second he is settled. Wordlessly, I just sat there and with a small sad smile, she left me in the family waiting room.

I don’t know if I sat there a few seconds or a few minutes but I felt an overwhelming sense of being scared. Not just scared. Terrified. I don’t know what would have happened. Maybe I would have screamed. Maybe I would have cried.  I probably would have lost it. But then a woman’s heavily accented Polish voice broke through my invisible emotional barrier and simply said “How are you?” I didn’t recall seeing anyone in the waiting room before when the EMT workers placed me there. It wasn’t until later, did I realize God, or which ever higher power you believe in, placed her there as a guardian angel for me.  I don’t know how I would have got through the following hours without her. At the time, shell shocked and emotional and feeling lost not knowing what to do, I simply did what was automatic.  I turned to the voice.

  1. Nilo Bermeo says:

    I know this whole experience has and is weighing heavily on you, but thank you for sharing your story. Human existence is so brittle and fragile that almost anything can wipe it away and yet, the spirit (however you wish to define it) can overcome so much – it can keep that fleshy shell we often regard as our true selves from crumbling – and show us what real strength, what being human really is. Some have said, life is marked only by tragedies. Perhaps it is, but life is better understood through one’s reaction toward tragedies. It does not have to take much to completely destroy a person, but for those who refuse to let trajedies destroy hope and love, life is still worthwhile. Thank you for your courage at such a time.


  2. What an amazing piece of writing.
    What a horrible tragedy.
    Let me know if I can help at all.


  3. Crystal R. says:

    this was very hard for me to read (on an emotional level). but just the fact you could get through all the details of the day (meaning not only what clearly happened–but how things looked around the happening–if that makes sense) is fucking admirable.

    i’m sorry, tash.
    how is he now?

    loved the way you ended this: “i turned to the voice.”


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