The Strange Things You Do While Facing Your Spouse's Death

Colleen

The Strange Things You Do While Facing Your Spouse's Death

Colleen
dino-648716_640We stood in the small ICU room, my step-daughter and I, stiff, still, afraid to move or speak. My husband lie before us, chest bared, monitor connectors dotting here and there. His chest rose and fell in staggered attempts at breath. He had just suffered his second cardiac arrest, his survival due only to his implanted defibrillator and the tenacity of an excellent trauma unit. For 45 minutes they pounded on him, manually compressing his chest to move the blood through his body, using external defibulators while the one inside him charged off for the seventy-first time. Finally they stabilize his heart with a medication they said hasn't been used since the 1950s. They let us in to see him, warning that another 'storm' would be his last. 'Storm' is what they called his attacks, a fierce cardiac arrest happening when the QT rhythm, the lower line between the peaks on a graph become too long and causes your heart to quiver like a hand full of worms. This is the way the doctor described it.

"What would cause another 'storm'?" I asked.

"Anything, I suppose."

"Can I kiss him?"

"Perhaps not..."

"How about holding his hand?"

He bit his lip in response.

So we stood there. Too afraid...no.. too terrified to move. To touch him, talk to him, we just stood and stared fearing how close I was to losing my mind. Staring at his chest as it struggled to fill his lungs with air, something caught my attention. I bent closer to examine the surface of his chest.

"What is it?" my step-daughter asked, moving in closer.

"It's a T-Rex."

"What?!" she said a bit too loudly.

"There's a Tyrannosaurus Rex on his chest."

"Naw...that's a dog...begging."

"But look at the slope of its back. It's definitely a T-Rex."

"Well, there's a jellyfish over here."

"Really?!" I said and leaned further over my husband. "Perhaps or...you know those ghosts...from Pac-Man."

"Yes...I can see it."

So engrossed with the anomalies on my husband's chest we did not notice a nurse walk into the room.

"What ever are you doing?"

"Come here," I motioned her over. "Is that a T-Rex or a dog begging?"

She stood for a moment, her mouth agape, turned an eye towards the section of his chest where my finger hovered. "Well...a T-Rex, I guess."

"Ha! I told ya so."

"Well that one is definitely a jellyfish," my step-daughter went on as the nurse backed out of the room, forgetting what she came in for.

As she did I heard her let go a short laugh.

"What's so funny?" another nurse asked.

"They are in there matrixing pictures out of Mr. Austin's defibrillator burns."

"You're kidding!"

"Well, people do strange things when they are faced with the death of a loved one."

True...true...and as my husband recovered and the T-Rex faded and healed, I marveled at how our minds so cleverly grasp on to sanity by doing something so strange and obscure.