At 9:30 a.m., on the morning that they say Bennie died, I was asked to leave his room so that they could perform a sterile procedure. Minutes earlier, I had given written consent to one of the ghouls to allow him and his cohorts to attempt dialysis. I made it clear that this was their only shot. I could not bring myself to pull the plug, nor did I realize that it was within my legal ability to do so, at the time. Honestly, the thought did not cross my mind.
I was escorted to the waiting room where I encountered a woman I’d met the night before. She and her sister were there for the duration, as their brother was receiving a liver transplant. Both were very kind and sociable women in their late 50’s. I politely engaged in light conversation with them for a few minutes, then turned to the window and tried to pretend I was somewhere else.
The scenery was industrial and, to me, beautiful. I greatly enjoy the shape of things meant to work, maintain or create. Those things interest me. And so I sat in total silence, listening to the sisters giggling and staring through the glass. Suddenly, a flutter caught my eye. It was a sparrow that had flown from beneath a nearby overhang. I watched fly for a second, maybe two, then it fell out of the sky onto the roof of the building below. It flipped and flopped for a good half minute before giving up and dying. I even took a picture of it. I was so shocked I couldn’t even call the sisters over to have a look. All of everything inside of me was focused on the sparrow and I knew then, more strongly than I ever knew before, that Bennie had died.
I couldn’t help but cry when I saw this terrible confirmation of my feeling. It was a bit after ten, so I called the nurse’s desk and she said it could take a bit longer, not to worry. I got lost in the blue sky that presented itself so gloriously on the other side of the window. You could see beyond the buildings, all the way to the Gulf. Pelicans flew their patrols in groups, as always. My eyes could not get enough of them as I sat there wondering what was going to happen once he passed. I tried to remember all of his funeral songs and which tee shirt he wanted to be dressed in. I couldn’t remember a thing, but it gave me something to occupy my brain with.
The younger sister had gone to visit her brother in his room for a few minutes. When she returned, I heard her saying that there was a big commotion going on ‘back there’. She said someone was dying and that every doctor and nurse on the floor was in the room. I turned and asked if it was the first room on the left. She said that it was. I told her it was Bennie and that he wasn’t coming back. I let more time pass before I called again. It was around noon. The nurse told me the same thing as before. I thanked her and hung up. I wondered if they were preparing his body, somehow, since I knew he was dead. I thought that they might be taking the tubes away and whatsuch. The sisters kept asking if I was okay and if I wanted cookies or a sandwich from the giant bag they’d packed. I tried to just be quiet and think.
Two more hours rolled around before I called the nurse, again. There was noise in the background this time. Her voice was shaking as she reassured me, finally telling me she’d send a person to come get me soon. The older sister had, by now, gone back to see her brother. She had trouble walking and complained quietly to the younger sister that she had to take the long way ’round because the hallway was blocked with machines and people. I could still hear her, though. They began to speculate on whether, or not, Bennie would survive. Then, out of nowhere, a young girl appeared. She asked me to come with her. As soon as we cleared the waiting room, she took my arm and said we’d be talking in the conference room. Everyone knows what that means. Oh, shit…
I walked into a huge room with an equally huge conference table. At the end nearest the door sat the anesthesiologist and, across from her, a doctor. The girl that brought me there pulled the seat at the head of the table out and asked me to sit down. The doctor immediately began his routine…’Ma’am, we’ve been doing chest compressions for two hours and he is not responding….’. I went crazy when he said that. I told him to tell those bastards to get their hands off of Bennie NOW. The doctor just stared blankly at me like he didn’t understand why I wasn’t thanking him. I repeated myself, even louder, until the anesthesiologist finally got off her ass and went to tell them to stop. I asked the doctor if they could please removed the machinery before my sons arrived. He agreed, and left the room. I called both of the boys, but told neither that their father had passed. I didn’t want them driving with that in their heads. They would find out soon enough. I called my mother…
I’m not sure how long I spent in the conference room. It was so quiet and serene in that room. But, when I came out and went into Bennie’s room, my mother and older brother were already there. A very attractive young doctor came in to explain that they did the very best they could. I asked him to stop the bullshit because the best they could have done was let him die with some dignity. I told him that I did not want to hear another thing about it and I wanted him to leave. He asked if I’d sign papers donating organs for research before he left. I told him that I would not, since they’d experimented enough, already. Again, he came back with more soft voiced reassurances that they were, in fact, a team of heroes who’d given their all. He just could not stop himself from trying to paint the situation into a pretty picture. I told him that they are only people and that there was nothing good that came from what they did and that they knew they couldn’t save him. I asked why they’d do chest compressions on someone with no brain activity…someone they already knew would be paraplegic. Not to mention that they did that on someone who had a chest full of microscopically attached arteries and such. Did they plan to send home a biologically functional meat sack? Was that the goal? Would they have considered THAT a success? Why would anyone do that? Dr. Goodlooking didn’t like my line of questioning and he did finally leave the room. Thank God.
The rest of the afternoon and evening went much as you’d think it would. Now, it’s…now. I’m alone. The boys are doing fine. Life goes on. I left some details out of this story because they are simply too painful to recall. I have never witnessed anything as horrific as I did in the 14 hours I spent with Bennie’s corpse throughout the night and morning after his surgery. I know that I’ll never be the same again. Maybe life feels a little more valuable to me, at this point. Moreso, the end of life seems more precious to me. We have a right to die with dignity. No doctor should be able to rush us into emergency surgery that we don’t want simply because they can’t legally give you some pain medication and put you in a quiet room until the event occurs. They knew Bennie would die that day. By their own account, he’d have been dead in five seconds after the aneurysm burst. Instead, they subjected him to what was supposed to be a twelve hour procedure, even though they closed him up after eight, then put him on life support just to cover their asses, as far as I can tell. His kidneys had stopped functioning during surgery. That certainly coincides with the cause of death on the death certificate. Then they did two hours of chest compressions to finish up the show? I haven’t seen anything that says that’s protocol. I’m so disturbed by it all that I can’t sleep well. It’s just all too, too much. And it always will be.