(Read part one HERE)
The story continues…
Adam walked into Nate’s hospital room Saturday afternoon. I was sitting in there alone- Nate had been wheeled out for another CT scan. I remember feeling relief having Adam there, for a lot of reasons. And the nightmare of the day/night before was broken by the fresh resolve he managed to bring with him.
More scans, more waiting. Where was everyone? Besides all the babies being born (a song would play over the intercom), the hospital felt like a ghost town.
The next few days in the Phoenix hospital slipped slowly and painfully by in a veritable blur. Nate continued to move in and out of reality, depending on the success of the drugs. Adam, Allison, and Nancy formed a team that kept everything going. I had no appetite, but I’m pretty sure one night I mentioned I could manage tortilla soup and Adam and Al moved Phoenix mountains to find a bowl.
Nights were exceptionally bad. Falling asleep meant Nate would miss pushing his pain pump every few minutes. He’d wake up with the pain already at a 10, taking hours to get back under control. Thus, we weren’t sleeping well and I was starting to get the crazy, irrational, fuzzy brain that comes from major sleep deprivation. My “Arizona mom” of the last few years (Anna) got Al and me a hotel room nearby in attempts to clear the mental fog, but leaving the hospital generated such intense anxiety on my part.
I’m not sure how many nights we stayed in a hotel – one or two? – but Adam and Nancy would take the night shift at the hospital with Nate. Whenever I was away, the mornings meant waking up in a cold sweat with the twisty stomach, and an overwhelming urge to get back as soon as possible. I remember one morning, in particular, waking up and calling Adam. He was vague on the phone, and said he would come pick me up to take me back. I knew something was wrong, but when he got to the hotel he forced me to eat something from the breakfast bar instead of leaving right away. We sat over a bowl of oatmeal, and he told me it had been a bad night, and that Nate [still] wasn’t doing well. I cried silently, feeling such despair.
I’ll skip through the poor care Nate received, the plethora of tests, the lack of answers, the doctor who kept trying to check him out of the hospital, and the nurses who insisted he was getting better. By Tuesday or Wednesday we had a hospitalist who was committed to finding answers. He assembled a team to help him in the process.
And then… Sandy Gladding. A surgeon (possible superhero) on the case who immediately connected with Nate. She gave us our first real dose of information: Nate had a large tumor wrapped around his mesenteric artery that was cutting off blood flow to the small intestine and causing the excruciating pain. She wanted to operate, but needed to consult two vascular surgeons first, and request that they scrub in with her to repair the probable damaged veins/arteries.
Wednesday, June 2. We’d been waiting to hear back from Dr. Gladding. Allison was finishing her last day of teaching (she’d been driving back and forth). Adam left for the airport to pick up Nate’s brother, Jon. My mom (who had just flown in) and Nancy were with Nate and me when Sandy came in with an update.
Nate and I sat in the hospital bed together as Sandy explained the tumor was inoperable and there was nothing she could do. It may or may not be cancer, but either way would eventually grow large enough to close off blood flow to the small intestine, causing it to die, and causing Nate to die in the process. She explained it could happen at any time, that she was so sorry, and that she was hoping for as much time as possible for him.
I’ve tried typing this part several times, but find it so hard to put to words. There was this strange blanket of numbness pulling up over me, then suddenly Nate and I were both crying. And I couldn’t stop. Nancy asked if we could pause for a minute and pray. She prayed. Sandy, who felt this connection to Nate, insisted she wasn’t giving up, that she would continue doing everything she could to help somehow. Then everyone left the room.
The crying turned into hyperventilation. I couldn’t catch my breath, and held onto Nate while he told me it would be okay, that I would be okay. Seriously, someone was standing on my chest. Or it was the closest feeling to a metaphorical heart break.
Nate started talking about his life, family, God, and how much life he hadn’t yet lived. Everything outside of this and outside of that hospital seemed totally irrelevant and insignificant.
Phew, I need a little break. Part three later…