I am choosing to write about the heart that wouldn't quit. I don't know if she means that literally (the actual organ) or figuratively (the spirit within) so I am going with the literal heart. Otherwise known as my grampa.
My Grampa, had AAA (abdominal aortic aneurysm) surgery in May of 2001. While on the operating table he had a massive heart attack. While AAA surgery is not an easy surgery, it definitely wasn't expected to be the recovery that it was.
Grampa was in ICU for a long time. Intubated to boot. The poor guy could not speak. He also had early Parkinson's, and could not write very well. They tried to extubate after a little while, but his O2 immediately dropped so they intubated him again. Another little while passed. The longer a patient is intubated, the higher the risk of pneumonia. So they decided to try again. Grampa let them know, NO MATTER WHAT, that he was not to be intubated again. How awful must that be that you would chose to die than to have that thing shoved down there again?
Thankfully, this time he was able to breathe on his own. He stayed in for quite a while. My gramma was there every single day. Sitting by his bedside while his cranky self grumped at her. But spouses, they understand, and tolerate more than the average joe. He was suffering. He was tired of being in the hospital. He wanted his golf cart and his golf buddies. He wanted to feel normal again.
I asked the doctor (it's truly amazing how they will talk to you when you are wearing scrubs!) how long we could expect grampa to be with us, because he was not a candidate for open heart surgery. This doctor said he had seen patients last UP TO A YEAR on medical therapy alone.
Hmmm. So, that Christmas, we enjoyed having Grampa there with us. He didn't stay at my Mom's for long, though. He was still quite weak and less tolerant (okay, he was grumpy) of the hustle and bustle and noise that is Christmas.
Amazingly, huge thanks to my gramma, he was still with us the following Christmas.
And the next.
And the next.
And the next.
And the next (2006). Although this year he stayed at home and didn't come out to the family gathering. He was having a lot of trouble breathing. By now, he had a scooter, and his walker was kept beside the chair for his trips to the bathroom, and he was on oxygen.
In the spring of 2007, my gramma, who had not had a break for a single day since 2001, went to BC to see her family. Grampa went to respite for the weekend.
He hated it.
In, October, Grampa wasn't doing very well. He landed back in the hospital, and from there, since he was not well enough to go home, went back to respite, more a half-way house, until he improved enough to go home. He would go home for a check up by the program doctors where my grandparents lived and be told he wasn't quite well enough yet, and be sent back to the nursing home again.
In November, he went home for another checkup. He went upstairs to their apartment and sat in his chair. He announced that he had to go to the bathroom, which required help from the attendants, but before anyone could get there, he grinned and said "Oops, too late!" He was losing control of his bodily function now, and wore a diaper. He looked at my Gramma's ring that was her gift from him for their 60th wedding anniversary, which was coming up in a few months, and had just come in that week. He watched a TV show on his big-screen TV that had become a close and personal friend over the last couple of years, as his mobility went. He went downstairs with Gramma for Hymn time, and stood beside her. He was called by the nurses, because it was time for his check up.
He waved to Gramma and said "See you later, dear." And off he went upstairs, with his very favorite nurses.
He saw the doctor and told her that No Way was she gonna send him back to "that place". "I'll quit this program if I have to, but I WON'T go back there!"
And then he died.
The heart that just wouldn't quit finally quit. In a place he loved. With people he loved. Having one final chance to do the things he loved.
The nurse went back downstairs to get my Gramma. We all got phone calls. And the family, only 16 short months after Shelley, gathered around each other once again.
I had the honor of being one of the pallbearers. The grandchildren carried Grampa to his final resting place. Nothing in my life has ever been so difficult, yet I was so proud, and so honored to be able to do it.
So we will soon see a full year come around without my Grampa. It is still odd to think of him being gone.
But when you consider that doctor six and a half years earlier saying he could last up to a year, I can't help but be thankful for all the extra time we were given.
Grampa and Gramma, just six short weeks before he died.
November 6, 1919 - November 20, 2007
I love you.