Monday, March 17, 2014

Will You Ever Understand These Letters?

Dear Ellie,

It's been 12 hours, now.  There is a certain feeling of futility in continuing to write these.  I'm not certain of whether you will ever be able to read them.  To your mother and I, the brain is the seat of humanity.  Of "self."  I'm not sure how much of yours is left.  All of it?  Some of it?

I don't know.  Some of it, surely, because you are moving.  There's still some wiggly Ellie in there.  You can still grip my hand.  Suck on your ET tube.  But it's like everything you do is half of what it was before.  There was so much strength behind those limbs.  Now they are weak.  Reluctant.  Your breathes are irregular.  You spend long spans just letting the ventilator breath for you.  When your oxygen desaturates from your blood, there is this long delay before you recover.  As though you are staring at a simple math problem but can't find the answer like you did before.  Like some important part of your brain is gone.  "How do I do this breathing thing, again?" you seem to be thinking.  I haven't seen your eyes open.  I'm afraid to see them.  I wishfully think that, perhaps, you still haven't recovered your energy from the night before.  Are you still just tired, 12 hours later?  Can it take that long to recover?  Would I be just as tired half a day later, after a marathon?

You are only ever supposed to be handled for perhaps 15 minutes at a time.  Last night, it was an hour and a half.  An hour and a half of prodding and turning and unconscionable stresses put on your lungs.  And brain.  When your mechanical oxygen support failed inexplicably, the staff struggled for about an hour with no results.  Maybe longer.  I was struggling to simply find the will to stand, so it wasn't easy keeping track of time.

They couldn't find the reason for the problem.  A machine, perhaps, was broken.  Or perhaps it was the air line.  Or maybe the air intake.  Or maybe the canula in your nose.  You were kept alive with an imprecise "hand powered" respirator during that time.  Or I should say, some of that time.  They never did discover what was wrong.  You turned blue three times during that hour.  The last time was the worst.  They tried to reintubate you, but failed again and again.  All the while you were off of any kind of support.  You turned deeper and deeper shades.  It was so obvious to me at that moment that we were watching you die.

I was astonished, a few minutes into your suffocation, when you kicked defiantly.  Or was it a seizure?  I don't know.  Your heart slowed to a crawl but never stopped beating... I think.  You never stopped breathing... I think.  If there was enough oxygen for your heart to continue beating, does that mean your brain had enough oxygen, too?  My memory is so scrambled.  I don't know how long you went without oxygen.  How long is it that a person can drown before their neurons begin to flicker out, for good?

Your mother moved your hand a moment ago.  I wanted to see you fight us like you had before.  I wanted to see that defiance and insubordination.  There was nothing there.  When I touch you now, you already feel like a memory.

I'm tired of people talking about miracles.    


  1. I'm so, so very sorry you are having to go through this,and I am so angry that the universe is playing these unbelievably cruel games. Ellie seems like such a fighter. I'm a realist, so I always sort of roll my eyes when people walk up to an awful situation and tell somebody who is in obviously a bad place that things will work out (see it all the time on the blogs). I'm not going to say that, but I am praying for her. It would suck beyond imagining if all this fight turned out to be for nothing, and somehow, despite the odds, I cannot fathom that.

  2. Thank you for your realism, Sci Chick. A realistic perspective, as cruel as it might seem, is always what brings me comfort, because I can always trust it.