September 11 – A Personal Tragedy

By Pat LaPointe

On September 11th, 2008, I was staying with my father who suffers from dementia while my mother was hospitalized. She had fallen and hit her head, resulting in bleeding on the brain.

Dad and I were engaged in our usual morning routine: getting him out of bed, dressing him, etc. I had just given him his insulin injection when I turned on the TV.

As was expected, the morning news programs were showing clips of the Towers coming down, people running for safety and debris filling the air. Like many others, my mind flashed back to that day seven years before: arriving at my parent’s house just as the second plane hit, taking them out for their weekly errands. Things were so different now.

By 9:00AM Dad was settled in his favorite chair.A neighbor arrived to stay with him while I visited Mom in the hospital.

The previous day Mom’s breathing tube had been removed and replaced with a trachea tube. A change that we hoped would allow her to speak.

When I arrived Mom seemed to be more alert, more aware. Although she was still not speaking, she often reached out her hand, appearing to want to communicate. Her frustration was apparent and she would quickly withdraw her hand and drift off to sleep.

Around noon her body began to shake uncontrollably. I summoned the nurse who took her vitals and adjusted her medication. She calmed down and rested peacefully for the next two hours.

At 2:00PM several of the machines that were monitoring her heart and breathing began to beep and a siren-like sound filled the room. The nurse took her vitals and found that her blood pressure was rising out of control while her heart rate was dangerously low.

What followed was a continual adjustment of her IV and numerous injections of a variety of drugs. It was like her vitals were on two different roller coasters. When the heart rate went up, the blood pressure went down and vice versa.

At 2:30PM the nurse told me to leave the room so they could complete a procedure. I was beginning to realize the severity of the situation.

I paced the floor in the waiting room until 3:10PM when the nurse came to guide me to the consultation room. Mom’s doctor was in there waiting for me.

“We’ve tried to revive her, pumping her heart for thirty minutes. She has no brain function. You need to make a decision”

I could barely get the words out . “Stop the procedure.”

I returned to Mom’s room. She lay there with eyes wide open yet not really seeing. The monitors were beeping very quietly. I reached over and touched her hand.

“Good bye, Mom. I love you”

She was pronounced dead at 3:23PM.

My images of 9/11 are not of planes flying into buildings. They are of a blood clot that had raced to my Mother’s lungs, a very personal reminder of 9/11.

Pat has been a member of Story Circle Network for many years. She facilitates two internet writing circles and currently serves as Chair of the Membership Committee. She lives in Prospect Heights, Il and enjoys time with her husband, four daughters and nine grandchildren.

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3 responses to “September 11 – A Personal Tragedy

  1. Oh, Pat, I cringe at the thought of having to make that decision for anyone, especially a mother. Your story reminds me that births and deaths occur on this day as on any other. Thanks for sharing this poignant tale.

  2. Thank you, Pat for sharing this event with us… a poignant reminder of how life continues or stops…
    often in the measure of a heartbeat…

  3. Lisa Shirah-Hiers

    Wow, Pat! What a touching story of how the national tragedy on 9/11 intersected your own very personal loss. I am moved….

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