(Photo from August 2012 by www.yourcandidmemories.com)
If you don't know me, you'll catch up fast. And if you do, then you already know some of the story, but really, you are sitting at home wondering what happened. You are talking about me, about us. You are telling your husband or wife or coworkers about a girl you know from school, work, the gym (that's a joke) and how she lost her husband so suddenly. Her seemingly healthy, 32 year old husband. The father of her 2 young girls. I take no offense. It's shocking. I'm still walking around in a fog. I can't say much more than "I can't believe this is my life" and "what the hell just happened?"
I am a story-sharer by nature. Anyone who knows me can attest. So I feel like sharing my new story, just like I always have. I guess you could call me a "documenter". I like to write things down. I like to read them later. I like for other people to know my story. I guess it's cathartic. I just need to get things out into the universe I guess.
This is me. The day Jason died, Valentine's Day this year, 2014. Just two weeks ago. Seems like so long ago now looking at this picture. I sent him this photo in the early afternoon with some guilt trip about not sending me flowers (it was just a joke as I had told him not to spend our money on flowers this year, especially since we would spend so much on dinner, which would come with a single rose anyway).
This is Jason with our daughters, Lila and Harper, just a few months ago around the holidays. He was a wonderful father. He loved them so much, he would have killed for them. Quite literally.
It was Valentine's Day, so we had a date planned at our favorite restaurant. It's a small Italian restaurant with 1 chef, 2 waiters and about 10 tables, in a downtown area near where we used to live. We still made the 45 minute trip over there on our special days because it was "our spot". He took me there on our first date, he proposed there, and all of our birthdays and Valentine's dates happened there too. It even burned down once and we were heartbroken, only to be thrilled once it was rebuilt with a new look. The food is amazing and I would like to recommend it to you, but I can say with certainty I will never return there. The memory is too strong.
Jason's mom came over to watch the kids after we put them down to bed and we snapped a quick picture and were on our way to dinner for our 8.30pm reservation.
We arrived on time and had decided what we would eat from each course on the menu. We ordered our drinks and just talked about what a great day it had been. We had gotten some good news earlier in the day and Lila had enjoyed her Valentine party at school. We have both found much joy and meaning in our children, so we talked about them a lot.
It became a celebration dinner; a celebration of new opportunities. We were both in a great mood.
But it wasn't long before Jason started complaining that he was cold. That was at about 8.45pm and from that moment, nothing was ever the same again. By the time he was done eating his appetizer, he was visibly shuddering, saying he was cold. I offered to switch seats with him (since he was sitting by the door with the cool breeze coming in) and snapped this picture, which would become our last. This was the last moment things were "normal" for me and for us.
Within 10 minutes I could see by the look on Jason's face that he wasn't just cold. Now he said his back hurt so I offered to get this fancy restaurant to bag up our food. Before I could even take care of the (expensive) tab, he was in the car waiting for me. I got our food to go and met him in the car where I found him laying back in the seat. He had to drive because I cannot drive a standard transmission car. And at this point I had no idea where this was heading and he assured me he could drive. He drove really fast because he needed to get home so badly and that was making me increasingly concerned. Now he was saying his stomach hurt too and he was still freezing cold. I was burning up under the car's heater and he was still cold. Jason was almost never cold. He wore shorts in the snow. Seriously.
At that point we called the 24 hour nurse line and they said go to the ER. We were already headed there anyway but I guess I was hoping for insight. I had asked Jason many times if he had felt bad before this because he seemed to be getting really sick, really fast. He assured me that it just hit him and he felt great before dinner. I asked if he felt chest pains, jaw pains, or arm pains (indicators of heart attack) and he said no. So we swung into our house, which is practically next door to the hospital, to change into more comfortable clothes since we knew we would be in the ER a while. That took all of 4 minutes just to let his mom know what was going on and I drove him to the ER. We rushed in and I had no idea it would be the last time Jason stood underneath the stars or saw the sky or breathed outside air. That's hard to swallow now, looking back.
Once in the ER, we waited for almost an hour. Jason was getting worse and I could see that. We asked "how much longer" a few times. He went from needing to sit to needing to lay down. Finally they called him back. His temp was 103. They gave fever reducers only for his temp to go up.
In the next 4 hours there in the middle of the night, Jason deteriorated right in front of me. Tests were run, scans taken and the doctor kept telling me she was at a loss for what was happening. She said they were "stumped" by his symptoms and how he presented. His blood pressure was falling, his oxygen levels were dipping now into the 80's, they had laid ice packs all over his body. He was breathing harder, even on oxygen, and was less coherent. I showed him pictures of Lila and Harper, still not knowing how dire the situation was. I was just trying to perk him up. His body continued to fail on him. I will save the horrific details and just leave it at what the doctors told me...
"Shortly after we inserted the breathing tube, he stopped talking back to us..."
We did try to save him. The staff did CPR for over half an hour, resulting in a lot of the nurses' sweat and everyone's crying and my screaming. They administered at least 8 epinephrine doses, among a few other medicines, on Jason. Finally the doctor came to my eye level where I sat at Jason's feet and told me he was not going to come back. She asked for permission to cease compressions. I knew he was gone.
I sat in that hospital room with him for hours, until they made me leave. Talked to him, promised him things, called his family to come say goodbye and then I left only after he did.
I walked outside the ER and it was daylight. The sun was just peeking over the clouds in the early, dewy morning hours. And I took the first step toward my car; the first step of what appears to be a VERY long journey.