The Last Happy Meal

The events discussed here happened 28 years ago – Sept 25, 1994 – on this day. The names have been altered.

“I still don’t like it, but I’m ok!” – Anne’s cousin, age 8.

We had three ancient maple trees around our house in Oakville. They were a pain to mow around when doing the yardwork. They deposited a phenomenal amount of leaves on the lawn every fall. It would take weeks to rake them up to the curb for the city to pick up. My daughter Anne also had a tough time in the Fall. She often ended up in the hospital because of her asthma.

The largest maple tree stood in front of the house in the middle of a quarter acre. A few days after the events that follow, I sat down on the front porch. I looked up a this giant being and truly saw its majestic beauty for the first time. 

As I start to write it’s one week since my life had changed forever. I picked up Anne as usual on Friday night, a little late. When I got to her mother’s door, Anne answered a little distantly. She usually ran to me and hugged me. Today she was different. She just said, “Hi,” then turned to get her shoes. 

Anne’s mother, said she had a bit of a cold. Anne had a runny nose and soar throat. Earlier she had been taken to the doctor, with her sister, who had strep throat. However, Anne just had a bit of a cold. 

She picked up a bag with a couple of binders and books, her homework and gave them to me. She turned and picked up a bag with her roller blades.  She hadn’t planned on bringing any clothes. She wore a pink pair of sweatpants and a purplish sweatshirt. She didn’t have her Maple Leafs hat. She hugged her mother and we left the front hall. Still talking to her mother, Anne turned to hug her again. 

Marie told me that she didn’t like to blow her nose as Anne sniffled. As we got into the car I asked her why? “Mommy buys Kleenex that hurts my nose.” I opened the little compartment between the seats and showed Anne that I had her preferred Kleenex. “I know” she said. 

I asked if Anne had eaten yet, as we drove down the highway. As usual, she hadn’t. I asked where she wanted to go. “Somewhere good,” she said. “Like what? Taco Bell, Harvey’s?” “McDonalds! We haven’t gone to McDonalds in a couple of weeks,” she told me. “Last week we went to Dairy Queen. The week before we went home.” Pat, Karen’s sister, and her kids Patty and Jay had been living with us since the beginning of September. We normally went home to see what they would be having. It was treat night on Friday. Patty and Jay got to choose what they ate on Friday, Anne had told me. I told Anne that I had already eaten, so I didn’t care where we went. 

We drove down to the McDonalds on Appleby Line. We got out of the car and walked to the restaurant. We held hands as we walked together. I would reach back with my hand and she would take it from behind. We started this a long time ago when she lived on #8 highway in Hamilton. I would park the car across the street from her apartment building. As we crossed from the building, we would silently take each other’s hand. I would wrap my baby finger around her wrist as we crossed the busy road. 

We entered the McDonalds as a man was leaving with his daughter. I stood behind another man, whose son came from the playroom without shoes. He asked where the boy’s shoes were and to go get them. I ordered. Cheeseburger Happy Meal and a Diet Coke — Anne’s staple diet on Fridays. They were using the new bags which pleased her. Just as we left, the boy came out with one shoe on and said he couldn’t put his shoes on. The man went to help him. We walked back to the car and I said, “Well you got your Happy Meal. Happy Now?”

Anne, reading from the bag, asked me, “How do you catch a squirrel?” I thought for a moment and then said, “I don’t know.” “You hang from a tree and act like a nut.” I thought about the implications of that. I don’t remember what else we talked about, but I did manage to get three of her fries. 

When we arrived at home, the kids told us that they were having pizza. I had gotten out of the car, Anne grabbed her Happy Meal, Coke and her roller blades. I asked her to bring in her homework. “Can you take it for me?” “Sure” I said, “along with all my stuff.” I had my suit, computer, etc.  As she turned the corner, she hollered, “Hello Patty. Hello Jay.” I followed Anne to her bedroom and handed the bag to her. 

The delivery man arrived with the pizza, but he didn’t know how much to charge. Joanne called the pizzeria. They had ordered pepperoni, cheese and olives. Anne loved olives. We all ate pizza in the kitchen. Joanne and I leaned against the counter and the kids ate at the table. I asked Joanne if Anne had eaten her Happy Meal. She had —  a first. 

I went to my room, and hooked up my PowerBook. I logged onto CompuServe. Jay came in and asked what I was doing. “Work stuff,” I told him. Anne came in. She asked me if I could take them to the roller gardens. I said, “We’ll see.” I thought about the logistics. “With who?” “With Patty and Jay.” That’s why she had brought her roller blades, I thought to myself. She got off the end of the bed and went in search of Jay. Perhaps to start working on his mother. 

They came back, a little while later. Anne picked up Karen’s silver tie. “This one is my favourite. See?” Jay looked at it closely. It’s covered with tiny Mickey Mouse icons. “Oh ya!”, he said. “Can you show me how to tie this?” she asked me. “You take the skinny side and wrap the fat side around, up and over the top, around the front, over the back and through.” Anne picked it right up. She went to look in the mirror. Jay asked if he could try one. “Take the Hermes one,” I said. “I’ll show you another way to tie it,” I told Anne. She picked that up as well. “I’ll show you what I used to do in high school. You loosen the tie and wear in to your head like a head band.” They ran around the house wearing the new head bands. 

I went outside to have a smoke. Joanne said I was nuts to let Jay run around with a hundred dollar tie on his head. I told her that Karen paid $5 for it at a garage sale. “Still!” she said. I went back to finish with my computer. Anne came in. I was looking for my hat, which sat on the top of my reading chair. Anne looked behind. Then I got up to look behind, she ran around me. I said, “Where is my hat?” and she said, ”you mean this one?” She was sitting in my place with my hat on. She asked if I was going to watch The X-Files with them? I asked what time it was on. “Soon.” “Go and put on your pajamas first.” 

When I came into the kitchen, Anne asked if she could have a Coke. “There’s a case of Diet Coke in the pantry.” She took one. “Do you want ice?” I asked. She did. I got a purple plastic cup down for her. As she poured her coke, I poppied in two cubes. I refilled the tray and put it back into the fridge, just as Joanne came back into the house. Joanne asked Anne if she was going to record the X-Files for Jen. “Ya, I already have a tape ready,” she said.

I came downstairs and sat next to Anne on the couch. She asked if she could have a blanket. I looked around and she said, “Over beside you.” I gave her the blanket and asked her not to put her drink on Jon’s footstool. “Well, what am I supposed to do with it?” “Put it on the floor in front of you,” I said. She stretched out on the couch and put her feet in my lap.“Rub!” she said. Rubbing her feet I thought about how they were starting to smell like mine. Joanne came and asked if Jay would like to have a snack. She asked if Anne would like one. Anne jumped over the couch, went upstairs and returned with a banana. 

I went outside for another cigarette, when the X-Files was over, which was about mutant fluke worms. Anne came out and asked if I would tuck her in. “I’ll be a minute,” I said. She was reading a book when I arrived. I kissed her good night and left her to read.

Later I wondered if I should put Anne in my bed, since my partner Karen was away and I slept pretty soundly. 

At 10 am Saturday morning, Anne woke me saying, “Daddy, I need my mask.” I looked up at her and could see she was definitely in trouble. Anne’s chest would rise and fall deeply, swiftly, and her stomach would go in and out. She looked like she was drowning, mouth open to pull in more air. I said, “Go and lie down.” I got out of bed and went to the kitchen. 

I called her mother at home hoping she wasn’t already in bed. She had just finished the night shift at the hospital. She was still awake. I asked her to could bring Anne’s compressor to me, because it would take too long to drive all the way to her house and back. I told Joanne that Anne was in trouble and went back to see Anne.

I found Anne in the bathroom. She had vomited up phlegm, clear and slightly yellow. I wiped Anne’s face with a damp facecloth. We both went to the kitchen to wait for Marie. While waiting, I got Anne’s meds out of the fridge and prepared 0.5 ml of Ventolin in 2 cc of saline as usual. Anne and I joked about using her toy airbrush paint toy to give her the meds. 

I met Marie at the door and took the bag with Anne’s compressor. I took the compressor to the kitchen and plugged it in. I told Marie that I had already prepared the Ventolin. She said, “Oh, you didn’t make it right. We’re using Atrovent with it, because Ventolin gives Anne the shakes real bad.” I said, “Since when?” “Oh, for about a year now.” I remember looking at Anne and we exchanged glances. This was news to me. Marie listened to Anne’ chest with her stethoscope.

Marie had brought Anne’s Prednesone and she decided to start her on 30 mg (6 tablets.) Marie asked Anne if she wanted to go home or stay with daddy? Anne said, “Stay here.” While Anne was having her mask, Marie and I stepped outside to smoke and talk. Marie suggested giving Anne a mask every four hours and wrote the instructions for the preparation on the bottom of the Kleenex box.

While outside Marie told me that they had lost a couple of people in the ER last night. I asked again about Catherine and Anne’s visit to the doctor yesterday. Catherine did have strep throat but not Anne.

After she was done her mask, Anne started back down the hall. Marie asked if she had taken her Prednisone. Anne stopped, turned, and put her hand out. Anne sat at the table, while I got her a glass of water. She took her meds, 2 tablets at a time. I asked Marie when the Prednisone would take effect. She said it would take about 6 hours before it would work. Anne then said she wanted to go downstairs to watch TV with Jay.

I watched Anne as she descended, one step at a time, holding on to the wall. Marie said, “When we have to carry her up and down the stairs we’re in trouble.” I went down to see that she had made it. She got onto the open sofa bed and got under the blanket.

I came back upstairs. I said goodbye and thanks to Marie. I went back down. Anne was having another mask. Joanne said, “Anne said it was OK that there was no meds in it.” I said, “No, that’s not true.”

Anne said she didn’t want to watch TV anymore. She wanted to go back upstairs. Joanne picked her up and I took the compressor. Anne told Joanne she wanted to go to my bed.

Privately I told Joanne that I hoped we wouldn’t have to go to the hospital. Joanne had never seen Anne like this. Joanne told me she was fine when she got up. She had some cereal and a popsicle. She said she didn’t eat her cereal as usual.

I found Anne huddled on the floor when I went back to her. She had vomited up again. Marie told me she was to have clear fluids, like Ginger Ale, or popsicles. When Anne was downstairs, she had half a popsicle. I had brought her one, she looked through the wrapper and told me, “You know I don’t like grape.” I went back to the freezer and found half a red one. Anne was trying not to get the red phlegm off of Karen’s carpet. I picked her up and carried her to the master bathroom. I got the face cloth, rinsed it and wiped her face. I asked if she was done. She said, “I need to wash my hands.” I stood up and took her to the sink. I washed her hands cupped in mine.

We went back to the bed and she asked for a wet face cloth. I went back to the bathroom, rinsed the face cloth and returned. “Where do you want it?” I asked. “On my head.” “Oh Anne,” I said, “I hope we don’t have to go to Mac.” Joanne came in. I told her about Anne’s vomiting. Joanne started to clean it up. She left and returned with some soapy water. I went downstairs to look the carpet cleaner.

I came back upstairs and Anne said she needed another mask. She hadn’t really improved from the first mask, like she often did. I went to the kitchen and mixed another in her nebulizer. I went back, plugged in her compressor and put the mask on her face. It was 11:45 AM – an hour since her first mask. I went back and told Anne I was going to take her to MacMaster Hospital. I asked her where her track pants were. She said in her bedroom. I looked around, then I went back and asked her where. She said by the red thing. At the foot of her bed is a small red topped end table. Her track pants were there. I picked up a pair white socks with red toes and her red coat. I returned and asked if the socks were hers or Patty’s. She said it did not matter.

I dressed her by putting on the socks and the track pants over her pajamas (a one piece). I put on her coat on and told her to wait. I went to the kitchen and pack up her medication. I picked the phone and called Marie. I told her we were going to Mac and I would call her from there. I went outside and opened the car. I put Anne’s meds, her school books, and a book for me to read. Opened the passenger door and reclined the seat slightly, so she would be more comfortable. I went back, stopped in the kitchen and write a note to Joanne. I went to the bedroom and got Anne’s compressor, and the small trashcan that Joanne has brought, in case Anne was sick again. I took them to the car. I picked up Anne and carried her into the car. She put her seatbelt on as soon as she got in. I pulled the seat forward, so the seatbelt would provide some protection. I got in and we drove to Mac.

When I got in the car, I tuned the radio to Y95, Anne’s favorite channel. We drove to Abbey Line, where Anne got sick again. I pulled the car over to comfort her. I wiped her face with the face cloth she had on her head. I asked her if “we could precede now?” and we continued on our way.

Sitting at the light on Main Street West was an eternity. I remember going quite fast to get to the front of the other cars and into the right lane. When we got to Mac, I pulled into the temporary lot near Emergency. I got out and went to Anne’s side of the car. I opened the door, lifted her out and asked her to stand, while I reached through the car to lock the doors. I closed the door and picked her up. She wrapped her legs around my waist.

When I got to the screening window at Emergency, the lady asked me what was wrong. I told her Anne had asthma. She asked if Anne had been here before. I said, “Yes, many times.” She told me to sit in the waiting room. A few minutes later a diminutive nurse came out calling Anne’s name. I said, “Right here!” She indicated, so I picked up Anne and followed her. We went in and turned left and went to a small room. She asked me to sit. I wasn’t sure if she wanted Anne on the bed. She indicated the chair.

She, Nurse Shirley, listened to Anne’s  chest and said, “Come with me.” We stood up and left the room. Shirley said to some others milling about, “This kid’s going into “Recus”.  I followed her into another larger room with three beds. Shirley indicated the center bed. She started Anne on oxygen with an adult mask. A doctor came in and started her on two Ventolin masks, one after the other. While Anne was having the first mask, I asked Shirley if I could go and move my car. She said it would be alright.

Shirley and the doctor asked what we had done so far. I told them we had given her two masks; 5ml Ventolin, 1ml Atrovent in 2cc of saline, an hour apart. The last was at noon. It was 1 o’clock when we arrived at Mac. I told them she had also had 30mg of prednisone at 10:45 am, but she had vomited, so I didn’t know if she had it anymore.

I parked my car underground, by the yellow elevators (serious parking.) I went up the elevator, asked someone  how to get to Emergency when I got to the main floor. I went up to the ER window, and told the lady I was going to be with Anne.

When I got back to the resuscitation room (Marie told me the name later.) There was a small 3″ blood stain by Anne’s right wrist. Shirley had put in the first IV. I asked Anne if this was still the first mask. She said, “what do you mean?” I asked if Shirley had changed it yet. She said no. Shirley confirmed it was the first.

Then Dr C and another heavier set lady doctor came in. They asked about Anne. I ran through the morning meds, etc. They asked if Anne had any allergies, we answered in unison, “no”. (Shirley had also asked when we arrived.) They asked what Anne normally took for her asthma. Did she have a cold, etc. I had told them (and Shirley earlier) that she had sniffles and complained of a sore throat. Her mother had taken her to the doctor yesterday, that her sister had strep throat but Anne did not.

The lady doctor, who was taking Anne’s pulse on her left wrist, said to Doctor C that they should start an “art-line”. (I think that’s what she said.) He grimaced and said, “No. I think we should see how she responds to this.” At about this time, Dr R came in, dressed in greens. He was introduced to me as the resident pediatrician from ICU. He listened to Anne. Nurse Shirley said he was here to see of Anne should go to the ICU. He asked if they had done a chest x-ray yet. No. “Then we’ll wait until we have a chest x-ray.”

A young boy was wheeled in bed with his mother and sister. An old man was brought in and put in the third bed. The nurse with the man drew the curtains around him, just as the portable x-ray arrived. I moved to get out of the way. Found a seat and the foot of the bed and sat down. The x-ray lady took Anne’s x-ray. I told her to smile. After the x-ray, Shirley and Dr R took Anne with her IV and oxygen tank. They said they were going to ICU and asked if I knew the way.

I went to the ER entrance, turned left toward the yellow elevators. I saw Anne go by with Dr C and the lady doctor in tow. I followed them, and went to the ICU waiting room. I picked up the phone and told the receptionist that I was Anne’s father. She said to wait. About 5 minutes later, she came and got me. She told me to go around to the other doors, as they were in the middle of a procedure of some type. It was around 2 o’clock.

Anne was in room #1. She was already hooked up to the cardioid monitor and had the thing on her left index finger that measures her O2 saturation levels. Dr R came in and asked about Anne’s regular meds. I said she takes Ventolin, when and if she needs it, and Pulmacort. He asked “what dosage?” Anne told him, “I have 200 and a 400.” I gave him the rundown on Anne today, and what we had tried. Nurse Karen and another nurse came in and asked how Anne was doing. The one nurse went and got Anne a “big girl gown.” Nurse Karen said that Anne had fooled her by wearing a one-piece. She took it off her, so she could “do Anne’s laundry.” She soaked Anne’s PJs in the sink to remove the blood.

She told us that Dr R was coming back to start a artline and did Anne have a preference. Anne said she’d like in her left arm because it was free. Anne asked me to rub her feet, so I got up, went to the end of her bed and rubbed her feet. Nurse Karen told me the art-line was so that they could measure “blood gases” and read her CO2 levels more accurately. They had also started on some type of steroid in her IV. Nurse Karen also told me that they were giving Anne Ventolin in the IV as well.

I then explained to Anne that she had two types of blood vessels. Her veins that went to her lungs and arteries which had the fresh blood for the rest of the body. Dr R came in and put some freezing on Anne’s left arm, after Nurse Karen told her about Anne’s preference. I told Anne that the arteries have nerves in them so she would have to be still. Nurse Karen was holding Anne’s right hand and told her to squeeze it. I held onto her feet and Dr R began to try the insertion. 

Anne grimaced with pain and said “Ow!” convincingly. She wasn’t very happy. Dr R looked at her feet and said he didn’t want to use her feet for the art-line. He got up and tried Anne’s right wrist without the freezing. Anne screamed “Ow!” and started to cry. Dr R said they should take some venous blood for the blood gases. He left. Nurse Karen took some blood from Anne’s IV. I told Anne I was going to call her mother and let her know how Anne was doing. Nurse Karen told me they were doing all they could and she seemed to be improving. Her blood pressure was better, heart rate high and her O2 saturation better.

At around three, I called Marie. Sorry that I had woken her up. I told her Anne was in ICU, that they had tried an art-line, her O2 Sat was in the high 90’s, and that they told me she seemed to be improving. Then I called home. Jonathan answered and asked how “the kid” was doing. I told him to tell Joanne that Anne was in ICU and was improving, and that he should check the air in his mother’s tires as he was driving to the cottage. (Before I left Anne, Nurse Karen asked if Anne threw up again to save the vomit. I told her had some in my car. She said, “No thanks.”)

When I got back to the ICU, Nurse Karen had hung Anne’s pyjamas from the IV hanger at the foot of Anne’s bed. She called it Anne’s laundry. She said that they were talking girl-talk while I was gone. She also said that now that Anne had my sympathy, that Anne should ask me for more allowance, and other good stuff.

I remember, Anne flashed me one of her “aren’t I cute” smiles through her mask, cocking her head to the side. Nurse Karen was fussing with a VCR that she had brought in for Anne. It would play but there was no sound. She asked if I would look at it, check the cables etc. I couldn’t find what was wrong. They had “Mrs. Doubtfire” in it, so I tried another movie. Anne was quite disappointed in me, and said, “Roll it over to me.”

She reached up and fiddled with the knobs even though she had her IVs etc still attached. I told her the VCR would not work and pointed out the sticker on the front. It said it was due for service in July of 1994. Anne called to Nurse Karen and told her it didn’t work and that it was past due for service. Another nurse came in, switched a knob on the back and we had sound.

Anne and I watched TV. We flipped through the channels and I found a Pink Floyd video, “Take It Back.” I told Anne what is was and she told me to leave it on.  Anne then asked me what time it was. 3:30, I told her. “Put it on YTV” she said. We tuned in YTV and we watched “Are You Afraid of the Dark?”

Anne asked me to rub her feet, and I did. Then she said her tummy hurt. I told her it was because she was breathing so hard. She also told me that her back hurt. Where, I asked? Behind her left shoulder. I rubbed her back a bit.

Marie arrived shortly after that. She had brought me some things. Anne’s Magic 8 Ball, and some snacks. We told her that Dr R had no ordered no food. So Marie put the food away. She left the 8 Ball at the foot of Anne’s bed. Marie asked if Anne need to pee. She said yes. Marie asked Nurse Karen if they wanted to measure it.

Marie lifted Anne and lay her over the bed pan. I asked if that angle would work. Marie said, “Don’t worry, it will go down.” I told Marie that was going to have a smoke and a coffee.

October 14, 1994. 

It’s been three weeks and details are starting to fade.

When Marie arrived, I remember asking her for details. “Go and look at her chart”, I said. Marie said that she wouldn’t. This was something new. Marie always looked at the chart.

I don’t remember what happened after I came back, but a short while later Marie left us. Dr R came back in to try Anne’s art line again. I remember that nurse Karen asked Anne what the 8 Ball was for. She picked it up and said, “Will Dr R find a good artery?” The 8 Ball responded that we shouldn’t count on it. He didn’t have any luck.

When Dr R was putting some clear gel on Anne’s arm, I asked one of the nurses what it was. She told me it was a local anesthetic — “freezing”. So that it wouldn’t hurt as much. I don’t think Anne agreed. I also remember as it started to drip, she said sarcastically, “Do you think you used enough?” She was obviously getting exasperated over the procedure. Anne cried again as he tried to get the art-line in her right arm.

Marie was back, I think, when Anne’s oxygen saturation had dropped to 90% from 99%. Anne began to yell to Nurse Karen the she needed another mask. Marie told me at about that time, that I should think about eating something as the cafeteria closed at 6:30. It was around 5:50pm. So I agreed and told Anne that I would be back.

I had Shepard’s Pie with corn, a Coke and a piece of Pecan pie.

After dinner I went back up. A little while later Marie went out. At 7:30, I had to leave as this was when the nurses have a shift change, when they compare notes. We were introduced to a nurse who would be with Anne overnight. Nurse Karen said that she would not be back Sunday night as she was off, but Nurse Karen would be back in the morning.

Marie and I both left. Saying our goodbyes to Anne. I told Anne I would be back after the shift change. That was the last time I would see her conscious.

Marie and I went outside to have a smoke. Among other things we talked about where we had parked. I told Marie about the nurse who cared for Anne. Marie knew her and she would go and thank her later.

When we returned to the ICU waiting room, Marie picked up the phone to ask if we could go in. Marie hung up the phone and said they weren’t ready for us yet. I turned on the TV and we watched Star Trek TNG, with close captioning. Dr R stuck his head around the corner and told Marie they were going to intubate Anne. Marie jumped and said she had to see Anne first. That would make it easier.

While Marie was gone, Dr R had successfully put the art line in Anne’s left arm. He had the blood gas back and Anne’s blood was very acidic.

Marie came out and sat back down. She said that Anne was not happy about this. “I want balloons for this,” she had told Marie. Marie said this is what she had been trying to avoid all these years and that it was risky.

She told me they would paralyze Anne and she would be put under anesthesia. This was the best form of bronchial dilators. They would put a tube down Anne’s larynx and into her bronchial tubes. She would then be put on a respirator which would do the breathing for Anne. She explained that they had to be careful with asthmatics because of the pressure on the lungs. Too much pressure would cause a pneumothorax (air in the chest from a hole in the lung). This was dangerous because air would get into the chest cavity and probably around the heart.

We got back into see Anne at 9:00pm. Dr L took us back in. I had been logically prepared for what I would see, but not emotionally.

Anne was lying flat with a 1/2” tube in her mouth. This was forcing her tongue out of her mouth. Her eyes were open. Her chest was rising and falling as a result of the machine. She was obviously doped and unconscious. They told me she couldn’t feel anything and they told me that she wouldn’t remember anything. I looked at the monitor to see that her heart was still beating. That the BP was Ok. The oxygen sensor was removed as the respirator monitored that. She also had a gastro intestinal tube to clear her stomach gasses. They had also put a catheter in her.

“Do robots dream of electric sheep?”, I wondered.

I said to Marie that we should  both go home as we were exhausted. She agreed. We each left our phone numbers with the nurse. They would call if anything changed. I leaned over to kiss Anne, “Nite nite sweetie pie. See you in the morning time.” I drove Marie to her car.

When I got home, Joanne was still up and was busy cleaning the kitchen.  I told Joanne what had happened. We talked about calling Karen, but she was planning on going to the ballet with her friend and with the time difference in Calgary she would still be out. We decided not to disturb her yet. She was to be in Calgary until next Friday. Anne and I were going to get her at the airport.

I went to bed.

At 7:00am, the phone was ringing. It was Marie. Anne had developed a pneumothorax in the night (1 am) They had put a chest tube in. Marie decided not to call me, to let me sleep. She asked when I was coming  to the hospital. I said I wanted to sleep some more, so in a while.

I closed my eyes. I couldn’t sleep now. I thought about the fact that Anne may never come home. I cried.

I could hear Joanne in the kitchen. I went out to talk to her.

She told me that Anne would be up a 7:30 on Saturday and she and Jay had gone downstairs to watch TV. At one point, Anne and Jay were sitting upside down on the couch watching TV. She had given them breakfast. Anne didn’t eat all of it, but when did she? A while later, Joanne had seen Anne in the bathroom with a cold wash cloth over her mouth. She had seen Anne do that before and didn’t think it was unusual. 

I went back to the bedroom and called my sister Louise. I wanted to tell her partner, that Anne was in the hospital. Louise, is an OT, offered to come to the hospital to with me. “You can’t do this alone,” she said. We agreed to meet there.

At 10 am, I called Karen in Calgary. I told her what had happened  and promised to keep her updated. I arrived at MacMaster at 11 am. I went to the ICU. I went in to see Anne. No one else was there. I spoke to the nurse, she told me that her mother had been there with her sister. 

I sat with Anne and stroked her head. I took her hand in mine.

A while later Marie came in. She told me that my sister was here. I left Marie with Anne and I went out to see Louise. Louise asked, “How is she?” I said, “My baby’s broken.” We hugged.

Louise and I went in. Louise told me about her past experiences with Charles in the ICU. At the same time, she told me where to find cream for Anne’s lips and face. To use corn starch for the crevices, under arms, chin and crotch, to keep them dry. She told me to rub the bony parts of Anne’s body, where they made contact with the bed. To straighten out the creases on the blankets, as Anne could not roll over to adjust herself. Also to continue to rub and move Anne. The longer she was bedridden, the more uncomfortable she would be. 

She also told me that Charles could remember being aware of who was in the room with he when he had been intubated. So it would be important to talk to Anne. We were getting prepared to spend a long vigil and that Marie and I could not do it alone.

So, I would spend the rest of the day talking to Anne, rubbing her, stroking her. I read “Childhood’s End” by Arthur C. Clark to her.

During the day, Louise and I went and had lunch with Catherine. Louise called our mother. She insisted that mom cancel her trip to Fredricton and come to the hospital. While Louise was on the phone, Marie came and said that Dr L wanted to have a family conference at 3pm.

Marie, Catherine, her grandomther, Louise and myself met Dr L at 3. Nurse Karen came as well.

Dr L said that they were surprised that Anne had lived trough the night and that Anne was the sickest patient in the hospital. Of the “ABC’s”, airways, breathing, circulation, we were in the “B’s”. They had collapsed Anne’s right lung in an effort to get the air out of her chest. They were doing everything they could and that she and another doctor were standing vigil over Anne.

This she said among other things, and answered our questions. I don’t think those are important now.

November 12, 1994

Yesterday was Remembrance Day, we attended the ceremony at CH Norton, Anne’s last school. They performed a song Anne was writing.

“I know a way that you can hold me,
I know a way to make me stay,
Sweetheart, baby,
Say my name.”

Back to our story…

After the conference with the doctor, we had reached the same level of concern. Louise had talked about how this would be unlike any other battle we had been through. Marie usually stood vigil with Anne and got sick from exhaustion. Louise said this would not do. We were at best looking at a long stay in the hospital. We would have to take shifts to support Anne.

Louise and I would stay. Marie would go home and get some sleep. My other sister, Lucy would come in as well if she was called.

I think it was about this time, 3:30pm, that I called Joanne to get Karen’s number in Calgary. Karen and I talked. She said she didn’t know if she should come home earlier than Friday, but she would call the airline and see.

I went back to be with Anne. I read to her from Childhood’s End, the only book I had. I read from one of those Walt Disney books. The respiration doctor came in with an Indian doctor and talked about the settings on the respirator. 

I rubbed Anne and eventually just sat and stroked her head. How warm she felt. Her chest rose and fell with the respirator in an unnatural way. Over the years, I had spent countless hours watching her breath. Listening to her snore and waiting for her coughs at midnight.

Louise and I went for dinner around six. We were back at the vigil shortly after. We spent more time with Anne. At twenty after seven, they came and asked us to leave, as there would be a shift change. Louise leaned over and kissed Anne. I did as well and said to Anne that I would be right back.

When we came out of the ICU, we met Lucy in the waiting room. She had gone to Subway to get dinner. She had said that she had been to see Anne while we were at dinner. She had spoken to mom and she was coming down.  I saw Nurse Karen leave for the night. We decided to leave the hospital and go to a cafe across the street.

We had cappuccino and desert and talked about Anne, her family et al.

We three returned around 8pm, went to the waiting area where I picked up the phone. I said, “This is Anne’s father. I would like to come in.”

“Oh,” the woman said. “You can’t come in. They’re working on Anne.” I put the phone down. “We can’t go in.” I told Louise and Lucy. “They are doing something.”

I turned to find the receptionist coming to greet me. “Are you Anne’s father?”, she said nervously. I looked at her and said, “Is she in arrest?”, I asked. “Yes,” she replied.

The door to the waiting room burst open and there was Marie. “What? Where?”, she stammered. “You can’t go in. They’re working on her.”, said an RN. “But I’m a nurse… I have to see her!” Marie burst past us. Louise and I tried to stop her. Louise held her against the wall and talked to her.

“I’ll get you in there but you have to calm down.” Louise and Marie both convinced the nurse to let them in. We walked to the back doors of the ICU. I was carrying Marie’s coat and purse.

Louise and Marie went in. The nurse turned to me and said, “Do you want to come?” I followed her in.

Fifteen feet inside the door on the right was Anne’s room. There was a nurse in the supply room just before. A table was outside the room with Anne’s chart on it.

The lights in Anne’s room were all fully on and there were around ten people in the room. They were talking about the defibrillator charging. A tall doctor was running it. It didn’t seem to be working. For a few seconds they stepped away and I could see Anne.

She lay, foreshortened from where I could see her feet, midsection and her arms. There were no tubes in her and she was bloody down her right side, from where the tubes were. I looked at the clock on the wall, 9:00 pm. The large doctor began CPR again. I watched them pump Anne twice. Dr L looked up and saw us. “What is the family doing here?” They closed the curtains. 

I turned and started to walk out of the ICU. I met Lucy on the other side. She asked if I was alright. Did I want her to stay will me. “No, I’m fine.”, I said. I stood against the door, dropped to a crouch and began to cry. Lucy came over to comfort me. I knew it was over before I heard Marie scream, “No!”

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