Feb is a nerve-wracking month in so many ways, Mi. For how could I not relive those days in 2010….
Do you remember how our house guest arrived on Feb 2 to attend an interview in our town? We invited him to stay when he called to tell us the news and then, we had a wonderful lunch together with your favorite potato fry and pooris.
Our leisurely lunch segued into a lazy high tea around 5 pm in the evening. We decided to watch a movie on TV and you sat in your favorite chair, settling down for a fun time, criticizing all the crappy dialogs we knew would follow. Around 7, you complained of a slight pain in your side and we grouped around you, concerned, because you were only just recovering from a long bed-rest to heal your spinal TB. Even though we knew that everything was okay, we were still sensitive to any pain you might have.
I called the doctor right away and he recommended medication that you took and after a couple of hours, claimed you felt better.
I am haunted by the thought that you may have still been in pain, but didn’t want to worry us and break up the happy evening and the laughter we were enjoying. I’ll never know, now, will I?
You had dinner as usual but you were looking a little pale. You said you felt exhausted and put it down to all the excitement of the day, and said you wanted to lay down. Around nine, your breathing didn’t sound normal – and this time, we did not listen to you. We called the ambulance – it was more sensible to take you to the hospital in case you needed medical attention. Also it was night, and we didn’t want to be stuck at home doing nothing.
Yet, when the ambulance attendants came, you refused to go to the hospital and laughed them away, saying it was just a little pain and we couldn’t be running to the hospital for minor things. They tried to convince you that if you needed oxygen, you wouldn’t have access to it at home, just in case your breathing difficulty got worse at night. You assured them you were fine and sent them away – and then ordered us all to get back to what we were doing.
I still hear that unusual sound in your breathing that night – I had a bed on the floor near your cot – with Vidur next to me, because he insisted he was there to help, bless him. It was a wheezy sound – and quite like a bag being inflated very slowly and being deflated, with difficulty. We all slept fitfully that night.
The next morning, you were up. You had coffee, then breakfast – but didn’t seem your usual chirpy self. You wanted to lay down for just a bit because you felt tired. We encouraged you to, because it was Feb and the weather was pretty cold. Maybe you were coming down with a cold or the ‘flu?
That day Sury dropped Vidur at school because I wanted to be near you. After everyone left at 8.30 – and I had wound up in the kitchen, I came to sit by your side as I usually did, all set for our second round of coffee at 9. I was alarmed to see you looking worse. It was an effort for you to talk and I decided to call Dr.P right away. He was kind enough to come over within the hour – and one look at you, and he said we should rush you to the hospital. He said you were cyanotic.
Worried, I quickly called the hospital for an ambulance. That day was one of their busiest days and they finally agreed to send one before 2 pm.
You continued to chide me for making a big deal of it – and when I helped you to the bathroom, you said you couldn’t understand why you felt so exhausted. After I helped you get up from the potty, I held you close and you said, “I have no regrets, Vidya. If I breathed my last now, this is exactly how I would want to go”. I can’t remember what I said to make you laugh that day. Since the ambulance was expected any minute, I made you drink some Horlicks because you didn’t want to eat anything – instead you were worried about Vidur’s lunch. I assured you everything was ready for him and that Sury would take care.
Restless, you wanted to wait downstairs in the basement for the medics. Those days we used to have scheduled power cuts from 2.30 to 3.30 pm and you didn’t want to put them through the trouble of having to carry you down.
I asked if you wanted to change clothes – and you said why bother? You’d have to wear a hospital gown anyway once we got there – so how about bringing your favorite red kurta to wear on the day you would be coming back home? Laughing, we took the elevator down to the basement. By this time, you could barely stand upright and I was holding on to you.
When we got out, the medics were waiting to catch you just in time, before you collapsed. They got you on the stretcher and into the ambulance and just as we were leaving, Sury arrived with Vidur – and I told them to go on home, and that I would call them from the hospital.
We siren-ed our way to the hospital and all you were worried about was how we were making life inconvenient for others on the road. You were giving me instructions about what to get for Vidur… then we reached the hospital. One look at you in Emergency and they whisked you away to run tests.
I was waiting anxiously outside the room. I called Sury to let him know and waited. And waited. An hour later, one of the doctors came out, called me and sat me down and held my hand. And the dam broke from my eyes, just as it is doing now. Then I felt stupid because I hadn’t even heard what she said. She asked me to calm down and informed me that one of your lungs had collapsed. Your body was so low on oxygen that you must have also suffered a heart attack some time last night and if we had brought you in even 15 minutes later, they couldn’t say if you would be alive or not. Even now, the prognosis was looking bleak.
She said there was no choice but to opt for the ventilator so they could monitor you, since you did not have the strength to breathe on your own. I had no choice but to accept the situation and they said they were moving you to the ICCU, but I could see you for two minutes. I rushed in and you held my hand, saying you really didn’t want to go through all this. I remember telling you that you’d be home before we knew it and assuring you you’ll be better soon. I told you we’d celebrate with kathrikka rasam and avial and you laughed, saying, remember that day we finished almost a couple of liters of rasam between us? Then you said you felt cold and the nurse who was around gently covered you with a blanket…and then they took you away.
It was the last time you spoke. We watched helplessly as your body gave in, little by little and your organs failed. After struggling silently for 6 days Feb 3 to Feb 8 -you breathed your last. One day before Feb 9 – my wedding anniversary – which you had planned on celebrating in a big way.
“You’ll be back home before you know it“…little did we imagine you’d be home only as a memory….a loving one.
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