If I live to be a thousand, I’ll never forget the phone calls I received on the morning of August 1, 2015. But I’m getting a little ahead of myself. Let’s back up a bit.
Leading Up To The Day…
Just after Christmas in December of 2014, Cindy went in for an Angiogram and it was decided that she had several blocked arteries and need a triple coronary bypass. The doctors said that it was not a matter of “if” she would have a fatal heart attack, but “when.” The bypass was her only option at this point. With tears of fear in her eyes, Cindy agreed to have the surgery. It was scheduled for the following afternoon.
For the five hours that Cindy was in surgery, I sat anxiously in the waiting room. All the while, I was praying. It was really all I could do. When the doctor came out and said that Cindy had come through the surgery fine, I was relieved an elated.
For the next several weeks, Cindy struggled to recover, first in the hospital and later in a skilled nursing facility. Finally, in mid-February, she was cleared to come home.
Even though she was allowed to come home and return to work, it was easy to see that things were not right. She just wasn’t recovering like she should have been. She had trouble walking and had to use a wheelchair much of the time.
In July, the spot on her leg, where the veins had been removed for the bypass, became infected. I took her to the ER and they said that the abscess was so large that they would have to do surgery to drain it. Surgery was scheduled for later that night.
She came through the operation fine, but her kidneys and her liver decided to stop working. She was transferred from our little community hospital to a bigger medical center with a full-time intensive care unit.
While at this bigger hospital, she was placed on dialysis to kick start her kidneys back into operation. After several sessions, it worked. Cindy was on the mend.
On July 25, Cindy celebrated her 54th. birthday in the hospital, but at least she was doing better. Soon, she would be going back to the rehabilitation facility for a week and then back home. That was the plan.
Only July 27, Cindy was moved to the same rehabilitation (skilled nursing) facility she used after her coronary bypass several months prior.
As I had done in the hospital, I went to visit Cindy daily. We would talk and I would rub her hands or scratch her back. It was pretty nice.
On the evening of July 31, I kissed Cindy goodbye and said, “I’ll see you tomorrow.”
That brings us up to the phone calls.
That Horrible Morning…
At 7:50 a.m., a nurse named Stephanie called to tell me that Cindy was having “trouble breathing” that morning and that the paramedics were going to transport her back to the hospital for treatment. There was no sound of urgency in her voice. Cindy had things like this happen before so I was concerned, but not panicked.
I asked our son, Kevin, if he wanted to go to the ER with me to see his mom and he said he did. As I was getting a shirt out of my closet, my phone rang again. Once again, it was Stephanie the nurse. This time, her voice was much different. It was obvious that she was crying. She simply said, “Mr. Hicks, I’m so sorry. The paramedics did all they could, but she didn’t make it.” I stumbled backwards and almost missed when I tried to sit on the bed.
I told Stephanie that I would be there as soon as I could. After hanging up the phone, I yelled for our son. He opened his bedroom door as I opened mine. I looked at him and all I could say was, “She died. She died.” He hugged me and we both cried for a minute, still not fully absorbing what had happened.
After making a few phone calls and text messages to family, I finished dressing and Kevin and I headed up to the nursing facility.
When we walked in her room, Cindy had been positioned as though she were sleeping. Her eyes were mostly closed, but what you could see showed no spark of life. Kevin and I took turns holding her hands, kissing her cheek and telling her that we loved her. Then, we gathered her belongings and headed out of the room.
At the nurses station, we met Stephanie face-to-face and I asked her what had happened. Cindy looked so well the evening before.
Stephanie said she wasn’t sure. She said that Cindy was doing well that morning. She was up and moving around and even ate breakfast. Then, a while later, they went to check on her and found her sitting close to the edge of the bed. When they moved her back on the bed, she pitched backwards took one deep breath and then stopped breathing. Stephanie said she started CPR and called for the paramedics. I was confused. This sounded a whole lot different than what she had said on the phone.
Then, she asked me what mortuary I wanted to use. This question threw me for a loop because I don’t have one on speed dial. The receptionist recommended the one that took care of her husband several years earlier and I agreed to it. After all, what else was I going to do? Kevin and I walked out of the facility that Saturday knowing that our world had changed forever and that a wonderful wife and mother was now gone.