I am sitting on a kingsized bed in a nice hotel near downtown Seattle–the stay is a gift from my wonderful in-laws. Last night’s glass of merlot sits next to a yet unread NY Times my son gifted me last Sunday. I am not relishing the hotel stay though, because a key element is missing from the equation, namely my husband’s presence. While I try to get some much needed rest, my husband is in a hospital bed a few blocks form here. The love of my life, my soul mate Jim Macartney suffered a heart attack on Thursday evening, and was well on his way to a full recovery.
And then the floor dropped out from under us both when he suffered a catastrophic stroke in the early hours of Monday, February 26th. His brain has several places where blood clots are scatter-shot and have taken over. To say I am devastated is putting mildly. Our lives are forever changed.
There were and will continue to be miracles along the way to the present moment: the angel who saw my husband fall off his bike when he had the original myocardial infarct (heart attack) and administered life-saving CPR. There was the aid car that happened to be cruising nearby with defibrillators that shocked his heart back to rhythm. The crew in intensive care at St Joseph’s hospital in Bellingham were spectacular, and they utilized an innovative hyperthermic treatment that reduced the chances of brain swelling and organ shut-down. Jim responded early on in the waiting game that followed. He was surely traveling down the road to good health: joking through the drug-induced fog, emotional when the doctors and I shared what had happened. I told him we still had not had our lunch in Paris yet, so dammit, he better get better. Paris was a goal set out for us both as authors: first one to have 5000 of our books sold treats the other to lunch in Paris. He held that goal aloft as he struggled through his recovery.
But Paris is far far away, figuratively and literally. There will be no lunch date anytime soon. And there is no happy ending to his miraculous recovery.
After Jim was transferred to a regular hospital room, I tried to rest a little on the cot next to his bed, but rest didn’t come: he was restless that night, and kept waking me up with his trying to do things on his own, plus he was in pain from the CPR compression. We called a nurse who administered morphine, he finally relaxed. The next thing I knew I awoke to crashing, and Jim reaching out with his right hand to something on his cart, his left hand limp as a rag next to him. He did not respond to my yelling or trying to restrain him from spilling out of the bed. There were no words from my beloved. A massive stroke-in-process had him struggling mightily, battling an unseen army of demons in his brain.
Afterwards is still a blur: the rushing him to a CAT-scan, the re-admittance to ICU, the doctor’s prognosis of a catastrophic stroke, the neurologist suggesting a last ditch effort to save Jim’s brain from total devastation via an airlift to Swedish hospital in Seattle. The horror of saying goodbye to my husband as he was readied for transport.
The gut churning sobbing as I watched the helicopter take him away to an unknown future.
And the future is still unknown . As for Jim: his eyes are mostly closed or unfocused, but they zero in occasionally on the people he loves. Words float up from consciousness sporadically. His left side is not entirely paralyzed, which is wonderful. But he is a radically different person than my husband and best friend of 27 years. It is going to be a long, long road.
Ok, there will be those of you who, desperately wanting to comfort me, will say, “There is a reason for everything” and “You’ll get through this” and recommend I watch the inspiring youTube presentation by Stroke of Insight author Jill Bolte Taylor. People already have. But honestly, I am in shock. I am angry. I miss Jim desperately–the Jim who walks with me, and who has couch talks with me about consciousness. Our inside joke: isn’t that what most couples talk about? My Jim who has so courageously faced his own journey with epilepsy and heart condition with grace…he even penned a book called Crisis to Creation. Excellent book, you should read it sometime.
Right now, as I write, my beloved sis-in-law, his sister Anne is keeping vigil in his room. She is even reading to him from his own book, the suggestion of reading to him floated by my other beloved sister-in-law Laurie. I figured, why not read his brilliant book? Our sons have been magnificent in the journey: brave, supportive , respectful of his and my process. Facebook friends have showered us with prayers and love. And for all this I am truly grateful.
But I do not want to be here. At all. I want to wake up now from this nightmare. Please. But I know the truth: this is not a dream.
This is a new day in a new life. And we will, my beloved and I, journey through with the power of our love holding us together. That love will never change, though Jim is forever changed.
I’ll keep you posted.
PS: This is awkward for me, frankly, but I made a promise to accept the gift and share this site, put together by caring friends: http://www.giveforward.com/elkeandjimmacartney