Archive for October 8th, 2010


Holding pattern

So Julie fooled us, or maybe we fooled ourselves.  After about seven hours of “end-of-life” breathing, Julie hiccuped a couple of times last night and went back to a more normal breathing pattern.  Earlier in the day one of Julie’s medications was no longer working for her, so the doctors ordered a different one to help provide comfort.  It seems like the change in breathing pattern was as a result that change of medications.

Pretty much everyone who’s been involved thinks that the Julie we know and love is gone.  We haven’t seen any sign of conscious thought for two days.  If the eyes are open, they don’t track anything.  There’s no response to speech or touch.  There are no indications of pain or stress, even though we’ve stopped giving her medications to combat these.  The mind isn’t functional enough to recognize pain anymore.  It’s as if the body is only alive because Julie forgot to switch it off as she was leaving.

The animals know something is up now.  April is our 18 year old tabby cat.  April believes that any idea is a bad idea, unless it’s hers.  If I put her on our bed (which she loves), she’ll immediately jump off.  If I want her on the bed, I have to put her on the nightstand, which she’ll promptly reject by leaving it for the bed.  So I wasn’t expecting much when I put her on Julie’s hospital bed.  April was the only animal in the house that hadn’t had some contact with Julie recently.  To my surprise, rather than immediately jumping off, she wandered around a bit and then settled down on what would be Julie’s lap if Julie were sitting up.  She stayed there quite a while.

As most of you know, Robin is our 6 year old sheltie.  He has a strong “weird” detector.  If anything is weird, he’ll shy away from it.  Things that are familiar can become weird, just because they’re in a different place or turned a different way.  Being picked up is extremely weird.  Being on furniture is not allowed.  So when I picked him up and put him on the hospital bed next to Julie, I also didn’t expect much.  Instead, he walked up to her head and sniffed her.  Then he gave her a couple of small licks on the end of her nose, and paused.  He repeated this a couple of times around her nose and face.  I left him there, and he stayed another minute or two. Being picked up, being on the bed — all definitely weird.  But still, instead of jumping down he stayed to pay his respects.

People are asking about me.  Yes, I’m getting enough sleep.  And I’m eating.  Emotionally, I’m probably in the same holding pattern that Julie is in physically.  I’m not sure what to expect of myself once the body dies.  It might be a crisis where I’ll be useless for days, but probably not.  I’ve been considering the possibilities since Julie first found the lump.  I’ve been mourning since we first got the terminal diagnosis.  Recently I’ve been trying to reduce the things I have to do right after Julie passes, so I could have the room to feel whatever I need to feel.  However it goes for me emotionally, I know I’ll get through it.  I have lots of friends and loved ones watching out for me, and I think I’m pretty well prepared.  You don’t need to worry.  Many of you are quite close to Julie.  Take care of yourselves, too.


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