16 March 2010

Tributes and tribulations

Thank you so much for all the wonderful comments you left on my last post. I have dipped in to read them, though it's been a hectic ten days since I last wrote. I never knew there was so much to do to arrange a funeral and notify people. Every day of the last ten days has been spent either at bank interviews, or on the telephone, or writing countless letters or emails informing friends, family, utilities and all and sundry about Greg's death. I have had to make endless decisions ranging from what to dress Greg in to what the funeral service should contain, from what accounts to close and what to announce in the local paper. I've also deliberated long and hard what to tell people about how he died and why he died. Some got the full truth, some got a potted version, depending on how I thought they might react. The phone has not stopped ringing. Overall I have been amazed at the lovely things people have said about him. About the Greg he ceased to be about five years ago. Work colleagues on the other side of the world have written beautiful letters about him, some have sent money for flowers, some have said they will attend the funeral even though they have not seen Greg in many years and live a few hundred miles away. Flowers have arrived for me from all corners of the globe. Ten of Kay's old school friends clubbed together and sent the most enormous bouquet of lilies imaginable. I have received more sympathy cards so far than I usually get Christmas cards, some from people I barely know. The volume of goodwill and heartfelt emotion has uplifted us and amazed us.


In reality, Kay and I are one of the few unable to cry. I have not shed a single tear since it happened. Kay is finding it hard too. I think we have built such a high wall around ourselves in order to cope with the last few years in particular, that we are finding it difficult to knock the wall down. It almost seems like it is someone else's husband who has died. I am going through the motions. When people say they are sorry, I nod and don't know what to say. The funeral is in another two weeks' time. I suspect it will probably hit me when the dust has settled and the last person has gone home. Then I'll cry.

***********************************

If anyone needed to be convinced of the horrors of alcoholism, they should have seen Greg during the last five days of his life. I almost felt like taking a photograph and sending it to all the national newspapers. It was harrowing to watch a grown man disintegrate before your eyes. Quite literally. When Greg was first moved to Intensive Care all he had to worry about was the pneumonia he had picked up in hospital. Because he was slipping into a coma, they needed to move him and intubate him quickly. He was heavily sedated so did not know that we (his sister, Jill, Kay and I) were there. But as the days wore on, it became clear his body was becoming riddled with all kinds of problems connected either with the alcohol or by diabetes or both. First we were told the liver was now irreversibly damaged and was causing toxins to build up in his body. It was also causing more internal bleeding anywhere from his throat through to his intestines. The doctors tried to stem the bleeding where they could and then new sites would emerge. Then we were told the kidneys had ceased to function. Fluid started to build up, so that he looked as if he has been blown up like a balloon. His skin on his arms and legs was so taut with the build-up of fluid that it started to split and ooze. He had always looked as if he were expecting quadruplets, because the liver was so distended; now he looked as if he were expecting octuplets. The pneumonia continued to take a firm hold and the antibiotics were doing a poor job.

The staff at the hospital were marvellous. I could not fault them. Each and every one of the nurses and doctors were saints. It did not matter to them that Greg was an alcoholic or had brought all this on himself. They left no stone unturned. They did all sorts of corrective procedures to try to halt or reverse what was happening to Greg. If it had not been the NHS, I dread to think what we would have had to pay for such treatment. Because he was in Intensive Care, Greg got a nurse all to himself on 12-hour shifts. They were wonderful. I watched as they injected, took blood samples, administered drugs, bathed, hung bags of saline or blood. Nobody told them what to do: they just got on quietly with it. Let nobody say a single word against the NHS: they were fantastic.

On the day before Greg died, it was clear to us and the doctors that Greg was being kept alive by machines only. With damaged liver, non-functioning kidneys, lungs full of pneumonia and a labouring heart, Greg was unlikely to survive and even if he had, the quality of his life would have been considerably compromised. He would have needed dialysis at best and would spend the rest of his life in a lot of pain unable to smoke or drink ever again. He would also face the prospect of one day bleeding to death. The doctors decided with our agreement to switch off Greg's life-support and let him sink or swim, although we all knew Greg would slowly slip away. At teatime on Friday 5th March, they took out his tubes and switched off the machine. They offered Jill, Kay and me a relatives' room on the ward, which comprised two single beds and an ensuite bathroom.We managed in turns to grab an hour or so's sleep that evening. But by 9pm we sat by Greg's bed and held his hand all through the night. The night shift came on and did all they could to make him and us comfortable. They gave him liquid food and painkillers - just for the comfort factor. Everything to make him comfortable, even though he was unconscious the entire time. They offered to order us a chinese takeaway at midnight (though we declined as we were not in the least hungry - our stomachs seemed in our throats). They plied us with cups of tea all through the night. At breakfast-time, they brought us platefuls of buttered toast and jam to eat at Greg's bedside. On Saturday 6th March, shortly after the day shift came on, Greg's blood pressure began to fall and fall until it was 29 over 25. His heart rate started to reduce, oxygen saturation levels fell rapidly and suddenly his fight against alcohol was over. My Greg was dead.

43 comments:

Nechtan said...

Hi Addy,

Still think of you and Kay in the hope you are both keeping well. With so much going on it must be difficult for things to properly sink in and that time as you said will come later.

It sounds like the hospital could not have been any kinder and the wealth of support must have brought the two of you some strength.

Again I really am sorry for your loss and hope that you are keeping yourself well.

All the best

Nechtan

Eliza said...

I'm glad your experience in the hospital was good. I'm still thinking of you, and I'm sure the tears will come when you have a moment to take breath (((hugs))) to you both.

Linda said...

Oh Addy... You have all been in my thoughts and prayers the last few weeks. I cannot help but cry, this should have never happened. My prayers are with you and Kay to stay brave and strong. Greg is now at peace. Please take care and I send my love to you both♥ Linda

AnyEdge said...

Thank you for keeping us apprised. God bless.

aims said...

I have looked every day to see if there was word from you knowing what it takes to organize funerals and everything that goes with a death.

Look after yourself as it is very wearing and we don't want you falling apart after it is all over - which so easily happens.

Thinking of you my friend.

♥ Braja said...

That's quite a story....

Strawberry Jam Anne said...

Hello Addy - I was so sorry to read that you had lost Greg and have been thinking of you. Good to hear that the NHS looked after all of you so well. I'm not really surprised to hear that you and Kay have not been able to cry, it's all so surreal at the moment and you lost the real Greg a long time ago. Keep strong, take care. Hugs - A x

Kit Courteney said...

Well I've just cried a bucket-full!

You write so beautifully about something so cruel and wretched that I totally admire your inner strength.

So good to hear about your over all treatment at the hospital.

Like the others above me, I'm thinking about you and your daughter and sending many good wishes.

DogLover said...

Tears may not yet have come to you, Rosiero, but they have to me on your behalf.

I think it likely that you will be able to carry on dealing with everything that needs to be done, apparently quite efficiently, until after the funeral. Then slowly you will realise that you have been going on "auto" and your real emotions will surface. Then, I think, you will need your Al-Anon friends and other friends. That, anyway, is my experience.

Your account of Greg's final days and hours makes grim reading. This sort of thing is surely hell on earth.

My best wishes to you and to Kay.

nuttycow said...

Addy -

Thank you for sharing your story with us. I can't imagine what you and Kay are going through at the moment. It must be some relief to feel that Greg is no longer in pain (mental or physical) but I also know that's not a lot of comfort right now.

My thoughts are with you and I wish you the strength you need to get through the upcoming weeks and months.

With love to you both.

Elaine said...

My heart goes out to you and Kay and all that you have had to deal with. You will cry, one day. The tears will come when you are ready for them. x

I am so glad the NHS were there for Greg and continued to treat him with the care and respect he deserved.

I have been thinking of you so much, and pray that you get through these next few weeks and months and keep yourselves well and strong. x

Flowerpot said...

I am glad you had such support from the nursing staff at that horrendous time. My father died of cancer very suddenly and swiftly so I know what it's like to see someone deteriorate so quickly. I too found it difficult to cry for a long while and then it hit me. It sounds like you have a lot of very good friends and I am sure they will be there for you and Kay when you need them. Thinking of you at this difficult time. xxx

sukey said...

Dear Addy,

It's understandable that you haven't cried yet, with all you've had to contend with. There's so much to deal with that our feelings have to be pushed aside and buried for awhile. In my experience sometimes floods of tears and grief may not come at all. To see someone you truly love, finally released from the daily misery they've been suffering, may actually bring some relief. After all we don't ever want to see anyone suffer, especially those we love.

So be kind to yourself, you have cried I'm sure numerous times over the past few years as you've been losing your Greg bit by bit to this horrible addiction. From what you've written in your post, it sounds as though he was a lovely soul, and that I'm sure is how he will be remembered.

Take care xox

Nota Bene said...

That's very descriptive...and a warning to all. Addy, your strength contin ues to shine through as you make all the necessary arrangements. Thinking of you.

Hadriana's Treasures said...

Hugs and condolences to you and to Kay.

Daphne Wayne-Bough said...

You've cried enough my girl. As someone else said, you lost him years ago. Get through this then start looking forward.

grandmamargie said...

Addy, like everyone else, you have been on my heart and mind. As far as tears, you may or may not ever have them. I've been reading your blog for a while, and I glean that you lost your husband, and Kay her father, a long time ago. You took good care of Greg and once this is over, it is time to take care of yourself. I do hope you will continue blogging and let us know how you are doing.

Sending prayers for you.

Furtheron said...

What a powerful post.

Firstly - I can understand your problem grieving, my drinking never got me to that point but I think if my wife had opened the door to a policeman who told her I'd had an accident she'd have shrugged and thought "only a matter of time".

Secondly - I hope you don't mind if I bookmark this post and show it from time to time with those I meet who try to convince themselves their alcoholism is under control and won't kill them, or that it won't be that bad.

You've been at the front line as a support troop in the battle against the booze - you and Kay have my utmost admiration for just being there.

Lastly - Kay's friends... how totally amazing is that. I hate the stereotypical images of teenagers today that the papers push all the time.

icecold said...

I work for the NHS on a gastroenterology ward, and I have seen many people in the condition that you describe, Addy. I hope that over the years I have offered support and comfort as effectively as if was offered to yourself and Kay.

Given time you will remember more of the Greg as he was before his addiction took over and changed him.

I wish you both continuing strength for the times ahead.

Retiredandcrazy said...

I also went on auto pilot when Davy died Addy, it is not a bad place to be. In my experience it is when the activity of doing "stuff" ceases that the tears begin. It was at this point I began to think that maybe I am "normal" after all, but it hurts. Thankfully I have been able to live "one day at a time". This has really helped me.

Smiffy's Blog said...

Ah, bless yoy. Stay stong my lovely. Sue x

Ellen said...

Oh Addy, my heart goes out to you. What a lot you have been through! God Bless and I wish you strength and love to get through the funeral.

nappy valley girl said...

Still thinking of both you and Kay - I can understand why you haven't cried, because in some ways it's easier to be angry, but you must be kind to yourself at what is going to be a very stressful time. LOTS of love.

cheshire wife said...

That was such a sad post. I am sure that the toil that the last five years have taken, on you, have left you numb. Now you need to look after yourself.

Achelois said...

I think many of your tears may have been shed already. Over time when older memories rise of happier days gone before, many emotions may surface again. I think I would still be angry at the alchohol & Greg, the whole unfair injustice of it all. When the funeral has passed and you have time to contemplate, please come here still to speak. We will all still be here, caring. Perhaps in some few weeks in thinking of your future, whether you could plan a holiday, it has been a long and arduous road.

Monalisa said...

Such a sad ending to a life.
You did your best to help him.

Working Mum said...

Thank you for sharing the story of Greg's final days. I'm glad you had a good experience in hospital and were supported in that difficult time.

I think the tears will come after the whirlwind of activity that follows a death stops. As you say, when it is all over and everyone goes home and you are left to get back to 'normal' it will hit. Then there are the many stages of grief to pass through.

Remember you have a wealth of support here in the blogosphere to help you throught the difficult times.

Thinking of you, as always,
Carol x

elsy said...

i have a friend who has failed to admit her husband is alcoholic and he is rapidly losing a grip on life....i will show her your words......

dulwich divorcee said...

I'm so sorry for your loss, Addy. Please give Kay a big hug. Although I knew Greg was far from well, I somehow expected him to soldier on forever! Devastating for you xxx

Gabriella Moonlight said...

I am sorry for your loss, I lost my mother to the disease of drug addiction and alcoholism so understand this greatly! It is horrifying and for me it was relieving that she was no longer suffering...please know from over this side of the pond you have much love and support.

Gill - That British Woman said...

just to say I am still praying for you all,

Gill in Canada

Millennium Housewife said...

Rosiero (I still can't get used to Addy, sorry, to me you will always be Rosiero) what a post. I am holding you and Kay in my heart and thinking of you daily. Is Kay ok? has she gone back to Uni? Does she have reliable friends there that will look after her? So many thoughts about the two of you. Sitting with you as always xx

Crystal Jigsaw said...

It's just so terribly sad and hard to imagine that a man could become so dependent on something so toxic. The NHS have indeed looked after him and made sure you have been comfortable too which is admirable, we are very lucky to have this service. Greg was a much loved and respected man and he will now reside peacefully, dependent only on the tranquilities of an eternity at rest.

Love and Light, CJ xx

Fab, feisty and fifty... said...

Rosiero, l think you may have been grieving for the last few years unbeknown-st, thus making it less...l cant find the appropriate word, but less if you get my drift. I havent cried since l moved out...felt like l might but it doesnt come...it occurred to me that perhaps l havent been depressed these last five years at all...but that l have been unhappy...same result, same symptoms....our heads don't know it all...but l fear our hearts do...

the man you loved and laughed with left a while ago...and you started mourning then..

l am thinking of you, especiially during the wee hours when l am empty and the seconds each seem a moment in length...

luv saz x

http://reluctantmemsahib.wordpress.com said...

oh addy, i wanted to weep for your courage and your eloquence. one fairy step at a time, one day at a time and my thoughts are with you bothx

Rebel Mother said...

Oh Rosiero.

I am so, so sorry. I've just caught up on your posts and as I write I am crying for you, Kay as well as for poor Greg.

My heart and sympathies go out to you both and hope that you can remember Greg as the way he was before this disease got hold of him. He fought a bitter battle. I'm so sorry he lost.

Keep strong and I'm thinking of you all the time.

With much love

RM xxxxxxxxxxx

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開心唷 said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
ladythinker said...

Very sad news - I am sorry.

Adamity_Bomb_Bomb said...

Tears to my eyes...

I struggle with the bottle, too, and that section that you wrote really hit me hard.

I'm really sorry that your husband lost his battle against alcoholism. It's a horrendous affliction. Your last paragraph brought on the tears...clinical, understated, yet packed full of emotion.

Yes, this sounds trite, but I think he's in a better place now.

Good luck on your journey.

Unknown said...

I found your blog last week. I've started reading it from the beginning. My heart breaks for you and your daughter, even though you've both been through h3ll. I'm sure you won't see this post as it is so early in your blog journey, but I wanted to express my sympathy.
~Melunda from Texas

~ Melinda from Texas said...

I found your blog last week. I've started reading it from the beginning. My heart breaks for you and your daughter, even though you've both been through h3ll. I'm sure you won't see this post as it is so early in your blog journey, but I wanted to express my sympathy.
~Melunda from Texas

Yorkshire Pudding said...

I am sitting here seven years later with tears on my cheeks for you, your daughter and of course for Greg himself. What an awful way to die but how lovely that you were there with him right to the end... Love from Yorkshire xxx