Chapter Eight: Telepathy
The gratitude I felt that morning was for the doctors and nurses who were working hard to keep my husband alive. This feeling of deep gratitude quickly turned to a feeling of surrender. I realized I had been wanting to end this experience as quickly as I could and go home with my husband. Feeling this way kept me connected to a future event and not fully present with the experience in front of me. Each day leading up to this one I had resisted what life was showing me by not wanting it to happen. I decided if I really wanted to connect to Steve and really feel what he was feeling I had to surrender to the process of his journey and join him there. To be fully with him, I had to not want for anything more than the moment that I was there by his side. I knew I might only have a few more hours left with him and I wanted to be fully present in those hours in every possible way. That day I entered the ICU fully aligned with my husband’s journey, no matter how it was going to look.
His sister went to the hospital with me that morning to see how Steve had survived the night. His mother was too upset and needed some time alone. As we walked into his room and up to his bed, I noticed immediately how purple and cold his hands were. His sister had the same reaction as she touched his feet. Neither one of us spoke, we were too scared to speak. He looked more dead than alive. His nurse that day was a new one that we hadn’t met before. She didn’t talk to us much as she went about her routine of keeping Steve comfortable. I sat by Steve warming his hands, staring at the IV machine with the day’s date glowing bright red. It was May 22nd. Steve had lived another day. I held his cold, purple hand and said a deep thank you.
Dr. Schrieber was on duty that day, the doctor who had found the rare blood disorder. He came in to inform us that the pancreatitis that had been so worrisome the night before was probably caused by the drug propofol, the sedative they had been giving Steve. It is a very fatty drug and can cause inflammation of the pancreas. If they discontinued this drug, his pancreas had a chance to heal. The propofol was immediately stopped and a new drug took its place. There was a new little sliver of hope beginning to form.
With the pancreas issue looking better, the ventilator was now becoming the next big problem. They don’t like to leave someone on a ventilator for more than two weeks because of the risk of infection. Steve was nearing the two week mark in the next day or two. It was imperative to get him off of it as soon as possible. The problem was he was breathing less and less on his own each day, getting weaker and weaker. Another difficult hurdle to cross. It was becoming a common theme; a sliver of hope, then more devastating news.
Steve’s mom arrived and we told her about the new updates. As we sat in his room, I began to feel very agitated. I didn’t know why exactly, but the agitation was building. I was getting so upset I couldn’t sit still. As I paced the room, I finally realized it was Steve. I was feeling HIS agitation. He was telling me he couldn’t breathe because they had him so heavily sedated that he didn’t have the strength to breathe. As soon as I realized what was happening, I told his mom and sister. I told them I needed to tell the doctor; that stern, German, no nonsense doctor what Steve was saying. It was going to take courage to walk up to someone who bases their life on science and logic and tell them that my husband was speaking to me telepathically and he needed to be heard.
When Dr. Schrieber walked into the room to examine Steve, I mustered all the courage I could, walked up to him and told him, “I know you may not believe me, but I have lived with this man for over twenty years and we are very telepathic with each other. He is telling me this morning that he can’t breathe on his own because he is too heavily sedated. He wants you to reduce his sedation so he can breathe.” Dr. Schrieber took one look at me and said, “Alright, let’s do it!” and left the room. Within minutes the nurse was instructed to reduce the sedation and our new journey began.
A few minutes later, as I was sitting by Steve holding his hand, the respiratory therapist came in to check his breathing. The therapist casually told me that every time Steve’s breathing hit a certain number on the ventilator machine he was breathing on his own. He had no idea just how valuable this information would be for me.
I sat by Steve the entire afternoon acting as his breathing coach. I told him that I had done my part, now he needed to do his. He needed to breathe! He was still asleep, but not as deeply. Every time he hit the mark that indicated he was breathing on his own, I praised him. Steve loves praise, so I used this to our advantage. Every time he didn’t hit the mark, I let him know and told him to try a little harder the next time. He would and he would hit the mark again. This went on all afternoon with Steve hitting his mark more often than not. When the respiratory therapist returned that evening, he was surprised to see how well Steve was doing with breathing on his own. I wasn’t surprised at all. I knew it would be that way. Steve and I were finally together on this journey.
That night I had another dream. It was an abstract dream with people floating around in space. Behind one of these people, I saw a face trying to form. It became almost visible and then it faded. It tried again and after a few seconds Steve’s face came into clear view. He mouthed the words, I love you. I smiled a little smile and waved a small wave of acknowledgement and then he faded away.