After checking that no bones were broken, I tried to lift him to a sitting position and that's when I saw his face. His lips were not straight...a classic sign of a stroke. Gently, I laid his head on a pillow and called 911.
By the time they got here (it felt like forever) I knew he not only had a stroke, but a very severe one. My eloquent husband was unable to speak coherently and his right side appeared to be paralyzed. The EMT's were able to get him onto the chaise in our bedroom and start an IV. They immediately called for transport to the hospital.
As I drove to the hospital in the early morning of March 5, I knew our lives would never be the same. A CT Scan and an MRI confirmed my worst fear. Jimmy had suffered what is called an MCA, Middle Cerebral Artery Stroke.
The middle cerebral artery is the largest branch of the internal carotid. The artery supplies a portion of the frontal lobe and the lateral surface of the temporal and parietal lobes, including the primary motor and sensory areas of the face, throat, hand and arm and in the dominant hemisphere, the areas for speech. The middle cerebral artery is the artery most often occluded in stroke.
He is paralyzed on the right side of his body and his ability to speak is severely impeded. One has no way of knowing there is an occlusion in this part of the brain. He was in good health and there was no indication that he was at risk for a stroke.
I started writing this shortly after Jimmy had his stroke. Every evening, when I would return from the hospital, my intention was to finish this. However, by the time I returned home I was exhausted and simply could not bring myself to the computer and write about what had happened. It was simply too terrible.
For 2 months Jimmy was in rehab, then ICU, back to rehab, then to hospice and finally to a skilled care facility. He was admitted on a Friday, late in the day. The following Wednesday morning, April 28, 2010, at a few minutes after 7, I received a phone call from the facility and then Jimmy's Dr. informing me that at some point during the night, he had aspirated and was now in the ER at the hospital.
I remember sleep walking to put on clothes and get in the car to race to the hospital. When I arrived, my poor husband had a very large oxygen mask on his face that was cutting into his cheeks. The straps could not be adjusted. It was evident he was having a very difficult time breathing even with the oxygen. About an hour after I arrived at the hospital a nurse from hospice came down to get some information and tell me he was being transported back to hospice.
Jimmy had very significant "advanced directives", much more than a simple DNR. Our Doctor called me and said "it is time to follow Jimmy's wishes". I didn't want to hear this and I knew his sister and daughter didn't want to hear this either. However, the Doctor was right. It was time to follow Jimmy's directions. After all, that is why we write out how we want our lives to end.
The stroke left him with no dignity...it was time to give him back his dignity. On Sunday morning, May 2, 2010 at 9:10 a.m. Jimmy died in my arms listening to our song..."My One and Only Love". Just before he died, as the song began to play, he opened his eyes and looked into mine. He smiled at me and then gently slipped away.
I miss him every moment of every day. I long to hear his voice, his laugh or smell the garlic he loved to saute...He was a wonderful, kind, incredibly intelligent man. He loved his family and his life. Even though he is not physically with me, I feel his presence all around me and am so grateful that we had almost 11-1/2 years together as friends and then as husband and wife.
For the almost 5-1/2 years I was married to Jimmy and lived with him, we shared so very much. Not just cooking and entertaining our friends and family but reading to one another or listening to an Opera or Elvis. We were best friends. Selfishly I would give anything to have him with me for many more years. However, I do believe I had the best of him.