AnniPotts, Aunt S, Big Brother, birthday, Boy-O, Catholic, Cincinnati, coming home, community, Corpus Christi, Dad, death, family, funeral, God, God is here, grateful, heart attack, I am loved, Jacob, Mariah, Mom, organ donation, Sae, stroke, support, The Absent-minded Professor, The Duchess, Uncle S, vigil
I am writing this from the hospital in Cincinnati. My brother was pronounced brain dead at 10:28 this morning.
I have to say that we were expecting this. As we sat with him yesterday, it became more and more apparent that his brain damage was extensive. He had not displayed any reflex responses since the day before. His sodium levels (which the brain regulates) were rising. His heartbeat was beginning to be more and more irregular, which we were told was very possibly because the brain was no longer telling the heart to beat. He had not been breathing on his own since late Friday. If he were going to get better we would have needed to hear big good news. That news didn’t come. By the time I went home last night it was fairly plain that the good news wasn’t going to come.
The blessing is that we were able to have a good day all together with Jacob yesterday. It was such a blessing to have all my siblings there. We hung out in the waiting room together, and sat together in his room. We kept a chair pulled up to the side of his bed, and took turns sitting there, holding Jacob’s hand, reading to him from one of his favorite books, and praying. We called that the “petting chair” because whoever sat there would sooner or later start stroking Jacob’s hand.
Before I left the doctor called Mom & Dad into a consultation and asked them about what they wanted if Jacob should code during the night (if his heart should stop beating). At that time they said that until they heard something definite from the neurologists, they wanted them to do whatever they had to do to keep him going. However, we were pretty sure that once the neurologists, they would confirm what we already pretty much knew. In the meantime, however, we were waiting for siblings who had been out of town to get there – the Absent-minded Prof. coming in from OU (an Aunt and Uncle drove hours to fetch him over slippery winter roads), AnniPotts flying in from South Dakota, the Duchess driving herself the long way from Philadelphia. One by one everyone made it safely. The only one who still hasn’t made it is Big Brother, who is still in Korea, waiting for his flight from the Seoul Airport. If all goes well (particularly if he is able to make a tight connection in San Francisco) he should be home Tuesday evening. Mom and Dad stayed at the hospital for the night, some stayed in Cincinnati at Sae’s house, and some came home.
I was at home this morning when Mom called, dithering about whether or not I would have time to take a shower before I headed back down to Cincinnati. The neurologists had just come in and done their tests, finding no response. Those who were there called got everyone who wasn’t there on their phones, and with everyone on speaker phone we prayed together as a family. Then those of us who were in Dayton got out the door as soon as we could, and came down to Cincinnati. There we joined those who were already there. The pastor of St. Gertrude’s (who’s name I can’t remember now) came and led us in a Communion service, specially praying for “our brother, who is passing through the gates of death.”
Then we went out to the waiting room, got a final report from the neurologist, and talked about organ donation. Jacob had indicated that he wanted to be an organ donor, so from the point when he was declared brain dead his care has switched to trying to ensure that his organs are in the best shape possible for donation. We’ve all agreed that it is important to us that one of us stays with his body as long as we can. We’re keeping vigil. They say that it will probably be early tomorrow afternoon before they can get the operating room to take his organs. Mariah is going to stay with him while the rest of us go to our Aunt’s (who lives in Cincinnati) to decompress a little and eat. Then I and AnniPotts will come back and spend the night. Sae and the Duchess will relieve us in the morning, and then I’ll come back to Dayton.
We’re still working on funeral arrangements. We want to have the service on Thursday because Friday is Boy-O’s 17th birthday, and we want to have everything done before then. Right now we want to have the visitation and funeral at Corpus Christi Church in Dayton on Thursday afternoon. We’re waiting to get the ok from Father on this – today is his day off, so he wasn’t available to talk to me this afternoon. He’ll be coming in this evening for a meeting, so he should get the message then, and hopefully will call me.
So many people have been marvelously kind. The nursing staff here has been wonderful, answering so many questions and showing us numberless small kindnesses. Mariah’s work (Kettering Medical Center) has been wonderful, paying for a rental car for AnniPotts while she’s here (they had found out that we have a sad dearth of reliable cars in the family right now), and arranging for food vouchers we can use at the cafeteria here. Another friend came through with some gas cards just exactly when we needed them. One of Mom’s friends brought a basket of food to the house yesterday that was very helpful, and our cousin and his wife brought some food to the hospital as well. I have to admit that at first I was a little unsure that food was actually helpful. Then yesterday morning I was looking around my kitchen trying to think of what I could eat for breakfast, and realizing that everything I had in my cupboards would take more time and effort to cook than I could spare. Then I saw some of the food my cousin had brought sitting on the counter, and immediately knew that was my breakfast. It was such a blessing to not have to think any more about it.
It has also been a great blessing knowing how many people have been praying for us and thinking of us, how deeply we are loved by people in so many places. We are being upheld by this on many levels. We know that these prayers and graces and thoughts will continue to support us as we get through the coming days.
Thank you to everyone. God is here with us even in the blackest moments. We are grateful for you, grateful for the gift of our brother, grateful for the good things we have been given for as long as we were able to have them.