Category Archives: His Final Week

And then his last day came

If you haven’t read last weeks post, then you might want to do that before beginning today’s- and then his last day came. If you’ve only just found this site, welcome, but you’ll probably want to start from the beginning so you can catch up!

Now that’s out of the way, let’s begin.

We had made it home in the ambulance, no sirens blaring, it was a little different to Nick’s last trip in one. We pulled up out the front of our house and they wheeled him in on the stretcher, our friend John had already arrived and watched as Nick was taken out of the ambulance.

He told me at the time, that he noticed Nick look more relaxed as he realised he was home, that the tension in his face disappeared.

I knew we’d done the right thing, it was where Nick wanted to be, back in our home in the suburbs.

It was the first home we bought together, the home we poured our hearts and hard work into, the place we first bought our little girl home to, our home of many gatherings and fun memories and now it would be the place of his final breath.

We set Nick up in our bedroom, as comfortable as we could make him. He was only semi-conscious, drifting in and out of sleep and not being able to say very much, his voice was just a whisper.

And then his last day came
Happier times at a work function in 2007

Phone calls were made, letting friends and family know of his new situation, many of them couldn’t believe how quickly it had transpired, some were planning on visiting the hospital that day. I asked for privacy at that time, as the last thing I wanted was a circus on an already emotional day.

I kept things calm and in control. A few people were invited to come and say their goodbyes, others preferred not to, wanting to keep their last memories of Nick, happy ones instead.  I completely understood this.

Our parents arrived, as did our siblings and I re-iterated what the doctors had told me, ‘this was the end, his body was shutting down, there was nothing more that could be done for Nick, we had to let nature take it’s course now, as hard as it was to watch.’ Of course, no one wants to be the one to deliver this news, but I was the only one who could.

There was nothing else left to do, I couldn’t even drain his ascites, which was one of the indications that the end was near, as his body had even stopped producing the fluid. It was slowly letting go. He was on a morphine pump, so he wasn’t in any pain, it administered the medication at regular intervals to keep him comfortable.

And then I set about doing what any European does in times of stress, I made coffee, over and over again.

Throughout the day, everyone had their time with Nick, to say the things they wanted to say, or just to sit and cry. My grandmother sat at his side with her rosary beads praying. His parents, understandably, were inconsolable, nothing could give them any peace. We were literally watching him get closer to the end, with every breath he took.

I kept my cool, making sure there was no screaming or carrying on, I kept saying, ‘Nick wouldn’t want to hear any wailing over him, let him go in peace.’ I asked that our bedroom remain quiet and comforting for him instead.

I gave his parents alone time with him, closing my double bedroom doors, so they could be with their son. Their youngest boy, who they obviously adored, who they spent so much time with, who had called his Dad his best friend.

There were angry words said too, but I always knew they came from being scared of a life without Nick, of feeling helpless. They cursed the hospital, his doctors etc. but the truth was, everyone had done all they could, this was inevitable.

I was at peace knowing we had done our best, Nick had confided to me, just the week before, that he was done and over it all. As heart breaking as it was, this was what he wanted too. He couldn’t fight it anymore, pancreatic cancer was going to claim his life.

Over the course of the day, he deteriorated, his waking moments were far and few between, his eyes were permanently half closed. Occasionally a faint smile would cross his lips, like he was remembering a moment in time. He no longer squeezed against my hand, acknowledging that I was there.

We didn’t know if he could hear us anymore, but we kept on talking, especially me, chatting to him like normal, laughing as I re-counted times we shared together and funny moments.  I think everyone thought I was mad that day, not falling into a heap, but it was all I knew how to do, I just wanted Nick to be reminded of all the good times we had, to go out in the most positive way.

It started to get late, Claudia our daughter was put to bed, our families were camped out around the house, no one was wanting to sleep. Mostly there was silence, but Nick was never alone, someone was with him at all times. A constant revolving door, as one person left his side to regain their composure and another took their spot. I bustled in and out, making sure everyone was comfortable, while stealing my moments with Nick.

It was important to me, that everyone had their alone time with Nick, I didn’t feel the need to hover over him constantly, he knew I was there and our families needed the closure.

And then night came, no one was wanting to leave, just in case, though I assured everyone that if they needed to go, I would call if anything happened.

Everyone kind of settled in for the night and  then it was my time alone with Nick. I lay down besides him and held his hand. I continued to softly talk to him about all the wonderful things we’d done together. He was not responsive at all, but I hoped that he could hear me still.

His eyes, though half closed, were transfixed on a spot on the ceiling, I started whispering to him, ‘if there is a light or something, go towards it, let go, we’ll be fine.’ I repeatedly told him, not to hold on for me, that Claudia and I would be ok, we had all the love and support in the world. I thanked him, for choosing me to spend his life with, for being the best husband, father, son and friend to so many. I promised he’d never be forgotten, hence this blog!

I talked on and on, promising to look after his parents and always include them in our daughters life, I spoke of all the things I thought he’d want to hear. I thanked him for all the lessons in life he had shown me and finally, I told him I loved him and would continue to love him all the years of my life.

It had been a long day, having arrived home at 10am, it was now early morning once more, the house was quiet, as mostly everyone had drifted off.

Nick was holding on, his breathing raspy and deep. I remember looking at our bedside table clock it was 4.50am. I was exhausted, I hadn’t drifted off to sleep yet and then I closed my eyes, for what felt like a minute, but was probably closer to 10.

I opened them again and just like that, I noticed he was gone. There had been no sounds, no changes.  I like to think he had waited til we were alone together, til there was silence and everyone was sleeping, til he took his final breath. I’ll always believe he was in control of when the time came.

I sat with him for a while, kissed him goodbye, closed his eyes and relaxed his legs. The doctors had warned me that he could be in this state for days or even weeks, I felt relief that he had only remained like this for such a short time, the relief extended to Nick not suffering anymore. It was over.

And then his last day came
One of my favourite shots, from Derby Day 2010

I walked calmly out of my bedroom and gave the news no one was ready for, “He’s gone’, I said and then the circus really began.

Thank you for reading along, stay tuned next week and i’ll begin with the aftermath of Nick’s passing.

Please keep sharing, liking and commenting, I love knowing your thoughts and how it leaves you feeling.

If it makes you grateful for all you have or makes you act a little kinder towards others, please let me know!

Til next week, Michela xx

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Nick’s last day in hospital – includes VIDEO

Continuing on from last week’s post, I bring you this, Nick’s last day in hospital:

Thursday Night:

Nick had drifted off to sleep, while I lay on the stretcher besides him. His health that day had steadily declined to a point where he wasn’t able to communicate much, and when he did his voice was just a whisper. He’d barely been out of his bed in over 24 hours. The once rowdy, confident Nick of old was gone, replaced by this quiet, raspy voiced person instead. His face was angular, having lost all of its plumpness and his body wasn’t much more than skin and bones.

I couldn’t believe we’d ended up here, but yet we were. Only 7 months earlier, we’d had it all and now I was contemplating a future alone, without my partner in love and life. But still, I stay focused and strong, Nick needed me now, and we vowed to stay positive, always, and one thing we never did, was ask ‘why us?’, I wasn’t about to start now.

Nick's last day in hospital - includes a video
Nick and I in happier times, note the rainbow in the background!

Halfway through the night, I remember him waking me up to say he needed to go to the bathroom. He motioned to the bathroom door and started to try and get up. I went to him to assist, but he pushed me away, showing he wanted to do it alone and he did, just like that. He steadied himself on the side of the bed and lifted his torso up and starting the few steps to the bathroom door, not saying very much, just mumbling as he went.

I stood behind him, ready to catch him, but he seemed strong, shuffling his way across the floor. I was secretly thrilled, watching him do this alone, when he’d needed assistance before. It gave me hope that maybe things were turning around. He started shuffling back to bed, again unassisted, though I helped him swing his legs up onto the bed and he went back to sleep. Me with a big smile on my face, thinking in the morning, we are finally going to have good news, this had to be a sign!

Friday:

Next morning, I start about my normal routine, making my bed, folding sheets away, and getting ready to head back to the apartment to shower and change. Nick wasn’t very responsive, but I put that down to the morphine working its magic. His oncologist came in to check on him with more tests, I started to rattle off, how Nick had walked unassisted and it was a good sign, blah, blah, blah…apparently I wasn’t quite the nurse I thought I was.

Within a half hour of his visit, and me almost on my way out back home, the doctor came to me outside the room and said, ‘I don’t think it’s a good idea you go anywhere, Nick doesn’t have long to go and I’d hate for you to not be here.’ Uhh, doctor said what ???

Although this was something we knew would happen eventually, from the week starting off so well, I couldn’t have imagined that the last two days meant the end, right now! But, seeing him laying in his hospital bed, a shadow of his former self, his body once strong, was now giving up its fight, there was nothing left to give, he couldn’t go on, I understood what had to happen next.

Apparently, his final act of walking himself to the bathroom, is a common occurrence in people who are near the end, they somehow find this last store of energy to use. Have you ever witnessed this?

Anyway, I dove straight into action, telling everyone who’d listen that we had to get him home. I spoke softly to him and told him I was taking him home, he nodded with a faint smile, acknowledging what i’d said, he knew his time had come.

The ambulance would take us and i’d follow in my car, Nick tried to speak, he was telling me he wanted me in the ambulance with him, and then the thought occurred, that if he didn’t make the ride home, I wouldn’t be with him. Change tactics, I called his good friend, John to meet me at the hospital to drive my car, so I could ride with him instead. Sorted.

The palliative care team were sent to the room to speak to me, to discuss end of life options and support for me after his death, I told them I was fine and thanked them for coming by. They said, ‘You do realise Nick isn’t going to make it and the end has come’, but I was prepared and standing around talking to a bunch of ladies about it, was taking me away from my final hours with Nick.

I was given bags of medication to take with us, since we were going home, we were also going it alone, without doctor assistance. I didn’t really know what that meant, at that stage, just that it was Nick’s last wish and I was going to make it happen.  Our oncologist and another good doctor friend, came past and briefed me on what might happen when the end came, I think anyone else might have fainted having to hear worst case scenarios, but I took it all in and hoped for the best.

Then came the farewells, nurses, doctors, other patients, receptionists, our beautiful pharmacist friend, it was a steady stream of people who Nick had touched so dearly in his time there. The news had travelled fast. Some couldn’t come into the room, not wanting to see him like that, how far he’d deteriorated, they called me outside instead, to pass me their details and give me a hug. There were tears as we said our goodbyes, knowing we’d never be back there and I could never re-pay them for the friendship and support they’d given us.

I started making phone calls to our families, to meet us at home, the news was less than welcomed, but I knew he’d want them with us when the time came.

And soon, it was time to leave the hospital, the ambulance had arrived, we were going home. and I was ready.

I’ll end this here and I want to include the below video of Nick in better health, the date is 28th September, 2010. This video is far less emotional than the last I shared.

It shows Nick talking about his chemo treatment and as always, his love for his baby girl, Claudia. I like that it shows his strength, in trying to maintain as normal a life as he could, under the circumstances.

As he said, he kept soldiering on and never gave up hope, because everyday is a new day!

I think that’s something we should all remember, when you’re having a bad day, when the kids are crying, when your work day hasn’t gone as planned, when you ruin your new favourite shoes, everyday is a new day and a chance to do over and start again.

Having perspective over these type of issues, is what will see you through the hard days, because life isn’t perfect, its made up of lots of less than perfect moments, but it’s how you react to those times, that make you a stronger person.

Without Nick battling and losing his fight, I might not have learnt this life lesson, which is why I am grateful for him and everyday I have been given.

Thank you for reading, i’ll pick this up again next week, please continue to share, like, comment, it means the world to me to get Nick’s message across, life is precious.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this post!

Til next week, Michela x

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His Final Week

And so following on from last week I continue on with this: his final week.

So, I was awakened to Nick asking me for an ambulance, it was about midnight on a Sunday long weekend. I started whispering to him, ‘what’s wrong, are you sure you need an ambulance?’ Me being Miss Doubtful..

The truth was throughout his illness, we had avoided the ambulance call, that nervous call you make, explaining symptoms and address details. I had been the ambulance driver so far, (not crazy fast driving, but you get what I mean!) and living so close to the hospital in the city, meant it was generally quicker to get ourselves there.

That’s why I knew it was serious when he asked me to call an ambulance, though I was still secretly hoping it was a joke. Don’t forgot we were approx an 1.5 hours from the Epworth hospital in Richmond, where he received his treatments. So, once I realised what we had to do, I woke my parents and we went into action mode.

I called the ambulance telling them Nick was having sharp pains in his stomach and chest. Painful enough that he knew something had happened. He kept mostly still on the side of our bed, as I spoke to the operator, doing my best to state the urgency of our situation, while having Nick in the background shouting, ‘i’m not getting in the ambulance, if they don’t take me to Epworth’.

Of course, she couldn’t promise this, saying if it was an emergency, they’d take him to the nearest hospital, which in our case was the public one in Epping. Nick just wanted to go straight to where they knew him well and we wouldn’t have to go through all the details about his condition and treatment, over again and again!

I was doing a fine job of this over the phone already, but it was still freaking Nick out, all he kept saying was, ‘get me to Epworth’. So, an ambulance was dispatched, and we set about getting ready to for the pick up.

Except one problem, my parents property is down a mostly dirt road, of which there is only 3 properties, with no street lights. We were so concerned they’d miss us, my Dad went out to the main road holding a torch and a lantern, so he could motion to the ambulance when they got close. All the while our daughter slept on peacefully, even when the ambulance arrived, lights flashing and siren wailing!

And we had two lots of assistance, firstly 2 local paramedics arrived, as they were unsure how long it would take for another to get to us, and I had stressed how serious a situation this was. They administered some morphine and waited with us for the next ambulance to arrive. I went through Nick’s history with them, while making coffee and packing our bags.

Then the second ambulance arrived, I again spoke at length, to all 4 paramedics, detailing his condition and medications etc and we were finally on our way. Phew!!

I can remember the paramedics commending me on my calmness and efficiency that night, asking if I was an actual nurse, *’why yes I am, but I only have one patient, I work at the Kosmas Hospital up the road.’

*not actual conversation, i’m not really a nurse!

It was decided, Mum would ride in the ambulance with Nick, while I dropped our daughter off at Nick’s parents place, to then make my way to the hospital.

Mum tells the story, that the ambulance didn’t have the medication needed to help Nick with his pain relief and they even had to stop midway, and meet up with another ambulance to swap supplies. This was a mammoth journey for Nick, who only wanted to get to Epworth and be around familiar faces. He did get his way, and they took him there, but Mum says, he yelled the whole way, warning them not to stop at Epping. Even sick, Nick could be very persuasive!

His Final Week
His final photo with Claudia, our daughter

I got to the hospital at around 2.30am, he was sedated and sleeping, my Mum sat by his side. No one had any answers yet, they’d have to wait til morning to run some tests, it was a long night. Mum and I tried the best we could to sleep on the hard plastic chairs next to his bed, but sleep didn’t come, we waited for the sun to rise and Nick to wake up instead.

Monday morning came, they rushed him into X-ray and ran the necessary tests and finally the news from his oncologist, Nick had a blockage to his stomach and small bowel. No real reason why, just because. It’s what end stage pancreatic cancer does. Ain’t that fair? Our oncologist told us there was an operation they could attempt to fix it, but they’d have to wait a couple of days before deciding if Nick’s body was up to it.

Monday wasn’t an altogether bad day, we were still hopefully that he’d have the operation and be done with it. Our oncologist wanted to confer with his fellow doctors and was going to bring Nick’s case to a conference call he was having the following morning. Nick was fine, dosed up on medication, but chatting away and happy enough. I got his parents to bring our daughter in for a play and as far as we were concerned it was just another hurdle to jump.

Later that night, Nick confessed that he didn’t want me to leave him alone at hospital. He never wanted to stay overnight as per my previous post, but now he didn’t want to stay alone there either. So, I rushed back to the apartment, had a quick shower, grabbed some clothes and I was back by his side. I started living there with him that week, sleeping on a stretcher bed besides him.

I think Nick knew it was serious and couldn’t stand the thought of being without me. Secretly, this new issue, scared the hell out of me, if they decided to go ahead with the operation, his oncologist had warned me, he might not survive it, and of he did, the recovery would mean 8 weeks hospital stay. I thought that might kill him alone! But, we were at the mercy of the surgeon who would do the operation, and we were yet to have a visit from him, anything could still happen.

Nick was now on constant pain relief medication, and not eating very much at all. Well, he couldn’t, the blockage to his stomach meant the food had no where to go. He wasn’t hungry either, but they had him on an IV drip giving him the nutrients he needed. He was finding it difficult to walk around, but was sitting up in bed, being his usual smart arse self, when visitors started to come by.

His Final Week
Christmas Day 2010, still feeling well

Then came Tuesday, Nick’s oncologist and the surgeon came to visit, they still weren’t sure the operation would be a success. The conference call consensus had been mostly, ‘no, he won’t survive it.’ The surgeon mostly agreed, he told us he wanted to do it because he wanted to give Nick and I some more life together, but given Nick’s condition, it would be very dangerous and there was no guarantees. Nick pleaded with him to do it, but I wasn’t so sure, I didn’t want him to die on the operating table.  But, at this stage, there was still a chance they would operate and insert a stent, a tube like device to keep the passage open and to help him live a little longer.

More people had heard Nick was in hospital now and he was enjoying the visits. Did you visit Nick, what was his mood like? Most people will say, they never knew how sick he really was at this stage, as always, he hid it well. When they’d leave, he’d sink into his pillow and drift off to sleep. I’d take the oppurtunity to run down stairs and grab a coffee.

Everyone knew us at the hospital, I always said, i’d knew we’d been around there too long, when I was able to get around and help visitors lost in the foyer, directing them where they needed to go. Knowing the shortcuts and when the fresh sandwiches were delivered to the cafe. My walks around took twice as long, as I got stopped all along the way, people wanting to know how Nick was doing, how Claudia was and how we were holding up. Staff in the kiosk, pharmacy, cafe, nurses, doctors, other patients etc, Nick had an impact on everyone he met. And having someone so young with such a terminal disease, touched so many hearts there. Some of these people still, 3 years later, keep in touch with.

One of the beautiful friends we made was Talia, who worked at Epworth, she messaged me recently to say, ‘Nick and you were the first young couple I had ever met who showed me what true love was all about..’. 3 years on, she still carries this thought with her, that’s impact for you!

But, back to the week at hand, by Wednesday things were starting to turn, the operation was officially called off. We knew this wasn’t going to end well, the obstruction wouldn’t un-do itself and we knew he couldn’t live with it either.

I’ll leave it there for now, i’ll pick up same place, same time next week.

Thanks for reading along, commenting, sharing and liking, means the world to me and Nick too, i’m sure!

Til next time, Michela x