It’s hard to know where to begin writing this post. In August, Phil went to the hospital for a distended abdomen. Phil and the doctors thought it was stool, so he was cleaned out. He went back two weeks later in September. This was the weekend he was supposed to take his camping trip but ended up in the hospital instead. the distension got bad again, and he became short of breath. Nothing they tried seemed to work all that well, and then doctors told him he would probably have a short life expectancy. Then they back pedaled and said they never meant to imply he’d have a short life. Doctors weren’t doing anything for him he couldn’t do for himself, so he asked to come home. Then on Tuesday September 24th, I was coming home from mental health apppointments when our reader, Bonnie came to read for us. She saw what I did — that he was short of breath and genuinely not well. In fact, the night of the the 23rd, Phil had an incident when he woke up unable to breathe and sat up to get his breath back. Bonnie convinced him he needed to go to the hospital and called an ambulance for him. She stayed with Blake until I got home. Phil was put on some oxygen at the ER. Phil was in the ER for almost two days, because a bed was not available. Fortunately, a bed became available on 7A which is the organ transplant floor. and in our opinion, home of some of the best nurses at the University of Minnesota.
In an earlier hospital visit, I had found Abby, a vet technician and dog trainer who also dog-sat. She had come to stay with Blake while I played for a wedding, Masses, and the Malt Shop. She and Blake got along famously, and she admired how smart he was. Saturday the 28th, she took Blake to visit Phil. I had told Phil how good she was with him, and with my blessing, he asked Abby to take Blake home with her if anything should happen to him. The three of them had a fantastic visit that night. Doctors used diuretics, and even had a liter of fluid drained physically in a process called parasentdesis.
Nothing seemed to work very quickly, and then on Wednesday October 2nd, a nephrologist told Phil he was estimating that his kidney was only working ten to twelve percent. This was depistating news for us both. The University had already told him that because of the calcification of his vessels, he couldn’t have another transplant,. In addition, his heart ejection fraction was low and couldn’t be fixed. While I looked at the picture from this perspective, Phil was on the Internet reading about 70 to 80-year-olds getting transplants and having a vascular doctor on the team. At the same time, Phil was on the phone with Amazon and UPS upset about a package which still has not been delivered to date.
That night, I had gotten the dogs down for the night and was reading a book when the phone rang at an unusual time. It said it was the University medical center, and I didn’t reach it in time. I thought perhaps Phil was trying to get a hold of me, so I called his cell phone. It went to voicemail, and then the home phone rang again. A doctor explained that Phil’s heart had stopped, and they tried to bring him back for 25 minutes without success. I was shocked and of course saddened by the news. I started by calling my parents, and they called my sisters. I called a friend who offered to get the word out to the Minnesota blind community about Phil’s death. I heard from my older sister, and she and my younger sister immediately offered to come up and be with me the next day. People were concerned that I was alone that night, but it was late. I couldn’t ask anyone to get out of bed after ten at night to come over and be with me. I called Bonnie who said she was coming over. She stayed and talked with me for a couple hours and helped me get the dogs out one final time, since they’d been woken by all the activity.
I didn’t sleep the night of the 2nd and morning of the 3rd. I managed to put a post out on Facebook, and folks were very kind with their messages in return. When the hour was decent, I texted Abby to let her know what happened and asked if she was ready to take Blake. Taking care of both dogs was hard at this point, and I wanted Blake to go to his new home as soon as possible. Abby came to get him about 1:30 that day, and my sisters arrived around 2. Blake had a first fun day with Abby, her husband, her kids, and their menagerie of animals.
My sisters and I sorted out the housing pile of papers which had built up over the years. They also helped me write Phil’s obituary which will be in Monday’s paper. Those were two momentous tasks, and we had supper and played some Uno before they went back to their hotel. That same day, friends helped me get a hold of the Anatomy Bequest Program at the University where Phil had signed up to give his body to science. The hospital also had Phil’s personal affects delivered. I talked to family and friends on the phone, and there were text, email, and Facebook messages.
Yesterday, I spent more time on the phone giving the anatomy Bequest Program Phil’s medical history. My sisters came back, helped me pay a bill on Phil’s phone, and then we got to work on the guest bed. It was another pile of stuff which had built up over the years. We threw a lot of stuff out and reorganized other things. We ordered pizza and played more Uno before they left for the night.
As you can imagine, I have had lots of bad moments and tears. Communication with friends and family plus my sisters’ visit have kept me from feeling too lonely, although this house seems a lot bigger and lonelier with only Lancer and me here. Recovering from this grief is going to take a long, long time. But Phil told me he wanted a party to celebrate his life where people could tell stories about him. We’re in the early stages of planning such an event with help from Phil’s colleagues at the University of Minnesota. I said it was hard to start this post, and it’s equally hard to know where to end. My sisters will drive me to church later today where Father plans to announce Phil’s death at Masses this weekend. I plan to still play at the Malt Shop tomorrow night. The alternative is to sit at home by myself, which I don’t want to do. Bonnie and her partner will come hear me and take me home afterward. Then the real loneliness begins as people go on with the rest of their lives, and I continue to grieve.