This story is by Jane E. Ruth and was part of our 10th Anniversary Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
AGAINST ALL HOPE
Cara stood by the hospital bedside of her husband, Mike, and watched him
struggling to breathe. At the moment, he was sleeping, partially sedated. He had
two heart attacks two years ago, and six months ago, Mike started to gain weight.
“I don’t understand how I am gaining weight,” Mike said.
“I know. When I must help you get your pants on, there’s a problem.”
Two months ago, Mike had difficulty breathing.
When Cara confronted him regarding his breathless episodes, Mike said,
“It’s my allergies. I always have problems in the spring of the year.”
However, when Mike insisted on attending his granddaughter’s graduation,
Cara realized how difficult it was for him to walk back to the car. Cara demanded
that he had to go to Urgent Care and seek medical advice.
The doctors admitted him to the ICU immediately.
Mike’s EKG showed Atrial fibrillation, a faster than usual heart rate. The doctors
said if he previously had A-fib for a long time, then it would be a challenge to rectify the
The doctors also explained, ” We have discovered a blood clot in his heart,
and we can’t cardio-vert him because the jolt could dislodge the clot and cause a
stroke or heart attack.”
Cara casually listened to the doctors explain the complications as she
turned on her cellphone and checked Facebook.
I know Mike is sick, but he’ll be ok. I might have to make a bed for him
downstairs in the family room when he comes home.
She explained to her family and friends, “Mike is doing ok, they gave him
diuretics, and he lost fifty pounds. Mike still needs oxygen, but he will be home in
time for our granddaughter Cynthia’s fifth birthday party on the fourth.”
However, when Cara returned to the hospital, expecting to discuss plans for
being discharged, she found Mike couldn’t go home because his lab work showed
his kidneys were failing.
Mike spent the next two days in the radiology department having scans and
MRIs. The clot was still in his heart, probably from the Atrial fib, said the concerned
doctors. The medical staff weighed him into the hospital at three hundred
and twenty-five pounds, and to date, he lost fifty pounds. Mike found it
increasingly difficult to move about in bed or sit on the edge of the bed with the
weight of his arms and legs. Moreover, all the IVs and ports, and monitoring
devices encompassing his entire right arm up to his upper chest created anxiety
for Mike when he wanted to move in the bed.
Every day Mike’s blood acid levels were rising. Cara asked for prayers from
their family and friends.
The following morning when Cara came to visit Mike, the hospital doctors
told her his kidneys had stopped functioning. They would have to start dialysis.
“Dialysis could be temporary because the kidneys might begin working on their
own again,” the doctors told Cara.
In addition, one of the intern doctors emphasized, “Mike is receiving potent
drugs to combat his heart and lung conditions, but his body is not responding to
Cary nodded her head. She asked a few token questions, then abruptly
turned away and strolled over to his over-bed table to fill out his menu for the day.
After lunch, Dr. LaCour made rounds.
“We need to discuss the recent findings of the x-rays and MRIs,”
Dr. LaCour said. “We noticed that Mike has two lumps on his chest. One swollen
area looks normal, but we aren’t sure about the other. The scan and x-rays show he
has multiple masses in his stomach, and the tumors are growing aggressively. We
will need to do a biopsy to confirm if it is lymphoma or cancer. Then it would involve
chemo. But, the cancer problem is not the most significant concern right now. We need to
get Mike’s heart and lung problems under control.”
Cara listened in silence to Dr. LaCour. She hunched over in her chair and stared at
I hate that C-word! My sister and brother died of cancer. The C-word, another
medical condition with all his other diagnoses. How can we cope with so many problems?
Cara sighed and sat up in her chair. My hands are sweaty, and I need a drink of
water. My mouth is so dry.
Dr. LaCour continued, “Whenever we try our routine protocols on Mike, trying to
get the Atrial fib under control, another problem occurs.”
Family and friends were concerned because Mike seemed to deteriorate before
their eyes. To say nothing of the fact that Cara remained in her alternate world, not
absorbing the reality of the situation. On the rare occasion when reality entered her mind,
Carrie became numb and stared into space. She promptly brought herself back to the
everyday world and acted as if.
The family remained close by, visiting Mike every day.
“Do you think I am going to die?” Mike asked his eldest daughter.
“No, Dad, you are very ill, but the doctors are doing all they can.”
The following day, Cara returned to the hospital early.
Dr. LaCour said he wanted to speak with both Mike and Cara.
“We are trying everything we can, and the medications are not helping his
condition. Mike’s lab work and oxygen levels are not improving. He requires more oxygen
“Do you have a Living Will? I think you both need to make some decisions. The
prognosis is grave. The kidneys have shut down. The heart is weak, and the lungs can’t
function normally. Mike is at the point of needing a ventilator to breathe soon. You need
to talk about what you want to do.”
“We don’t have a Living Will,” said Cara.
“I’m sorry, but you need to make some decisions. Mike is not getting better.”
Reality hit Cara. She glanced at Mike, and her stomach flip-flopped.
“I want nothing done. Just let me go.” Mike said calmly.
Cara started sobbing uncontrollably. “No!” Cara shouted.
Tears streaming down her cheeks, Cara ran out of the room.
No, he can’t die. I won’t let him!
In the waiting room, Cara bargained with God.
I can’t make it without Mike. God heal him. I don’t want to live without
Mike. You can’t take him yet. I will go to church every Sunday, and I will do
whatever you want, don’t let him die.
My chest hurts, and I feel so numb. I can’t even think straight.
The nurse approached Cara, “Mike wants to talk to you.”
Cara wiped her tears and walked in slow motion to Mike’s room.
“I didn’t mean what I said. I was in shock, “said Mike. “Do everything that
you can, but if the Good Lord wants me, He will take me if nothing works.”
Cara sighed – a reprieve. She stuck to her truth that God would heal Mike.
I am not giving up. Mike will be ok. We’ll deal with cancer later.
The next day, Mike’s breathing worsened. He gasped at times to get his
breath. Dr. LaCour came into Mike’s room. “Mike is having a severe breathing
problem. He needs a ventilator to breathe.”
“Do everything you can to save Mike,” Cara told the doctors.
“It’s only temporary, Mike,” Cara said. “You will get better, and they will
take it out. I’ll see you later.”
The medical team sedated Mike and inserted the ventilator tube.
Cara sat vigilantly by his bedside. The doctors said they could try one more
medication. It was a last-ditch effect, and Cara sanctioned it.
However, the medication did not help Mike. Mike went into massive
organ failure and his lab work continued off the charts.
Finally, Cara comprehended Mike was not coming home with her. He was
Dr. LaCour spoke with Cara. “We can only keep him on the ventilator for
ten days. He may survive, a very slim chance, but he will probably have brain
damage. And, he will still have to deal with his illnesses.”
As Cara looked at her beloved’s face, she said, “How selfish am I? I am
concerned about myself and my feelings and what will happen to me. I am so
sorry, Mike. You have been so ill. Go to God, Mike.”
Cara called the medical staff to Mike’s room. “I want you to remove the
ventilator. Mike would not want to live like this.”
The doctors removed the ventilator, and the family sat quietly with Mike.
Twenty minutes later, Mike stopped breathing and transitioned to God.
Cara glanced at her watch through streaming tears. 9:30 am, July 4th.
“How bittersweet- I celebrate my beloved country on this July 4th holiday
and mark the future anniversary of my beloved Mike’s passing- both on the
Cara leaned over the bed and kissed Mike goodbye.