April 28, 2018

As soon as the person on the other end of the phone told me that it was UAB hospital calling, I knew what they were going to tell me. I’ve been involved in medicine long enough to know that middle of the night phone calls are always bad news. Tommy had died quickly and unexpectedly that night. He had been fine, talking to the nurse, then his blood pressure bottomed out and he lost his heart rhythm. We had made the decision some time before that he would be Do Not Resuscitate if anything happened as his heart was too weak to take CPR or other aggressive measures and all it would do would be to prolong his dying process. From the available data, I suspect that he had a massive pulmonary embolism from clotting in his legs which got worse with the necessary stopping of his heparin. Sometimes you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

I roused his family, called my sister (who is always up at all hours anyway) to have someone to talk to, and went in to the hospital to start the processes and rituals of unexpected death. The family gathered. I spent some time sitting with the lifeless man who had been my partner in all things for years and we made decisions. His mother wanted a family viewing and burial in the family plot in Parrish. We had breakfast, called the Jasper funeral home and set everything in motion. I had to get the word out and wrote this.

Tommy update: A few hours after I wrote my last update, Tommy had a sudden and irreversible cardiovascular collapse and died at 2:45 this morning. Word is starting to spread but I wanted everyone to hear it from me first. I will post more later but just can’t right now.

I don’t remember much else about the day. I know I went and had breakfast at Bogue’s, the local greasy spoon, and I ran into a couple of friends there who became the first people outside of family that I had to tell. I picked out the clothes in which he was to be buried. I went with his parents and brother to the funeral home to make the arrangements for the viewing, pick out the casket, and to the cemetery to make arrangements for the grave to be dug. I finished all that and came home feeling sad, a little frightened for the future, and most of all just feeling alone.

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