Life takes some very unexpected turns. This is what has been happening with me,
On Jan 7th Don left about 1:30p to take a drive while I went to a church meeting. He takes many drives and always comes back in time for supper at 5p so at 6:30, when he wasn’t back yet and it was dark, I called the town marshall and asked "when should I start to panic." He said he would be right there and he was. Don would not carry a cell phone and I didn’t know which direction he had gone. The marshall and I called several other people and they all started to search, going out from De Beque in every direction. No one found him and the search was finally called off for the night about 3:30a.
They started again about 7a when it was light enough to see. By that time the fire department and Mesa County search and rescue were called in. About mid-morning an oil field worker reported he had seen Don the afternoon before in the Wild Horse area west of DeBeque so the search was concentrated there. There was quite a bit of snow out there and the ground had not completely frozen so it was snow and mud, difficult driving. About 2pm deer hunters spotted our car stuck in a ditch about 16 miles from town. There were tracks in the snow leading away from the car toward town. They followed the tracks six miles and found Don face down in a snowbank with Jesse the dog on top of him. Don was hypothermic, couldn’t move his arms or legs. (The paramedics said he would not have survived another two hours.) They brought him to town, Don insisting he was fine and he wanted to go home.
I said absolutely not, that he had to go to the hospital for a couple of days for observation. So they took him to St Mary’s. He was there for 3 days and then they transferred him to the VA hospital. By then he was beginning to show the effects of that ordeal. Twenty four hours in 25º weather without heavy winter clothing, diabetic, no food or water (except snow), no meds, a six mile hike and hypothermia. He had used up the gas in the car trying to get out of the ditch.
When he had settled down somewhat he was transferred to Palisade Nursing Home but he kept trying to walk out. He got angry and assaultive when he couldn’t leave so he was transferred back to the VA hospital and he has been there ever since. The ordeal made his dementia very much worse and he became very confused, still angry. He gradually stopped eating and drinking and has lost about 50 pounds. He sleeps a lot. He cannot stand or walk. All effects of the ordeal and his dementia.
A week ago I had a conference with the palliative care Dr and her team. After a long discussion about the ordeal and Don’s symptoms and behavior since then they recommended and I decided to put him in hospice care. He can stay there at the VA, which is a wonderful hospital. His condition has declined so rapidly that I truly don’t expect him to live very long. He hates being cooped up inside so the rapid decline is a blessing. I can’t imagine him having to endure that for months or years.
Well, that leaves out a lot of the in-between happenings but you can probably fill that in. Whatever you imagine, that probably happened. Don’s son Tim came down from Idaho for several days and my sons all came. It helped just to have them here.
I call the hospital every day and go down twice a week. That seems to be about right. The hospital said I could bring Jesse to see Don. I tried it. However Jesse was not a good traveler in the required crate and couldn’t settle down so I probably won’t do that again anytime soon. I’m convinced Jesse saved Don’s life by lying on top of him keeping him warm.
In many ways it feels like Don has already passed. It’s a curious in-between time. And of course, I cry and cry and cry. Mourning the loss of our life together.
Jesse and I have been learning how to get along by ourselves. It is quite a change, not all of it bad. I am doing fine. I have had a lot of deferred maintenance done at the house. Things Don always said he would do and then couldn’t. So the house is much more comfortable for me. I continue to be amazed at the love and support I have received from the people in DeBeque. I truly haven’t wanted for a thing. If I even think I might want something, someone is there to offer it before I say anything.
At this point I plan to stay right here. I have learned to order my groceries on-line. I have my electric scooter which takes me everywhere in town. Jesse loves to ride on it between my legs. I'm thinking and praying about the future but not making any plans at this point.
My QWU friends have become very dear to me over the years. I wanted you to know what has been going on with me.