My world turned upside down with one phone call. Because of it, I am constantly battling to not hate the life I have. My healthy, 39-year-old husband called me from work. He was performing a root canal when he felt ‘off.’ He asked me to drive him to the hospital because he thought he was having a heart attack. I woke my baby from his nap and raced with my toddler in tow to my neighbor’s house to see if she could watch them while I went to the hospital. No one answered so I buckled them in the car and brought them with me. Once we realized that Gare was going to be in the ER for a while, I had a friend come and get the kids. I didn’t want them to have to be there and witness all the chaos.
After hours in the ER, the doctor met me in the hall with tears in her eyes. I pointed my finger at her and told her to tell me right now what is wrong with my husband. The words she uttered took my breath away. ‘He has a tear in his aorta. It is catastrophic.’
My husband was conscious, I had to deliver the news to him. His job now was to remain calm and keep his heart rate from elevating. The more it pumped, the more he bled out. He couldn’t freak out but that didn’t stop me from falling to the floor and crying as hospital personnel walked around me. It was determined he would need to be life-flighted to a hospital in Portland, more equipped for the severity of his surgery. Sam, the life-flight nurse grabbed me by the shoulders and looked me straight in the eyes. He told me that his job was to keep Gar[e] alive. He told me he was great at his job and he had confidence in delivering my husband safely to skilled surgeons that would fix him. He took my number and promised to update me from the flight. I thought to take a video of Gare for the kids, we started the video but he couldn’t finish. The thought that he would have to say goodbye was upsetting him too much. They wheeled Gar[e] out. Little did I know that that was the last time I would see my husband conscious.
The 4-hour drive to the hospital is a blur. Sam texted me updates and once they arrived at the hospital, he let Gar[e] call me from his phone. I told Gar[e] he was my most favorite person ever and that I loved him so much. That was the last time I would ever hear my husband’s voice tell me how much he loved me.
When I got to the hospital waiting room two nurses came out, crying. ‘Is he DEAD’ I screamed. They quickly reassured me he was still alive, on bypass and in surgery. They told me the longer he was in surgery the better and they drew me a diagram of where the dissection was. I asked them if he was going to be okay. They couldn’t answer me. The minutes went by in slow motion. I couldn’t eat or sleep. At this point, my two beautiful friends showed up to be with me as my mom and brother wouldn’t be able to arrive until the following morning.
The surgeon came out minutes later and stripped away all the joy and hope that filled the room. He informed me that Gar[e] was conscious entering the OR but as soon as they got him under anesthesia his aorta tore completely and he coded. They performed CPR as they were opening him but he was without oxygen for five minutes. He told me it was a miracle he even got him this far and that if he did wake up, he would have severe cognitive and physical disabilities.