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Later in the evening my cousin came to visit with her husband who is a doctor, one of the best I have known. Not only is he an excellent physician, he is a very humane human being and an intelligent man who knows what is needed, not only by the patient but also by the family. I was quite relieved to see them and like a drowning man clutched at the straw being extended. I trust him implicitly and had, when he called earlier, asked him to come and assess the situation and tell me frankly what he sees, as I can no longer trust my judgement.
He examined her then told me his assessment. She was, at the time, in a very deep sleep. He said that this is a normal state at a certain stage where the body is slowing down. All her organs are functioning, there are no failed organs, but that she is going into what they call deep sleep. It IS sleep, not a coma, but a very deep sleep where everything slows down. When roused she is aware and as lucid as she usually is, but that all functions are slowing down. I asked what to expect of that stage and how to handle it, and he told me that at this point we should try to be on the lookout for all the ailments that afflict the bedridden : bed sores, aneurism of the lower legs, pneumonia , and especially should be very careful she does not choke, as swallowing is precarious and could cause endless problems if it occurs.
He gave me details of what needs to be done to spare her any of the pain and discomfort of contracting any of the above ailments. Most of that is in the nursing. So will have to keep an eye on the nurses and make absolutely sure that they do all that is required. Another thing is that any sort of invasive treatment could have very adverse effects, so he highly recommends that no invasive treatment be attempted. Another thing he warned me about is the probable difficulty of finding strong enough veins to insert a cannula for the IV drip, we are already encountering some problems in this area. I hate it when she is in pain, but as she barely eats or drinks anything, and swallowing is a bit difficult, then IV fluids with nourishment are essential. Finally, this morning, one of the older, more proficient nurses, managed to get one in without too much pain. She is now sitting in the chair with the IV drip flowing into her system. In just a few days she now looks so gaunt and pale it is heartbreaking, but thank God, she is no longer in excruciating pain like she was a few days ago.
My cousin said that no one can estimate how long this stage would last. But recommended that she stays hospitalized. He said to keep tabs on what is going on with her, a blood analysis should be run every week or ten days, just to follow any deviations or any trends that might be forming. We are due one around now, just to see what has changed since she was admitted twelve days ago. So it looks like we are in for some time, but these are all estimates as per her condition yesterday.
I am very grateful to the honesty and compassion of my cousin who gave me credit to understand the situation fully and do what I can to ensure she gets the best care there is and that she is made comfortable and free from pain. The state of ignorance I was kept in by her other doctors was taking its toll out of my nerves. Even though what my cousin said is, in a way, confirming my worst fear, yet KNOWING, as opposed to GUESSING, is a great relief.
I shall be spending my days in the hospital with her, though she is sleeping most of the time, yet when she wakes up, a ghost of her previous self is still there, and all the more precious. I am hoarding these precious moments and grateful for this opportunity of being there for her when she wakes up, and enjoying her company to the last. I pray that God eases her passage, that she does not suffer any pain and that she finds the joy on the other side of the veil that is indicated by her peaceful expression while she now sleeps.
6 February 2014