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written 08/23/06
by carrie deahl

The miles of tubes in her body. The sound of lungs filled with fluid. The sway between incoherence and coherence. The lack of color in her skin. Of all of the painful things I have witnessed in my life, watching my grandmother slowly fade away has been one of the hardest.

July 8, 2006 my grandmother, Bonnie Griffin, is taken to the Emergency Room for stomach pain. My mother and I thought this would be a routine trip to the E.R. because we had been down this road with her many times before. To our surprise, instead of my grandmother’s ulcer being temperamental, the doctors discover that her stomach is twisted and her esophagus needs to be pulled down. Emergency surgery is required, and the doctors are hopeful that her recovery will come quickly. Instead, she gives us a fright by aspirating a couple of days later, which requires her to be placed on a respirator. The doctors say, “This will be temporary.”

There are no exceptions to growing old. My grandmother, now 80, is poked and prodded, taken off of the respirator multiple times, aspirates again, and somehow has the energy to keep breathing. She can no longer swallow now that she is no longer on the respirator and she is released from Arrowhead Hospital with the doctor stating that if she is placed on the respirator again, she will be on it permanently. After hard discussions on what this really means, a clearer understanding of what a DNR means, and through many tears, my family and I decide we do not want this for her.

August 16, 2006 she is moved from Arrowhead Hospital into a 24-hour care facility where communication among nurses and doctors is poor to say the least. To keep her comfortable, they keep her doped up, which lands her in the hospital again on August 20, 2006 with congestive heart failure.

Today, August 23, 2006 my mom and I meet with a woman from Hospice of the Valley to discuss our next move. The doctors are keeping her alive by draining the fluids off of her lungs, giving her antibiotics, and hoping for the best. Little do they know that the best years of her life ended with my grandfather’s death 9 years ago in September.
Last week would have been my grandparents’ 60th anniversary. It is obvious that my grandfather is calling for my grandmother to come join him again. My grandmother’s lungs and heart are weak, but she has this fight to stay alive. Maybe it is the unspoken competition between her and my great-grandmother to outlive the other, maybe it is the fear of dying that keeps her from letting go, or maybe it is the unspoken truth nagging at all of us—my mother’s permission.


Writer. Reader. Teacher. Consultant. Activist. Takes life and herself a little too seriously. Relishes moments of humility. Believes peace is possible through education. Believes writing is the way to freedom. Unleashes the written word daily.

more about carrie deahl


by carrie deahl
topic: writing
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by carrie deahl
topic: writing
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