Our friends want to know how Bonnie lived in her last weeks given the sum of her conditions and how she died.
Here is what I know of her last days and hours with us.
Bonnie spent two weeks with Abi, Luc and Zac at Jennifer's home while I was in California dealing with some health issues. The grandkids and Bonnie had a wonderful time with each other. Luc and Abi are learning to read on the iPad2 - Cat in the Hat etc.
Bonnie ran elocution lessons for Zac, who began to love the exercises. Of course, Lucas and Abi decided they needed elocution lessons too. The little ones recited the words Zac had just read, with his emphasis. Funny. Bonnie was in her highest heaven on earth.
On Sunday Bonnie enjoyed her church service and music from a rocking chair at the back of the church. She was rocking with such passion that her paper thin skin was lacerated by the slats of the seat of the rocker. Blood streamed down the backs of her legs and into her tiny shoes. She reported this all with laughter, bemused that she was so into the service that she did not notice the bleeding. It was a vignette that summed up her current state of being in the world. I teased Bonnie; "Shredding yourself for God again, aayy?"
At Monday’s Seekers class - the Ascension Day text was previewed. Bonnie asked “How did did Jesus know when his work on Earth was done?” Bonnie came home and finished the high tech watering system for her herb and vegetable garden on our front porch. She wanted our summer rental guests to have fresh herbs and tomatoes all summer.
On Tuesday Bonnie was ecstatic about our new Mountain View California garden apartment. It would provide us with a pied-à-terre for our visits to our beloved California to see our friends and to complete our book.
Bonnie was delighted that I found her favorite adjustable bed, used on Craigslist for a fraction of it’s price new. She found custom-made Tempurpedic-like mattresses on sale. She was like a kid before Christmas. We literally counted our blessings. (More on that in a different post.)
Bonnie's bronchial infection sounded much worse in the last 24 - 48 hours.
I got on Bonnie's case about taking her Cipro anti-biotic and seeing Dr. Holland. She sighed and said she would take care of it.
On Wednesday Bonnie was contemplating the paint colors for our apartment. She had picked out her new 32” computer monitor / HDTV. This was an important decision. This was to be The Monitor Bonnie would use to complete our book.
Bonnie had picked out her desk. She had the complete configuration of her writing and editing desk. The scanner / printer was to match what we have here in North Carolina so it had the same interface and work flow.
Bonnie was in the process of finding the right wheelchair for the second floor, which she would use as her writing chair. The apartment I found was completely handicapped accessible. Alice and Daniel lived there while they completed their home in the Palo Alto hills.
Bonnie said twice that this apartment was just like she DREAMED of having ever since we left California in 2004.
She was excited about being able to live on both coasts. Bonnie and Leslie had discussed how to clean up and plant the garden in the living room patio area. Bonnie had 5 infections running simultaneously: her left eye, her sinuses, her lungs, her leg and her bladder.
Bonnie was up until 1 AM - buzzing about our trip back to California. She was talking about which espresso machine I should take and setup in Mountain View. Finally at 1:30 AM she went to sleep.
On Thursday 2 June, I awakened at 7 am refreshed. Bons was lethargic. She just wanted another hour of sleep. By 8:30 AM I asked her to call Dr. Holland to see him about her worsening cough and other infections. She said she needed more sleep. By 9AM I was impatient and insisted that she call for her doctors appointment.
She asked for help getting out of bed and to get to the bathroom. This was the first time in 2 years that I had to do this again. I got her to the bathroom easily but she was thick of speech and walking heavily. I ask how she feels. Bonnie says "I feel like I am burning up with fever." I feel her forehead and she is clammy but not hot. I asked where her Cirpro was. She told me on her dining room table eye care and medications setup area. No Cipro.
Bonnie was able to return to bed on her own, but she had left the toilet unflushed. She was foggy. She gets back in bed. I am impatient for her to call Dr. Holland as I can tell she is not coping well with all of her infections. I ask for her Cipro again. It is not where she says it should be.
Bonnie needs help to go to the bathroom again. She navigates better this time, but a few minutes later I hear her fall in the bathroom. From the sound I instantly assess that this is a minor fall. Upon opening the door and viewing the scene I see Bonnie is on the tile floor with her head touching the side of the tub and her right arm gently bleeding from a scrape / laceration.
I help stand Bonnie up, providing about 70% of the motive power. I put Bonnie into her wheelchair. I say "We have to go to Dr. Holland's office now." She says okay. I have to help her pull up her pants; again for the first time in 2 years.
I am a bit surprised and frustrated with how slow Bonnie is. But more so that she let her infections make herself so sick. I discover that she has not been taking her anti-biotics for a few days. But I do not get that there is anything fatally wrong. We have been down this path 100 times before.
Bonnie says that she does not want to go to Dr. Holland’s office. She just wants to rest in bed. I insist that we either go to Dr. Holland’s office or that we go to Dosher’s Emergency Room. She says she can not get down the stairs. So I say then I will call 911. She says that is okay. I start to call and then hangup. I check with Bonnie again. Does she want to go to Dosher and should I call 911. Yes and yes.
Twelve minutes later a siren is heard coming down East Beach Road. A firetruck shows up and out come 5 Emergency Medical Transport personnel. I welcome them and introduce them to Bonnie. They lay Bonnie down on the floor and take her vital signs. No panic. She is talking and fine. Her arm is bleeding a bit and her neck and head are good.
The two of the EMT's start with the 100 questions about what happened and what is she allergic to etc. I answer and hand them Bonnie's 1 page color pictorial overview of her key health conditions and treatments covering the last 9 years. I also hand the EMTs copies of a second single-space typed page listing all of of Bonnie's conditions, medications, allergies and doctors listed by disease, with complete contact information and insurance card front and back.
We have been here so many times, we are prepared. It is our experience these 2 pages reduce confusion and medical errors. The EMT's are copying the information as fast as they can and calling ahead to other EMT's outside. There is nothing for me to do but make my first Espresso. I wonder if we will have to delay our Tuesday start for California by a day or two.
The EMT's get Bonnie strapped on to the carry board and lift her down the front stairs. I inform them that she has NO DNR directives (Do Not Resuscitate) in effect. Meaning: She wants to be kept Alive, EXCEPT not by heroic means. They understand exactly what I am saying. I also know they have regulations and they will do what they do, per the book.
2 years ago, after Bonnie recovered from her last fall, heart attack and year of rehabilitation, she told me very clearly that she did not want to struggle back to life again. She told me if she was really ill, to let her go. Of course I promised to do her will. Bonnie was delighted to be alive and she was ready to die.
The firetruck / EMS vehicle and crew of 8 pulled off with Bonnie headed for Dosher Hospital, without any sirens. I stayed behind to print up 5 more of Bonnie's 2 pages of medical briefings. I gathered up her purses, her iPhone, and iPad2 as she would probably have to spend the night in the hospital. I went up and down the front stairs several times, having to go back because I forgot something.
I found the missing bottle of Cipro under the medications table, where it had been, probably for 2 or 3 days. Not the ideal way to take anti-biotics, especially if you are immune compromised and have 5 infections simultaneously.
I thought to myself. "Maybe you have to hurry to Dosher to act as her advocate, she might be dying." "Nah, the EMTs know how to get her into a bed and the ER staff know how to get her hooked up to their monitors. You had better not fail to bring what Bonnie wants for her hospital visit!" Okay now I have everything.
When I arrived at Dosher she is hooked up to the monitors and her numbers look to be fine. No one seems worried. I confirm that she seems to be in range. They say yes but they are worried about her blood pressure and oxygen saturation, which are just okay. I go outside of the curtain to give her Doctor and nurses unfettered access to her as they are still fiddling with the oxygen saturation sensor.
I figure out that we are not going to make our Tuesday 7 June departure. We are in this for the long haul. Oh well, that is how it is around us.
When I can get in and sit by her side she is breathing normally, seemingly asleep, clearly resting. I do not attempt to call her to consciousness or to announce my arrival. I quietly touch her shoulder and tell her that I am here. I think I see her relax. I prefer to allow Bonnie to attend to whatever horizon she is looking at; no need to arouse her.
There is some young white american male in the next Emergency Room station 6 feet away behind a curtain, describing in a loud voice how he shot himself in the hand and how the gun misfired. All too loud, arrogant in tone. I am annoyed. This is NOT the soundscape I want Bonnie in right now.
I flick through her music on her iPad. I find her favorite sung church mass and music. Bonnie is now doing fine and the doctor invite me in to be with her. The nurses disappear as well.
I put my hand on Bonnie's shoulder and place my finest in-ear monitors (earbuds) into each of her ears and release her music to protect her from having to listen to the repeated, loud description of how this guy's gun exploded in his hand. Bonnie's iPad2 is playing her favorite versions of the Kyrie and Allelulia. She seemed to be very, very peaceful, resting, breathing and paying attention to some other horizon.
I begin to settle in. I even decide to take pictures of this low ebb moment. Bonnie is in bed in the ER, listening to her church music again.
As I shoot the snapshots, I think of captioning the pictures: "Bonnie's holy music helps bring her back to Life again"
Soon the nurse comes in and checks Bonnie's oxygen saturation and sensors. Another nurse glides in and back out. Then they adjust the head of her bed to put her head lower than her chest and feet. Her oxygen saturation is in the 40s. I suspect it is the sensor, as usual. The nurses are quiet, move quickly with focus and skill. The doctor arrives, concern on his face. He looks at her, checks her monitor and says to me we have to intubate her. I understand. I need to sit outside the curtain again.
The doctor calls her name. No response. Then he gently shook her by the shoulders and asked her to open her eyes. Bonnie patiently opened her eyes a bit, out of politeness. But I recognized that look. Bonnie closes her eyes intent on going back to sleep. Soon, I sensed Bonnie stealthily easing herself out of her body.
They call for the pressor drugs, to get her blood pressure back up. They add more and different pressor drugs.
Soon the doctor appeared outside the curtains. His face was anguished and sad, his hands clapsed. He gently announces "I am afraid that she is not going to make it" I reassure him that we knew this would happen one day and today is the day. And I thank him for his skill and for his care.
It is okay again for me to move 8 feet, back inside the curtain to her bedside. Bonnie feels mostly gone to me; shallow and then no breathing.
I put my hands on her shoulder and look at her face and her body as it lays there still. Her right arm is pitiful with blood and bandages and shredded skin and large purple bruise like marks.
I observe just how completely spent our Bonnie is.
It is Ascension Day. Bonnie did as she promised. She did not hang around a body that could not support her and her activities. She sang her song and flew off. Peace awaits as she makes her way through the bardos.
Do you think Bonnie witnessed an overwhelming white light?
When they intubated Bonnie, without anesthesia, Bonnie experienced the unmistakeable signals that she was in a struggle for life.
I saw and felt Bonnie relaxing into a different Light.
I felt Bonnie start her glide path back to her origins. Her life cycle, from stardust to starlight has been quite the journey.
Bonnie Jean, Fare Thee well.
/Daniel for BanD