Ardis' Story 


 

 

 My name is Bobby Aragon                            

I met Ardis in the spring of 1997. She was my helper and I was in
charge of spraying for dandelions in the parks. We had many
 disagreements right
off the bat But  soon we became very good friends.
In October 1999 Ardis made permanent with the title of Horticulturist. Eight
days after she received this promotion we were trimming shrubs above the
Cherry Creek bike trail at Speer and Downing. She stepped into a shrub that
overhung the bike path and fell and broke her back. She was unconscious, I
called 911. she did not return to work until spring of the following year. We
worked together on and off for the next 2 years, but ate lunch together all
the time.
In January of 2002 we were heading out to spread ice melt and Ardis fell just
outside the truck door and broke her upper arm into her rotator cuff. I did
not know it then, but she had Osteoporosis. I took Ardis to her physical
therapy appointments and held her hand while they tortured her and tried to
distract her with stories about camping, fishing and hunting. She was off
work until spring and on light duty until August.
In the fall, she was very sick, and our boss was acting like “Satan” incarnate
and harassed Ardis everyday about not working hard enough. She was
supposed to take care of the entire length of 7th Ave. Parkway with no
vehicle and no radio.
No one knew it at the time, but she had Celiac Sprue disease, she was
allergic to wheat gluten, wheat, oats, barley and rye. As we found out later
any trace amounts of these foods would cause all of the hair like structures
in her intestine to disappear and for at least 2-4 weeks she would have no
nutritional value from anything eaten
and severe diarrhea. As it turns out, Celiac Sprue disease is common among
people of Welsh and Irish decent and is hereditary. With no restrooms at
her disposal, Ardis walked off the job in October and was suspended for 2
months without pay. She was reassigned to SE district near Cherry Creek
Reservoir, but was subsequently fired before Christmas as she was too ill
and missed too many days of work. The following spring, she managed to
get hired as a seasonal laborer at Aurora Parks, but was laid off before late
summer due to a budget shortfall.
That fall she was diagnosed with end stage liver disease and given 3years to
live without a transplant. During all this time, I had grown to love her. As
the months passed, Ardis got groceries from food banks and I would take
her shopping once a week and my wife and I would buy her $20 or $30
worth of groceries. I stopped by her apartment everyday after work for the
next two years and would often bring her Chinese food. Many times during
this period I picked Ardis up from Denver Health Medical Center (DHMC)
after she had procedures where she was under general anesthesia such as
endoscopy, colonoscopy and she had varicose veins in her esophagus
banded to prevent bleeding. I always felt weird that I wasn't her family and
yet they released her to me. They were just glad someone was there or
they would not have let her go alone.
During the fall and winter of '04 I took Ardis on the last Wednesday night of
each month to church to ask the Bishop for rent assistance. She always
cried as she felt very ashamed at needing handouts. During this time she
wanted to work very badly, but as she had applied for Social Security (SS)
Disability, working would have made her ineligible. The SS administration
actually tried to disqualify her because she was still able to take her dog
around the block once a day, but she had a really good lawyer who fought
hard on her behalf. God knows why she chose an Australian Cattle Dog, as
they are very active. Heather was everything to Ardis.
That summer Heather dragged Ardis to the ground trying to get to another
dog and we spent an entire Saturday in the ER at DHMC. She now had a
cast on her right arm and I had to give her a shower with her cast in a bread
bag. We were both red faced with embarrassment, but it was good practice
for times to come. Eventually the eviction notices came regularly and I
agonized about what could be done.
Finally I begged my wife to let Ardis stay in our camper in the backyard as I
could not stand the thought of her being homeless. We had talked about her
moving into our back bed room, but she was allergic to cats and we have 4.
She was never able to be in the house for more than 20 minutes before she
started to wheeze. I guess living in a camper is pretty close to being
homeless anyway. The first few weeks in the camper were sheer misery.The
thing heated to 100 degrees in the hot summer sun and leaked like a sieve
when it rained and the crappy bed shifted all over the place because it was
made of the stupid cushions that fit around the table. It was suppose to be a
very temporary arrangement, and Sharon and I were very worried about
the coming winter. We prayed everyday for her SS disability to come
through. In the camper Ardis and I would stand up and hug and say the
Lord's Prayer and then we would face the 4 directions. I would sing a
traditional Apache song and ask God for help. Occasionally I would drive to
Golden Gate Canyon and we would burn silver sage, I would sing my song to
the 4 directions and we would say the Lord's Prayer. God answered every
one. Eventually Ardis' friend Jim Moffit brought over a nice futon mattress
that would serve as her bed for the next 8 months.
I didn't see very much of Ardis until around Christmas time. She was gone
every day, but would always return around dark. She would get up in the
morning, call me from the house and take the bus to her old neighborhood
and go to her garden, hang out with friends and do odd jobs for people.
Every now and then, she would join Sharon and I for dinner. On Christmas
morning Ardis brought our present into the house. She had taken a
cardboard tray from a case of soda and covered it with foil and placed 6
cobalt blue coffee mugs in it,each mug was filled to the brim with every kind
of candy and candy canes and saltwater taffy and covered with saran wrap
and adorned with ribbons and the box was full of all the things that a child
would revel in, sugar plums. It was the nicest thing I ever got for
Christmas.
You see, Ardis was covered from head to toe with a rash called Dermatitus
Herpitiformus. This was misdiagnosed as psoriasis by DHMC, but I found out
on the Internet that it is from gluten in her diet. She was so sick that I had
to put white cotton gloves on her hands because the rash made her skin
crack open and bleed. It had started out as a small rash on her lower back,
but quickly spread to everywhere on her body except for her face. She even
started to get it on her eyelids. She had 7 or 8 different ointments that had
to be applied 3 times per day. And still she was able to make us this
beautiful present. (On the weekends we drink our coffee out of these mugs
and they are my prized possessions.) Over the next month and a half, we
started having arguments on a regular basis. Her liver was so far gone that
ammonia was building up in her brain. The end result is something like
Dementia plus anger. The doctors call it hepatic encepholopathy.
On the 12th of February Sharon and I were having dinner at her Dad's home
and Ardis called me and said she had fallen in the yard and could I take the
dog out when I got home.
On the 17th the temp fell to minus 5 below and we had a 4 hour power
outage with her in the camper. I talked to her from outside the door, but
she had Heather in the camper with her and I did not want to open the door
and let the heat out. At this point she was too sick to walk and I knew she
had to go to the hospital.
On the morning of the 20th, Sharon and I took her to DHMC and she was
admitted. After 5 days she was discharged. I bought her a cell phone and
we added her to our friends and family plan which was free mobile to mobile
minutes between the three of us. She could now call Jim and her cousin
Sueann and did often. She was on a new medication called Lactulose, which
causes diarrhea 4 times per day. This medication is a synthetic sugar which
reaches the colon undigested and causes an acidic environment and draws
water out of the body and also ammonia. It worked like magic. At least for a
while. On occasion, I was late giving her the Lactulose the result would be a
tirade that came out of nowhere.
While she was in the hospital, I had vacuumed, and completely cleaned and
rearranged the camper. I then fashioned a potty chair for Ardis made from
an old kitchen chair with a toilet seat with a bucket underneath. One
particular evening she had a fit because she had imagined that I was making
vanilla pudding. She said “I fixed my face for pudding and you didn't make
me any” and she was yelling. Shortly after she had to get on the potty and
didn't quite get her shirt out of the way and as I was trying to get her shirt
off of her without getting the poop on her she yelled at me and I yelled back.
After I got her cleaned up, I went in the house and cried in the bedroom and
swore I would never yell at her again. I realized that it was her liver yelling
and not her, and why should one have a fight with a sick liver? Ardis' liver
yelled at me many times over the next few months, but I never fell for it
again.
We used to talk about how it was a contest between us who was the most
impatient between the two of us. Definitely I win, but she comes in a close
2nd. For the rest of the month I managed to eliminate all of the traces of
gluten from her diet and eventually the rash went away. I tried to make
every meal special because I did not know which one could be her last. I
was a cook in the Navy and had professional training in staging and plate
presentation and she was always amazed when her tray arrived complete
with side dishes and garnishes.
I am sure Sharon's head was spinning by now and we were both wondering
what we had gotten ourselves into, but I now know that this was a special
time for her as she had our undivided attention and love and affection and
many times late at night I would run out to the camper just to peek in to
make sure she was still alive. I thank God everyday that she did not die in
the camper.
On the 19th of March after many sponge baths in the camper, I decided Ardis
needed a real shower. So I got her in the house using the wheelchair and
onto a shower chair in the bathtub. I turned on the heat in the house up to
full and then proceeded with the task. She was whining and shrieking the
entire time and wouldn't you know it, the hot water heater ran out of hot
water, so I covered her up with 4 or 5 towels with her still covered in soap
and heated 3 of my biggest pots full of water on the gas stove and rinsed
her off with a Tupperware bowl and somehow got through the whole affair
laughing and cursing at the water heater.
Toward the end of the month, Ardis' friend Jim found her an apartment on
capitol hill in a building called the Abigail. He somehow managed to furnish it
with everything she needed with the Social Security money that had finally
arrived.
The first morning of her stay at the Abigail which was a Thursday, I arrived
at 4:30 am to find Ardis sitting in the bathtub in a diaper and t-shirt and
very disoriented. I was horrified and did not know how this was going to
work out. I got her to bed and called Jim as he wasn't working at the time.
He went over a short while later and called 911. The ambulance picked her
up at 11:00, she was admitted to DHMC with a severe bladder infection and
believe it or not, she was back at the Abigail by the following Sunday. Her
encephalopathy seemed to have disappeared. This was the regular Ardis or
“medium” as she would say.
The Abigail is an older building dating to the turn of the century with a
extremely narrow front stairway. She was in apartment 201 and the 2nd
floor led to the door on the alley, which was also very narrow. The building
had old fashioned radiators for heat and the landlord had turned the boiler
off at the end of March. She complained every day of being cold and I
searched everyday for an electric blanket. Eventually Sharon found her one
on the Internet and that solved that problem. I had cable installed for her
and everyday I got up at 4:00 am and stopped by before going to work to fix
her a gluten free waffle in her super duper convection toaster oven. She
would eat half and I would eat the other. It was the only way I could get her
to eat. I would count out all 9 of her pills and pour 2 doses of Lactulose into
2 small Tupperwares and give her a 3rd dose after work.
Eventually she was well enough that I would only stop in after work. I would
still call her on the way to work in the morning, just as I had for the prior 6
years, but she was getting around at this time fairly well to the point I
returned the wheelchair back to my friend Ken Wright's wheelchair company.
He was one of many angels that helped the three of us get through this
ordeal.
On the 13th of April Sharon had surgery to fuse her 6th and 7th cervical
vertebrae. My sister -in-law Renee volunteered to get Ardis up, cleaned up
and feed her and walk the dog. For the next few weeks I would feed
Sharon, go over and feed Ardis, then go home to feed Sharon, etc.
I bought a stereo from Wal-Mart and the Moody Blues' Greatest Hits. She
played it over and over and over and her favorite song was Nights in White
Satin. I looked up Nights in White Satin on the Internet for Ardis and told
her that the song was about unrequited love. The Moody Blues was her
favorite band and for some reason that song struck a cord with her.
Eventually I reached the end of my rope with DHMC and found Ardis a
specialist since she now had Medicare. When Dr. Fishman saw her he told
her she was too sick for him to do anything and that she needed to be seen
the the University of Colorado Medical Center for a transplant evaluation, she
cried. Soon after she turned bright yellow so I took her to University
Hospital on the 31st of May. I was stopped on the way to the hospital by the
police for passing on the right hand side and was given an 8 point ticket.
The cop asked if someone needed an ambulance and when I told him I was
on my way to the emergency room, he threatened to arrest me and impound
my car. Ardis was admitted at 4:30 that evening.
On the 5th of June I asked her what she had for breakfast and she answered
“a nice English muffin with butter”. I called down to the kitchen to confirm
what had been on her tray, and then came unglued with the entire nursing
staff of 5West. I told them to go ahead a keep giving her potassium and
electrolytes, but that it wasn't going to do any good as they had just killed
all the villi in her intestine. I was near tears.
Her cousin Sueann came to see her in the hospital and brought her bag of
candy. Ardis was so pleased. She was discharged to me on the 6th and we
brought her pizza from Edgewater Inn, the best pizza in the world. You see,
once your villi are gone, you might as well have the best pizza, something
she craved. On father's day I turned over the dirt in her community garden
and with her supervising from a lawn chair I planted tomatoes, peppers,
peas, carrots, beans, Thai basil, Italian basil, butter lettuce and rosemary.
She was quite pleased at my accomplishment. I had a sinking feeling that
she would never eat anything from this garden. I am very sad that she
never did. On the 16th, I noticed a sharp pain under my right ribcage. I
shrugged it off. Maybe i had pulled a muscle.
Every day I would call her as soon as I was in my truck on the way to work.
Then again, after I punched the time clock, and on and off all day. We
talked for 5000 minutes during the month of June. Every morning when i
rang her phone I would ask “how are you?” and she would say “medium”.
At first, years ago, this would drive me crazy, but eventually I got used to it
and these days when a friend asks “how are you?”, I sometime reply,
“medium”. We would talk about the weather, gardening, politics, but mostly
we talked about food. Ardis watched The Food Network non-stop. I told her
I loved her everyday and she would reply “I love you very much”. For years,
she had always said that I was her “kindred spirit” and by now, I so agreed
with her. I felt like God had put us on this roller coaster together and given
me a job assignment and I was determined not to screw it up.
She wanted to go on a picnic at Golden Gate Canyon and we talked for
days about what we would do for the picnic. The three of us had our picnic
on a cloudy day on the 25th of June with Heather in tow and later that day
Sharon and I fished for a while at Kriley Pond, but Ardis sat in the back seat
with Heather. I would throw my line in and sit on a lawn chair next to her at
the back door of the car. She didn't feel well and we got her into bed around
7:00 that night. She loved the picnic. We talked about it all week.
Every day for the following week, I would arrive at her place to find she had
not done very well to make it to the bathroom and spent most of our visit
stripping the bed, washing her bottom with a warm washcloth and baby
wipes and merely mentioned the word “nursing home” and she let me have
it with both barrels. I asked her if she wanted me to take her to the hospital
and she begged me not to. I promised to honor her wish which was to die in
her apartment with her dog Heather and the TV remote control. I was
having a hard time getting her to take her meds. She was very nauseated
all the time and I was worried that she would throw up and hemorrhage
from the veins in her throat.
On Friday the 30th of June, I called her after lunch and asked her if there had
been any “potty accidents” she said “unfortunately yes”. I rushed over as
soon as I could and after getting her cleaned up I explained to her that my
father had taught me right from wrong and this was inhumane for her to be
in this condition. Ardis had told me that her father had died on the 4th of
July and I did not want her to follow suit.
I called the non-emergency number for the police and requested an
ambulance no lights and sirens. When the paramedics arrived, I explained
her condition, medications, and symptoms. They had a hell of a time getting
her out of the back door, as it was too narrow for the stretcher. She was
admitted to the Intermediate Care Unit (IMCU) at University Hospital in the
Critical Care Tower. Ardis was in renal failure as well as liver failure,
dehydrated and in need of a blood transfusion.
On the 1st of July, I came to the hospital around noon. In order to try to
find out why her hematocrit was low they tried to stick a tube up her nose
and into her stomach. She screamed for them to stop and so did I. And I
swear that scream is still echoing off the front range. They teased her about
it later, that she upset everyone on the entire unit.
On Sunday, I arrived at 7:30 am to find her room in the IMCU empty, a bed
in the hallway outside the room and all of her things gone. I staggered into
the hallway and thought I was going to pass out. I started asking every
nurse where Ardis was all the while crying uncontrollably. I thought she had
died and no one called me. I stumbled through the unit looking for her and
saw her through a curtain sitting up in a chair and having her hair brushed
by a nurse. I was so glad to see her I threw a big bear hug around her and
then explained to the nurse who I was and why I was bawling.
Eventually they stabilized her and sent her to 6 West on Monday evening. By
now, she had developed a bed sore and while they had let Ardis lie naked in
her gown in the IMCU, on 6 West, they had her in a diaper.
The next 4 days were awful because she had a catheter and was too weak to
get out of bed. The diaper complicated everything and the nurses assistants
and I said “I am sorry” to Ardis several hundred times over the next few
days. When she got the catheter out on Thursday, I drove her crazy asking
her if she had to go and could I get her up I explained to her that “I was
just a bumbling man tying to get through this life without making the women
mad”, she laughed. I didn't want any more ”complications”, if you get my
meaning.
By now I was kicking myself because I realized that the main issue that
caused me to call the ambulance wasn't going to be solved by the hospital
any better than it was solved by me. Someone still had to clean her up and
her skin was very, very sensitive to the touch.
Then came the “dairy” issue. I had told the emergency room personnel that
as a child, Ardis could not drink whole milk. They wrote it down as an
allergy to dairy. I fought every day with that hospital until I finally went out
and bought her cottage cheese and yogurt because they could not
understand the difference between whole milk and cultured dairy and there
is a difference!! By now, the pain I had in June was scaring me, and I was
wondering if maybe my drinking had caught up to me. I was in the elevator
when the fear that I had caught up to her started to creep in.
She was on a salt restriction because she had edema on her legs. They
were restricting her sodium to 2000 mg. Per day, but she wasn't eating 2000
mg. of anything per day. I quit drinking cold turkey on thursday the 6th. I
spent all of those days by her side. I arrived at 7:00 in the morning and
going home when visiting hours were over at 8:30 at night. When I had to
take a break to eat or use the bathroom, I would beg her to not think I was
leaving her and going home.
Her encephalopathy was the worst I had ever seen it to that point. When
the doctors asked her where she was, she would say “I am in Golden, you
know, Table Mountain”. She kept asking me when the train came by. I
begged her to stay away from the train. Those were long days,and to top it
off i had dt's, but didn't know it.
One afternoon, my sister-in-law Renee, and my nephew Tate and niece
Gabriella came to visit. Everyone took turns painting Ardis' fingernails and I
taped the children's little love notes to the bed rails where she could see
them along with an 8X10 photo of Ardis' mom, various pictures of our cats
and Sharon and I and Ardis and I. There was also medical tape with “I love
you Ardis” and “Call me”. That was one highly decorated bed.
On 6 West, I asked to speak to the social worker and a beautiful angel
named Judy talked to us and helped us get a durable medical power-ofattorney.
I had tried for months to contact anyone in Ardis' family without
any luck and I was at the end of my rope. I explained to the attending
physician, in the presence of the social worker, that I love Ardis with all my
heart, but also my wife has a severe brain condition, and will require brain
surgery at some point. I told them “I need help, I can't do this alone any
anymore”. The doctor handed Ardis's thick file to another beautiful angle
named Jessica who is med student at CU and told her to figure out who this
man is and what could be done. By now, the file said I was her brother,
boyfriend, son, etc. Jessica asked me “Just who are you?” I told her that I
was Ardis' loved one and she was my loved one with Ardis nodding her
approval.
From that point on, anytime some one in the medical profession asked who I
was,I told them I was her loved one. It wasn't any more complicated than
that. Within a day, they had a plan. They scheduled Ardis for a liver
transplant evaluation on the 27th of July and told us that since she had
Medicare she could go to a SNIF of our choice. After Sharon visited the two
SNIFS “Skilled Nursing Facility” in Commerce City, we chose Poplar Grove,
as it was more of a rehab facility with a younger population and it was
closest to our home.
On Monday July 10th She was transported by ambulance to Poplar Grove.
While she was in the hospital Sharon packed and moved most of her
belongings from her apartment. I was excited that Heather would be able to
stay with Ardis at Poplar Grove, but I had to fax a copy of her shot records
and take her to Petsmart for a bath. Heather was at Poplar Grove for about
a week before she bit the cleaning lady and was 86ed from the facility. To
this day, I am perplexed why Ardis didn't throw a fit that she could no longer
have her dog with her, but she seemed okay knowing Heather was with us in
the yard.
Everyday that 1st week I spent most of the day with Ardis, but when I
eventually went back to work, I would visit her 3 times a day. Once after
work, once around 7 or 8 pm and once at bedtime to give her the “super
duper back scratch” (excess bilarubin will make someone with Liver disease
very itchy.) including lotion, brush her hair, put her in a diaper and a
hospital gown and give her “the big smooch” (I would pucker her lips with
my right hand and give a big kiss on the smacker) and tuck her in. At 2 am
one night I couldn't sleep because I worried about her so I got in my truck
and drove to Poplar Grove and sat in the truck outside her window for ½ hr.
Her roommate had been in the hospital and she was alone at the end of the
north wing and I had heard too many stories about elderly women being
abused in nursing homes. I saw her trying to get out of bed so I ran inside
and helped her to the bathroom, she was very surprised to see me that late
night. I stayed with her for about an hour until she was sound asleep.
On the night of the 14th of July my brother Jeff came to see Ardis with us to
do the tuck in routine. We decided that we must “break” Ardis and Heather
out of the SNIF the next day to go to his house for a barbecue. The menu
was steak and veggie kabobs, we snacked on pistachios, gummie savers,
Pringles, corn chips with salsa and homemade lemonade all afternoon. It
was wonderful.
Sunday evening the 16th, we took Ardis to our favorite Mexican restaurant
located just 100 yards from Poplar Grove. Ardis had bean tostada,
guacamole tostada, nachos, more lemonade and root beer.
On Friday the 21st when I got to Poplar Grove after work she said “Bob, get
me the hell out of here”. So I got a wheelchair and took her down to the
botanic gardens community garden to see the garden we had planted on
Fathers' day. The wheelchair would only go so far through the garden, and
she had to walk 200 feet with her cane and me holding her and she barely
made it, but by God she got to see her garden and that would be the last
time, although Sharon kept her up to date on it's progress. At this point
Sharon would take care of the garden every day on her way to and from
work.
At noon on the 27th of July, I arrived at Poplar Grove with new clothes and
some fancy new slip on shoes with bing cherries printed on them for Ardis.
Sharon met us at the Hepatology Clinic at University Hospital. Dr. Burton
examined Ardis, told us she was very sick and could be placed at the top of
the list if, after the social and medical evaluation, the transplant team felt
she would survive the surgery. They drew blood and scheduled her for an
August 21st evaluation. I rode on the ambulance bus with her back to Poplar
Grove, got her into bed, and a the SNIF nurse came into the room and told
us that an ambulance was on it's way to pick her up to take her back to the
hospital because her blood test showed that she was in “hepatorenal failure”
again.
After visiting her in the ER,until the end of visiting hours, I gave her the “big
smooch”, told her I loved her and would see her at 7:30 am sharp.
I wasn't getting much sleep these days and the sights, smells and sounds of
the hospital are still haunting me.
In the morning, for some reason, Ardis did not receive a breakfast tray. So
by 9:30, I just ran over to King Sooper and bought her cottage cheese,
yogurt, fresh peaches, pears, watermelon, a plum, and 2 pieces of cheddar
cheese. She was quite pleased with the array of goodies. Sharon arrived
around 1:00 and the beautiful angel of a social worker from the liver
transplant team, Lacy, met with the three of us and gave us the bad news.
The doctors felt that Ardis would not survive, as she would need a feeding
tube because her nutritional state was very poor. I explained this to her
about the feeding tube, and she shook her head and said that was exactly
what she didn't want. She had been subjected to years of needles, tubes,
and hoses and she told me “I just can't do this anymore” and then I
remembered the promise I had made back in June about her dying at home
with peace and quite. I had lost sight of that promise.
We were at a “Y” in the road. During the entire meeting with Lacy, Sharon
could not stop crying. Pretty soon Ardis and I were crying also. Ardis loved
Sharon unconditionally, and the two of them were always ganging up on me.
Ardis pointed to the Kleenex box and said frantically, “love her Bob!” I
instinctively jumped up and grabbed a box of Kleenex from across the room
and gave it to Ardis. She glared at me and said, “not me, her!”. Ardis put
her hand on Sharon's shoulder and said “no tears”. Later on the 3 of us
howled with laugher at that because as Ardis would later say, I was “stuck
on stupid”. Later that day we asked for hospice evaluation and an end to
all aggressive care. We were medical powers of attorney for Ardis because
she thought it was August 1973 and that she was in Golden, near Table
Mountain.
Dr. Burton told me, even though Ardis had not had a beer in some time,
that at this point, she could have a beer and some pizza if she felt like it.
They discharged her on Saturday, the 29th at 4:00 pm. Sharon and I got her
up at 6:00 pm and took her to Casa del Rey for enchiladas and a Bud Light.
She was very quiet during dinner, she was only able to eat 2 bites of her
dinner and drink ½ of her beer.
Later that night a Poplar Grove I asker her to help me make a wish list of all
the things I had denied her over the last few months. Some of the items on
the list were cold beer, buttered French Bread and Cinnabon. Sunday
morning Ardis was in terrible pain. The nurse gave her a small dose of
Roxynol and she slept the whole day.
At 6:00 Sharon brought Anthony's pizza and late that night, I brushed her
hair, put her in a diaper, hospital gown, and gave her the super duper back
scratch, the full lotion treatment and “the big smooch”, told her I loved her
and would see her in the morning.
All the following day, Monday July 31st, we talked about her family, her
childhood, how much we loved each other and she promised me that she
would still be my best friend in heaven. I put my face close to hers and told
her to memorize my eyes because my soul is in there. I memorized hers I
told her that if she got there before me I would find her and we would be
kindred spirits, best friends, and she promised that we would.
Over the past few weeks she had kept saying “I keep trying to call my mom
on my cell phone, but there is something wrong with it. I told her that her
mom's garden was probably full of ripe tomatoes by now and I bet she has
the salt shaker and is waiting for you. I told her that I hoped that her mom
would think that I had done a good job and did she? She said “yes, you
have done a great job and I love you very much.” That night we watched
the DVD “The Moody Blues, Live at Red Rocks”. After I put her to bed, I
made it home and into bed by midnight. I arrived at 3:00 am because I
could not sleep. When she was fully awake at 6:00am I went up the block to
7-11 and bought us both coffee and danish. She didn't care to eat anything.
The hospice nurse came at 1:30 and interviewed Ardis and told her an
ambulance would arrive at 4:00pm to transport her to The Collier Hospice
Center in Wheat Ridge.
She was in a fair amount of pain at this point and the SNIF nurse gave her a
dose of Vicodin. We scrambled to pack up her things into Sharon's car and I
jumped in my truck so I could beat her to the hospice. Sharon stayed with
her as they put her into the ambulance. Ardis called me at 5:00 pm and
they were stuck in rush hour traffic about ½ hr. behind me. That was the
last time she called me. The ambulance attendant had to help her make the
call. I was there with her stuffed buffalo “Big Red” waiting in her room at
The Collier Hospice Center when they brought her in.
The hospice nurses' #1 priority was to make Ardis comfortable and deal with
her pain. They were all like angels from heaven, but they over did it when it
came to the soothing music. After about an hour, she sat up in the bed and
said “what the hell is that music and could you please turn it off?” So I
turned the TV on CNN at her request. She always wanted to know what was
going on in the world. Israel was busy pounding Lebanon.
Ardis was in terrible stomach pain and they gave her Roxynol in 5 mg
increments until she had 30 mg by 7:00 pm and was still in a good amount
of pain. She wanted to sit up in bed to see what was going on and look out
the window. She had a huge window with a beautiful view of the courtyard
and garden. Every time she sat up she set off the bed alarm. Ardis was
very distressed, so Sharon sat by her side and held her hand trying to calm
her while the pain medication worked. Ardis looked Sharon in the eyes and
asked her “What do you think?” Sharon told her “I think this is the best place
for you, but you don't have to fight anymore if you don't want to”.
The room was spectacular, with high ceilings, lovely wall paper, hardwood
trim and floors. There was a big armois at the foot of the bed that held the
television set. It reminded me of a redecorated Victorian house. I had told
Ardis that when expecting a baby you fix up a nursery or when your
daughter gets married, you plan a grand wedding, and you want every detail
to be perfect and this was and she agreed. I taped the picture of her mom in
her garden to the bed rail. I choose to not put up the pictures of Sharon,
the cats and myself because I didn't want her to feel like she had to stay
around for any of us, but she could now go be with her mom, the tomatoes
and the salt shaker.
Once her pain subsided and she went to sleep, Sharon and I went to dinner
and on the way back I called her cousin Sueann and told her that compared
to the hospital, and the SNIF this hospice, being brand new and only open
for 2 weeks was a huge improvement. I told Ardis this was like being at the
symphony in a cocktail dress. Sueann's reply was “Then you tell her to
enjoy the symphony.”
At 11:30 that night my friend Tom showed up with a 6 pack of New Grist
Gluten free beer. The Hospice doctor had written Ardis a prescription for
beer when ever she wanted it. When she woke up a midnight, to find Tom
and I sitting in the hall, she told us to come in and she asked for a beer.
When the nurse brought her a bottle of beer, I asked her how much she
could have. The nurse replied she can have as much as she wants. She
asked me to get her up, so I got her out of bed. Getting her out of bed
always involved a free hug. I put her in the wheelchair and wheeled her to
the other side of the room where there was a huge recliner. She sat in the
recliner, crossed her knees like a lady and visited with Tom and I for ½ an
hour. I guess she felt like being the perfect hostess to her company and
she was.
I put her back into bed around 1:00 am after Tom left. I asked her if I
should stay with her or go home because the hospice has no restrictions on
visitation. She said “please stay with me, don't leave”. So I scooched the
big recliner over to the left side of the bed, dropped the side rail and reclined
and since the recliner in the reclined position was the same height as the
bed, I reached over an held her hand and stayed with her all night.
I had only 3 hours of sleep the previous night and thought I would be able to
sleep in the recliner chair, but I only managed little “Cat naps”. Around 6:00
am Wednesday morning I was awake and on the opposite side of the bed
holding her right hand and crying. She opened her eyes and said, “don't
worry, it will be okay soon.”
By 10:00 am I was begging her to let them insert a catheter so she wouldn't
have to get up. She finally agreed, but they had to special order one from
the hospital due to her latex allergy and it did not arrive until late afternoon.
When it arrived, they dosed her up with 30 mg of Roxynol for her comfort. I
held her hand and she didn't squeak or yell a bit.
At about 8:00 pm Jim Moffit arrived. Ardis, Jim, Sharon and I all held hands
and said the Lord's Prayer together. About an hour later Renee, Tate and
Gabriella arrived. At first the children were a little taken aback by Ardis'
appearance, but in the end they were kind, gentle and affectionate to her.
They stayed for about an hour telling stories. At about 12:00 midnight
Sharon was concerned about being able to drive home, so she found a fold
out bed and went to lay down.
I had gotten the clock/radio/CD player with the Moody Blues' CD out of the
car and I paced for the next hour, and held her hand, and gave her the “big
smooch”. Occasionally I dampened her lips with the sponge on the stick. I
was alone with her and holding her hand.
At 5 minutes before 1:00 am on Thursday, August 3rd her breathing finally
calmed down, she opened her eyes wide, and a tear rolled down. She had a
look of amazement like she could see someone or something and her face
had a glow. I played Nights in White Satin on the CD player. From the
beginning of the song, to the bridge/flute solo Ardis' soul hovered around her
face, I kept telling her “you're so beautiful and I love you”... then her soul
just left. Right at the flute solo.
Ten days later, on Monday August 14th she was buried at Mt. Olivet
Cemetery. Sharon and I went to see her grave, Table Mountain is about a
mile straight West, and the train tracks are 100 yds to the South.
She knew where her body was going, but Im' sure her soul is with her mom
in that tomato garden. Ardis was my best friend and I love her.