Death of Wife at 29
(North Carolina, USA)
Hello, I'm here to talk about the loss of my wife. She died on September 12th 2013, at 550am eastern (US). She had been struggling with inner demons for a very long time. She ended up with generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder in 2012. In order to deal with anxiety and panic attacks, she was self medicating with alcohol to try to cope. I kept telling her panic disorder does not just go away, I dealt with it myself from 2001-2004. A little bit of back story first. The alcohol problem did not start in 2012, but rather back in early 2011. She really didn't drink much before then, which is part of the craziness of all of what happened. At first, the drinking was for fun and pleasure; but she quickly grew a big tolerance and was drinking heavily. In early 2012, she started having gastro intestinal issues. She was a really big worrier and always assumed the worst. She would think every problem was due to tumors or cancer and she would worry non-stop about this type of thing. Later in 2012, her great grandmother; whom she lived with and considered her mother died. She took it very hard and started withdrawing and having panic attacks. It got to the point of agoraphobia, which is a fear of leaving where you are comfortable, usually your home. As I said previously, she was using liquor to try to cope with depression and panic, which only further complicated the issues. In the first few months of 2013, she started complaining about a swollen and sore upper right abdomen; which is the area of the liver. In June 2013, I noticed her eyes were jaundiced, which is yellowing of the eyes as a result of lowered liver function. She ended up being admitted to hospital, stayed there for 3 nights, but was able to recover. She told me shortly after being discharged that she felt like she had been given a second chance at life, which she was. The drinking started lightly again a few weeks later, and as expected, led back to heavy drinking to deal with her issues. The last month of her life, she was in a really dark place; not sleeping hardly at all, complaining of feeling unwell, and stopped functioning as an adult. A few days before going to the ER, she told me she felt like she was dying, but because she kept having panic attack after panic attack. After reflecting on things I think she knew down deep in her heart that something was seriously wrong, but she did have panic disorder, so I didn't realize the severity of things. I noticed on September 10th of 2013 that her eyes were again jaundiced. I told her and she asked me to call 911, so I did. They took her to the hospital because she could not stand on her own and I could not move her by myself; this was about 1:30pm on Sept 10th. At 6pm that evening, she called me in a frantic to come to the hospital because she heard the doctors discussing liver failure. I got there and she had just been baptized by the pastor at the hospital. She told me when we were alone that she overheard that she had liver failure and only had 2 weeks to live. I knew she had been hallucinating, so I tried to calm her that maybe she misheard or they were discussing another case. I stayed overnight in the hospital and she appeared to be getting better. One thing that really worried me though is that when she got to the ER, her ammonia level was measured at about 129. The next day, it had risen to 209. I didn't realized the severity of what the would mean until a few days later. I had left the next morning to go home to sleep a few hours. When I got back at about 1pm that afternoon, I noticed she was looking worse. She was having troubles communicating with me, which I now realize was due to high ammonia levels. She wasn't able to stand on her own and nearly tipped over on the potty, but I caught her before she fell. She had started getting combative with me at about 5pm that evening. I felt like it was best to remove myself from the situation to keep her calm and because the liver specialist said she had hepatitis from alcohol, but that they expected her to recover. In retrospect, I guess they just didn't expect the severity of it because she was only 29. I told her I was sorry for all the stupid stuff I had said and she apologized as well. I put some lotion on her face because it was dry and peeling, we said we loved each other and I gave her a kiss goodbye, expecting to see her better the next; but I didn't realize this would be the last time I would ever speak to her. I was told that about 1:30am the next morning that they had her on the potty again and that she slumped over and stopped breathing. It took them 25 minutes to get a heartbeat again; later I would find out that they broke several ribs trying to revive her. I got the hospital an hour or so later (took someone knocking on my door to wake me up). When I got to the hospital, I was taken to the critical care unit; where she was on a ventilator so essentially on life support. The CCU doctor told me her situation was dire and that she was on blood pressure medication to keep her BP from falling. I went in to see her and she looked horrible. I opened her eye a bit and I could see it was jaundiced again and I knew what was about to happen. I went back to the waiting room and the doctor came in about 10 minutes later. He told me the blood pressure medication was maxed out and that her pressure was still falling anyway. Basically he told me there were two options; keep the blood pressure medicine going and that should would eventually have a heart attack, or I could stop the medication and let her die mercifully. He also said that she had been through such trauma, that even if she lived, she would never be able to hold normal conversation with anyone again; which after researching seems again to be related to very high levels of ammonia that caused brain damage. After 5 or 10 minutes to think about what the hell he just asked me to do and to try to make sense of how this could be happening to a 29 year old; I told them to stop the medication. I was holding her hand when they stopped the medication and her heart stopped about 15 minutes later. Now I sit here 16 days later, still destroyed by what has happened, explaining this to our 10 year old and 3 year old daughters. Our lives have been left shattered, not sure how to move forward, and me feeling completely overwhelmed. I still cannot fathom how someone could go from not drinking much at all to liver failure in 2 1/2 years. The sheer insanity of it all baffles me. I may be wrong, but I feel like this would be easier to digest if it was something like a wreck that had killed her; but liver failure at 29 from alcohol? This can't possibly be happening, it is all so surreal. I know I'm in the shock phase, but this is extreme shock. I'm not considering suicide or anything like that, it's just almost unthinkable that this could be happening at such a young age. I've even had nurses and doctors asking me question about this because it is almost unheard of. Perhaps I will reflect on this one day and realized the humanity it brought me, how it may positively affect my life in the long run; but in the short term, I feel like I'm trapped in a nightmare that I cannot awaken from.