On Friday morning, November 3, two days before we left Switzerland having had a happy, healthy and wonderful 6 weeks with our families, Georg woke me early saying he was feeling dizzy and nauseous and needed to vomit. At first we thought he might have had food poisoning. That entire day he was terribly tired and feeling unsteady on his feet. The next day Saturday, he was still experiencing some dizziness and a general feeling of being unwell. He was experiencing absolutely NO pain. That morning Markus dropped us with all our luggage at the Moevenpick hotel which is close to Zuerich Airport as we had an early flight the next day (Sunday, November 5). Lisa, Andre and baby May visited us at the hotel and we spent a lovely afternoon with them which included a nice walk. Georg went quite okay with the walk, in fact said it probably did him good.
That night he experienced again the same symptoms of sweating, dizziness and needing to vomit .... that passed after a while and he was able to get some sleep. We boarded the plane, somewhat apprehensively I might add, the next morning, (Sunday November 5) and the flight home went pretty well except for one nasty experience when he suddenly grabbed the seat in front of him with both hands saying the whole plane was spinning!
Scary, to say the least! We got home okay but he had two more similar episodes during the first couple of days after our return. Dizziness and nausea being the main problem. He refused to see a doctor saying, “it will get better.” After that he seemed to improve somewhat but was feeling extremely tired and needed more sleep than usual...napping often during the day and even went to lie down on the bed a couple of times. That worried me as he had never done that during the day before...but we put it down to “jetlag”. He did a few garden chores the second week after we returned home and although he needed to “take it easy” for a bit afterwards, seemed a lot better than he had been.
I was very concerned and thought perhaps it could have been his kidneys or some weird inner-ear thing. What it was, remained a mystery. Every time I asked him how he was feeling he gave the same answer, “not too bad, just a bit more tired than usual”. He had no real appetite, had no wish for meat, so we had pasta dishes and he stopped drinking his nightly beer and a glass of wine with our meal. He thought the alcohol was upsetting his tummy...as even after just one shandy the feeling of nausea returned. So he abstained completely. He could not explain or “put his finger on” how he was actually feeling but thought it had something to do with his stomach...when I asked him did he have specific concerns, he told me “no”.
We even went for a couple of walks during the second week after returning home. The first was just a short one but on Thursday (Nov 16. and Saturday Nov. 18) we went for a couple of nice long (albeit slow and steady) walks... something he literally could not have contemplated even a few days prior to that.
On Sunday we went to church and just “chilled out” for the rest of the day. That evening Georg said he had a bit of pain in his left thigh and thought he may have pulled a muscle so he rubbed some Voltaren onto the area and decided to go to bed early. An hour or so later when I joined him he was restless and woke saying that his leg was very painful. When I asked how long he had had the sore leg, he replied “a couple of days but it wasn’t a bad pain”. He asked for a painkiller (Panadol Rapid) which of course I gave him. When I had a look at his leg I could feel a lump in his thigh and thought it may have been a blood clot. He got a good night’s sleep that night but in the morning (Monday,November 20) the pain was there again and he took another Panadol and we had our traditional “every-morning-cup-of-tea” sitting up in bed together. That was when I told him that we were going to the doctor ... initially he said it wasn’t really necessary, but I insisted. Then I checked his leg again and the whole leg, especially his thigh was swollen and discoloured. So, he had a shower and we got to the doctor (no appointment) before 9....the doctor saw us at about 9.30 and suggested that it did indeed look like a blood clot and gave us a referral for an ultra sound. She phoned the clinic and organised that for 11. So we thought, that gives us time to go home and have breakfast! The car was parked in the Green Point parking lot less than 20 metres away from the clinic. We walked back to the car, got in and then Georg suddenly looked terrible and was struggling to breathe, his eyes were rolling and he turned grey before my eyes. I was crying, “no,no...stay with me Georgo...please” then “I’m going to get an ambulance” I ran back to the medical clinic and told them to phone immediately for an ambulance which they obviously did, as one arrived within 10 minutes. I sat with Georg in the car, frightened out of my wits, trying to comfort him and watched him having a cardiac arrest! I think he was unconscious by that time! Two more ambulances arrived on the scene within minutes and the paramedics got him out of the car and onto the ground right there in the parking lot. They immediately started giving him CPR taking it in turns for about 30 minutes...there was no response from Georg but they could finally get a pulse.
Once they had got a heart beat again he was put in the ambulance and I went with him to Emergency. Straight into Resuscitation where a team was already waiting for him and got to work on him immediately. Then he was thoroughly examined by a team of cardiac doctors and moved to the ICU where I could go to him and where I stayed day and night for the next 3 days.
The staff, nurses and doctors, in ICU were amazing....professional, efficient, caring, compassionate and kept me constantly up to date during the entire time as to what was happening to my Georg.
He had experienced a blood clot to the lungs which in turn caused the initial heart attack.
They told me that he had a second cardiac arrest while they were examining him and because they had to thin the blood, (otherwise he would have certainly died) a vessel within the heart burst and blood filled the sack surrounding the heart which was in turn, putting restrictive pressure on his heart . Their first priority was to drain that blood which took most of the day and night and they were finally able to drain off 3-4 litres of blood (thanks to coagulating infusions) before they could stop the flow. By then he had lost a lot of blood and needed a transfusion.
They were completely honest with me from the word go and throughout, saying that they were “between a rock and a hard place”, “his condition was very critical and that he was a very, very sick man”. They told me that he was obviously a strong man and otherwise a healthy and fit man but there were too many issues and complications and that I should prepare for the worst. They first put him in an induced coma but later brought him gradually out of that and kept him sedated so that he was completely comfortable, peaceful and absolutely pain-free. They also warned me that if he did come through this there was still danger of more clots breaking off and causing further damage...the blood needed to be thinned to break up the clots but that in turn caused the internal bleeding. They worked on him with professional proficiency and did everything they could to save him.
On Monday afternoon the doctors told me that I should notify any family members and asked me if I needed a friend to just be there for me. Initially I said “no” as I wanted and needed that special time and space to be alone with Georg. I also didn’t want to alarm friends or family before we knew more and before Markus arrived., (I phoned him about that time even though it was still early in Switzerland). Then I decided to call Leigh our Small Group leader who is kind, caring, practical and understanding. Leigh came to the hospital immediately with some food which Nita (his wife had organised) and also one of her jackets as she knows how cold it can be in ICU rooms. How true! And how thoughtful ... and she has given me that jacket now to keep. It suits me too!!!!
November 21: During that afternoon the nurses told me that Georg was now very stable and that I needed a break and should go home, have a shower and just be away from the hospital for a while. They assured me that no change would occur with Georg so Leigh drove me back to the parking lot where I had left the car and I drove home. I made up the bed for Markus, thinking by the time he gets here he will be exhausted and would want to fall into bed...had a shower and did a couple of tidy-ups, including the breakfast which Georg and I never got to have on Monday morning. Then I phoned Leigh and he came and brought me back to the hospital...all up I was no longer than 1 and a half hours away from Georg and his condition had not changed, he was still sleeping peacefully by the time I got back.
By Tuesday afternoon they felt he was stable enough to undergo a CT Scan which would reveal if there had been any damage to his brain. The result of which showed that he had also had a major stroke caused by a clot which had left him with massive and permanent brain damage. Oh, my poor darling, darling Georg!
Leigh asked me if I would like to notify our pastor Richard and I said yes. I also asked the hospital to get a priest as I knew Georg would want that...a very nice young priest came and gave Georg the “Last Rights” and prayed for him. Richard came a bit later and comforted me and prayed for Georg.
I had phoned Markus on Monday afternoon saying that his Papa was in a very critical condition, leaving the decision to come or not up to him. He of course organised a flight immediately and left Switzerland a few hours later...arriving at the hospital on Wednesday morning at 9. We are sure that Georg knew he was there as his blood pressure rose slightly while we were talking.
I spent the entire time I was with my Georg holding his hand, stroking his face and forehead and telling him how much I loved him, thanking him for the wonderful happy years we had together and yes, already missing him terribly. When I knew that Markus was on his way I told him repeatedly that Markus would be here in the morning...which he was. I will never know how much or even IF Georg could hear me, he showed no response even when I asked him to squeeze my hand if he could hear me. I feel very sure though that he knew I was there with him... and that comforts me.
The hospital staff organised a bed for me (Monday night) right next to Georg so I spent those 2 nights close by him, listening to his steady breathing and dozing off from time to time.
After the CT Scan on Tuesday afternoon, Rob the doctor carefully and with much compassion, explained to me and Leigh, (who was such a wonderful support and still with me at that stage) the whole horrific situation re the massive brain damage and what that meant for any possible quality of life for Georg. I almost lost it at that point and just cried and cried. I was distraught.
I had already told everyone on the ICU team that Georg and I had prepared an Advance Care Plan and we agreed that for each of us there should be no resuscitation if a normal quality of life could no longer be possible due to either illness or accident.
After Markus arrived (Wednesday morning) and had spent time with his Papa, Rob (the doctor) told us both together that he felt that Georg would not want to suffer like that or have to live in a nursing home to which Markus and I, in unison said, “no way, never”!!
So we agreed that when “we”, Markus and I, were ready, (when is one ready for something like that) that Georg should be taken off the life support machinery, including the breathing apparatus (although Georg was actually breathing by himself by this time) with just the assistance of a ventilator to make it easier) and continuing with enough sedation which allowed him to continue sleeping peacefully and comfortably with absolutely no discomfort.
We agreed to that at about midday. Georg looked actually still robust and healthy with his usual good colour, especially even more so now that the machinery and most of the tubes and cables had been removed. He continued to sleep peacefully.
We sat with him holding his hand, stroking his arms and face and he slept. He was obviously completely comfortable. His heart continued to beat for another 2 hours or so and after one deep breath he appeared to have stopped breathing but we noticed that a pulse in his neck was visible. Then another deep breath after a minute or so and he simply slipped away peacefully at about 14.30 on Wednesday, November 22. He is now at peace and with Jesus....I believe that with my whole heart.
Thanks to the sedation he was totally unaware of what was happening to him during the entire time from the first massive heart attack until the end....that knowledge comforts me greatly as I know he was spared pain, discomfort and fear. I am also comforted by the fact that Markus was able to be here with his Papa and that I was able to have those long but precious hours with my Georg before he passed away.
Now Markus and I have to get on with what needs to be done. The social worker came after Georg had passed away with information which helped to remove some of the questions we have of “what do we do now?”
We texted as many people we could think of who would want to know and with that, the ball started rolling and friends have answered with caring words and prepared meals and flowers. That first evening Doris and Roger invited us to their place for dinner, we went and were glad we had done so...stayed until about 21.oo then came home and realised we now needed some sleep.
Both of us did in fact get a good night’s sleep but of course for me and I know for Markus too, the reality that his Papa is no longer here and my liebster, geliebter Georg will never walk through these doors again, will never sit in his favourite chair or on his Liegestuehl out on the veranda, will never take me in his arms again and that I will never again hear his voice, never look at his gentle smile and into his beautiful twinkling eyes again... leaves me feeling empty and bereft and so very sad. I am so, so sad but even thankful for the way everything unfolded and that Georg never experienced any discomfort.
Markus is a tower of strength...even though he is also grieving and trying to cope with the sudden loss of his beloved Papa, he is so calm and sensible...he doesn’t seem to know the meaning of “stress”.
I could not cope with all this alone and without him. Thank you Markus for being here, first with your Papa and now with me in this numb nightmare which I now find myself in. I feel shattered...it is all so surreal.
Writing down these thoughts and memories as they come to mind is very healing and very helpful...it’s good to get some order into my thoughts and write. Praise the Lord.
Australia, November 2017