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About me

I am 37 and live in the Cleveland Ohio area.  I smoked when in high school but quit.  I starting smoking again a few years ago.  I look back and realize how much better my life was without cigarettes in it.  It's time to kick this habit once and for all!!!

 

I CAN'T UN-SEE IT (a message to my smoker friends)-author unknown

I can't un-see it.

My mom called me at 7:30am, the day before Russ died. She asked me to come help her with Russ, she couldn't do it alone.

Mom knows I'm twenty miles across town, knows I work until 5 or 6am... If it's serious enough for her to call me and say she needs me...it's serious.

I jumped into my car and flew, fast-but-safely (yet slightly to the left of Sanely) and arrived in just under 20 minutes. Flew into the house. Called out to Mom. She was in the bathroom. With Russ.

He was lying on the bathroom floor. His ox tank was at his head; his eyes, glazed, unseeing, were open wide. His hand was cupped around the oxygen cannula he held to his mouth; another was lodged in his nostrils.

He was gasping...and I can't un-see it.

Russell couldn't get enough oxygen to his brain...his blood-ox level was at FORTY, people. FORTY. His brain, starving for oxygen, was shutting down other organs it deemed less important than itself. Kidneys, liver, pancreas, gall bladder and all, shutting down because the brain will starve everything else in its all-important mission to preserve itself at all costs.

I watched as he went into cardiac arrest...and I can't un-see it.

Ambulance. Follow the ambulance and get to the hospital as fast as we can. Wait in the little waiting room with strangers who don't know we're losing a titan in our lives. Watch Mom cry; hold her, helpless to do anything about it.

The doctor comes, with his coke bottle glasses and his sparse beard and yarmulke. He says things in a low monotone, things he knows we don't want to hear, things he must say if he wants to sleep tonight, things that are fact. He tells us the situation is grave, that Russ is alive...for now. He mentions brain damage, speaks of hoping to keep Russ alive a bit longer. He tells us to go into the little room with the big machinery where a crew is working hard (physically and emotionally) to keep Russ with us.

Russ is doing strange things with his hands, his arms, his legs. He looks like he's having seizures. We think it's hopeful, think it's evidence of motor function remaining in his brain; the medicos tell us it's evidence of brain damage, but there's no way of knowing what degree.

It's called "posturing"...and I can't un-see it, can't un-see it at all.

They speak of a hopeful type of therapy called "cooling", where they chill him way below normal body temps in an effort to minimize brain damage (not "avoid", not "eliminate"). They move him to the fourth floor and they begin the therapy and they drug him beyond buzzed, beyond stupor, into a semi-comatose state. And we wait. and we wait, and we hope, and every so often one or two of us go in and speak the hopeful things people say to a slab of meat that was once someone we loved, and that meat just lies there unseeing, unfeeling, unknowing, just staring...

After 24 hours of this, I return to my home...I'm exhausted, need sleep, need rest, need comfort. I get home, my wife goes to work, and in twenty minutes I get the call that after all we went through, after everyone's most dedicated and valiant efforts...Russell slipped from us.

So I wait for Donna to turn around and come home again, and we drive back to the hospital, and we find our grieving family. Donna and I go to the room where the body that was once my Dad, my friend lies in the bed still hooked to hoses, hope now gone. My family leaves to go to the family waiting room to begin the bereavement process in relative privacy, but I remain for just a bit longer, just a minute longer, a last few minutes together.

The nurses, in an attempt to make things a little nicer, a little bit easier for us, have removed the majority of their life support apparatus...but one hose remains. The mouth is open, but at least they've closed the eyes. I am appalled that Russ was afforded so little dignity in his final moments...

...and I can't un-see it, I can never un-see it.

And I think then, as I'm thinking now, those cigarettes.

Those damned cigarettes.

Stage IV non-Small Cell Carcinoma. Lung cancer, terminal. From diagnosis to death, 38 days. Death sentence.

Those damned cigarettes.

When I quit smoking, I promised my friends I wouldn't become one of those preachy, annoying ex-smokers...it's a promise I've kept to this day, a promise that I could now very cheerfully rescind because, due to those god-damned cigarettes, I had to see Russ lying curled around an oxygen tank, lying in a bed posturing, lying dead with hoses coming from his throat and his nose...

...and I can't un-see it.

You want to do this to the people you claim you love??

 

 

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