5 years ago, had someone said to me “life is about to put you on a path that’s going to pull the very tapestry of your life as you know it right out from underneath you, flip you upside down and turn your world inside out.” I would have never believed it, but life did exactly just that. This is our story.
The morning of July 10th, 2017 a little after 9:00 AM, my husband Dario and I received the call we had been waiting for. It was the hospital advising us that Dario was to present himself that afternoon, at 1:00 PM, to be “admitted.” His surgery had been scheduled for the next morning Tuesday, July 11th at 6:00 AM.
In 2006, Dario had been diagnosed with a Bicuspid Aortic Valve and an Ascending Aortic Aneurysm. “Watch and wait” was the course of action selected, along with medication and regularly scheduled scans and follow-ups. It was the scan of March 2017 where “watch and wait” changed. Dario’s condition had worsened and intervention was now needed; heart surgery.
In the early morning hours of July 11th, as we made our way towards the elevator that would take Dario to the surgery floor, I playfully reminded him to be on his best behaviour and to remember that I would be waiting for him, after all we had a lunch date! One more kiss, one more “I love you!” before the elevator doors closed and all that was left for me to do was pace, sit and wait. It felt like forever!
By all accounts, Dario’s surgery went well. In the few short days following surgery, five to be exact, his recovery impressive, as remarked by his cardiac surgeon, he was discharged from the hospital. Sunday afternoon, July 16th, I was bringing my love home!
Dario continued to make progress at home until Friday, July 21st, when I noticed a subtle difference, a decline in his breathing. It seemed as though it had become harder for him to breathe, a shortness of breath when walking or going up the stairs, which had not been there in the couple of days prior. Upon mentioning it to him I was met with “I’m fine!” All I could do was continue keeping a watchful eye. By Monday evening, July 24th, it had become very clear that something was very wrong! This time, “I’m fine!” wasn’t going to do and I brought Dario back to the hospital. He was readmitted.
The days between July 24th and the morning of July 30th were filled with an array of tests, x-rays, ultrasounds, a transfer to the ER resuscitation room, an “assumption” of Dressler’s Syndrome (a rare phenomenon that can occur after heart surgery), along with two separate procedures to drain fluid around his heart and lungs. And yet, Dario’s health was still declining!
Saturday July 29th, our 28th wedding anniversary, Dario underwent a procedure to drain the fluid accumulated around his lungs. All I could hope for was relief for my husband. Hope that that “pigtail” procedure would bring some kind of relief, and Dario would be able to breathe easier. Thankfully, relief came…or so Dario said it did. He had already endured A LOT since July 24th! He was exhausted. He was weak. He was extremely uncomfortable and appeared somewhat disoriented and confused. As the doctors left the room, I helped Dario find a comfortable position in bed while tucking him in for the night. He was so very tired and while encouraging me to go home and get some rest, he slowly drifted off to sleep. One more kiss, one more, “I love you!”…I’ll see you in the morning.
Sunday, July 30th, the events of that morning are still somewhat chaotic and in bits and pieces in my mind. As I walked in Dario’s hospital room, my hope to find him feeling even just a bit better than the day before were instantly obliterated! Two residents, one from Cardiology and one from Infectious Disease were “disagreeing,” if you will, over the best course of antibiotic treatment for Dario. I learned the microbiology lab had called, the day before, to alert unit a blood culture had come back positive, Staph A (MSSA). Suddenly all hell broke loose! Dario’s vital signs were rapidly dropping, and all I could hear was the Cardiology resident loudly declare, “this is septic shock!”
I scrambled to stay by Dario’s bedside, amidst all the chaos and confusion unrolling before me, I could hear myself saying…
“Dario, fight…hold on…you fight hard! I’m right here with you! Please don’t leave me! I love you!”
“I love you, too…” These were our last words.
Shortly after 1:05 PM, on July 30th, 2017, an ICU doctor walked into the family waiting room where my two children, two friends and I anxiously waited for some kind of news.
“Mrs. S...” was all I heard. As I stood there, an immense, dreadful fear quickly overcame me. I could see the doctor’s mouth moving but I could not hear anything he was saying. Then the loud, booming echo of the words… “he died” pierced my mind, shattering the surreal deafness that had engulfed me. All I could hear was a bellowing wave of “Nos!” pouring out of me. The minutes, hours and days that followed, to this day, are still an absolute blur! No one and I literally mean, no one, understood or knew what the hell happened!
The autopsy would reveal the immediate cause of Dario’s death was:
“Sepsis/myocardial arrhythmia secondary to endocarditis”
In a letter written by the cardiovascular surgeon, who Dario had been referred to for surgery, to the cardiologist who had been following and referred Dario, he wrote:
“This was a catastrophic event that was completely unexpected…”
Sepsis/Septic Shock ”it pulls the very tapestry of your life as you know it right out from underneath you, flips you upside down and turns your world inside out!”