Updated: Mar 31, 2019
I went home when my mother came. I had to shower as I had only washed my face with the hand soap the nurse had brought me in the night before. I needed to see my kids and update my husband and mother in law. I still couldn't believe what was happening. When something like this happens, it's almost like you're living in one long day. It is hard to describe, but there really isn't a tomorrow or today, it is just one day with repeating hours. I called my boss when I got home and told her what was going on. She told me do not worry about a thing, take whatever I need and we will recap later on in the week. Thankfully I work for an amazing organization with a team of great people, I'm very lucky and fortunate to have had them through this.
I spent some time in the shower. Water has always been my go to. I suffer with anxiety and whenever I am really feeling it, I go in the shower or sit by the ocean or something to do with water. Something about it just soothes me. After I got out, I spent some time with the kids and on my way back to the hospital I drove. When I got there my mother was there with a couple of my cousins and my aunt. They were all sat around Joey's bed just trying to make sense of this all. My mother told me the doctor had come in after I left and performed a quick apnea test. I would learn that this was when they shut off the vent for a bit and see if the patient, Joey, takes any breaths. Mom said that Joey gasped a couple of times, but that they were going to do an EEG after his body rested for 24 hours to see if there is any brain activity, but in the meantime, we should call the family and let them know to come up to the hospital if they want to see Joseph. I think my mother had called some of them and told them that Joey was in the hospital or my aunt, or father or word just spread as would likely be the case in my family. But we did call them and tell them to come up.
I got a PTO notification on my phone and remember being thankful that my boss had set it for the week. The day went on and the nurses and doctors and cardiac team and respiratory therapists made their rounds coming in and out to monitor him.
Later on that night some more of cousins had come up. I remember being surprised when I saw them, but at the same time, so incredibly grateful that they were there for us, they showed up when we needed family the most. It really was so helpful. To talk and open up and just be able to speak to other people that knew him, they let us share our stories with them about him, listened, heard us. We needed it.
We were all in the meditation/prayer room down the hall from the ICU and they were going in shifts of 4 or 5 to visit Joey and pray over him. He had 2 sets of Rosary beads on him over his right shoulder draped down his chest as to not get tangled in any of the tubes. One was his that he always wore or held on to and one set was from my cousin who got them while she was in Italy and they were blessed by the Pope. I'm not a super religious person, although I've made all my sacraments and was raised Roman Catholic... I am more spiritual I would say. But whatever would help at this point, I wouldn't have minded if a voodoo priest had come in and done some magic if it had any chance of saving Joey. You get pretty desperate when you're thinking that someone who you love so much may have their heart beating for the last time any second.
We sat in the waiting room just talking. Everyone was comforting my mother, father, myself and each other really, everyone was trying to just understand this all. We know what happened, we know he overdosed, we know it was his decision to take the Oxycodone, but we couldn't understand that why this time it had had this effect. Was it mixed with something? The question on my mother's mind was did he do this on purpose? For some reason, did he choose to OD? Was it not accidental? I assured my mother as did everyone else, that this was not the case. There is no way he would have done that... with Joey being as sensitive as he was... he wouldn't have done this on purpose and not leave a note, send a text, write something, anything. He would have told us how much he loved us, he would have had last words for his ex girlfriend whom he loved so much, he would have wanted my kids to have some words from him for the last time. Between him not leaving any of that and him asking my mother before he left work the day before "What time are the kids coming tonight?", there is just no way this was on purpose. He was looking forward to seeing them. He loved them so much.
Everyone eventually went home, as it was 2:30am again. My parents and I went back into his room after saying goodbye to everyone and sat with him for a bit. They left to go home and I assured them again that he would not be alone and I would be there, go home and rest, tomorrow will be another long day. They did. The nurse brought me new blankets, new pillows and new coffee. I took my spot on my recliner chair-bed. I talked to him, I held his hand, then I went in the bathroom and I cried my eyes out for the first time all day. Like couldn't breathe, crawled up in a ball on the his ICU rooms bathroom floor cried. I needed it. I composed myself a bit and went back to him. I brushed his hair, wiped his face, put lotion his hands and his feet, held my ear to his chest and listened to his heartbeat. I felt how warm he was... I held his hand and cried some more. I felt his chest move up and down and just sobbed. Like this strange cry. I can't describe it. I wiped my face, but left the wet on his chest... I weirdly hoped that he would feel the wet spot there and make him come back, as if somehow physically feeling my sadness would make him fight a little harder to come back. I sat back down in my chair, laid it back, facing him and I fell asleep. I woke up at 5:30am to the nurse checking his machines. I fell back asleep and then the doctor came in, it was about 8am.
He was really nice. He explained to me that there had been no changes in any of his labs or any of his tests that they were performing. He was in the room with 3 medical students. They were also some of the nicest people. He performed the Apnea test again, this time Joey did not gasp. There was nothing when he turned off the machine and then the machine took back over. He performed a few reflex tests, like the one where they take the pen and scratch the bottom of his foot to see if there is movement, they checked his eyes again for any reaction... nothing.
My mother and father came shortly after and I gave her an update. That day was a blur again. Family came and visited, stayed most of the day. It was Monday the 18th. When they wanted to do the EEG we all went to the waiting room. The tissues they had in the hospital were starting to give us raw noses and make under our eyes red and irritated. I needed some air anyway so I went to find a CVS. I remember just walking around the CVS thinking about anything else we might need while at the hospital. I would up getting tissues, Puffs brand and Cashews for myself to eat later that night.
I called my friend Meg and just talked to her and cried while I was driving around the town. Then I remembered passing Tate's Bake Shop, you know the famous one, on the way in. So I went there and had them make a basket of cookies and a big thing of coffee for the ICU staff. They had been so amazing and helpful and understanding, they deserved at least that. I came back and there were more cousins, different cousins coming in to say goodbye. My mom told me they had done the EEG and the neurologist had sat with her and said it was negative for brain activity. They explained that they would either repeat this test or do another test tomorrow to confirm what they found. She had the priest come in and give his last rites, sometimes our religion is nice, but can be kind of grim. It gave her some sense of comfort.
Everyone prayed hard that night that came. Aunts, Uncles, Cousins, My grandmother... We all sat around Joseph talking and trying to process this together. There were the "he'll be okay's" the quiet faces, the tears, the shaking voices. Tomorrow would be an even longer day.