This publication is the exclusive property of cj Schlottman, and is protected under the US Copyright Act of 1976 and all other applicable international, federal, state and local laws. The contents of this blog may not be reproduced as a whole or in part, by any means whatsoever, without consent of the author, cj Schlottman. All rights reserved.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Two Weeks in Hell - Part 2


On Thursday evening , May 29, Clint was in so much respiratory distress that I was afraid to go to sleep, so on Friday, I called for home oxygen.  That night we both got some rest, but he continued to deteriorate.  His son Robert, helpless as the rest of us, wanted to help his father with his breathing treatments, so I turned them over to him.  Though Clint was never able to complete a treatment, Robert hung in there and got as much medication into him as he could.  

The sound of the O-2 concentrator made me physically ill, reminding me as it did of the one my brother John had when he was dying of kidney cancer.  It was the sound of death lurking around the corner, but I continued to tell myself that it would not come right away, that we had months more time with Clint, maybe even a year.

Denial is an incredibly strong emotion.  I am a nurse, for God’s sake, and I could not see that my husband was dying before my eyes.  I listened to his chest, hearing breath sounds that weren’t there, calling them muffled or diminished.  I did not check his blood pressure.

We struggled along.  Clint became more and more confused, but I couldn’t see it - called it fatigue.  In Robert’s absence, he tried to give himself his breathing treatment, not wanting to bother me, and he tore up the adapter and I had to call for another one. 

The days were filled with long naps, coughing spells, useless breathing treatments and attempts to watch old movies.  Clint was cranky with me and I was exhausted.  Why did I not see that he was not himself?  Why did it take me until the following Wednesday night, June 3, to realize that if I didn’t take him to hospital, he would die at home - in agony?

Late that evening, I called 911, asking for an ambulance only to help me transport Clint to hospital.  After I called them, Clint got into his chair, wheeled himself into the bathroom, brushed his teeth, combed his hair, gathered his dop kit and peed.  By the time the EMTs were here, he was coming around the corner into the living room with his dop kit in his lap saying he could get himself outside to the ambulance.  He could hardly breathe, but he put up an incredible front.

Since the stretcher was already in the living room, the EMT very gently suggested that they go ahead and put Clint on it, and he acquiesced.  (The ambulance had arrived, siren blaring and with a fire truck close behind, thundering and honking).  So much for asking for transportation only.  I’m sure everyone on the block was awake to see the ambulance pull out of our driveway.

I followed in my car, scared out of my mind that he would die before I got to the hospital.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Two Weeks in Hell - Part One - © Claudia Schlottman


On Monday, May 25, 9009, I admitted presented Clint a the emergency room with a blood pressure of 81/40!  He had fluid in his chest cavity and was having a great deal of trouble breathing and was in pain.  (When he admitted he was in pain, he was in PAIN, so stoic was he).  His blood work was all crazy, and he had an irregular heart rhythm because his magnesium level was so low.  We were assigned an “Hospitalist,” a dreadful new trend in medicine.  Our hospitalist had never laid eyes on Clint.  We told her that we knew his condition was related to liver failure due to alcohol use.  Clint patiently explained to her that he knew his life was limited and that he had no intention of stopping drinking.  Then she refused to give him any pain medicine that had to be processed through the liver!  (Did she not get it, that it was too late to worry about his liver, that is probably looked like cheesecloth at that point)?

I had some of his home meds in my purse, and I gave him something for the pain.  We asked to be transferred to the hospital where our doctor works and went there for one night.  

When we got him on Wednesday, Clint was weak but stable.  Emily had an All Star softball game that night, and Clint wanted to go!  His breathing was not good enough, and he was cranky - and secretly relieved) when I refused to take him.  He needed complete bed rest, and I saw that he got it, in spite of himself.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Screaming in the Shower - © Claudia Schlottman

Last night night I stood in the shower and screamed, shampoo running into my eyes and into my wide open mouth.  I thought I would drop to my knees, but I held myself upright, rinsed my eyes and mouth, them slid down the shower wall and covered my face and screamed until my throat ached and I was hoarse.  I washed but couldn’t remember what parts I had washed so I did it all over again.  I poured conditioner on my hair and finally stood to rinse it out.

One year ago today, we had been home from New Orleans and Baton Rouge for 3 days, and Clint was dying.  He tried to tell me, but I could not hear.  My depression was getting on his nerves, and he was getting on mine because he was so cranky.  (Later I would learn that his blood ammonia level was getting high, which is part of end stage liver disease and causes personality changes).  

We drove to New Orleans on May 13, spending one night on the road because travel was so hard for Clint.  His 50th Medical School Reunion at Tulane was on Friday, the 15th, and I wanted him to have a day to rest.  (I believe in my heart that he willed himself to stay alive to go to that reunion and then drive to Baton Rouge to see Prentiss and Susan).  When I look back at how erratic his behavior was on that trip I should have suspected he had elevated ammonia levels.  But my denial was overwhelming. I was not capable of believing what I knew in my nurse’s head but could only work with what was in my heart.  I was not ready to believe he would die.  I’m still not ready for him to die, and he's been dead nearly a year.  These next weeks are going to be hell.

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Longest Year © Claudia Schlottman


My recording of Grey’s Anatomy just finished, so the TV is turned off, and I am lying here staring at the ceiling fan telling myself not to cry.  It’s not working.  It’s miserably hot for May, and I cranked down the temperature on the air conditioner so I wouldn’t be too warm in The Red Sweater

I need the Red Sweater tonight, need to feel covered up with Clint, even sprinkled it with a fresh dose of Old Spice.  I need to smell him, touch his skin, feel his arms around me, his mouth on mine.  Soon it will have been a year since he died, and it has been the longest year of my life.  I will never smell, touch or kiss him again - not for as long as I live.  But I still want it, still weep for its loss, still burn in my gut with emptiness.

Friends exclaim, “I can’t believe it has been nearly a year!”

I respond, “You wouldn’t say that if it were your husband who died.”  

The nights have been longer, the days more tedious than one could imagine.  I still wake, in fact I did this morning, reaching for Clint and finding only Belle, my Boxer.  I wake with things to say to him, the need to touch him, but the bed still stretches on forever, barren and dry except for my dogs, my best friends, my little saviors who love me so much and who so unconditionally accept what I have to give them.  They are my little family, and without them, I cringe to think what kind of shape I would be in today.

Working has been the only thing that has made me feel better.  My preceptorship, while harrowing at times, was the best 4 weeks I’ve had in more than a few years.  Since I am still waiting on my regular job to open up, I signed on at our local Volunteer Clinic for patients who are working but don’t have health insurance.  That helps.

But when I get right down to it, I am facing  the heartbreaking milestone that will come with June 8 at 6:33 PM.  And it’s killing me, eating me alive knowing that on that day I will relive those last hours when, burning with fever, my one true love, faded and left this earth.  I still wish I could have gone with him.  

Monday, May 17, 2010

Sad - © Claudia Schlottman


When I first typed the date above, this is what it looked like:  10/17/05.  It’s a perfect example of how I feel.

The tears, the paralyzing, sobbing kind, began on Thursday, and they are still with me often.  On that day, after having  a pep talk with myself, I drove to the AT&T store to clear up some minor issues 
with my Blackberry.  Then I drove back home, skipping the grocery store altogether.  So much for the fucking pep talk.  After I drove into my garage, I collapsed onto the steering - sobbing uncontrollably.

Working around the house offered no comfort, so I listened to Proust for a while.  You cannot listen to Proust and cry.  But I got tired of having to concentrate on him, and went to bed for a while, calling Lisa for a ride to Bonehead.  I didn’ t feel I could drive - too many tears.  

My dogs stayed close to me in my bed, sharing their warmth with my chilled spirit. I was determined to get out of the house.  I didn’t hear from Lisa, so I dressed and drove alone to the restaurant.  

No wrecks either going or coming - except in my heart.

I spent the weekend mostly in bed, felling drained of all energy, both emotional and physical.  I made myself take the dogs for walks both days.  I knitted a little, but nothing penetrated the sadness, and I was too distracted to read more than a few pages of NIN’s A Spy in the House of Love.
And now it’s Monday morning, and I’ve been awake since 1:00 AM, sometimes weeping, sometimes not.  I tried yoga but only made it through half of my practice.

Jesus.  This is awful.  Just typing it has been an ordeal.  I give.  Uncle.  This is all I have in me today.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Where is my Job © Claudia Schlottman


The waiting is killing me.  I’m trying to be patient and act like an adult, but it gets harder every day.  I have a license to practice nursing.  (Aside to Clint:  I know how proud you would be).  There is supposed to be a job waiting for me at Hospice of Central Georgia, a job that was posted months ago and which no one wanted because it is a shitty job with lots of “as needed” and nights and weekends on call.  I am willing to take it, eager to take it so I can get my foot in the door.

I’ve done a preceptorship with Hospice, received my license, and the job has mysteriously disappeared from the Medical Center’s job site.  Every time I log on, I get this: 
Category: Nursing 
 Location: Hospice of Central Georgia (325) 
 Schedule: All 
 Results: 0 Job(s)
There are no positions at this time under this category. Please check back often as positions are added daily.

I have talked to Hospice management, and they have no clue as to the reason Human Resources took down the job.  They have assured me that they want me to take it and have even contacted HR with a request to repost the job so I can apply for it.  They have said on more than occasion that they want me to have the job so I can use it as a stepping stone to an inpatient job when the house is finished.

And here I sit, frustrated and suffering a dearth of original thinking and wanting to drink too much. Even my dogs are beginning to act depressed.  Depression is contagious, you know, especially to those who love us the most. 

I am depressed.  There.  I said it.  Well, as you all know, I am chronically depressed, but this is just more shit on the toilet paper.  I hate it, but I know how to deal with it.  I can’t go out and buy something because I don’t have a fucking job.  So, I’ll go grocery shopping and plan to meet the usual suspects at Bonehead Grill at 5.  I renamed the restaurant in honor of my wonderful and hardheaded friend, Loren.  He’s one of the usuals.

Yesterday, Frances, my sweet 82 year old friend, had to have her dog, Ollie, put to sleep.  I have been crying for her off and on since I learned of it.  I have been missing Clint so much that  got out the letter he kept on his bedside chest - the one I wrote to him on our 33rd wedding anniversary - and read it in a shower of tears.   I have been crying a lot about that, too.  All those memories still make me miss him more than they comfort me.  

Shit.  I’m going to get dressed and get out of here.  And I’m taking my dogs, too, so they won’t be so depressed.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Baton Rouge Part 2 - © Claudia Schlottman


I don’t know  where to begin.  I’m still exhausted from my drive to Baton Rouge and the marathon post I wrote the morning after I arrived.  I should be on my way home to Georgia, but I decided to stay an extra day for a couple of reasons.  

First, I came here with the intention of knitting a skinny summer scarf for Susan, but somehow it took on a life of its own and was wider and longer than I planned.  It’s made from tie-dyed ribbon in shades of blue and some red and gray and screams for the wearer to release her inner hippie.  It’s going to be beautiful with denim.  So, yesterday afternoon, it wasn’t finished, and I was so stuffed with SoufflĂ© Potatoes and Eggs Benedict from lunch at Galatoire’s that I couldn’t concentrate on it without making multiple errors.  And yes, there is a Galatoire’s here.  It opened after Katrina.  I got to eat lunch at one of Clint’s and my favorite restaurants in the world, and it was just as good as on Bourbon Street.

Then, as I was struggling to knit, Prentiss told me that they had a couple arriving tomorrow evening that I should stay and meet.  Charlie is an MD who specializing in anti-aging medicine, and Prisilla is a nurse who I met in 1973 when she was Prentiss’ girlfriend and Clint and I went with them on a trip to Las Vegas.  I have seen anti-aging doctors on TV and I have read about them, and I’m fascinated by the subject, so I couldn’t resist the opportunity to meet one.  (And then there was the thing of being very curious about Priscilla).

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Road Trip (Prelude) © Claudia Schlottman


I’m on my first real road trip since Clint had the temerity to die last June.  (Yes, I still have anger issues and have no idea how long they will last).

When Clint started first grade in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, Prentiss Smith was in his class.   They knew each other but were not close friends.  Clint’s parents were, in a word, laissez -faire, in their parenting skills, and Prentiss’ parents were more traditional, so the two boys didn’t travel in the same circles.  In fact, while Prentiss was having lavish birthday parties, Clint never had one at all.  No wonder he told me when we met that he wasn’t sure if he could love because he didn’t know how it felt to be loved - neither by his parents nor his wife.  He knew the love of his children, but that’s light years from the nurturing of parents and the passions of romantic love.

When the two boys were in fourth grade, Clint’s father, a superintendent for the Illinois Central Railroad, was transferred to Jackson, Tennessee, the first of six transfers between that time and his final transfer to Vicksburg, Mississippi, when Clint was in ninth grade and where he would graduate from high school.  (Gad!  Listening to Proust has elongated my sentences in a spectacular way).

I need to get back to the road trip, but there is more vital background to be laid down before I can do that.  I’ll try to give you the short version.  After all those years of separation, Clint and Prentiss found themselves in the same Freshman class at Tulane Medical School and, and both married with children, went through medical school together but took different paths in residency.  Clint did his undergraduate work at LSU, and he chose to go into urology and returned to LSU to complete his residency in New Orleans at Charity Hospital.  Prentiss went to the University of Miami and pursued his residency in cardiovascular surgery.  Stay with me.  By 1995, they were both in private practice, Clint in Macon, Georgia and Prentiss in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Then, in April of 1968, both having been drafted into the Army, they found themselves once again united.  This time in Saigon at the Field Hospital, where they operated on GIs for the next 13 months.  When Clint arrived in Viet Nam, all billets for urologists in the field were taken, so he went to Saigon to do general surgery.  (When he got home in July of 1969, he had callouses on his hands from operating).  Prentiss did all of the cardiovascular surgery with the help of a couple of others, but he did more general surgery than anything else, and he and Clint worked together, mostly at night, because that was when most of the flaps occurred.  They performed the first kidney transplant in Southeast Asia, and many days, when they should have been sleeping, they drove across Saigon to the civilian hospital and operated on locals, both from South and North Vietnam  - for free.  A long term, long distance friendship came of that time in Vietnam, fed, also by the common thread that brought their lives together at three turning points in their lives.  As they got older, the two men became closer and tried to visit one another occasionally, especially after retirement.

Whew. Now back to the road trip.

I am convinced in my heart that Clint, though actively dying at the time, kept himself alive to go to his 50th Medical School Reunion in New Orleans last May and to come to Baton Rouge to see Prentiss, who was too ill to attend.  I won’t go into his troubles; this is already out of control. 

I’m in Baton Rouge, dogs and tow but boarded because of the Smith’s cats.  We are having drinks and talking about Clint, sharing memories and our love for that exceptional human being.  He can hardly walk, and Prentiss just brought me, unbidden, a glass of Chardonnay.  (It’s 3:30 PM over here).  I thanked him sweetly.  He is better but still very sick.  Susan reminds me of me when Clint was dying.  Prentiss is an alcoholic, as was Clint, and she is as patient with him as I came to be with The Love of My Life.  We lost our battles with the alcoholism and learned to choose to be happy (as much as is possible when your husband is killing himself) rather than be right.

This could go on for days, so I’ll give it a rest and pick up another day.