Raw unedited excerpt from the upcoming book Viking Funeral, about the unauthorized untimely death of Dave Linane. As always I appreciate your comments and shared stories of your loved ones lost. If you are new to this blog consider clicking on the link About Dave above to figure out what in the hell is going on. We are 20 something chapters into the book at this point. Scroll down to the beginning or to catch up. XO M
It was early December in 2004, my husband appeared in the restaurant where I was having lunch with a friend. He was so darling. He did such things like magically ‘ran into me’ at the grocery store when I was shopping because he knew I was there on my way home from work. Only this time, he looked different. As he approached our table he said, “We need to go, your dad is in the hospital.” My family had called me but the restaurant was so loud that I hadn’t heard my phone ring in my bag way down on the floor between my feet. My husband knew where I was meeting my friend, left work, drove 20 miles to retrieve me. I looked at my friend, as surprised by his announcement as I. She took care of the bill and I grabbed my purse. My husband drove the two of us to the hospital as I listened to all the missed messages on my phone.
My dad had had a stroke. He was sitting on the bed in the E.R. and seemed fine by the time we got there. He was being kept for observation. He had apparently experienced a stroke upon lifting Dave that morning when he put him in his wheelchair. My dad basically deadlifted 220 pounds every time he put Dave in his chair. On this day my dad was in his 71st year of life, again, deadlifting 220 pounds, he stood up picking Dave up under his arms from his bed to an almost standing position. For a fluid moment, Dave was face-to-face with my dad before being placed in his wheelchair. This time, he placed Dave in his wheelchair, squatted down to make an adjustment to Dave’s catheter tube and keeled over. For reference, Dave’s friend Jim Downs helped put Dave back in bed once, a much easier task than putting him in his wheelchair by the way. Jim described it has the hardest physical thing he had ever done. And Jim was not a small guy and twenty years younger than my dad. It was a physically demanding task.
My dad returned home at almost 99% of normal operating capacity. I felt so grateful, relieved to have him at my house enjoying brunch on Christmas with our extended family. He seemed so healthy. Really, almost as good as new. He obviously had cheated death with this first shot across the bow of his mortality. He, the larger than life statuesque icon of male physicality of our lives. The healthiest man any of us has ever known could not possibly be on a path to decline. But he was. A very short path. Long walk off a short pier comes to mind when I think of how little time he had left. It’s funny if you knew that he used to jump off the Newport Beach pier all the time when he was younger. Probably the most illegal thing he had ever repeatedly done other than maybe speeding just a little back when the speed limit was 55.
In January he had another stroke. This time his speech was affected. He was in the hospital a few days and returned home with his physical abilities but could not pronounce all words correctly and in some cases could not find the words to bring to his lips at all. He was frustrated because he so loved to talk. I made big flashcards with funny words on them. He would mouth the words softly, some of the sounds were wrong but I knew he understood by the way he acknowledged each flashcard by acting out gestures. I showed him a card that said ‘SEXY’ he smiled coyly and batted his eyelashes on his brilliant light blue eyes. I laughed. He laughed. I was relieved. He would be fine. Fine except for some weird little things like attempting to brush his teeth… with a comb. He was in the right room, in front of the mirror over the sink, just not the right tools. So close. He refused help when my mom tried to stop him. So other than peculiar things like that, he was mostly fine.
His blood was clotting. He had Multiple Myeloma. He had known for a while but didn’t tell my mom, couldn’t tell my mom, it’s like me worrying about worrying her by coming home with a skinned knee or bleeding head wound but way worse on every level. I understood his logic. A few weeks later he was scheduled for a procedure to place a mesh device in his lungs to keep blood clots from entering them. He remained in the hospital from late January until mid-April the day that proved nothing was certain except death and taxes.
In the meantime at home, my mom was dealing with another challenge, figuring out where to start with regard to hiring people for the first time to help her care for Dave. His daily care, bathing him, changing his sheets, dressing him, getting him into his wheelchair required at least two people. You have to be diligent when you care for paralyzed people because they can get bed sores if you are not careful with everything concerning their skin, their clothing, bedding, a fold can rub their skin the wrong way and tear them up in no time. Paralyzed people also, in Dave’s case use a catheter to eliminate urine. Catheters are a terrible source of infection and injury and ultimately caused my father’s mortal sepsis. A catheter injury occurred when the new people who were hired to help Dave were transferring him from his wheelchair to his bed and oddly enough Dave’s catheter temporarily landed him in the hospital at the same time as my dad that January. Due to different insurance policies, they were inconveniently treated in different hospitals.
My dad was in Kaiser Hospital Fontana and Dave was in Saint Bernadine’s in San Bernardino. When you factor in traffic and parking, room to room, the two were about an hour apart. My dad had declined to a state where he was unable to feed himself so my sister Anne took him breakfast, Linda or my niece Jaclyn drove my mom to feed him lunch and after work, I took him dinner. In the meantime, Dave was in the other hospital and still paralyzed…also unable to feed himself. Besides my mom having to show the staff certain caregiving tactics that they were unaware of with regard to paralyzed individuals; Dave simply could not eat the crappy hospital food. He is not that picky of a guy, it is just that hospital food is THAT bad. Everyone knows that, right? We coordinated efforts to figure out who could get Dave his favorite burrito and at what time. Everyone pitched in. Brian, his wife Sharon, Linda had come from Idaho, Scott from Arizona, my mom, Anne, and probably other friends, or I picked up his favorite take-out Mexican food, fed and visited with him over the course of the days that he spent in the hospital.
Sleep apnea and other sleep disturbances run in our family. I have had a sleep disturbance from birth and had read everything sleep-related I could get my hands on at that time. A lifetime of sleep deprivation will make an avid researcher out of you. I recognized the signs of sleep apnea in Dave long ago. Based on the time his lights were turned off at night and when he woke, he should have had enough sleep. Yet, he dozed off and on during the day when home in bed and sometimes in his wheelchair when outside. His breathing would be quiet for an uncomfortably long period of time and woke often with a loud snort or a gasping breath. All common signs of apnea. I talked to him about it many times over the years but his response was always emphatically against the idea of having to wear a Continuous Positive Air Pressure (CPAP) mask what he described as having that creature from Alien on his face implanting an alien baby in his chest while he slept, no thank you. He thought he would feel suffocated. Obviously, he would not be able to remove it himself. I understood.
When he was in the hospital he was hooked up to all the monitors you would expect, blood pressure cuff, a heart rate, and oxygen monitor. The first night the monitors kept alerting the staff with loud beeping that he was not breathing, that his heart had stopped. This is what happens when you have apnea. When your breathing stops more than 30 times an hour, your heart may stop and then start again when your body takes another breath. However, this was in the early days of sleep apnea awareness and instead of considering a simple sleep study, a cardiologist was brought in STAT.
The cardiologist took one look at the data from the machine and stated that Dave needed an implantable cardiac defibrillator (ICD), a small medical device inserted underneath the muscles of his chest with a wire leading through his ribs to his heart which would basically shock his heart if ever it stopped. Dave asked us to hear the doctor explain what was going on and help him with making the decision about his care. Us, meaning Brian and Sharon, Anne and I were there. I immediately began raising questions about sleep apnea. The Dr. made ZERO eye contact with me. I was the only person in the room asking questions. The doctor completely ignored me, only keeping eye contact with Dave.
The Dr. had a print out that showed how many times an hour Dave’s heart was stopping. I knew that when respiration stopped enough times your heart would stop too. My husband had been diagnosed with sleep apnea and used a CPAP. I had had a sleep study myself. I could not believe this doctor was so unaware of sleep apnea and unwilling to at least let Dave try a CPAP to see if it helped him. The Dr. was completely dismissive of my suggestion of a sleep study and strangely determined to install this new medical device regardless of my questions. I may as well have been invisible.
I asked, “How long will the device last.” The doctor said, “It will keep his heart going forever.” I couldn’t help but question “Well, forever? I mean what about when his heart naturally is ready to not keep going?” The Doctor said, “We will deal with that when the time comes.” I was so mad. I knew he didn’t need this stupid device implanted in his chest. I had more questions but realized my concerns were pointless. Didn’t it make sense to simply keep him breathing? How does one actually rest when being continually shocked all night compared to just being force-fed a steady stream of air? Shock therapy Vs blow-dried claustrophobia, tough choice.
After the Dr. left the room, the discussion began. Everyone else heard the words “his heart stopped” and wanted to, “Just do what the Doctor advised.” and have the device implanted. The consensus of everyone but me in the room was that he should have the surgery.
I remained after everyone else left. Dave gently conveyed that he really appreciated my input but was consistent in his feelings about the idea of having the mask on his face. I didn’t argue because I knew how he had felt about the movie Alien and a CPAP for a long time and he had made up his mind.
Within a month after Dave had his device implanted there was an expose on 60 Minutes about Doctor’s implanting these devices unnecessarily in patients in trade for significant kickbacks from the manufacturer of the device for doing so. Drs. were basically scaring patients into having surgery for their own personal benefit. I was shouting at the TV like an old man with my trousers pulled all the way up to my ribs, completely convinced this is why my questions were so rudely dismissed. I never said anything to Dave about it because there was nothing to be done. Of course, my feelings were then and are still nothing more than anecdotal conjecture.
Weird small world conjecture coincidence, A few years after Dave was gone, we had unpleasant encountered with who I am pretty sure was the widow of that Doctor, (who ironically died about the same time as Dave). Her awful, off-leash dog, rudely tried to eat our five-year-old grandson while we were out for a walk. From fragments of details I learned through the proverbial grapevine after Dave’s death I connected the dots. I may be wrong but here are the dots: 1) Dave is dead, 2) the defibrillator did not in my interpretation keep his heart quote beating forever unquote and 3) that dog was awful. Dots connected.
From that hospital stay forward, the ICD would be monitored magically by phone and only Dave’s regular doctor would change his internal catheter. Dave returned home within a few days having recovered from both the renal infection and whatnot from the bullshit device jammed into his chest. Our dad never returned home.