Just 30 minutes
I woke up on the morning of July 30th and I tried to eat, as soon as the food touched my lips I became completely uninterested in it. A call came in about 8:30 from the hospital, they said they wanted to update me, but everything they said sounded like nothing had changed. They said they would call me back. I received the next call about 10:30 am, this time they said that they wanted me to come in. I explained that they told me I wouldn't be allowed back in because I had been exposed to him, and he had tested positive for COVID. Of course, I wanted to go, but would they stop me at the door? They said they would have to call me back. I think it was about 11:30 when I got the next call. This call was not the nurse, it was the doctor, he began to explain. I headed outside because I didn't want the kids to overhear my conversation. While I was in the front yard he explained to me that Mark's heart stopped again that morning, that they had worked on getting it to restart for 4 hours. They were not successful, technically it was still beating, it was just an irregular rhythm. But oxygen was not reaching his brain, his brain had been deprived for too long, it would not be viable. I responded "Yesterday they said he had a 30-40% chance of recovery, what are you saying the chance is now?" He answered me "There is between a 3-5% chance we could return his heart to a normal rhythm, even if that happened, the chance that his brain would regain any viable activity is less than 1%" I lost it right there in the front yard, I collapsed and let out a loud bellowing cry. I felt that they had ripped my heart out with Mark's. By that time all of the kids had found me in the yard, they asked me what was wrong. All I could respond is that we needed to figure out how to say goodbye to Daddy. Aaliyah screamed and Amaya ran. A few minutes later Mark's best friend Nate showed up at our house with lunch. I look back and think how awful it must have been for him, to walk in as the news was this fresh, to learn about his friend's death in the midst of my unharnessed terror. But Nate held it together, he hugged me and let me scream and cry, he videoed our family goodbye and he even agreed to stay with the kids until my family could get there.
They decided to allow me to come to the hospital to say my goodbyes before he was taken off the life support machines. My mom showed up to drive me, and I collapsed on the ground against the garage door almost hyperventilating, because how do you go to the hospital to unplug your perfect, healthy, strong, beautiful husband from life support? I knew on the way that they were only allowing me to be in the room for 30 minutes, and that I had to be alone. 30 minutes would never be long enough to say goodbye to my husband, much less say goodbyes for our children, or anyone else. I couldn't even think of what I could say to him.
We arrived at the hospital, they let us upstairs and when I went into the unit they started putting Protective Equipment on me. They put me in a gown, a mask, a face shield. I asked "Is this all necessary? I was with him yesterday morning, if I was going to be exposed, I already have been." They told me it was and put gloves on my hands. I said, "No, I don't want these, I need to be able to touch my skin to his skin." Again, I was told no. I remember I told them "humans must not have made these rules, because this is no way to say goodbye to my husband." The response was "We are already breaking the rules for you." I thought to myself about how Mark would have told me to be nice, that these people were only doing their job, that they don't make the rules. I entered the room, I stood by his bedside. I touched him, he was cold. I felt for a heartbeat, there wasn't one. I knew he was still alive because his chest was rising, his eyes had tears coming from them. I reached for his hand, and I apologized. I told Mark how sorry I was that I didn't answer my phone, that I wasn't home, that I didn't force myself into the living room, demand my way into his isolation room, be able to whisper in his ear that I was there with him, that I wanted him to fight, that I needed him, that I loved him. I showed him the pictures the kids drew, and I played the video we made. I cried and I fought the urge to climb into the bed next to him, to rip off all of the PPE and touch him like a normal human experience should be. Then I prayed, I prayed that if God had not chosen to heal Mark that He would meet him at the gates of heaven and welcome Him with open arms, that He would provide him the new, restored, heavenly body that has been promised. I asked God to tell him how much I love him, that he was the best husband I ever could have asked for, and that I was so proud to be his wife. To tell him that I thought he was incredible, and smart and strong and that I wish I would have told him more often. Then I promised Mark that I would take care of the kids, that I would protect them, and that I would see him again. The doctor came in and asked me if I wanted to use all 30 minutes or if I wanted to be in the room when the disconnected him. I was shocked that he could have even thought I would let my husband die alone. Of course, I wanted to stay with him. He asked if I was ready, and I was not, but I would never be ready. I had him explain it to me again, that my husband was brain dead, that even if his heart was restarted that he would be in a vegetative state. I told the doctor that disconnecting his life support was the only option because Mark had always made me promise never to put him in a nursing home. They started disconnecting him, as I held his hand. When his heart officially stopped trying to beat I walked out of the room, and they gave me a card with a phone number to have the funeral home call to pick up his body.