Two years ago last night, about three minutes before I went on the air, I got a call from neighbors of my mom up in Pennsylvania. They told me that my mom had called them about 15 minutes earlier because she had pains in her head and she was scared.
The neighbors drove over to mom's house and saw mom's car in the driveway, but when they went to the front door, there was no answer.
They made entry into the house and found my mom on the bathroom floor, exhibiting the signs of a stroke. They called an ambulance and then called me.
It was the night of the Kyle Rittenhouse NOT GUILTY verdicts from the Black Lives Matter/ANTIFA riots in Wisconsin, where Rittenhouse had shot rioters who attacked him. I had intended to cover that on the radio show, but given what I was told by my mom's neighbors, I had to ditch the show and drive the 150 or so miles up my mom's house and to the hospital where she was being taken.
My son and I jumped in my pick-up truck and high-tailed-it the 150 or so miles to GEISINGER/CMC in Scranton, PA, where mom had been taken.
I remember when we walked in and I told the desk who I was and who I was there to see. The person at the desk looked up my mom's name and told me "The Chaplain will be down to see you shortly."
I remember thinking "Oh shit. The chaplain? That means my mother has died!" But she hadn't died.
The Chaplain came down - a woman - and I remember that pissed me off. To me, a "Chaplain" is always a man.
Anyway, the Chaplain told me my mom was in grave condition and she was taking me to speak with the neuro-surgeons.
I recall one of the Doctor's names, Dr. Bethel. He was really nice. He told me that mom was still alive, but they had to insert a respirator because she stopped breathing.
He told me he was going to show me some MRI images of my mom's brain; that everything that appeared WHITE in color, was "blood where it wasn't supposed to be."
The first image was a top-down look, taken from above my mom's skull. Our brains have a sort of crease along the top, center, and her crease was FILLED with white. Some oozing down the left side of her brain.
The second image was taken of the side of her skull, about ear level from the left and in the rear of her skull, inside the brain stem, was more white.
Doc said that the blood, because it is liquid, cannot be compressed. Similarly, the skull, which is bone, won't compress. So the only thing inside that COULD compress from the leaking blood, was her brain. And as the brain was compressed from the ongoing leaks, the blood flow to that compressed tissue was being cut off and that additional tissue was dying from lack of blood flow.
I asked if they could do surgery to stitch-closed the leak and he said "no." I asked, very puzzled, "why not?"
He explained that it wasn't a vein or artery that was leaking, it was my mom's Gray Matter; the brain tissue itself! It was breaking down and there was nothing to stitch. If they tried to stich the leaking area, they would have had to stitch more gray matter and that would just do more brain damage.
He told me that even if my mom survived such massive surgery, she would be paralyzed forever; unable to ever get out of bed. Her breathing would never return and she would have to be on a ventilator forever. And because she would have a ventilator, she would not be able to eat, so she would need a feeding tube forever.
I remember thinking "OMG. This is a IMPOSSIBLE situation. This can't be fixed."
I also remember thinking, "what kind of a life would she have, bed-ridden, unable to breathe on her own, unable to eat?" To me, THAT is not "living." At best, it is merely "existing" and what kind of existence would it be?
We went in to see her and she wasn't responsive to __any__ stimuli at all. Nothing. Gone.
The other neurosurgeon in the room with us agreed there was absolutely no hope. One of the Doctors told me "Most people who have bleeds this bad, never even make it to the hospital."
A third Doctor told me, "You need to tell us to remove the breathing tube and let nature take it's course."
I shot back "You're telling me I should KILL my own mother? Who am I to decide who lives or who dies." He answered "We have to get out of the way and let God do what he will do."
I walked away from that one.
I was pissed. And scared.
We stayed awhile and then went home. It was very late, and my son and I were tired and devastated.
The next morning, we and the neighbors who had helped my mom, went to be with her.
At some point, the Docs came in to do more stimuli testing. No response to any of it. It was as though my mom was simply a corpse that was still breathing.
I talked to my son, to my mom's neighbors whom I have known personally for over 20 years. I spoke to my wife.
We all agreed that this was never going to get any better and that I should have the breathing tube removed. But, I said, "I can't kill my own mother."Doctor Bethel, who was nearby, stormed over to me and quite loudly and very sternly told me "You are not killing your mother. This was over the moment she hit the floor. It was already too late."
Wow. That was cold, hard, reality.
I thought about it all. So emotionally overwhelming. I talked to my family, friends, Doctors. Questioned E V E R Y T H I N G.
Finally a few hours later, I told the Docs to remove the respirator.
They administered some medicine to alleviate any panic mom may have felt. They removed the tubes.
Within seconds, her vital signs on the nearby monitor began to drop.
Each lower number caused me to feel something I'd never felt in my entire life: DOOM.
Not for mom . . . for me.
I honestly thought "I've killed my own mother. I'm gonna burn in hell forever."
I cried out "Almighty God YAHWEH, Jesus, please intervene here RIGHT NOW!" I started crying so hard.
My family must have thought I was nuts.
About a minute later, something happened; mom started breathing on her own!
Her vital signs started coming back up!
We remained there for awhile and went home later.
The next morning, we were up eating breakfast when the hospital called. Mom had passed away.
She was 78.
Later that morning, the thought occurred to me that when I cried out to God, __ I think ___ he heard me. ___I think__ he DID intervene. I think he caused my mom to start breathing again, because he knew I was blaming myself for killing her, and he took that blame away. __I think__ he caused her to start breathing so that I would know, it was HIM who called her home, and not me who killed her.
So anyway, I'm in a bit of a mental funk these past few days. It still hurts. Not as sharply as it did. But it's a wound. A scar.
. . . . and so it goes.