SUNY Downstate College of Medicine, MS1
May 24, 2020
Staten Island, New York
I rushed to my grandparents' house after 3 weeks of leaving them in social isolation in an attempt to prevent exposing them to coronavirus. After weeks of insisting everything was fine, my grandma finally admitted my grandpa had stopped eating and he was too weak to check his blood pressure or take his medications. He was falling a lot, and complained his hips were giving out from underneath him. I found him sitting at the dining table, relieved to be reunited and to see him sitting upright. As I proceeded to check his vital signs, his arms were heavy and he could barely remove his layers of clothing for me to put on the blood pressure cuff. He had a fever of 100.7F. I hurriedly gave him some Tylenol and spooned Pedialyte into his mouth, for his own hands shook too much to hold a cup. His lung sounds were clear and he denied having a cough or trouble breathing. I was so relieved. The former pediatric nurse in me worried he would get more dehydrated throughout the night. It took me three tries to insert a 24 gauge catheter in his hand to start gentle IV hydration.
The next day I got my hands on a pulse oximeter and my heart sank to see my grandpa was only satting 87%. I called my sister, who was a medical resident in Texas. She began making phone calls to see which hospital I should take him to. I spoke with my grandpa's doctor via FaceTime to ask if I could get an oxygen concentrator at home, and he insisted I had no choice but to take my grandpa to the hospital if I wanted to give him the best chance at recovery from what he believed to be a very serious case of covid19. I burst into tears, then began packing a bag for my grandpa, who was clutching his head in fear and panic. My dad arrived to help me dress my grandpa and we carried him down the stairs and to the car together. As my dad drove, I watched the pulse ox waver between 84-87%. My grandpa was quiet the whole time. As we approached the ER entrance, my grandpa hesitated and so I sat on a nearby bench with him. He asked if he could come back home with me after they did the testing they needed to do. My heart broke, knowing he would likely be admitted with little chance of coming back home. We shuffled together into triage, me holding him up by his pants and him hanging onto me tightly. He sank into a wheelchair as the nurse checked his vital signs. His O2 sat was now 79%. She quickly placed him on a nasal cannula and started to wheel him away. I stood there in panic with my heart in my throat, took a few steps, then called out: "Am I supposed to leave now?" She turned, forgetting I was there, and said, "Yes." Tears were racing down my cheeks as I handed her my grandpa's cane. I put his bag on his lap and showed him his phone. I told him not to worry, I would call him and the doctors often for updates. I still feel the warmth of his face on mine as I cherished that moment, fearing it might be our last hug.
It has been about a month and a half since he passed away. He was never intubated as he was able to maintain his oxygenation on a nasal cannula and non-rebreather. But he suffered a massive stroke on his fourth day in the hospital, which I noticed via FaceTime. He had appointed me as his healthcare proxy that same morning. A few days later, he went into atrial fibrillation. He slowly slipped into a coma as I watched him deteriorate over FaceTime. I watched him and his Cheyne-Stokes respirations, fearing what he must be feeling. His pain and suffering was my pain and suffering. The heartbreak from losing my darling, sweet grandpa to such a lonely battle will never go away.