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Sunday, February 12, 2012

Good-Bye To A Good Woman

Today Karen Erskine lost her fight with her new heart.  I am saddened to a degree that only happens with good friends or distant family.   I had worked with her and enjoyed her company. She was one of the kindest women I had ever met.  She was also a great mother.  I know this because I've worked with her son and saw what wonderful care he took of her since she grew ill some months back.  He was the one who took care of all of the minutiae that comes with someone being critically ill in the hospital and then put on a donor waiting list.  At the same time he dealt with his younger half-brother who lost his father at the same time Karen entered the hospital.  To be blunt, he's been dealing with a metric tonne assload of shit.  How he's kept it all together and still making it in to work most days amazed me.

Karen had a bad heart valve.  Before Christmas she became very ill and had to be hospitalized.  It was at that time they discovered she could not undergo a valve replacement and would need a heart transplant.  We all knew that some tragedy for someone else would have to come about for her life to be saved.  About a month ago, a donor heart came available and she underwent the surgery.  It was clear, almost immediately that many of her underlying health problems should have been dealt with and she has been critically ill ever since with the roller coaster ride of good days and bad days.  About an hour ago it became the worst day for Karen and for her two sons.

There isn't a thing I can do for either one of them to make them feel better about their loss.  The loss of such a kind woman from their lives is a hole that nothing and no one will ever be able to fill for either of them.  They had a great mom and now she is gone.  For one of them he's lost both parents in just a couple of short months. I can't even begin to imagine his pain and won't pretend I can.

Now, I would like to point out something that not many people would do at this point.  I am going to point out the importance of donating you organs if at all possible.  I was planned on being an organ donor before I developed diabetes and put me out of the running.  Many would look at Karen's case and think what a waste.  On it's face it would appear exactly that way.  However, it isn't.  Karen has so many problems that the new heart kind of exacerbated them all, and then she got pneumonia in a split second and things cascaded downhill in an avalanche no one could stop.  If not for the nosocomial pneumonia infection, I firmly believe that she would have made a remarkable comeback.  They were making headway on many of her underlying health problems.  She had turned a very important corner.  In fact, we had been laughing about it when Brian received that phone call pulling him back to the hospital.

Organ donation is important.  Karen showed me that even though I thought I knew it.  It gave me hope that the world would have such a kind, giving woman around a little longer.  I really envied her relationship with her sons.  It showed how lacking I must have been as a mother. Brian regularly got his mother a bite of lunch, looked in on her, and did the things that loving sons do for loving mothers.  Honestly, it was wonderful to watch.  There are so many times we think that things like that don't exist anymore, and then I would see them and my faith would be restored.  Her transplant gave all who knew her such hope that such demonstration would continue.  We are all heart broken that it was so short a demonstration.

Please sign your driver's license to become a donor.  Speak about your wishes to your family members, make sure your wishes will be carried out. I've seen it, often, family members carrying out their own small-minded stingy wishes rather than that of the person they claim to know and love. Since I cannot donate my organs, I have decided to donate my body to a medical school.  Med students must dissect a human body to learn more about it and at that point, I'm dead, I don't give a flying you know what on a rolling donut about my body.  After they've learned all they can from my body, I then want it cremated and my ashes spread out in an undisclosed place in the Tetons where I grew up.  I pray my wishes are carried out.  Because I will find a way to haunt anyone who sticks their antiquated, addle-pated, small minded superstitions of death on my corpse.

Karen will be missed by more than we could possibly know, but to Brian, who will miss her most, Bravo for such care and devotion as you showed her.  It shows how wonderfully she raised you that you would put aside so much to do it.

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