For almost all of the time that I have known John, he had asked me to promise, and I did, many times, not to call an ambulance if I found him unconscious.
He knows how I think, that I put great faith in modern medicine, and that with love and support and science, any medical problem can be overcome.
He also had a belief that he would be dead by age 48, the age at which his father died. He was 46 when the stroke happened, he’s 53 now.
So I had promised, many times, that I would not call an ambulance.
That Monday morning, when I couldn’t wake him, I was torn. I wanted to honour that promise.
Our daughter was telling me that we needed an ambulance and I explained. Her response: “Well I didn’t make any fucking promises.”
So the ambulance was called. I was relieved, because I know in my heart that I’d have done the same.
These promises we make are made on an intellectual level, at least so for me. At the time of making those promises, I really believed I’d stick to them, and perhaps I would have if our daughter hadn’t been there. I really don’t know.
I have asked John many, many times, if I did the right thing. He always says yes.
I wonder though, what our lives would have been like if the ambulance hadn’t been called.
I certainly wouldn’t have spent a year next to him, unemployed, because I wouldn’t leave his side.
I wouldn’t be watching him live a half-life.
Our children would only have a memory of him as a strong, loving man who looked after all whose he loved and could be counted on, no matter what.
Instead they now live with the reality of their once huge father living in a nursing home and dependent upon strangers for his daily needs.
So their memory of their father will always be coloured by what has happened in the last (almost) seven years, the ongoing pain of seeing him completely dependent upon others, with limited communication and cognition.
As their mother, I wish that I hadn’t woken that morning, or that I’d had the strength to not call that ambulance. I’d have saved them so much pain.
I know though, that I’d have broken that promise, even if I’d been on my own, because of my faith in medical science and because I believe, still, that where there’s life, there’s hope.
And that old bastard just kept on breathing!
I’ve asked John, so many, many times, “Did I do the right thing, calling the ambulance?”.
He always says yes.
And I always wonder, knowing him, if he’s trying to make me feel better.