Many of you who read my column know of my travels around the world, but for the past three months I was on a different kind of journey — seeing my husband Stu close to death and helping him to slowly but steadily recover.
This is a love story, dedicated to all the staff of St. Francis Hospital and at the NSLIJ Glen Cove Hospital Rehab Center.
It all started with a bacterial infection attacking first his lungs, then his kidneys, beginning the day after my birthday in early March.
We had just had a wonderful Saturday night dinner at one of his favorite restaurants, La Marmite, serving a classic French menu with old world service. John Buran and his wife Denise, and Bill Holiber and his wife Debra, were helping me celebrate my birthday. John had even presented me with a bouquet of long-stemmed golden yellow roses.
I noticed Stu didn’t eat his main course so I had it wrapped up. By the morning he had developed a fever and was disoriented; since it was Sunday we decided to go to his former “home away from home,” St. Francis Hospital. For 30 years Stu was a nephrologist in the hospital’s emergency room helping patients with kidney disease, so many of the nurses and doctors knew him.
He was having a hard time breathing and they decided to keep him overnight. We found out he had pneumonia. His breathing got more and more labored over the next days. I was by his side but left to go to the wake of my dear friend Dan Murphy, who had shockingly died of a fast-spreading cancer. While I was away the doctors decided to put in a breathing tube. I raced back to the hospital because they were also going to put him into a medically-induced coma to relieve his suffering from the tracheotomy. The curtain around his bed in the ICU was pulled so no one except staff was to be in the room, but I pushed my way in to tell him I loved him before he went “under.”
It would be many weeks before he healed enough to have the tube removed.
During those weeks I had a Reiki specialist come in to aid in his healing. When I mentioned it to my friend Judy Limpert, she shared that she had become a Reiki master. She kindly offered to come to the hospital and do her “magic.”
I kept telling Stu I would kill him if he didn’t get better . . .I needed him home!
The weeks passed slowly while his brilliant doctor — and cousin — Marc Yunis and every specialist from the infectious disease team, the gastroenterologists who inserted his feeding tube, the surgeons who inserted the portals for his dialysis and his heart doctor, Andrew Berke, were all part of his challenging care. With the help of the talented, caring nurses in the ICU he slowly improved. St. Francis became my home away from home.
The caring concern of the staff still brings tears to my eyes.
This team pulled him back from the brink of death.
When he was finally better we were off to the NSLIJ Glen Cove Hospital Rehab Center.
Here too there was a wonderful team, under the leadership of executive director Dennis Connors, but somehow Stu got a fever that they feared might have affected his heart, so it was back to St. Francis again.
They did their “magic” again and finally — finally — I got to take Stu home.
I owe a debt of gratitude to Dr. Jack Soterakis, VP of medical affairs, and Dr. Alan Guerci, president and CEO, who oversaw and created the talented team of professionals who brought my husband back to life at St. Francis and to the wonderful Paul Barry, director of public affairs, who made my stay bearable.
The visits and calls from my children and Stu’s, as well as a few dear friends helped me keep my sanity. I am forever in their debt. Now onto the road to recovery.