Hard Times & Hope

Linda: Cumulative Losses

Episode Summary

Linda had recently suffered a major business loss followed by the death of her mother. Then her big brother went into the hospital for liver transplant surgery.

Episode Notes

Linda's Positivity playlist

 

Episode Transcription

Hard Times & Hope, episode 18

Linda: Cumulative Losses

Jule 

Hi, I'm Jule. And this is Hard Times & Hope, a place for real conversations with regular people about a real hard time. We talk about what it was, how they got through it, and something good that came from it.

Jule 

My guest today is Linda. Linda and I have been friends for about 30 years, which means I know something of the hard times she's gone through. I didn't know what Linda would choose to talk about today, but I knew that whatever it was, I would learn something new about my friend. Here we go!

Linda, thank you so much for being here today. 

Linda

Thanks. Thanks for asking me.

Jule 

Happy to, really looking forward to our conversation. What's the hard time you're going to be using for reference?

Linda

I'm going to be talking about my brother's death, three and a half years ago.

Jule 

All right. And take us, take me back there, what was happening? What caused it? What's the situation?

Linda

So I guess I want to say first that where I was at the time, was I'd had a number of losses. In the year or so before that, my business had lost a significant client, that was a big percent of my income. My mother had been really ill and had passed away in February of that year. And then, around the same time she died, my brother was diagnosed with a rare and serious, very serious form of liver cancer. So he spent a long time, I guess, six or eight months preparing for a transplant as that was the only solution for him and was very positive about it. The doctors were very positive about it, he was being seen at one of the best transplant centers in the country, and was a good candidate for it. 

And he had a number of things, he had to have some other procedures to be done to be sure he was fully healthy. And then he was like on this waiting list where they would, they would inform him that there was a liver available for him. And then finally in late September, he got a call for what seemed like a really the right donor. So down they went, he and my sister-in-law, and he underwent a 14-hour surgery by two of the leading transplant surgeons, and my sister-in-law was with him. But there was such a long lead time before it so that she had been at the hospital by the time I got there, awake for 18 or 20 hours. 

Jule

Oh, wow. 

Linda

And I wasn't even going to go.My plan was I'd go like, maybe the next day to see him when he might be conscious. And I might visit him and relieve his wife and his stepdaughters who were also there with her. And then at the last minute, I sort of got this feeling of… I think I should be there today, even while he's in surgery. And it was kind of like, well, they've been there for so long and they haven't slept. And maybe when they talk to the doctors, they'll need someone who's more alert and fresh.

Jule 

Yeah, sure. That would be helpful.

Linda

So I did, I went I showed up late in the afternoon, which was somewhere near the time they expected he'd be out of surgery. And when I got there, they were a little concerned because the last report they had was that he'd lost a lot of blood. And then soon after that, the report was he'd gotten transfusions, and it was going well, and they would finish soon. And then when they finished, they would come to get us in the intensive care waiting room because he was going to be taken directly to the ICU following the surgery, and would remain sedated for 24 hours. 

Jule

Oh, wow. 

Linda

Because of all the blood transfusions, he was very swollen. But they were, the doctors were very positive and hopeful when they came out and said he's, you know, he'll be moved soon. And we were relieved, because, you know, we were worried. So they said as soon as he’s settled into his room, and there's a few procedures that we have to do to get him settled in, then we'll come get you and you can go in and see him He won't be conscious, but you can go see him. 

And we waited and waited, and it was 45 minutes and I made a phone call because there was no one. There was no hospital staff in the waiting room where we were. Sometimes they have someone but of course, it was a Saturday night and so there were no staff on duty there. And then it had been an hour past the time they said they'd be right out. And I got concerned and we knew the room number he was going to be in. So I said, “I'm going to go, I'm going to go see if I'm going to go to the room and see if I can find out what's happening and see if they just forgot about us or something.” And my sister-in-law and her two daughters were there. And my sister-in-law said, “No, I'll go with you.” 

So, okay, so the two of us. I remember, it was like a dream. You know, it's like this moment, I'm walking down what seemed like this incredibly long, long hallway of, you know, hospital, and it was just nothing, just this long hallway. And the room was straight ahead, the door of the room was like, facing us. But we'd walked, walked and walked down this long hallway. And I could see there was like a, you know, it's an ICU. So it's all glass, there was a glass wall and a glass door. 

And as I approached, a nurse or  someone drew the curtain closed, and came out of the room and closed the door, and I just felt something wasn't right. The way she pulled the curtain slowly and the way she walked out of the room, slowly, her body language. And then she said, Can I help you? And we said, Yes. You know, we're here to see my brother, her husband. And the nurse looked at us and said, you're gonna have to talk to some physicians. I'll get one. Oh, boy, we both knew. 

And I remember I just started kind of shaking. And I looked at my sister-in-law and said, “Shall I go get the girls?” her daughters, who were down the long haul in the waiting room. And so I walked very quickly down the hall. And as I'm doing it, I'm thinking I just left her there alone standing in the hallway. And now I'm headed in the other direction. And she needs me there. And, and then, of course, as soon as I looked at them, they got up and ran with me, panicked down the hall. And by the time we got back there, the staff had put her in a, like a little conference room that was nearby. And we went in, and then we sat there for what seemed like a long time, I'm sure it was at least 10 minutes before anyone came in. I'm just waiting. And sort of, you know, wringing our hands and shaking and you know,

Jule 

Yeah. And you don't, you don't know you have a feeling, but nobody said anything for sure.

Linda

Yeah. So finally, a staff member came in, he was a nurse. He wasn't in the room with my brother when he came, when he was brought into the room. But he was speaking on behalf of the staff who were in the room. And he told us that the breathing tube, the ventilator two had come out. When they were trying to get an x-ray or routine post-surgical x-ray. They moved him slightly to get the x-ray board under his body, because it was an abdominal and chest x-ray. And with that movement, the breathing tube came out. They were not able to get it back in, which was partly because he was so inflamed, so swollen from the surgery, and all of the what's the word that…

Jule

Transfusions

Linda

Blood transfusions. And the anesthesiologist was there and came in and attempted to do that and attempted to do a tracheotomy and some other things. But in the meantime, in the rough state he was in, he quickly had a heart attack from the lack of oxygen and had passed away. 

And of course, we were in shock. And I was the only one that was kind of awake or you know, kind of I mean, they were awake from the shock. But these other three people had been there for 12 hours, my sister-in-law even longer, her daughters had come sooner. And we couldn't even cry. You know, we were just in shock. And what was amazing was, then they did nothing. He mentioned something about signing a form about releasing the body. And but he wouldn't do that right away. And he left. 

And we just sort of sat there for a while and just didn't know what to do. What are you supposed to do? And then at some point, I guess, I went out and requested from that same nurse. Could we have someone come in to help us figure out what to do? We don't even know what this form is you talked about or, you know, we could use someone to, for some support, a social worker or something. 

And they didn't have a social worker available. But they sent a chaplain, a chaplain intern, who almost said nothing he introduced himself came in and sat down. Around this conference table, big conference table with lots of chairs, the three of us and he sat down at the table with us and said, I'm a chaplain patted his pocket of his white coat, where he had some little book and said, I've got a prayer book here and be happy to say a prayer with you if you want. And, and then he said nothing. And did nothing. 

Oh, we talked with each other a little. And he said nothing. And we still felt helpless. And then I finally said, “Could you get us some water?” Because they hadn't even, you know, they hadn't even done that. And it was, I was about, I don't know, nine o'clock at night or something like that. And nobody had eaten. And, you know, I'd been there for four hours by that point. 

So he did, he brought us some water and then a little while later, one of the surgeons knocked on the door and stepped in, although she sort of barely stepped in. I remember feeling like Oh, the staff just kind of barely wanted to be in the room. They didn't want to be in the room with us. And they were saying, well, we'll let you be alone. I understand that. But we needed to be helped along the process.

Jule 

Yeah. You needed to know that someone was watching out for you, in this shift from going into surgery thinking he's getting a lifesaving transplant, to coming out having had a life ending.

Linda

So the surgeon knocked on the door and kind of stuck her head in, I'm not sure she actually stepped into the room. If she did, she was kind of in the doorway. And you could tell she was upset, like a little angry, maybe even a little edge of anger. And she said, “This should never have happened. He was fine at the end of surgery. This should never have happened. I came back because I live nearby. And I got the call. And I wanted to come back and talk to the staff because this shouldn't have happened.”

Jule 

And when she said that, then what did you think or wonder?

LInda

Well, immediately we thought some mistake was made. Something went wrong, that shouldn't have gone wrong. And she said something like, if you want to talk later, I don't know if there was some sort of invitation where I felt like I could call her later, at some point in time. But that was it. That's all she said. And she left. And we sat there a while longer, and nobody else came in. And we said wondering, well, was it an accident? What do you think happened? Maybe they pulled the tube out by? You know, how did they flip him? Did he move? Did he you know what? We didn't know, I didn't know. 

So then I went out to the desk. And it wasn't anyone I had spoken to already that I said, “Okay, we need to know what we need to do before we can leave.” And you know, people were notified. People were coming in. My sister and brother-in-law decided to come drive downtown to the hospital and be with us. Another relative on my sister-in-law’s side of the family also came in with her husband. So now there were more people in the room. And they had told us Oh, you can go in and see him if you want to. And you know, my sister-in-law said she didn't want to, but I sort of did. And one of his nieces did and my sister did. And so we asked if we could do that. 

We went in and we saw him I said something to him because I knew his biggest concern about anything happening to him was the welfare of his wife. And I just said to him, “We'll take care of her. She'll be okay.” And I told him, I loved him, and I'd miss him and still hadn't cried. And then we had to again go to the desk to say, “Okay, what do we do now? What do we do now? You said there was some form? Can we have it? What is it? Could you explain it? You know, could we? And by the way, the chaplains really have no help and we'd like him to leave because having a stranger in the room with us is not helping.” So I don't think anything happened with that. I asked him to leave eventually said thank you very much. Thank you for the water.

Jule 

You had to be so self-sufficient through all of this, getting water, getting a chaplain, asking the chaplain to leave, it's all on your shoulders.

Linda

And then so finally, they came in with the form, and the form is just to release the body and where to you know what to do about it, not like okay, we just had to sign it. So that was it. My sister-in-law, they had reserved a suite at a hotel nearby for the three of them to stay that night as they knew they might be up late and so they weren't going to drive anywhere. My sister and brother-in-law left and drove together and I drove home alone. In the meantime, contacting my neighbor saying, “Thanks for taking my dog but I think I'm going to need him Can I pick him up?” I knew they were typically late-night people and it was around midnight and I said. “You guys, if you guys are still up, can I come? Get my dog? I need him tonight.”

Jule

Yeah. And they understood.

Linda

Yeah. And he did too. Of course, he was such a comfort. So the time after that, I went through many phases of basically doing my usual at that time way of coping, which was to be the strong one, and take charge of what needed to be done, which at that point was, in a couple of days, calling the surgeon to say, “What happened, what's going on?” And of course, at that time, I spoke with her, and she said the same story, a little bit more detail, and said that she and the head of the department would be happy to speak with me together, once we could arrange that of course, their schedules and my schedule and all that. When I made the second call to try to arrange that the assistant in the department said, we won't be talking with them, you'll be talking with risk management.

Jule 

Wow, very interesting.

Linda

Yeah. Then I knew lawyers were involved already. Mm hmm. And I started searching for attorneys, just to discuss with them options and to save my sister-in-law that job. And once my sister-in-law had selected one that she was comfortable with, now, we're doing all this while we're still in this shock and grief mode. But it was all up to her as to whether she wanted to proceed. And we'd had a few meetings about it and talked about it. And we all said, Hey, he'd want there to be a just solution, he would want to be sure that the mistake didn't occur again. He was an auditor by profession.

Jule 

And he would want justice. 

Linda

Yes. And so you know, we agreed to pursue it. And then it was all up to the attorney, I found a man who was just so nice and warm. And you could tell that his goal was not to get rich as a lot of attorneys in that specialty can be, there were a few that pursued us.

Jule 

How interesting. I mean, here you are, you can't even grieve because you're working the situation. And you also have to defend yourself from people who are trying to make money off of your situation. 

Linda

Yeah. So she pursued the lawsuit and was given a very generous settlement. It didn't go to trial, it was settled out of court.

Jule 

If they settled, they didn't want to go to court.

Linda

So for me, it launched—wow, nearly a year of being somewhat incapacitated emotionally. 

Jule

How so? 

Linda

I think that sort of cumulative trauma, cumulative losses that I had experienced in a short period of time, because the loss of my mother was not a shock or surprise, but a gradual process of her needing more and more support, which I was there for. And being with her and sitting with her for hours on end, right at the end. And then when she finally passed the business losses, and then just about a year after my brother's death, I had to let my dog go. And it was it just felt like I had no foundation. I had lost, like my feet got knocked out from under me, my big brother, who, you know, being a single woman. He was like, the steady support always there. known me longer than any other human being that was still alive.

Jule 

Yeah, and you could count on him. 

Linda

Yes, at any time. Yes.

Jule 

You had business losses. Your mother passes your brother who is the rock when you need a rock passes, you'd been the rock for your mother, and then your dog, who is your comfort. 

Linda

Yeah.

Jule 

And you lost all of that.

Linda

Yeah, in about an 18-month period, I guess. So, and I'll say, this is kind of the rough part, which led to the positive part. A good, which is that I had been working for a while on my emotional health and my kind of lifelong defense mechanism of numbing myself emotionally and not feeling, which was the strength that got me through and got us through that night. 

And the short time afterwards, but as it everything sunk in, I realized that I had to let myself grieve, and it took a long time to just to experience. I had to go through that process to open myself up to it, bit by bit by bit. At the same time, I had terrible insomnia, which was, I'm sure, partly related, but I found out later, it was a physical cause that has been resolved. But that just made it worse. I was trying to work and I was trying to maintain, but I was walking around like, sleep-deprived and grieving. So it just took a really long time. But as I got some support, and as I allowed myself to grieve, I kind of woke up emotionally, I learned how to feel. And that's the gift.

Jule 

Yeah, you lost so much. And the gift in that was you learned how to feel? 

Linda

Yeah.

Jule 

How does it feel, feeling?

Linda

I mean, it's really good. I'm still, I'm still doing some work with some support to clear and integrate the original childhood wounds, which caused me to numb myself in the first place. And I've made a lot of progress. And that feels really good. And I feel more joy than I did before. Because I allow myself to feel so there's higher highs and lower lows. And I also really, deeply in my soul, understand that emotions are important and a wonderful part of life, and that they always have something to teach me. And that the only time emotions are going to really harm me is when I don't feel them, when I resist them, when I try to hold them in, when I try to be too strong or walk away from my feelings, or eat my feelings or, you know, all the many ways that we humans cope. 

Jule 

Yeah, I want to write that down. The only way my emotions will ever hurt me is when I don't feel them. 

Linda

Yeah. They'd been hurting me for a long time, because they were trapped in there, and just wanted to be acknowledged and seen and felt. And the, even the numbness just wants to be acknowledged and noticed.

Jule 

The image I get is of a house standing on a foundation and one by one things being knocked out from under you. It's like, okay, we're gonna give you some business losses. Are you gonna feel yet? No. Okay. Gone. Now. Your mom's gone. You're going to feel yet? Nope. Okay. Now your brother. Oh, now your dog, all of it. 

Linda

And your sleep. 

Jule 

And your sleep! Yeah, sleep is so essential

Linda

And then the sleeplessness kind of added to numbness in a way for a while, because it's like, I didn't have the capacity to open myself. I just was exhausted. Like, I just wasn't myself.

Jule 

If you could say something to the you back then who was going through it? What would you say?

Linda

Two things come to mind. One is, it's okay to feel. Don't be afraid. And the other one is, it's okay to get help.

Jule 

Can you say more about that one?

Linda

Yeah. So I think a part of the numbness that I had accumulated from early childhood stuff, the trauma that created my shutting down emotionally to begin with, was to become this tough, strong, independent person. Because as a little girl, that's how I that's the me I had to become to save myself from the situation that was around me. Don't feel it ,don't show you're feeling it. And succeed. Just march on, you know, get stuff done, succeed, get good grades, you know? And so it's kind of a part of this whole armor is another way to describe it. It wasn't okay to ask for help. And the learning from childhood so don't bother asking because it ain't gonna be there for it either.

Jule 

Ain't gonna be there for you, or asking is gonna get a result that's worse than not having.

Linda

Exactly. So, you know, now that I've said the armor word, I guess the overall feeling is like softening, and it's okay to soften.

Jule 

Does your body feel different to you?

Linda

Yes, I think my body is still catching up with where my emotions and my soul are, I guess, because I've had some like back issues and like stiffness and stuff. And again, it's like the back it's like holding, holding me up, holding me firm. But as that is still resolving as it resolves, I no longer feel the need to comfort myself with food. So I am becoming more fit. And more healthy. At my age, it's really a slow sludge to actually take weight off. But it is happening because I am ready in a way that I don't think I've ever been before. So I absolutely feel healthier in my body and more at home, I guess. 

Jule 

I like that at home, in your body, at home in our bodies.

Linda

Yeah. And learning that, you know, especially the lower abdomen was where the all the fear lived, that suppressed fear lived. And when that gets cleared, that's the foundation. We're talking about the house and the foundation of the house that got knocked out from under me. Well. Now I've got my own foundation back.

Jule 

Yay. Is there anything else you'd like to say about that time? Or? Because I do want to ask you, what's one of life's simple pleasures that you really enjoy? 

Linda

I don't have anything else to say about what happened. So it's music, and especially live music, but music of any kind, and also dancing and moving to music, which has been really helpful in the emotional release. And it's been a bomb throughout this whole process and continues to be and if I get a live music fix, it renews me for a long time. And if like during the pandemic, when I couldn't get that live music, then live music streams, or just listening to recorded music loud and dancing around the house is, that's, that's an essential, simple pleasure, for sure. 

Jule 

If you were going to put on a song, your first choice would be live music. But if you couldn't get to that, if you were locked up with a pandemic, and you wanted to listen to something that you knew would make you feel good, what's a song you might put on?

Linda

I don't know if I can name a song, I have a playlist called ‘Positivity.’ And I'm always adding to it. So there's 20 or 25 songs. And ‘Happy’ is on there. Oh and an Anders Osborne song, there's a few of his but one of them is ‘It's Going To Be Okay.’ I think that’s the name …is going to be all right, it's going to be okay. ‘Accentuate The Positive’ which is a good song by a lot of different people, but I happen to like Aretha Franklin's version. 

Jule 

Oh, yeah. She can sing. Are you willing to share your playlist or no?

Linda

Yeah, I can copy the list of song titles I'd be happy to share.

Jule 

Thank you for listening. That was Linda. If you'd like to see the list of songs and artists from Linda's Positivity playlist, they’re in the show notes. If you think someone might like to hear this episode, please feel free to share it. I'm Jule, host of Hard Times & Hope. My website is julekucera.com, that’s j-u-l-e-k-c-e-r-a.com. 

Take care. Take heart. See you next time.