I have wanted to write this column for months, but didn't know if I should.
Today I realized if I was writing about life in Northern Minnesota, then this is what my life is today and maybe it would help me out to write about it.

Friday's Weekend Column
Hard Choice

by James Glaser
April 23, 2004

It's an early spring day, the sun is bright, the temperature is in the 50s, and the ice is starting to move on the lake. I have been raking out the flower gardens and finding tender little shoots coming up. I have also found several tough little shoots and those are the weeds. Weeds are tough, flowers are delicate and tender.

I love this time of year. New things are growing and with the longer days of spring I seem to have more energy. I should be feeling great, but not this year. Charmaine (my Wife) is dying.

This didn't happen suddenly, we have known this was going to happen for months, really years and Charmaine started the Hospice Program about eight weeks ago, but we are both praying for a miracle. People never want to admit that the end is coming and we are no different.

Charmaine has had over a dozen stomach operations since she was a little girl and with each one the recovery time increases. Her problem is adhesions, scar tissue that forms on the inside of her body that keeps causing bowel obstructions. During the last operation she was in the hospital for almost eight months straight and she has never fully recovered.

One day after a clinic visit she told me that she was no longer going to have any more operations and more than that, she wasn't going to spend any more time in the hospital. We had been talking about this for a long time and I always told her that what ever she wanted to do, I would help her as much as I could. After all these years together I knew that Charmaine was in charge of Charmaine and all I could do is be there for her.

Charmaine has total faith in both her doctor and her surgeon, so we decided to make one more appointment with both and talk to them about her decision. That appoint was real hard and all of us had tears in our eyes. Both doctors said that they had researched everything they could for her and nothing looked good. In years past we had been to the Mayo Clinic and the University of Minnesota Hospital, so they we not telling us anything we hadn't heard before.

The surgeon told us he would operate on her again if that is what she wanted, but at this time Charmaine was down to 93 pounds and he had no idea if she would survive. Making a choice is hard when it means your life, but she had already made hers and it was to stay at home and if need be, die.

The doctor had us hooked up with hospice and a nurse comes three times a week and a lady comes and helps Charmaine bathe. Now they are bed baths.

In the past, when Charmaine's bowel would block, her stomach would fill with fluids, and the first thing they would do is put a tube down her nose to pump the fluids out. She would be dehydrated and her feet and hands would cramp up. Terrible pain. So before heading home, the surgeon put a peg in her stomach and we have a machine that allows us to pump fluids out.

They also put in a "central line" just below her collar bone so she can get medicine without an IV as her veins are in bad shape from years of getting poked. Right now she is behind me in bed and we are watching a movie.

Charmaine is starving to death, She can eat very very little. Even with pain medication she is in constant pain. This week she has had four eggs and two mashed potato patties cooked in bacon grease, that's it for seven days.

I have revamped the house and we have a hospital bed on the first floor for her as that's the floor with the bathroom. It started out with her walking in there, then we got a walker, and now I pick her up and set her in a chair with wheels and then set her on the stool. I don't know what is next, but we will handle it.

I would like to say, "Life's a bitch and then you die," but life hasn't been a bitch. Life with Charmaine has been great. I don't have it in me to write about how much she means to me, but I thought I would write about choices.

Charmaine is choosing to die. We have talked over this choice and we have cried over this choice. Every day I try my best to make her laugh at least once and I have her bed set so that see can look out at the lake and the cedar trees. Squirrels and birds look in on her from the feeders I have set up and she has been able to watch as the lake changes from bright white ice to a dark gray slush that is right now showing patches of open water that turn to blue when the sun hits them.

I have no idea of how much longer this part of our life will take, but I am cherishing every moment and it really isn't all sad and depressing, but I find that my heart is on my sleeve and almost anything, a sad song, a proud moment in a movie, or a news report about people getting killed in the war will bring tears to my eyes. Sometimes I have to walk outside and get myself together.

I held someone dieing in the war, but that was fast, other times I was able to turn the guy over to a corpsman. I loved those guys like brothers and I don't love Charmaine like a sister, no our love is all consuming. I have always told her that she is a witch and she has this spell on me. I guess this is all I will write this week.

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