The Dream Changed a Little… Grampa Died (Part One)

My last post told how we were going to make plans to move to my grandparents farm in Sevierville. Sadly, my grandfather, Thomas J. Hall,  passed away on Sunday, February 26th, 2012 at 8:12 p.m. I think it would be therapeutic for me to blog about what happened.

On that Sunday we had packed up a few extraneous items for our home and were going to store them up at their house in preparation for putting our house up for sale. We had planned to get there around noon, but that changed when a friend of mine wanted to come over and visit. As soon as she left, we headed up there. We stopped at Krystal’s in Seymour.. a random detail, I know, but it sticks out in my head. I don’t know exactly what time we pulled in the driveway near the barn, but my grandfather’s truck was already there and he was in the barn attempting to move some hay. We stopped and my husband went to help him while my daughter and I wandered through the barn looking at it and making plans. She and I decided to walk up to the hill where our house would go. Grampa didn’t seem to want to go and it struck me he must not be feeling well. I’m so glad I gave him a hug when I saw him.

We came back down and got in our car, with Grampa following in his truck to go up to their house. My husband said, “Grampa was spitting up/vomiting a little.” I said, “What?” I really couldn’t grasp that because I’ve never known my grandfather to vomit in my entire lifetime. My husband said well, he says he feels a bit mucousy from allergies maybe. This also didn’t sound like him and I actually worried a bit that he had caught some stomach virus that was raging around town. We drove up to their house and got out and began unloading our packed items into their garage. I noticed Grampa wasn’t eagerly running to get boxes. Then he began clearing his throat a lot and vomiting. At this point I became extremely concerned, especially knowing that vomiting can be a sign of a heart attack.

We had him sit down once he stopped vomiting and got the blood pressure cuff. It was 250/160!!! I said go get aspiring NOW! My daughter ran for it. We gave him some and kept taking his B/P to see if it would come down. It did immediately begin coming down… but still not what you would call good numbers. He has suffered his whole life with a slow heart beat, down in the 40’s sometimes and usually had low to normal blood pressure and a pulse rate. I had him lay on his left side and kept asking him questions and he kept refusing an ambulance, but then he finally said he had been having some pressure in his chest. That was it, I called 911. The ambulance was actually driving past the property and they were up to the house in 3 minutes from the time of the call.

The paramedics were so nice — they put an EKG on him and said, yes you are having a heart attack but it looks like we’ve caught it. They asked where to go and I said Fort Sanders Regional so long as it wasn’t a flat out emergency and we had to go to Sevierville — they said if it was bad that Sevierville would send him back to Regional anyway. I asked if I could ride in the ambulance and they said yes. The whole way there, Grampa was doing well and I heard them give him Nitro, start an i.v., give him Zofran, etc. At some point I learned our car had a flat tire and that my husband, grandmother, and daughter were following in Grampa’s truck.

We arrived at the E.R. and the doctor looked at the heart tracings and said how great the medics were at stabilizing him. I went off to register him and came back to find he was doing what seemed to be quite well. They fussed at him about moving the hay and I was standing by him holding his hand and I said, “No more doing the horses.” Grampa said, “Who will do them?”. I said, “We will.” He got tears in his eyes and said, “What will I do if I can’t work? Just sit around?”. I said, “I need you to stay around so I can move up there and you can be with me.” Another doctor came in and I turned around and started bawling. A sweet nurse came over and held me and reassured me that we had gotten there in time and praised the paramedics and my giving him aspirin and knowing the symptoms of a heart attack. The doctor told us we needed to get him up to the catheter lab to find the blockage and repair it. I asked if they could wait just a minute because his wife had arrived and just then in came Derek, Gran, and Andin. We all got to tell him we loved him and we would see him soon. He was quite relaxed and happy as they took him out the door and Gran said, “Don’t you die, Tom Hall!”

We went up to the ICU waiting room and were told how it worked about the recliners for sleeping, etc. The employee who was there was fantastic and very soothing. After a bit, maybe 7:00 ish, she came out and told us he was doing well they didn’t think he would even go to ICU or CCU but into what is called a step down room. Whew! I called Andin’s dad to see if he could come get her so she could go to his house for school the next day. Derek was going to leave and get AAA to repair our flat tire. Gran and I sat there for another hour… or a bit longer and I started feeling really anxious. I got up and paced. Gran decided to go to the bathroom.. it was maybe a bit after 8:30. A woman from the cath lab came in and asked for us. I said, “Here we are but my gran is in the bathroom.” She said she would wait and sat down. I was afraid to ask anything. Gran came back and the woman told us the doctor would talk to us now. We got up and she said bring our things.. this didn’t sound right to me because we had been told we would be staying in the recliners or in his room when he got to one.

The walk to where she was taking us was awful. She tried chatting with Gran, but I kept thinking this isn’t right, something is wrong. We went through some double doors and she began to put us in a little conference room. I lost it then. I looked at her and slightly shook my head and she shook her head back. She closed the door and I stared at my Gran wondering if I should warn her. She looked so happy to find out how he was doing and to maybe see him soon. I said, Gran.. something isn’t right. We stared at each other with sick dread. She said do you think he died?! I said I do.. but maybe I’m wrong, maybe I’m wrong… but I knew I wasn’t. The woman came back in and said the doctor was on his way but we were too distraught and begged to know. She said he had died. She held Gran and I stood there and shook uncontrollably. I called Derek and sobbed” You have to come back RIGHT NOW.”

The doctor came in and was so nice.. and looked truly upset. He said he never in a million years thought he would be standing here telling us this — that he thought we not only had caught it in time, but that he could find the blockage and repair it. He said the veins and arteries were just too far gone and that Grampa had a massive acute onset heart attack and that was it. A nurse came in, too, and told me that Grampa was joking and cutting up with her and then it just happened — that there was no worry or suffering for him. It was instant and nothing they did to bring him back worked.

(to be continued)

3 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Diane on March 7, 2012 at 9:40 pm

    Thank you for sharing. I truly feel that writing down our experiences and memories of the person we lost helps us heal. I hope this is true for you also. I can “hear” Aunt Donna saying, “Don’t you die, Tom Hall.” Just want to hug you both. Brings my tears, but this is healing too.


  2. I’m in awe that you were so fortunate to have been right there to support both of them and be able to show your grandfather how much he’s loved right before his passing.


  3. Posted by cathi on March 8, 2012 at 7:17 pm

    Thank you for sharing this. Wow. That WAS sudden! Hugs to you again…and again…


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