Monday, January 7, 2008

Hey Diddlehopper, Are You Watching This?

Sorry, here is yet another Ohio State post. After today, I will get back to my normal life. But on this day, more than any other role I occupy in my daily life, I am a Buckeye.

Just like I cannot help but think of my Mom on New Year's Eve, I cannot watch tonight's big game without thinking of my late brother, Dave. Yes I have brothers. We are far-flung around this half of the country, and so I do not see them a lot. But there are 4 big brothers. They were all pretty much hell-raisers. David, Mike, Spud, and Rick. (Spud is Charles, Jr. officially). In 2000, the year I met my husband, I got a call in the middle of the night. It was the type of call that seems almost dreamlike, simply because you do not believe what you hear.

My youngest brother, Dave, had collapsed. Of all of my brothers, he would have been the one least likely to have this happen. Not only because he was the youngest, but because he was always active in athletics. The healthiest of the family. Didn't smoke. Only socially drank.

It turned out that Dave had high blood pressure. He had been having headaches, and had made an appointment with the doctor to have the headaches checked out. On the morning of the appointment, he felt better, so he cancelled. Later that night is when he collapsed. His blood pressure had reached a high-enough point that it caused a massive hemmorrhage in his brainstem. The brainstem is the portion of the brain that controls our most primal functions: our reflexes, and breathing for example. Dave was not breathing on his own. When I arrived in the intensive care unit in Cincinnati, it looked as if he was merely sleeping. But as time progressed, his reflexes gradually faded. They would come in every so often and check his gag reflex, which was the one that lingered the longest. Eventually, his state became less sleep-like and it became more like he was an extension of the machines keeping him alive. With each whirr of the ventilator, his chest would rise, and then a popping sound would be heard and his chest would fall. Years later as an RT, I know what those sounds were. Valves in the machine opening and closing, etc. He was brain dead. And he was an organ donor.

Our entire family hung in the unit of that hospital, taking turns being by Dave's side. We went through the process necessary to donate his organs, which was cruel at best. The initial ruling of brain death had to be confirmed no earlier than 6 hours later to allow for the harvest of organs. I was 21. I did not have the education I have since had. I could not wrap my mind around the fact that my brother was dead, yet was still warm from the heart that was still pumping blood through his body.

At the end of the very long night, I said my goodbyes to my youngest big brother. The one who always made us laugh, who tortured the dates of his little sisters. He would drool into ashtrays to act like he was mentally retarded. As a teen managing a fast food restauraunt, he would set people up for practical jokes, like making kids mop a walk-in freezer. David could not be gone.

David, the fierce Buckeye. My whole family is about Ohio State, but Dave was the ringleader. Woody and Archie were his heroes. But he loved all of the home teams, including the Reds and the Bengals.

As I left the hospital, whizzing by the Reds' stadium at the end of a game, after saying goodbye to my brother, the fireworks exploded over Riverfront Stadium (Now the Great American Ballpark) to signal a Reds victory. It would have been about the same time David would have been in the OR, about the same time his heart had been taken to put in the chest of another, so that they may live from our loss. I couldn't help but smile. That was Dave.

So here I am on the day of the big game. And I know my big bro is watching. The consumate Buckeye.

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