A Struggle and a Tribute — Don’t know how to feel

On October 20th, I flew into Boston for vacation to see my brother Eddie. As I was anticipating leaving work, I received a call from him letting me know that he was back in the hospital. He had been re-admitted the night before, but was too tired to call me to let me know. When he told me this, I was upset because I had no idea why he was just letting me know of how ill he was. And I asked if he still wanted to me to come over, in case he would’ve felt that I’d be a bother. He told me he would still like for me to come and see him. So, immediately landing at Logan, I take a cab straight to MGH and visit him for a few hours. My days were spent catching up with some reading in Borders and at night having casual conversations with Eddie. I was told he would be out of the hospital just after I left and they discoverd his illness stemed from his colitis and salmonella infection. I felt relieved they discovered what the cause was and so I headed back to Chicago on the evening of October 24th. He was able to get discharged by the 25th. I called him daily to make sure he was okay, his responses seemed normal with the occassional, “I’m a bit tired, I’ll talk to you later”. Didn’t think much of it and continued on.

On November 1st, I received a call from Eddie’s cell phone. On the other end was his friend letting me know that Eddie was just sent to the ER because he passed out while in the waiting room. My oldest brother Danny quickly brought my dad to Boston the next day and went to see Eddie. Apparently he had more infections within his blood stream and that caused him to get worn out with low blood pressure. Danny and my father continued to stay with him and visit him in the hospital.

On November 8th, I received a call from Danny telling me that my mom and I need to get a flight out to Boston as soon as possible. Eddie was in need of the TIPS surgery (where they place a shunt into his liver to open a new channel for his blood to flow) immediately and it was going to be very difficult. So I go back to my place, pack whatever I could, and went to my parent’s place where we planned to take a 6am flight out of Chicago to Boston. We head straight to MGH after we land and wish Eddie luck during the procedure, though he was already pretty sedated. There were some difficult times, but fortunately he survived the surgery. My family was relieved. However, he was unable to speak because he had a breathing tube going down his throat. but was still able to nod and shake his head. On the 13th of November, I felt things were going in the right direction and went home to Chicago, while the rest of my family stayed behind.

This past Friday, November 18th, I was awakened by a call from my oldest brother Danny about how the doctors had admitted that Eddie was very ill and would only have a few days left to live. Again, I was determined to see Eddie. So I wash up, head into work and let my boss and team know what was happening, and I call a friend to drive me to the airport. Along the way I made as many calls as possible and told people to spread the word. It was a bit nerve wrecking to see if I would get a seat, since I was flying stand by, but luckily I got one. During the plane ride I was experiencing a severe headache, but I survived the ride and met up with my cousin and headed straight to the hospital once again.

Eddie had gotten worse while I was away and when I saw him laying in bed with his friends standing by him I couldn’t help but cry. He didn’t understand why I was crying and was upset at my reaction. He was still unable to speak because of the tube, but he had pulled his hand away from mine. I composed myself and spent the day talking to his many friends from high school through college and other Bostonians he met along the way.

The following days, Eddie would attempt to raise his arms while trembling, showing signs of hope that he was getting stronger. However, my family and I were told that his kidneys had been affected by his liver being damage, so he needed to be on dialysis. His blood was still infected with various bacterias, so he was under a lot of antibiotics. And his blood condition, Budd-Chiari Syndrome, which is essentially clots within the liver was not treatable at this point.

Yesterday afternoon, November 22nd, my family and I met with the doctors and they conveyed what we had suspected in the back of our minds. Eddie will not be able to beat this. This is comparable to “the perfect storm”. Eddie needed his liver to show some signs of improvement, but it had actually gotten worse. And with all the other problems attacking him at once, he has no chance of survival. Eddie simply did not have the time left to recover. So it’s now up to us to decide on how and when to let him go. We would prefer that Eddie make this decision himself, but if he finds it difficult we will need to do it for him.

I remember thinking to myself a while back that I’ve never lost anyone remotely close to me. And I wouldn’t know, nor would I want to know, how I would handle it. And now God has shown me, but I don’t know why it has to be my brother Eddie. Eddie is the closest person to me, no one has ever come closer. I don’t know how to feel… I breakdown, as does the rest of my family, and at times I’m simply numb and try to go on because I know things need to get done. I’m typing this on his computer right now and I look around seeing his belongings knowing he will never be able to appreciate or see his things again…

He is a very ambitious and driven person of whom I admire and only want to make proud. He has accomplished and received so much for his 28 years here on Earth. I need to continue it on for him and never let him be forgotten. My ambition, my motivation, and my success will now all be in the name of my older brother Eddie. I love him so much.

I Love You Eddie

I arrived in Boston yesterday evening around 5:00pm EST, met up with my cousin at the airport, and headed straight to Massachusetts General Hospital.

Earlier in the day, around 8:00am, I awoke to a phone call from my oldest brother Danny. With a slight tremble in his voice and occassional sniffs he told me the doctors’ latest diagnosis on Eddie, “these are his last few days.” My immediate reaction was of shock and all I knew was that I needed to be out there with Eddie. So I called my cousin who works for the airline and received a stand by ticket for the next ticket out of Chicago to Boston soon after.

After speaking with my cousin, I called as many people as I could that would want to know about Eddie’s condition. The first two being Eddie’s friends whom I knew the number to, Phe and Aaron. Then the next few being my own friends Jessica, Charlene, Chris, and John.

By the time I made the first wave of calls and washed myself up, it was past the time I needed to go into work (9:20am). So, I got dressed and proceeded to walk over to my office. One of my two supervisors was in and the other was working from home. I wanted to tell them my situation in person as much as possible, so I set up a meeting immediately after our manager had arrived. The meeting was brief, but I was told not to be concerned about sorting out my time off and take care of my family first. Very understanding people, and I truly appreciated it.

Once I got home, I proceeded to pack my suitcase with occassional break downs here and there. But around 10:30am, I was called by the hospital to be patched into a conference call between my family and the doctors. The explanation was the same as it had been the past few weeks, “Eddie’s very ill”. Determination of an exact date (probably partially due to liability issues) was impossible, but it was apparent it wouldn’t be long. The doctors said they will continue to do all they can for him, but once the point of “all they can do” arrives, it will be up to my family and I to decide on the next steps. There wasn’t much left to be said and so the call ended.

When I finally finished packing, John was downstairs waiting to drive me to the airport. Along the way I made some additional calls to family letting them know about the situation. Thanks for the ride John. I think it was a lot more comforting for me to know that a friend was driving me to the airport rather than some random cab driver.

The wait at the airport was numbing. I sat in the terminal anticipating whether or not I would be able to get a seat. When I was finally called I boarded the plane and sat back as I grueled over my sinus headed that was imposed by the air pressure and my cold. The plane finally landed in Logan at 5:00pm EST.

Arriving at the hospital, I quickly went to Eddie’s room in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). It was the same room I left him in last week, and the same area which I had seen him in a couple of times prior in the last six months. I never wept those times, but knowing what I knew now, even with a good amount of his friends around I couldn’t hold it in any longer as I held Eddie’s hands and looked into his eyes. I composed myself as quickly as I could and told him, “I love you.”

The room was getting fairly stuffy with all the people in there, so I went out to the waiting area. Some more of Eddie’s friends were out there and we, along with my oldest brother, proceeded to talk about Eddie and ask his friends questions that only friends would know. We had a good amount of laughs, which was very therapeutic for us all.

People started to leave around 9:30pm EST and my oldest brother and I decided to spend the night. Relieving my mom of her nightly shifts that she has been doing for about two weeks straight. I only had two chairs to support me, but it was comoforting to know Eddie was right beside me. It reminded me of when we were just little kids and whenever I got scared, I’d jump into bed with him and cover my head under the covers.

For those of you who are reading this, please continue to truly pray for Eddie. At times, it feels pointless, but miracles happen everyday as Chris told me. And the power of prayer, no matter who/what you believe in, is a force that no one can comprehend nor fight against.

On my closing note. Spend as much time as you can with your family and loved ones. Never take these moments for granted. Though some of you may take my words to heart and actively show your love to your loved ones after reading my story, the intensity of your outwardly projected love will probably fade down the road. This is common, but do your best not to let it fade.