If anything, I have learned that I don't want to die an alcoholic death. Hopefully, I've had enough of hell on earth, but I can't say "never" because I have a disease that tells me that I don't have one. A few years ago, I was confronted with the cold reality of untreated alcoholism. Someone close to me began drinking heavily in part to silence the punishing voice of their conscience. They had only used alcohol in moderation up to the last few years, and had been given a clean bill of health just months prior to a sudden decline. Being an alcoholic myself, I saw the progression from occasional use to excess on a daily basis. But I was unprepared for what was to come.
I received a phone call informing me of this person's admission to the SICU of a local hospital. They were suffering from severe abdominal pain, and the doctors couldn't figure out why. When I saw them, it was obvious to me that they were also experiencing symptoms of acute alcohol withdrawal. Our brief conversation on that day would turn out to be our last.
As the next days passed, the pain became so intense that a morphine induced sleep was the only way to keep them stable at all. But after a week, organ failure became the paramount concern. As the sickness progressed, kidney failure and a cardiac arrest prompted an emergency exploratory surgery. Inside, the surgeon found a mass of infection where the now liquefied pancreas used to reside. These septic remains had spread throughout the body, propagating organ failure. The surgeon cleaned as much away as he could and predicted a dismal outcome.
Two weeks after that first phone call, I was forced to make a decision as to resuscitation efforts to be utilized when the next inevitable crash occurred. Their survival would be precarious and very limited at best, with complications such as diabetes, constant pain, having to relearn how to write and speak again, and an overall quality of life that would be a mere shadow of their former self. That was in addition to the breaking of ribs and other agony that heroic measures would entail.
I tried to put myself in the same position as best as I could and made the choice. For the next three hours I stood bedside holding the hand of someone who had always been there for me, and watched the monitors display the heart rate decrease to an unchanging horizontal streak. The last moment consisted of a sudden strong squeeze of my hand and a mix of blood and other fluids from the mouth and nose. It was finished.
I still relive that final scene on occasion, but try to use such morbid flashbacks as not so subtle reminders of not just who I am, but more importantly what I am and what lies in store if I try to drink again successfully. Just for today, I haven't forgotten.
My story is a little different then the previous poster. It has been two months and I will never forget what I saw that night as my uncle lay dying. He had been sober for ten years but the damage was already done.
I got the call on a Wednesday night around seven telling me to get to the hospital. Since we had for years been expecting this, I thought that it would not effect me the way it did. I arrived at the hospital just as they were bringing him in. I stood with my aunt and cousins waiting for them to come and tell us that he had not survived the trip. That did not happen. Instead they came out and said they would come and get us when they had him settled in the emergency room. After that it was us endlessly taking turns going back to see him and telling him goodbye.
What I saw that night was not my uncle the way I had known him. Instead there was this very yellow man whos stomach was so swollen that I thought at any minute it could burst. He was so yellow that the only way I can describe it, was that he was the color of a banana skin. This included his eyes, and even his lips and tongue.
Some how, and I don't know how, he was still awake and taking to me like it was just another day. From seven pm to three am, this endless visiting went on. He eventually started coughing up blood and after awhile they had to suction it out, but yet he still lay there talking. You could tell he was getting weaker by the minute, but it seemed as if he had so much he still needed to say.
At three am they decided to move my uncle to a private room. We all told him that we would be up to see him as soon as they got him settled. We all said our I love yous and we went out to wait until they said we could go up. At three thirty they let us go up to see him. I remember his two grandsons going in the room as we were walking towards it, and they just walked in and came right out sobbing. My mom who was a former nurse went in to see him and then came back out and told his daughters they needed to get in there. As we all went in the room together, there he laid, no longer awake and talking but he had slipped into the coma in that thirty minutes while they were moving him.
For the next thirty minutes my cousins, my mom, my aunt and I stood around his bed singing the hymns that he had loved to sing when he was going to the nursing homes to sing for the elderly. We watch as his breathing got slower and slower, and then it stopped. My mother checked him to make sure he was gone and the sent me out to get the staff nurse. The nurse came in and confirmed that he had passed away, but said they had to have the doctor come up to call it. He did.
The staff left us alone with him, while we all just stood there holding each other and crying, but said to let her know when we wanted her to call the funeral home. It seemed like forever standing there, but I know it was only a few minutes, when the nurse came in and ask us to leave while they did the post mortum prep. Once she was done we went back in and we all kissed him goodbye and waited for the funeral director to get there.
The next time I saw my uncle was two days later, laying in his casket. He no longer looked sick, and they had done a great job removing the fluid from his stomach and covering up the discoloration of his skin. By the time the bodies get to the funeral home, the skin is no longer yellow, it has now turned to gray from all of the poison in the body. Thankfully the were able to cover that up and make him look normal.
We buried him three days after he passed away, and as I stood there, I knew that this may have been the first time that I had seen an alcoholic die, but it would not be my last. For me this sadly will repeat itself because I have other famly members that drink just like my Uncle Bob did, and I thank god everyday that when my own father passed away nine years ago, it was a sudden death, because he too was an alcoholic and had he lived, he would have died the same painful death that my uncle did.
Wow....that had to have been horrible and it just scares me even more about what my husband is going to eventually go through.
Question for anyone that might know...the really swollen stomach...my husband looks as if he's about to give birth, yet is fairly thin overall. Is this the commonly referred to "beer belly" that people laugh about as men get older, or a sign of something much more serious?
I only wish I could find a way to convince him to get medical treatment now while he still can.
"Swollen stomach" can be a sign of liver disease. The liver becomes inflammed and bloated and pushes the stomach and then the stomach becomes swollen. Does your husband have a yellowish color to him? Are the whites of his eyes kinda yellow or really yellow? That is not a good thing if they are and he needs medical attention.
Luck to Ya'
The so called beer belly can be a sign of liver disease, but at first it starts out as weight gain by drinking too much. However if they continue to drink, it will most likely will indicate liver disease. As Suzyq0826 stated they skin and eyes will start turning yellow when the liver stops functioning as it should.
Sadly it is hard to convince an alcoholic that he needs to see a doctor. However, you can talk to your husbands doctor and let him know that you would like his levels checked when he goes in for something else. Doctors are real good about getting bloodwork done without to much explaination. Us women are usually the ones to schedule the appointments anyway, so it is pretty easy to have it slipped in.
I've never really looked at my husband's eyes other than just looking in his eyes when we're talking or something, never really looked "at" his eyes. We went out for dinner last night and from across the table I was looking at the whites of his eyes...they are not bright white, there is a yellow cast to them that I hadn't noticed before. Now I have to wonder, just how yellow is yellow? How bad is it and how much worse will it get?Then I started to look at his skin, it's difficult to tell if there's a yellow tint because we've been out in the sun lately.
I'll never get him to the doctor, he did the one physical for me a few years ago and won't ever go again unless he feels seriously ill, and it would have to be incapacitatingly ill at that.
We did both sign releases to access each other's medical information, I think what I will do is talk to my doctor at my next appt coming up in the next few weeks and discuss this with him and find out just how bad his initial blood work showed his liver enzymes to be. Then maybe we can sit down and talk and come up with a plan.
It's best not to wait until you're incapacitatingly ill - As a general rule, once your liver begins giving you severe symptoms, you are already in big trouble
I totally agree with you, but how do you get a grown man to do something he absolutely refuses to do? He's a smart man, but prefers to bury his head in the sand on his own health issues.
If there was something wrong with me, or one of our children he'd be the first one insisting on a doctor visit.
I think his fear is not only the treatment that he might require, but that it would definitely involve giving up alcohol, and that is not something he is prepared to do.
From what you've said I'd bet your husband has ascites. Go here for explanation: http://www.merck.com/mmhe/sec10/ch135/ch135e.html
If you are seeing a yellowish tint to the whites of his eyes, that could be a sign of the jaundice associated with liver disease. Go here for more information: http://www.merck.com/mmhe/sec10/ch135/ch135b.html
You can call your doctor today and have them send you a copy of your husbands bloodwork. I get copies of my husbands every time it's taken. I keep them in a file for future reference. Once you have a copy of his blood work you can go here to get information on what each number means: http://www.labtestsonline.org/index.html
Armed with that information you may be able to convince your husband to get himself to a doctor for a complete physical. This will help your doctor know what to do to help him.
Good luck. I know how difficult it is to deal with a bullheaded husband. Mine ignore his hepatitis C diagnosis for years. He ignored the diagnosis of fatty liver for about 4 years and then he found himself in the hospital this past February with Hepatic Encephalopathy. Very nasty symptom of liver failure. The man truly thought he could dodge this bullet (HepC and fatty liver) but he was sadly mistaken. He goes for a liver biopsy in 3 weeks to find out the exact status of his liver. I'm afraid he has damaged it to the point that the only thing that will help him is a liver transplant and he can't get that until he has achieved one year of sobriety and is determined to be sick enough to be placed on the list. He has type O blood so he can only get a transplant from another person who is Type O. Our doctor says that could take quite some time. He may very likely die while waiting. I have a hard time wrapping my mind around all of that some days. Other days I just feel shell shocked. I knew this day would come...I just didn't think it would come without more warning. One day doing fine and the next almost in coma from increased ammonia. Scary.
Good luck to you and your husband Suzyq.
Grace, thank you for the information and the websites. I will call my doctor's office and look up what those numbers mean and take it from there.
I'm sorry for what you are dealing with now...and I am trying to convince my husband that it a miserable way to go. It's like I can see it coming, I just don't know when or what to expect and helplessly watching him suffer is something I dread.
His attitude is just so...I don't know, I think stupid is the only word that fits right now that I find myself getting more frustrated with him and his stubborness.
Good luck to you and your husband also Grace. It helps to be able to talk to people going through similar situations. Thank you.
Alcohol dependancy will make you ignore these health issues. You lose a certain amount of rationality. I did this too.....for years, I didnt' want to know what was going on, even though I was getting more and more symptoms.
If he broke his physical addiction, you would see some rationality return. Until then, I would keep hitting him with the symptoms that you notice. There are a lot of people out there who wish they would have stopped drinking a little sooner, because they could have recovered. Your husband may still be at that place in his life (where physical recovery is possible).
Grace is correct - go read some of her older posts and you'll get her whole story.
I think the "one day at a time "motto has a lot of truth to it. It's tough to tell someone they have to quit drinking forever, because they don't want to hear it and a whole life of sobriety is too much to grasp. You could try telling him to take 3 months off to get his body back on track. Tell him to do it for you, and that it's only 3 months out of his whole life.
I say this, becasue that may be enough time to break the cycle, and you might be able to get him in for testing during that period. This is just a suggestion. That was how I stopped - I said I was going to lay off for a few months until my body got back on track.
Once I stopped, a lot of rationality returned, and I didn't want to go back to those daily drinking habits.
I guess all I can do is try. When I bring up his drinking he gets very defensive and takes it as a personal attack, so I try not to focus on the drinking, more on my concerns for his health.
It's also a matter of timing, because the sober person I see in the morning is not the same person I see at night after work. He is much more receptive to a rational conversation if i can catch him before the beer starts flowing. Saturday or Sunday morning might be a good time, he doesn't drink coffee but will drink water or juice for a couple hours before I hear the can top pop and "it's 12:00 somewhere."