The day is here, the two-year anniversary since my beloved Segundo died suddenly, unexpectedly, sadly, tragically. I could probably come up with a whole list of additional adjectives to add to that sentence.
I sat here 1/2 hour ago in tears looking at all the pictures I had put up of us, Segundo, Cece, and I together and others of just me and the girls. I was having a flash back, a panic attack it felt like remembering the details of that night two years ago.
I got on the computer and talked to a couple of friends and was shaking so badly that I could hardly type and decided to call the shelter crisis line to talk to an advocate. Thankfully it was an advocate whom I had spent many many hours talking to before when we stayed at the shelter and after. She knew me and knew my life and was able to help calm me down, being a over the phone shoulder to cry on as it were. So this isn’t a happy post, the end might be happier but that depends on how tired I am and how much the Nyquil I just took for the nasty cold I have is affecting me 😉
I have never talked online much about that night. I’ve eluded to it but never really blogged about what happened. I think I am ready to do just that. For in talking about his death that night not only will I be remembering him, honoring him and his memory but also I think part of the healing process for me.
August 17th, 2009 to the best of my recollection and I am certain I don’t remember everything precisely as it happened but this will be what I do recall.
We had gone and taken a sauna that night, his shoulder and chest/back had been hurting for a few days and we thought that a good hot steam would help. We finished the sauna and drove back to the house by the cannery/processing plant we were staying at that summer. For days Segundo and been feeling antsy and on edge he kept saying that he was seeing dark spirits. Now for those of you who haven’t lived in bush Alaska or who don’t believe that there are spirits among us then you will just have to take this with the grain of salt. I too didn’t believe in such things until I moved to Alaska over 7 years ago.
He had been seeing these dark forms lurking around for a few days and knew something was going to happen, something bad. But he was convinced that that “something” was going to be a death at home in Nunam Iqua. That night when we pulled up to the house I saw one of those dark spirits through a window that looked into the dining room. It moved across the room and quickly went out the window when we pulled up.
I remember telling Segundo about it and as was custom when we went inside we gave an offering of water to whatever spirit this was and told it to leave the house.
That night Segundo had to go back to work as the tender was due in around midnight. I put Cecelia to bed and went to bed myself as I was 7 months pregnant and very exhausted.
I remember Segundo coming in that night, it was very late, probably around 1 a.m. He tried to come to bed, but he had scraped his leg doing something and was just out of sorts. He woke me up with his tossing and turning. He was just panicking is the best way I can describe it. He insisted that we get out of bed b/c he didn’t want to wake Cece up. She was in her lil bed beside ours. We went out into the dining room.
I can remember being utterly exhausted and wasn’t very happy about the fact that we weren’t in bed asleep. Segundo just kept saying that his shoulder hurt. His chest hurt. I called the owner’s wife on the VHF and told her what was going on and that he wanted to her to come down. She came down, I think she had called and spoken to the Dr. at the Dillingham hospital about what Segundo was experiencing before she came down.
The doctor, heck all of us even Segundo, thought he was having a panic attack. She came down and we sat there and talked and joked around trying to put him at ease. She gave him a shoulder rub, asking him what he was so worried about. He was so panicky, so wound up. He told her that he just wanted to make the owner, her husband happy and that he needed to work harder, he didn’t feel like he was doing everything right. We kept assuring him that he was going above and beyond what was expected.
We spent a couple of hours talking and trying to calm him down. We thought we had gotten him calmed down and that everything was going to be ok. I walked her back out to her car and as I was in the porch I heard him go down. I opened the door and he was lying there, face first on the dining room/kitchen floor. I yelled at her and told her that he had just collapsed.
We both went running back into the house. I told her to trying to rouse him while I ran to the bunk house to get one of the crewmen who had mentioned he had been an EMT. Him and I went into the house and Segundo was lying there. I don’t recall if she had been able to turn him over while I was getting the crew member or if they turned him over when we came in.
His body was twitching and he was having what I now know to be agonal breaths. He was gasping for air. As is common when someone has a heart attack his other bodily functions had umm I don’t know how to say it in a round about way, he had vomited all over himself and his bladder had emptied. I knelt down beside him and pulled his shirt up and began rubbing my knuckles into his chest as I had recalled from CPR class years before. Every time I’d do that he’d have an agonal breath.
I can remember slapping him, yelling at him, and shaking him trying to revive him. We checked for a pulse and couldn’t find one. We started doing CPR on him. The other crew members had come in to see what was going on and the owner’s wife sent them to the community center to get the difibulator.
We continued doing CPR, I have no idea how long it was before they got back with the defibulator it seemed like just a minute or so. We applied the self adhesive pads to his chest as the instructions said and then pressed the button. The machine searched for a heart beat and didn’t find one and told us to clear as it sent a shock through his body trying to restart his heart. It then instructed us to check for vitals and we again continued doing CPR.
Someone was on the VHF with the closest clinic talking to the health aide who was in turn talking to the Dr. We just kept doing CPR, we tried to use the stethescope to listen for his heart beat but having never used one before I couldn’t tell if it was my heart pounding in my ears that I was hearing or his. I kept doing CPR I wasn’t going to give up.
I think we shocked him probably four times. Some of the crew members were saying that we should stop. I refused to stop, I kept doing CPR. I checked his pupils and they were dialated and non reactive. I kept doing CPR. I was getting exhausted. Why wouldn’t anyone else take over? I couldn’t keep breathing for him. Finally one of the crew members stepped in and continued the breathing while I did chest compressions.
I wasn’t going to stop. There was no way that my husband was dead. I kept doing CPR, maybe if I just kept going I could keep him with us. This went on for two hours. I finally came to the point where I physically couldn’t continue doing the CPR. At my begging the crew members kept going. I stepped outside to breath and promptly vomited. I was completely overcome. Somewhere in my heart and my head I knew he was dead but maybe just maybe we could save him.
I went back inside. I walked into the bedroom to check on Cecelia, who thankfully was blissfully sleeping through this whole ordeal, not knowing that her daddy was dying, dead in the next room. I sat on the bed. I heard the health aide over the VHF saying that we needed to stop. That we had done everything that we could but it wasn’t enough. My husband, My Segundo was dead.
They said “Time of death 6 a.m.”. No, no, no. My husband, my Segundo couldn’t be dead. We were expecting our second child, he couldn’t die. I remember wailing at that annoucement. I was crying so hard. The owner’s wife told us that we needed to leave the house. One of the crew members was going to go get Cece and carry her out to the car. I can remember begging him to cover her with a blanket because I didn’t want her to see her daddy’s body on the floor. Someone had covered him with a sheet and we left and went to the owner’s house. The owner was out on the tender headed back out to fish and had no idea of the ordeal that was occurring.
I don’t remember a whole lot after that. I recall everyone was concerned that I would go into shock and then into labor. I can remember being told to rest and drink water. I can remember somehow flying to the next village in someone’s private lil tiny plane to be checked by the health aide.
I remember them wanting to medivac me to Anchorage to get checked because my back was hurting and they thought for sure I was in labor. I knew I wasn’t in labor my back was hurting from doing CPR for two hours! I can recall arguing with the health aide and doctor that I was not going into Anchorage I had to get back to my husband. I had to be there when they came to take his body!
I told them that I would compromise and take two tylenol with codiene and if that didn’t help then I would go in. But thankfully it did help and somehow I was back in a plane headed back. The AK State Trooper was there when the plane landed and had already completed his investigation but had to ask me a few questions. I answered his questions and then went back to check on Cecelia at the owner’s house.
Arrangements were made to take his body into Anchorage. They assumed that I would want to stay at the house but I adamently refused, I had to go tend to him. I remember the car ride back to the other house. I remember saying that I had to see him before they took him. I can remember the owners wife telling me that his body was in a body bag, I didn’t care, I had to see him.
They had put him in a body bag and moved him from the house to one of the quansit huts. I walked in, I don’t recall who opened the bag. I remember distinctly the smell. He didn’t smell like my husband, it was an odd sort of smell I can’t really describe it. But I suspect it is the normal smell of a lifeless body starting to decompose. I bent over and talked to him. I told him how very sorry I was that I couldn’t save him. I apologized over and over and over again for not being able to keep him with us. I told him that I tried, I tried so hard but I just couldn’t keep him with us. I cried, I balled, I explained to him what was going to happen, where he was going as was necessary by our tradition before he was moved.
They came and rezipped the body bag and carry him to the car. We all drove to the airport where the airplane was waiting along with the Trooper I had spoke to earlier. I got out of the car and paced. I remember curling up in a ball and crying, wailing in my pain. Cecelia I think was in the car or at the house I don’t recall.
The loaded his body onto the plane. Again I made myself go over and say goodbye and tell him again where he was going. They closed the doors and boarded the plane and off they went with my husbands body headed to Anchorage.
I don’t really recall much after that. I remember talking to friends and family and breaking the news to his sister who had to tell her mom and dad. I can remember crying to her, pleading with her telling her that I had done everything I could but I couldn’t keep him with us. He was gone. Segundo was dead.
The medical examiner/funeral home said that even if he’d been in an emergency room at the time of the heart attack that they couldn’t have saved him. It was just too severe.
I still carry a lot of guilt from that night. I feel guilty about trying to make light of the pain he was in. I feel guilty for thinking it was a panic attack. I feel guilty for not being able to save him. A million “what if’s” run through my mind. Hindsight is 20/20. I know in my brain that there was nothing that could’ve been done but I still bear the weight of guilt from that night.
I know if there was anything to be forgiven that Segundo has done that. I suppose that over time that guilt, like my pain for his loss, will diminish and heal. It’s been two years and sometimes I feel like it was just yesterday, other times it seems like hundred years ago.
Rest in peace my love. You are always here with us and will never be forgotten. I think of you often and miss you dearly. Today I will be having your two year dinner here in our new home. Friends and family will be joining us. I will share this meal with you as I do with every meal we have. I will say a prayer and have many thoughts about you today. Some will be joyous and happy others will be sad. Know that you are loved and missed and although you aren’t here with us now, you will always be here with us in spirit for we always carry you in our hearts just as you will forever and always have a piece of my heart.
We love you! We miss you! Rest in peace for we must continue our journey here without you. There is work to be done, two little girls that need to be raised and told stories of what a wonderful man you were and how much you loved them.
In ever loving memory of my love, my honey, my husband…
Segundo Strongheart 11/27/1970 to August 18, 2009
I will be writing part 2 to this post and including pictures of Segundo’s 2 year dinner and hope to get that up later this evening!