Hilda had been in good health until around 1995 when she contracted type-2 diabetes which she inherited from her father. Since she injected herself with insulin every day, she functioned normally and she went for regular check-ups to the doctor.
Ten years later at the age of 86, her health began to fail. She had problems with her digestive system and made regular visits to Dr. Oscar Lebwohl at Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital. One night in June 2005, she had an amnesia attack while sleeping. I awoke hearing her speaking to Dovid Mehler in a loud voice which lasted about 5 minutes. To my surprise, she was not speaking into a phone. She went back to sleep and about an hour later she went to the bathroom. When she returned to the bedroom, I asked her why she was speaking to Dovid in the early hours of the morning. She thought I was crazy asking such a ridiculous question. She definitely had an amnesia attack; but what caused it?
We went the following morning to our primary physician, Dr. Livelli, for consultation and he advised us to hospitalize her immediately fearing possible brain damage. I brought her to Columbia that evening so that Kenny could be with her. After 2 days she was discharged; all tests were negative.
In 2003, she began to have intermittent pain and numbness in her toes caused by poor blood circulation. This problem is usually caused by diabetes. She was advised to go to Roosevelt Hospital where a doctor, formally at Columbia, was considered tops in this ailment. He injected 2 stents in her legs to bypass her regular blood vessels and thereby increase her blood supply. Unfortunately, only one leg and foot returned somewhat to a normal flow of blood while the left leg remained the same.
On July 14, 2005, a Thursday, she was admitted to Columbia for a second attempt at stent surgery. The second attempt failed but what was more disheartening was the phone call I received from her Friday afternoon telling me that she experienced a mild heart attack and would have to stay over the weekend at the hospital.
On Monday, they performed an angiogram and, unfortunately, discovered that my wife had 4 coronary blockages and would require a quadruple bypass. The surgery was performed on Wednesday by Dr. Craig Smith, the same surgeon who performed the bypass on Pres. Clinton. I assume that Dr. Smith who knew Kenny very well elected to operate on his colleague’s mother.
After 6 days of post-surgery, she began a period of 14 days of rehab and, finally, after 27 days she was discharged. For her entire stay at the hospital, I was with her from 10 a.m. to between 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. every day. Although I am an excellent sleeper, gazing at the empty bed beside mine was agonizing and I found it difficult to fall asleep. Also, very troublesome thoughts entered my mind; i.e. how would I react if she would leave me. Now that she left, I know what it feels like to lose the most important person in your life. Again, I am crying as I am writing these words. After 69 years of marital bliss and being together every day during our 4 years of courtship we functioned as one individual.
In June 2005, Hilda started to fall off the bed and in the bathroom which lasted and became more frequent till her death. After the first occurrence, we called Dr. Livelli and informed him of the incident. Since she fell on her chest and head, he told us to immediately have an x-ray of her chest and a cat scan of her head which was done. Fortunately, the results were negative. I began to recall that throughout her life she fell frequently and usually fractured her wrist and ankles.
In July, she started to see Dr. Seplowitz, an endocrinologist, for her diabetes. He prescribed several medications and told her to continue with her daily injections of insulin. She would see him several times a year until her death. Since she always had a problem with her stomach, she began to see Dr. Oscar Lebwohl, a gastro-enterologist. I would drive her to Columbia since she stopped driving after her by-pass and I would drop her off at the hospital and she would call me to pick her up.
In October of 2008, Dr. Livelli suggested that she visit Holy Name Hospital in Teaneck to correct her balance. This hospital had a special unit that excelled in correcting the balance of patients. She went several times and found no relief; her falls did not diminish. In November, she no longer could live with the pain emanating in her legs and toes due to her lack of blood circulation. She had in the past had several epidurals to relieve the pain but they never helped. I took her to Dr. Gudin, a pain specialist, at Englewood Hospital and after several visits, her pain decreased a little.
In June 2009, due to her circulation problems, one of her toes became infected. I took her to Dr. Kocher at Englewood Hospital to examine her toe. He suggested that we consult with Dr. Strom at the same hospital. He was a specialist in infectious diseases. He advised us that I should cleanse and dress the wound every morning and apply an ointment which I did religiously.
She began to fall every day, usually in the bathroom. Whenever she fell, I would pick her up from the floor. One day she fell in the bathroom and fell into the bathtub. I tried picking her up but I was not able to do so. In fact, when she fell in the tub her head hit the porcelain soap dish and broke it. After repairing it with glue, I still gaze at it every time I visit the bathroom and it will be a tragic memento for me the rest of my life. Since I could not raise her up, I called 9/11 for help. Very soon an ambulance and the police came. They put her on a stretcher and took her to the Emergency Room of Englewood Hospital. She had been in the ER several times previously and a few times after this incident.
My children and grandchildren seeing that this situation could not continue, kept badgering me to engage help to take care of her as I was 91 years of age and not physically able to nurse her. Thus, I engaged a woman to be with her 12 hours a day. Hilda then began a rapid deterioration in her health. She was no longer the woman who I had known for 73 years. Sitting in her favorite chair in the den, she would close her eyes and dose. Conversing with me was infrequent. When visitors came to see her, in the midst of speaking to them, she would fall asleep. I then engaged an additional woman to be with her for the other 12 hours. At no time did I imagine losing my beloved. I could endure her condition as long as she would not leave me. So you can imagine my disbelief and denial when Kenny told me that my soul-mate would depart in 3 days.