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Slipping away

February 20, 2007

Sadie woke with rapid, shallow breathing that continued all day. Her condition declined spectacularly rapidly; by mid-afternoon she could no longer speak. It was clear she would soon lose the ability to swallow solids as well; we picked up liquid morphine to give her by dropper. By late evening she could no longer drink from a straw. Her nods and shakes became so faint we often couldn’t tell if she had answered a question.

Despite her late-morning temazepam, Sadie wasn’t able to sleep. She let us know her head hurt by raising her hand to it. Her breathing remained rapid and shallow into the night.


February 21, 2007

Around dawn, Sadie’s breathing changed, becoming more labored and mucous. She had slipped into a coma during the night. A cream-and-coffee-colored runny mucus oozed copiously from her nose and mouth. Her arms and legs became cyanotic (bluish), though they remained surprisingly warm.

Sadie also had some Cheyne-Stokes breathing: every ten minutes or so, her rapid, labored breathing calmed, then stopped briefly before resuming. A definite sign that Sadie was in her final hours, but we just couldn’t believe it.


February 21, 2007

Around midmorning, Sadie’s breathing changed again, becoming a kind of “fish out of water” reflexive gasp. An hour and a half later, she suddenly started breathing much, much more slowly. Over the next fifteen minutes, she took about ten of these breaths with long pauses between; then no more came.

As far as we were able to tell, Sadie was not in any pain, nor did she seem to be frightened or agitated during her last hours. She passed peacefully and gently, without a struggle.


Sadie's casket