The Kinds Of Things You Really Want To Know When Your Husband’s In A Coma

Long time readers will know that I’m a huge fan of preparing for emergencies.

After all, my husband almost died a little over six years ago from septic shock. That incident not only caused me to get our financial life in tip-top shape, but is also part of what inspired me to start this site in the first place.

I go beyond the emergency fund, and talk about having an emergency plan instead.  When my online friend Dad Dollars Debts lost his home in the Tubbs fire, I started a blogging chain specifically to help people prepare for emergencies. Twenty four other bloggers joined me in helping others prepare for all kinds of emergencies.

You might say this is a passion of mine.

But I have a secret to tell you.

I’m not the most organized person in the world. When my husband was sick, this was a huge potential issue. And if anything ever happened to me, it would be a huge issue for my husband, and our family.

Today I’m going to share a bit more about what it’s like to be in the throes of an emergency without the information you need to manage it, and talk about an awesome new way to keep your preparation organized.

When Your Husband’s In A Coma, There’s No Time To Organize

I can clearly remember the moment I knew things had changed forever.

My husband got out of emergency surgery, at 10:30 PM on a Sunday night. They told me he might be able to go straight back to his hospital room, or might need to spend the night in the ICU “just in case.”

Yeah, that’s not what happened.

It was around 11 they called me in the operating room waiting room, where I was sitting with my sister, mother, and father in law, to tell me my husband had been brought down to the ICU. So we went down the elevator to the ICU waiting room. And we waited. And waited. Around midnight, a nurse came out to have me sign some paperwork to authorize the things they were doing. I can’t remember everything on there, but there was the ventilator and the triple lumen. What’s that, you might ask? Oh, it’s like an IV, except it goes into your neck and straight into your heart.

I didn’t know that, of course. I just asked when I could see my husband. They said they were getting him “settled in”, which I think is ICU speak for saving his life, and it would be a little while longer. So we waited, and waited. Eventually I ended up curled up on one of the waiting room chairs, bawling and shaking. My mother in law (a former ER nurse) picked up the ICU phone and firmly asked when we could see my husband, saying that I was having a breakdown.

I think I was.

They finally let us in, close to 1 AM, and I was shocked when I saw my husband. He was laying in a big bed, in a room by himself, with an IV in his neck. He also had IV’s in his arms. Behind him, there were five IV poles, each of which were groaning under the weight of five or six bags on each of them. If you’re counting, that’s somewhere around 25 bags of fluid. He had a tube up his nose (what I would later learn was called a nasal gastric tube) and was on a ventilator breathing for him. He was uncouncious and wouldn’t wake up for five more days. There was a monitor to the left side of the room, showing constant stats like oxygen, pulse, blood pressure, and respiration.

His blood pressure was something like 76/42.

I only saw him for a few minutes, and said goodnight. Then I got into my car and drove to my parents house, where they were watching our (then two) boys.

During the drive, I screamed. Multiple times. A deep, primal kind of scream that I can only remember doing once before when my middle son was being born without pain medication. I can’t remember exactly what I said, but I was begging God to not let him die.

I probably shouldn’t have been driving.

In The Aftermath – What We Didn’t Have

We didn’t have a will. Because when you’re 32 and 37, you don’t actually die, right? We had talked about the kinds of things you’d have in a will, but never put one together.

He didn’t have life insurance, because he had lost his job a few years prior. Ditto disability insurance.

We didn’t have health care powers of attorney, or living wills. Because we’d never have to decide whether or not to pull the plug. Right?

But I remember getting most upset about all the little things I didn’t know. The kinds of things you don’t talk about in a will, or estate documents. It was more the everyday things.

I didn’t know what night the garbage went out. Which bills were due that he was taking care of paying? He had taken care of getting the boys around during the day for the past few years – where did they need to go, and when?

Honestly I didn’t even know if he wanted to be buried, or cremated. If he had brain damage, would he want to live? What if he was permanently disabled – did he want to wake up like that? You don’t talk about that in your 20’s and 30’s.

And then there was trying to communicate everything to all the people who were helping us. How could I tell my mother, mother-in-law, and grandmother (who were all taking turns watching the boys) about what my boys liked to do, their routines, and what they liked to eat when I was spending 12-16 hours a day at the hospital? What if something happened to them while they were being watched? I had all their insurance info with me, not at home.

They did a great job, and their help was invaluable. But there was so much I should have had ready for them that I just didn’t. And when we were in the throes of the crisis, there was no time.

If my husband and I had switched places, he would have had many of the same problems. But he would have the added issue that I manage all our investments and finances. I do go over them every quarter with him, but I don’t know that he would do the best job managing our investments if I were gone. Of course, he does read this site, so now he has a better idea (hello dear!).

Honestly, even today, I wish I could do a better job keeping things organized.  I’ve always wished I could be one of those bullet journal people, someone with binders of neatly organized information, but I’m just not. I’ve wanted to pull together information that would be helpful in case of another emergency, but didn’t know where to start.

Now I’m Cheating

So, given all this, I’m glad my friend Chelsea from Mama Fish Saves has given me a way to cheat here.

She sent me a preview copy of her new “In Case Of Emergency” binder and I thought “YES! THIS IS IT.”

It had places for me to write down not just the kind of typical information you might think of, like insurance, but also the kinds of things you don’t think about until you’re in the middle of a crisis. It’s the things that bothered me the most, like kids routines, bills, investment information, and locations of key documents (and a lot more too).

If something happened to my husband again, or to me, or (god forbid) to both of us, this would be an amazing resource.

Now I already told you I’m not a binder person, but if you are it would be great to print this on three-hole punch paper and pop this into a binder. I cheated and had Staples bind mine for me, when I had them print it. It came out looking pretty snazzy, and if I want to add copies of documents, I can just staple them in.

My husband was really impressed with this. An exact quote is “She’s going to help a lot of people with this.” He doesn’t remember his time in the coma, of course, but he knows how hard it was for me. And this is exactly the kind of information he’d want to have if something ever happened to me.

Just from looking at this, I can tell how much thought, research, and work has gone into it.  It’s nearly 100 pages long, covers a huge range of topics, and would be invaluable to any family. It’s particularly valuable for people like me, who like to be organized but sometimes struggle to do it.

My Family Is Not Alone

In those moments, I felt totally, completely alone. No one could understand what I was going through.

But of course, that’s not right.

Millions of people go through emergencies every year. Some are small in comparison to what happened to us, but some peoples emergencies end in death or permanent disability.

And every person it happens to, thought that it could never happen to them.

Helping your family prepare for when you’re gone is one of the biggest gifts of love you can give them. So make sure you have wills, trusts, disability, and life insurance.

Don’t Delay

And think about getting this binder, setting aside some time, and filling it out.  I think it’s an extremely valuable document – one I only wish I had when my husband was sick.

Even if you don’t want to pick this up, I hope my experience has helped you to see – and understand – why this kind of preparation is really key to those left behind.

Hopefully you’ll never need it, but if something happens in your family, you – and they – will be so glad you did.

Note – the links to the binder are affiliate links, I will get a small commission at no cost to you if you pick it up. This post isn’t sponsored, and frankly I would have written it even if there was nothing in it for me. That’s how passionate I am about this topic.

I Want To Hear From You

How have you prepared for the “softer side” of emergencies? I’m talking about the kinds of things that aren’t covered in wills, estate documents, and powers of attorney? Or are you like me and wish you could be more organized, but, um, you just aren’t. Let me know in the comments!

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9 thoughts on “The Kinds Of Things You Really Want To Know When Your Husband’s In A Coma”

  1. Cooper @ Two Corporate Millennials

    We use the binder approach as well. Make sure all financial, insurance, and other important documents are located in TWO binders and put in safe places in the house. I am a bit of a redundant nerd (military background I guess) so I made two binders and have one in a safe and another in a part of my home that is a bit easier to access and generally “safe”.

    In the binder is a couple sheets of all our logins, account numbers, and phone numbers of the different institutions that my wife or I would need to know if something were to happen to one of us.

    1. chiefmomofficer

      I wish I was more of a binder person to do this all myself. I’m more of an “occasionally do a huge organization then neglect it for a while” person. This is similar to my wish that I was one of those people who did fancy planners.

      1. Cooper @ Two Corporate Millennials

        I am definitely not a planner person, but the binder project was a weekend activity. The hardest part is just getting started!

  2. My Mom is 89 and I’m still getting on her about needing more information. It worries me that there’s something important that I simply don’t know about. Thanks for the post, you handled a very difficult situation very well!

    1. chiefmomofficer

      It was quite literally the hardest time in my life. Anytime I feel stressed or overwhelmed nowadays, I just think back to that time to put things in perspective. And honestly something like this from a parent would be a blessing. I’ve read so many stories from people struggling to organize affairs after a parent passed away, or became unable to communicate. 😞

  3. What a great idea by Mama Fish Saves. And to hear you tell the effect it had on you when you were not prepared for the unexpected drives home the importance of it.

    I always am worried about leaving password/etc for sensitive financial matters which may fall in the wrong hands and not for the intended person or even at the intended time. How do you deal with that aspect of this?

    1. chiefmomofficer

      I’ve been thinking to store it in my locked filing cabinet. You could also put it in a safe or a safe deposit box, as long as the right people know where to find it.

    2. mamafishsaves

      Hey Xrayvsn – We keep the first part of our binder with less sensitive information in my office for easy access. The second part stays in our safe (key people know the code). After much discussion with one of my best friends – who has a PhD in cyber security – I decided having it written down in our home was far less of a risk than keeping it anywhere on the internet, even when encrypted.

  4. Ugh…just seeing the phrase “NG tube” brought back some bad memories. The worst part for me was waking up in the ICU with that darn thing in, and my abdomen sore from the surgery – could barely breathe, gagging, confused about where I even am, abdomen badly sore from the surgery. Just about the worst thing ever, actually….no fun. For what it’s worth, events like that definitely help put things in better perspective.

    My wife and I started taking this stuff a lot more seriously once everything happened to me. Thankfully the hospital asked if we had a health care proxy during admission, and since we didn’t have one they had a stock form we could use. But like you we had no will, and there was all sorts of stuff locked up in my head about bill payment schedules, finances, etc that would have been really bad if things really went south for me. Thankfully I pay the bills far in advance and I was “only” in the hospital a few weeks, so no significant harm done.

    I now keep all of my passwords on a secure password storage site and have the “master” password written down and stored in our home safe for which my wife and I know the combo. All of our bills are now on AutoPay, which also helps. We went through and verified / updated all of our beneficiary information on our financial accounts as well. Gonna have to check out the binder to see what other information could be included.

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