Philosophical - Would he still love her?

Sharon - posted on 03/06/2011 ( 14 moms have responded )




Cincinnati (CNN) -- As he cradled his wife's limp body in his arms, Tim Delgado told himself, "You have to do this."

The fate of Alison, his wife, best friend and medical school classmate, depended on it. His usually steady hands quivered as he held her pale face steady and fumbled with the tools that could save her life. Her doe-eyes rolled to the back of her head.

Through tears, he said, "I'm sorry, babe."

Then, he stabbed her neck.

Alison's eyes shot open. She gurgled in pain and weakly clawed at the tracheotomy tube that pierced her throat.

It was November 21, 2010, and just a few minutes earlier, the newlyweds had climbed into bed. Married just six months and focused on their careers, the couple hadn't even had time to pick out wedding photos to frame for their new house. Now all that -- and more -- would be put on hold.

They were getting ready to sleep when an aneurysm ruptured in Alison's brain, triggering a violent seizure.

Without an airway tube to help her breathe, she could have choked on her own vomit and died. For Tim, a second-year medical resident, jamming a tube in his wife's neck without drugs "was the most difficult thing I ever had to do."

What Tim Delgado experienced that night ranks as one of the greatest fears of people in the field of medicine -- that someday, the life they must save will be a loved one's.

Incredibly, it was the second time Alison's life depended on Tim -- and on this day, he was going to keep his cool.

A bad first date

For Alison, the night of her seizure is a blur. She doesn't recall the tracheotomy tube -- and it's probably better that way.

Alison links her arm with her husband's on the couple's couch in their home in Cincinnati. On the wall above them, framed photographs chronicle the Delgados' adventures: the New Mexico mountains they climbed together, road trips to Wyoming, family gatherings.

Five years ago, Tim took note of his medical school classmate, Alison Bedingfield. A lifelong runner, Alison carried her lithe frame gracefully. She seemed easygoing to Tim. Her friends affectionately called her Ali-B.

After microbiology lab one day, Tim asked her out.

She agreed. He took her to the school gym.

"That was really dumb," he says now, sheepishly. "It wasn't really a date."

They treaded side-by-side on the elliptical machines and talked.

The experience left Alison with a strong impression: Tim was "very intense."

With dark eyes and closely cropped hair, Tim exuded energy. After a 12-hour shift in the hospital, he sometimes cycled for five hours. One summer, he followed the Tour de France course behind the pros.

With its fast pace and high pressure, medicine was perfect for him.

It also fit Alison's high-achieving personality.

She was raised on cross-country running and the Midwestern value of hard work. She won the first marathon she ever ran. And she breezed through college, graduating early and entering the University Of Cincinnati College of Medicine in her hometown.

Tim walked away from the first date with an impression, too: She was also intense. But he hesitated to ask her out again, because she seemed "too nice."

A few months passed. Alison went on a medical students' white water rafting trip -- organized by Tim.

At last, they realized how much they shared in common: They were two future doctors constantly on the move: Alison a runner, and Tim an avid cyclist. They were a team.

Tim introduced Alison to sushi and taught her to use chopsticks. During long nights before exams, they huddled in a cold study hall, draped in blankets, and pored over their textbooks toting a space heater and French press coffee maker.

In 2008, he dropped to one knee after a grueling bike ride up Lookout Mountain in Colorado and asked her to marry him.

"We always said we're a team," Alison said. "That was our extra vows. We're a team and stay a team."

They married last May and started their new life together in a two-story white house on a quiet cul-de-sac.

Alison, 27, became a pediatrics resident at the Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center. Tim, 31, landed a trauma residency at University Hospital in Cincinnati.

He trained as a flight physician working in the emergency department. The high-stakes job involves taking care of patients in helicopters during the precious minutes between life and death.

Tim was chosen for the competitive program because "he's imperturbable," said Dr. William Hinkley, Air Medical director at University Hospital. "He always keeps cool."

A rare encounter

The shift began much like many others in the emergency room. A few chest pains. Stomachaches. A woman who had accidentally stabbed her eye with a coat hanger.

Tim tended to patients on that "mundane day," October 16, as electrocardiograms bleeped, phones rang, and patients shuffled back and forth from their rooms.

Around 5 o'clock, the radio crackled, summoning him to the helicopter pad.

"20-year-old cyclist struck by car. Female. Head injury."

The victim had already been moved from the accident scene to a small hospital. Her injuries were extensive. She needed the more sophisticated resources of a facility like University Hospital, nine miles away.

Tim rushed to the helicopter, his mind racing. He was still new to flying, with only 25 to 30 flights behind him, but he was joined by Deb Jump, a flight nurse with 10 years' experience.

It took them just seven minutes to arrive at Mercy Hospital. They rushed to the patient's side.

Tim glanced at her vital signs. She was in a coma. Her breathing was slow; her heart rate low. High blood pressure indicated an increasing strain on her brain.

Her head was cushioned between two blocks with a collar to keep her neck steady. A breathing tube was in her mouth.

As Tim assessed the situation, the patient's cycling uniform caught his eye. She wore a blue, yellow and green jersey that read "Team Hungry."

That's my cycling team, he thought.

His eyes inched up to the patient's face. He stepped back.

The accident had mangled her jaw and splattered blood across her chin.

"This is my wife," he said.

The biggest fear

Silence fell over the room.

Tim felt like he had been "stabbed in the gut." He leaned down to Alison and wept.

She had gone for a bike ride that early evening on a winding road about 15 miles from their home. A Hyundai Sonata turned left at an intersection and careened into Alison. The impact catapulted her over the car roof, breaking her jaw, collarbone and sternum, and bruising her heart and lungs.

The driver, cited for failure to yield, had waited with Alison for the ambulance.

Now, the bleeding inside her skull was putting pressure on her brain. She needed to be transported immediately.

"Deb, we have to get her to the university fast," Tim said, through tears, to the nurse. "We have to get her there."

Alison Delgado had broken bones in her neck, bruised lungs and heart, and brain injuries.Jump nodded in agreement.

"I know, but we can't fly her there. You can't be her doc."

Neither nursing school nor medical school had prepared them for this situation. There is no protocol for what to do when your spouse is your patient. The veteran nurse knew Tim was in no shape to take care of Alison.

She called for another helicopter.

Tim staggered out of the emergency room to regain his composure. Then his doctor's instincts kicked in.

Alison needed sedatives to relax her brain. He walked back into the emergency room and, through tears, began ordering the drugs. Frazzled, he didn't realize he was recommending the wrong dose. Nurses silently administered the correct amount.

His mind swirled in a thousand directions. He called his sister but couldn't find the words to explain what happened.

Finally, another helicopter touched down. And with it, another doctor.

On the brink

Doctors didn't expect her to survive the first night.

Alison Delgado has some issues thinking of the right words.She had hemorrhaging in the brain. A scan showed two aneurysms, or ballooning in the artery walls. It wasn't clear whether they existed before the accident or were caused by it.

That night, as their families swarmed the hospital, Tim lay exhausted on the waiting room floor. He told his older sister that Alison couldn't die. He was too young to be widowed.

They had more mountains to climb, a whole life awaiting them.

Tim had proposed to Alison during a mountain bike ride. Their life together wasn't supposed to end because of a cycling trip.

Waking up

Little by little, the swelling in Alison's head decreased. The internal bleeding in her brain stopped. Alison had worn a helmet, and doctors believe that protected her.

Five days after the accident, she awoke from the coma. She was delirious and agitated; she tried to crawl out of bed and pull out her feeding tubes.

Grateful his wife was alive, Tim's concerns shifted to the next challenge. She couldn't move her right arm. Sometimes, she slurred her words and confused Tim's name with her brother's.

"My biggest fear was that she would be neurologically devastated and lose the ability to communicate," Tim says, "that she wasn't going to be able to live the life that she worked so hard for."

But there was reason to hope.

After two weeks, Alison achieved a small but significant milestone: She clutched a spoon in her right hand and fed herself soup. Delighted by her progress, Tim told her, "Ali, I love you."

"I wuv you, too," she replied.

Alison remained hospitalized for 15 days, then transferred to an inpatient traumatic brain injury clinic. There, over the course of weeks, she relearned motor skills, regained her hand-eye coordination and taught herself words using children's flashcards on an iPad.

Since her accident, Alison has had 12 surgeries to her brain, chest and jaw. Tim took a three-month leave to care for her.

The Delgados exercise every day, working to restore Alison's strength.Alison's biggest setback was the seizure she had in November that forced her husband to insert the breathing tube. That incident put her back in the hospital for three weeks.

She returned to the hospital Tuesday for a surgery to clip an aneurysm in her brain that may have existed before the accident. They hope to be back home soon, and Alison plans to return to her medical career in May.

To improve her physical strength, the Delgados spend two hours a day working out with arm bands, treadmills and balance balls.

They wear matching Vibram rubber shoes that squish against the gym floor.

In one of her exercises, Alison gingerly stands on a rubber balance ball. Her husband protectively leans in, arms extended to catch her in case she falls.

"You don't need me anymore," he teases, as she stands tall and maintains her balance.

She smiles and pokes him in the chest. He nudges her right back.


Recently, nearby in Tucson, one of our State's Representatives, Gabrielle Giffords, was shot by a deranged lunatic. Several people were killed. Gabby was shot in the head at point blank range. I hear she's doing rather well in rehab. She's married to an astronaut who just went back into space.

When the shooing happened, I wondered, If she doesn't pull through this with the same brain function she had before, will he stick around? I personally don't have a stake in this, I don't even like her politics.

Then I read the above article. I wondered the same thing. She's cute, has a high achiever, high energy drive. they match each other. If she doesn't pull through this with all her brain function intact - what does he do? She would/could need a LOT of care. how would he finish medical school? Do all those races & trips and shit? Those are other things he loves.

I've often wondered if my husbands brain were shot to hell - what would I do? it is what makes him who I love. If he had a stroke today and lost bodily function - fine. We can find tools to help him do what we've always loved to do. but if his mind is gone...if he turns into a 6 yr old with an adults body... what then? those meaingful conversations are gone. turning to him with my worries and concerns - gone. And I'm sorry but sex would be out of the question. UGH makes me nauseaus to think about it.

I would never abandon him, I would still love him, but keeping him in my life as my husband?


Tracey - posted on 03/07/2011




My son is 12 and has a mental age of 4. He will be an adult with a mental age of 4. We don't stop loving him because of his condition. He will never get married, get a job, go to college. We didn't lose our dreams for him, we just changed them.


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Cherish - posted on 03/10/2011




I have Huntington disease a very rare brain disorder.Im 23 and Ill be lucky if I live another 15 years. My mother passed when she was 38 of the same disease as did my grandma at 40. And when my mom started getting bad my dad left my mom and my granpa left my grandma.

And now Im married with a two year old daughter. My husband always tells me hell never leave me and he loves me and hell stay by my side to the end, and I know this is true.But theres always the thought in the back of my head because my grandma and moms spouses left them. Its been hard but I love my husband.and he knows that the end stages of my lie ill be nothing but a vegetable with feeding tubes and oxygen and he still promises to stay. He is a great and wonderful man

April - posted on 03/08/2011




I feel really guilty for feeling this way, but if there was no way my husband was ever going to hold some kind of conversation with me (does not have to be verbal), nor was his situation ever going to improve, I'd want to try to find someone that I could converse with, someone that would be more than friends. The reason I feel guilty is because my husband said he would never try to find anyone else, even if I was a vegetable. Even when I die. I can see the hurt in his eyes when my body language/facial expressions tell him that I don't know if I can do the same.

Jenny - posted on 03/08/2011




We have gone through this with my mother. She had an brain anyuerism burst at 42. She now has the mentality of a 12 year old boy. She loves fart jokes and punching people in the arm. Her partner never left her side through the whole ordeal and while he is no prize he is still sticking by her 9 years later.

I would support my partner until the very end but as others have said I would need to fullfill my need for companionship and sex with another.

[deleted account]

See my hunni is set that if his mind were gone, in a coma, so phisically damaged he could not care for him self ('wipe my own ass' were his exact words) he would not want me to keep him alive. In a pull the plug or DNR situation he is set but I've told him quite blankly he's going to need to list someone other than me to make that decision. I would love him no matter what and be whatever he needed me to be even if I had to go from wife to nurse or babysitter I would do that I love him and couldn't choose anything other than that. Unfortunately making that decision to hold on for dear life when he wouldn't want it would not be in his best interests and I know I'd be doing him a disservice by keeping him around against his will, hence the have your sister pull the plug comment I gave him. I would hate her for it, argue and such but the main thing is that his wishes are followed in that situation not mine. I'm the opposite I've told him he is not allowed to pull the plug on me etc. I told him I would cope with anything and if he really could not stand to care for me thats fine my bestfriend/sister would, he argues that he could never do that even if I was a vegetable or suffered severe mental trauma but I know that I wouldn't hold it against him if he bailed, I would be quite pissed though if I reached my afterlife because he pulled the plug on me and I'd probably kick his ass when he joined me lol. People have recovered from all kinds of things against all odds and have lead happy lives afterwards, I wouldn't be okay with cutting it short unless of course I was already old and I was already on my way out. We both agree if we're 80 and terminally ill thats it time to go but if next week I get hit by a bus he knows not to be pulling no plug on me I'm only 23. But yeah we've got kids, and he is my soulmate even if he couldn't be a husband to me anymore I still couldn't let him go I know I couldn't leave him or cut his life short no matter the damage or if he asked me too, I'm just too selfish for that and he knows it lol. Sex and intellectual conversation aside, I would still want him in my life no matter what. I offended him when I said this but I did tell him he'd be free to remarry if he wanted, I can't help it I'd want him to be happy even if it wasn't with me but I definately would rather him divorce me and stick my disabled butt with my sis than pull the plug and become a widow I think thats unneccesary.

Sharon - posted on 03/08/2011




Tracey - I'm not talking about our kids. If something happened to my kids - they'd stay with me for as long as possible (I'm gonna get old & die)

But if its your husband/wife/SO. Could you continue to have a spousal relationship with a vegetable? Could you continue to have the adult companionship you fell in love with if your mate were knocked down to the level of a 4 yr olds mentality?

I wouldn't dump my husband unless his care was impossible for me to carry out (then it wouldn't be dumping it would be finding appropriate care) but until then he would stay with me or near me. I wouldn't stop caring about him, but he's not the man I fell in love with any more. he's a version of himself - possibly. But I enjoy our conversations, sexual relations etc. I could NOT do those things if were to become retarded.

Tara - posted on 03/07/2011




I have thought about this a lot since first reading the post and it has generated some interesting conversations with Steve.
We both feel that if we were ever in a position that our brains no longer functioned and we lost who we were and the ability to remember and recognize each other or to communicate effectively with one another, if our roles as spouse changed to that of caregiver, while we both still love each other deeply but we both agreed that if the condition were permanent, we should both seek out the companionship of someone else in our lives at some point, for support, for conversation, for sex, for love, for affection, for help, for mutual enjoyment etc.,
We love each other but in loving each other we want the other to be happy, satisfied and living rather than maintaining the "marital roles".
I would never abandon Steve, he would be with me at home if possible, I would be here for him until the end, but at the same time I would probably begin a new relationship with someone eventually, as would he.

Louise - posted on 03/07/2011




I would look after my husband if he needed medical care 24/7 or got dementia. It would be heart breaking but I would do it as he was the man I married and raised children with. I am sure he would do the same for me, or at least I hope he would.

[deleted account]'s not really "funny" but it is, I'm the opposite of your husband, Sharon--I keep all of my affairs (and hubby's) in order because as long as we're prepared, we won't need it, but sure enough, if we are not prepared, something will happen--it's like getting a paper cut on the day I swapped purses and didn't put band-aids in the new one, as long as I actually have band-aids in my purse, I'll never get a paper cut--I never do, but the ONE DAY I don't have them.....

Anyway, the argument might work for your hubby :)

As for the article, I don't know, I'll have to think on that for a while....

Rosie - posted on 03/06/2011




i can't say for sure, but i think i feel the same as you sharon. i vowed forbetter or worse, but that was for MY husband, his personality, his body doesn't make him who he is, it's his mind. if he doesn't have that, i don't know what i'd do. i don't think i could handle it.

Sharon - posted on 03/06/2011




We've been there, like you, kid chokes - hubby didn't exactly freak out but he refused to make that leap in his head that it was more than "pat them on the back" thing.

When the kids need emergency services - not that often, twice - he's the one who wonders "what do we do?"

UGH I should just get the life insurance crap rolling on him myself, make him sign the shit in an all night drag out fight.

Iridescent - posted on 03/06/2011




Lots of guys are like that. It's enough to make me want to strangle them myself and save them the worry.

I'm calm in accidents, but I guess not with my own kids! Too close to home, too much on the line I guess. I'd have never known...

Sharon - posted on 03/06/2011




They are different circumstances. A terminal illness. Damn - i am so sorry.

But its terminal. An end in sight. I have my stuff set up for "if I die". Hubby doesn't he's an asshole. He has this stupid insane belief that if he does the paperwork, he'll drop dead. Reading stuff like this I ALMOST wish he would. Why does he have to be so stubborn and stupid. For someone so learned, he drives me insane with this shit.

I'm the calm one in accidents.

Iridescent - posted on 03/06/2011




It's a really good question. I have a different set of experiences than a lot of people have. I'm an RN, for one. Yet when my son was choking on a bell, then later in the same day a key, I was only able to stare at my phone, shaking, and repeat, "call 911". If it were only me there, I don't know if my son would have lived. And that was only a few months ago. My husband, who took CPR training with me, saved him. Twice. Being able to act in an emergency is so hard!

My sister has believed she's going to die young from the time she started becoming ill at 10. It was an insane belief, honestly, and she was admitted to multiple psych wards. A month ago, she found out she was right. She has MELAS, severe form. She is 29. Life expectancy is 30. So while she's able to function with some degree of ability, she's working on setting up her living will, and plans for her children when she dies. It was a half joke before - what will happen to ____ when I die? It's no longer funny in any way. She's not married, but the man she's with is not going to leave her as a result. Chances are, he will also keep both of her children, even though only one is his.

And me? I could have this too. All the tests look like it. My husband and I have discussed it. We have things set in place so that if I die, the kids will be financially cared for. We had it done for the potential of a car accident though, not with the thought of terminal illness. I know my husband is there for me and will stay there for me. And I push my husband to take care of himself, and he is learning to, because it might be up to him to finish raising our kids.

I don't think these things can change whether you love someone. But they can change how you love them - as a partner, or as a dependent.

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