On Monday night, February 24, 2014—exactly one month from Ted’s death, my son, Lateef, suffered gran mal seizures at his desk and was taken by ambulance to Grady Memorial Hospital in downtown Atlanta.
Lateef had recovered from brain surgery to remove a benign meningioma just 9 months prior. Though his recovery was rocky, of late he seemed sharper, felt better—his stories were flowing—no more searching for words. His doctors at Gwinett Medical Center had announced him at no risk for recurring seizures, so he was not required to take anti-seizure medication. During his 9-month recovery, he had suffered hallucinations, headaches and what we now know were probably small seizures but as of February 24th, he was feeling really good. Lateef had taken his dad’s death very hard and as this was the one-month anniversary of Ted’s death, and between dealing with the grief and spending hours looking at Ted’s facebook page, Lateef was weary—not enough sleep and the stress from losing Ted were the perfect setup for seizures for those who are prone to them—we know that now.
As I looked down upon my son in the emergency room—this writhing mass of humanity-- my whole being was with him—willing him to again become the cool, fun-loving son I knew him to be.
In time he was moved to ICU—a world away from the loud, scary, dirty emergency room. The neurological ICU—a world apart—filled with beeping machines, and electronics and hospital beds that turned into x-ray stations. We stood watch over our son, our husband, our brother, our friend and willed him to get better. The doctors kept him sedated but there were times when he reacted to our voices, so I knew he heard us—that he was somewhere in there. He was on a ventilator and when he first arrived in the ICU, the ventilator was breathing 100% for him. As the week progressed, the doctors ordered the ventilator turned down slowly so that Lateef was breathing more on his own—the ventilator less.
My job was to stay with the girls at night and Aileen slept at the hospital. After I dropped the girls at school, I would switch with Aileen and she would leave to run errands. The first thing I’d look at when I arrived in the morning would be the monitors—his blood pressure (really high) his heart rate (first very low—then really high), the percentage the ventilator was breathing for him. One day, the machine was turned down to 40%--which meant Lateef was breathing 60% on his own. After reviewing blood tests, the doctors realized that he was in distress and they turned the ventilator back up.
I remember the first day in ICU. I looked at his nurse and said “We just lost his dad 4 weeks ago. Could you do all that you can to help us hold onto him”? She looked at me with watery eyes and said “We will do the best we can”. That was enough for then. Every time I asked the doctors how Lateef was doing, really, they would tell me that he was moving in the right direction. I had to trust them even though his entire body seemed to have a mind of its own. His blood sugar was sky high (he’d never had sugar diabetes), his blood pressure was sky high, his potassium numbers were weird—all kinds of craziness was going on.
On Friday, February 28th I got to the hospital about 10 am. Of course, the first thing I looked at was the monitor. Blood pressure very high—heart rate very high—his breathing was very labored. The doctor said not to worry about the blood pressure—seizure patients benefitted from high blood pressure because that meant more infusion of blood to the brain. They were reassuring me but somehow, that day, I felt very anxious—more than usual. I remember texting that to my niece. I put the anxiety off to just “mom stress”. At 2:30 pm I left to pick up Lateef’s youngest daughter from school. While on my way back with Ami I got a text from Rashida saying that Lateef’s blood pressure was coming down. I was happy.
We got back to the hospital and I stopped to get a happy meal for Ami. We got up to the ICU floor and I got Ami settled in the family waiting area and proceeded to Lateef’s room. As I came through the door I saw Lateef’s nurse. His face looked strange and I remember asking him what was wrong. He didn’t answer me so, unknowingly, I just kept heading towards Lateef’s room thinking “He is sooo strange.” As I rounded the corner, I could see Lateef in his hospital bed—I did not realize that the machines were not functioning. As I entered the room, Rashida came towards me. Her eyes were huge—I knew something was wrong. Another man was in the room—I did not know him. Rashida took my hand and said “Mom, he didn’t make it.” I looked at her—incredulous. I said “What do you mean he didn’t make it?” I had no idea what she meant. She repeated it and my knees buckled. I remember sinking into a waiting chair and I remember crying out “Oh, no—not both of them—not both of them—It can’t be—It can’t be.” I ran to the bedside. Lateef looked like he was just sleeping. He was still warm—but he was not breathing.
Later I learned that while his nurse was doing his hourly assessment, Lateef’s heart just stopped. Rashida was there and she corroborates this statement. I asked her whether the readings on the machine started declining showing that Lateef was in distress and she said that they did not. “Mom”, she said “It was like he was here one second and just gone the next.” Staff came running from everywhere. They tried to resuscitate him for 30 minutes with no success. He was gone. My first born, my only son, Lateef Mungin was pronounced dead at 4:27pm on Friday, February 28, 2014—five weeks to the day that his dad, Ted Mungin died. Lateef was 41 years old and left a wife and 2 daughters (8 and 13 years old). He also left many family members and a legion of friends who will miss him forever.