It is with tears in my eyes and great sadness that I pass along the news of my only sister Erica's death earlier this evening.
To those of you who knew Erica, and to the many more of you who know me and were aware of my relationship with Erica, I thank you in advance for your best wishes and condolences.
Nearly a month ago, Erica suffered a massive stroke (a lower brain stem infarction) and after a few days, was discovered comatose in her home. After arrival at Millard Fillmore-Gates hospital near her home in Buffalo New York, Erica remained in a coma for 16 days, but breathing on her own. With fine medical care and an opportunity for her body to detox and heal itself a bit, Erica awoke from her coma, completely paralized from the neck down and unable to communicate. I flew to Buffalo to be at her bedside, partily because of conflicting reports from hospital staff about her progress or lack thereof. Upon arrival last Tuesday, my worst fears were realized. I couldn't imagine the horrible result of this stroke, my only sister was now gone, unable to function and with no apparent opportunity to improve. I spoke with doctors, nurses and medical professionals as well as with my cousin Ron in California and a few close friends in Vegas and Florida. The decision to remove Erica from life support was the most obvious one but sincerely the most difficult choice I have ever had to make. Because Erica had no LIVING WILL or MEDICAL PROXY, I had to sit before a hastily gathered meeting of a NY State Medical Ethics board and plead my case as Erica's closest living relative. The fact that Erica had been hospitalized 2 1/2 weeks without a visitor and had no financial substance, made it a bit easier for me to be appointed Medical Surrogate and make a few decisions on my sister's behalf. If one person I know has a living will drawn up, or a medical proxy established, then something good will have come out of this awful situation. Last Friday as I left Buffalo, she was removed from a respirator provided to her to assist in breathing. The day after I left the feeding tube providing nourishment was removed and last Saturday the hydration IV was removed as well. Erica was provided "comfort measures", a baseline of drugs for pain and anxiety so that her final days could be comfortable. I got the call tonite from the nurse on duty that Erica passed away tonite.
Erica was a very special person, had accomplished much but left much too much on the table as well. Erica had TWO Master's Degree's, one in Psychology and one in Drama Therapy. She taught Drama at Univ of Buffalo for a year or two but her most successful time came when she owned and operated a theater in Buffalo next to Shea's Buffalo called Caberet 5000. Besides that endeavor, Erica acted, directed and produced plays in and around Buffalo and Rochester and even spent a year on Long Island attempting to see if the Hamptons culture was more to her liking. Erica, like me and many others, had her demons and in her case the demons were DRUGS. Erica started smoking pot as a teenager and her drug use ran the gamut in terms of seriousness the past 30+ years. Since our parents passing 14 years ago, Erica lived a sub-standard lifestyle and had often resisted offers to assist her. About 10 years ago I drove to Buffalo, moved Erica into proper housing, filled her refrigerator, freezer and cabinets with food and toiletries and set her up as best I could to give her a new start, but sadly, within a few months, the bi-weekly calls for money and new problems arose again and again. The past 3+ years have been quite contentious for us, I last visited with Erica in Buffalo last summer and despite the fact that we hadn't seen or spent much time together in about a year, we managed to argue and fight alot. We had a delightful 'moment' on Thanksgiving night, a longwinded telephone conversation where we talked about anything and everything, something I'll hang on to as I try to remember the sister I loved. Erica never made things easy for the folks around her but she knew she was loved and cared for by many people on many levels.
To my friends, former co-workers and aquaintences.....PLEASE, take the necessary steps to establish a healthcare proxy for yourself and those you love. It will alleviate some of the pain and sleepless nights and assure you an opportunity to see that your wishes are followed by someone you trust, not a state, a hospital, a doctor or a stranger.
It was Erica's wish to be cremated and I imagine I'll have her ashes buried in the family plot on Long Island sometime this summer, or spread along the water banks by the Peace Bridge in Buffalo as Erica had requested. There will be no service, there is no need for flowers etc. For those who care to, please make a donation to your favorite charity in Erica's name and I'd certainly appreciate any stories or information from anyone who knew Erica and who wishes to share with me.
Finally, I'll be fine.
I just desperately need some sleep and I'm sure some time will help me shake off the dreadful month and heal a bit from what I've just endured.
Thank you again for your condolences and good wishes
Keith, I'm not sure if you remember me but I went out with Erica in 1976-78, I was at your house in Little Neck a lot, and met you several times.
I was devastated when I read your post regarding Erica.
Erica was hard and wonderful to be with. funny, smart, gorgeous, vivacious and loved life.
I'll always remember her laughing, and singing (she really could sing!)
I'm sorry for your loss Keith, Erica was special.
I'm stunned, I always expected to see her name up in lights...
I did love her a lot.