My brother Doug was 18 months older than me and we were inseparable. In my dreams he is still here as a brother, father, partner and son. But then I wake up.April 4th, 1999 at 5:10 pm, my world changed forever.
That is the moment that the emergency room doctor stated that my brother had died from hanging himself. I relive that moment almost daily even now, seventeen years later. I had received the call from his partner that she found him in their apartment and had called 911. My husband and I rushed to the apartment to find the paramedics already there. My husband insisted I remained in the car. While I waited, I called my parents who were in Florida visiting my sister.
We followed the ambulance, and were quickly rushed into a private room. Close family started to arrive, though I don’t know who called them. My recollection of this period of time is foggy. The ER staff were monitoring my vitals as I was almost nine months pregnant and they were extremely concerned.
My brother, Doug, had struggled with depression and addiction for years, and in the weeks preceding, he had plummeted. He had attempted to overdose twice during that time, and had also put a hook up in the ceiling in his apartment. At the time, I was working at a psychiatric hospital and was convinced that if I could get him to agree to get evaluated and admitted, that things would change for him. Two days earlier, he had agreed to come to the hospital, though I think because he didn’t want to disappoint me, and knew he needed help. I told staff that afternoon that I was no longer on the clock, no longer an employee. I was a sister. I gave the evaluating clinician a heads up about Doug’s prior suicide attempts, not knowing how honest he would be in his evaluation.
When I saw Doug, he could hardly speak from vomiting up the pills he had taken. I told him I loved him and how proud I was of him. And reminded him of how much his 3-year-old daughter needed him. He did get admitted that day, and I told him I would visit on Saturday and bring him his favorite sandwich. I visited on Saturday and he was still spiraling downward. He had not seen a doctor yet and wouldn’t until Monday. I pleaded with him to stay in the hospital, to get the help he needed. He stayed one more night. The next day was Easter Sunday and Doug was going stir crazy being on a locked unit, not with his partner and daughter.
I spoke to him on the phone and he told me he was going to leave the hospital. I pleaded and begged him to just wait until Monday when he would get to see the doctor. Doug left the hospital at 2:30 pm and killed himself two hours later. I had to make that phone call to my parents that their son was dead. I miss my brother every day. I walk in his memory. And for the nine friends that I have lost to suicide. And for awareness.
Respite Region 3 Manager