We Couldn’t Afford to Save My Sister


I was 15 and my sister was
about 24 when she passed. Being the youngest of 4 siblings, I got to spend the
least amount of time with her, which meant less time to strengthen our bond and create memories. She also only lived with us for, at most, a year and a half before we’d move elsewhere, with her staying at a different residence. I was mostly raised with my older
brother and other older sister, but I still loved her all the same. My sister had always
had an issue with Asthma, like my brother, but unlike her, he didn’t smoke and she did. I don’t remember when
they were diagnosed, but I don’t think any of us at the time
thought Asthma was a serious illness, and I never stopped to think that maybe her smoking habit
would worsen her condition to the point that it would be a disability. I look back now and I realize how severe my
sister’s condition really was, because small things like dust, cut grass, too cold or too warm air would
make her cough uncontrollably and trigger severe Asthma attacks. I feel partially responsible
for not trying hard enough and allowing her to continue to smoke and slowly damage her body right before my eyes. Every day, she’d need to plug a machine and cover
her entire mouth with an Oxygen mask to help her breathe. Her Asthma was not some
temporary illness that people grew out of or used an inhaler to help breathe or stop a wheezing problem. Her Asthma was a result of her airways narrowing, and becoming inflamed causing her chest to feel tight and her gasping and coughing
from lack of air to her lungs. She’d occasionally use her inhaler to help relax the muscles in her
airways to help her breath and even though it did, her smoking habits worsened her Asthma and caused her to rely on
her breathing machine instead. The entire house would echo
with the sound of the machine, every time it was on letting us know she was there. But one night, I woke up from a nap and didn’t
see my sister beside her machine. She was gone from the house. My mom told me she had been
sent away in an ambulance because she was unable to breathe. During my sister’s hospital stay, my mom would spend
days away from the house so she could be at her bedside. While she was there, my sister’s two children, a boy and a girl around the age of two who we referred to as “the twins,” because they were, stayed behind at home. I never visited my sister in the hospital. I should have tried but I was a lazy person who had severe social anxiety and didn’t like going outside when I didn’t need to. Not to mention, we were not very stable financially so I would either have to
walk to the local hospital or catch a bus. Instead, I stayed at home with my other siblings, missing my mom more than
anything, since I was closer to her. I just didn’t think my sister’s
situation was that serious. Then, early one morning, I was woken by my second sister and told to get ready to leave. We prepared the Twins, it was a rainy, wet, miserable day and we all needed jackets and
shoes to protect us from the mud. All five of us walked to the hospital in total silence, apart from the sound of
the rain and our footsteps. We were told straight away
that her condition wasn’t good, she hadn’t gotten any better. She could not breathe on her own and was in a lot of pain! We stood at the door of
her room where she lay lifeless, surrounded by some family member who had already arrived. I walked up to the bed and held her hand, I couldn’t bear to see her like this, why was she still sleeping? It was then that my mother told me in a
sad tone that, my sister’s lungs were so weak that they needed to
put her into a comatose state to fix them. She could not breathe on her own. I could tell how bad it was by the way my mom spoke. She was trying to put on a brave face, but I could see how sad she was inside. My sister was put into a coma because her condition had
gotten progressively worse with her eventually
unable to breathe on her own and being put on life-support. My mom tried everything to keep my sister alive and on that bed, but we didn’t have a lot of money, so the doctors told us our only option… was… …to let her go. My entire family was furious at the doctor for even saying something like that. Their job was to save lives, not suggest that we let my sister go. I could see in the doctor’s face that he was uncomfortable
suggesting the idea, but as he looked at all of us in that room, he told us the truth. That we were only
prolonging the process of dying; not saving her life. My mother grabbed my sister’s hand and stared
at the machines that kept her alive and opened her ears to the
sounds that beeped around her. This time, she begged him to do something, a procedure or give her trial medications to help her. He stayed quiet and said he’d bring in a social
worker to help us discuss our options. Even though my sister was an adult, it was my mother’s decision, as her next immediate family member and person paying for
her medical treatment, to decide whether we
would turn off her life-support or continue paying for her hospital stay. As a family, we didn’t want to pull the plug, but we were running out of money and as days passed, we began to see the color in her skin and the warmth of her body fade. For me, what little memories I had of my sister were quickly being replaced by an
image of her hooked to machines, lying on a hospital bed. I began seeing my sister as a hospital patient more than the person I knew she was and remembered. I think my mother began to realize this over the next few days that she visited her. It brought her to one of the hardest decisions she would ever make in her life. We brought the Twins in and let them lay next to her. They must have been put-off by all the technology hooked
up to her motionless body because they whined to be picked back up. When it was my turn, I approached her bed and
slowly put my head next to her and whispered the only words
that came to me into her ear, “I love you”. My aunt hugged and
assured me that she heard it. I wasn’t so sure, but I felt a few moments
of calm, and happiness hoping that this was what she wanted. Then, that calm, soon turned into commotion as a nurse entered the
room and informed us that it was time to let her go. Everything went in slow motion, but also very quickly at the same time. The nurse approached
my sister by the bedside and removed the tubes from her nose. We all held hands pleading and begging for her to
take a breath on her own. We wanted a miracle
to have her take a breath and see her chest lift on her own. The room grew silent and within a few short seconds, all I heard were tears dropping to the floor and the silent breaths of
air being held by everyone. I looked at my sister and knew this was the last
time I would ever see her alive. Her mouth was open,
like a fish out of water from when the nurse
pulled her breathing tube out. Her skin pale and dry, her body motionless and calm. We gathered around, letting her know we’d always love her and saw her heart rate monitor beep for the final time. The months after her passing, I battled with myself and my own grief. I was envious of the bonds
that everyone else had with her that I didn’t get a chance to build. I was still sad, of course, but just not sad enough to keep crying. I was so envious of my other relatives, because most of them had
taken pictures with my sister, and I had none. I felt so guilty for not trying harder
to be her friend like everyone else. I should’ve been grieving just as hard, but I wasn’t. I had great memories of my sister, kind, helpful, funny, always looking out for my best interests and trying to give her
baby sister good advice, but, I pushed her away, and it took this to make me realize, just how much she loved me, and I loved her. I could have built the same
memories as my other relatives had if I had just let her in. I felt intense remorse that
our relationship ended this way and that one of our last conversations was an argument. So many ifs, buts and maybes. I just couldn’t help think that I was to blame, that I could have changed things. If I’d stopped her smoking, she would still be here now, If I hadn’t complained so much and actually put an effort into our relationship, we would have built a stronger bond, maybe I didn’t deserve to
spend as much time with her because I pushed her away. Over time, I’ve learned that
I can’t hold on to my regrets. I have to move on and cherish the memories that I DID make with her, and not lament over the
ones that we could’ve made had we been closer. I’ve learnt a lot since my sister left us, every argument we ever
had was over petty things that could have been
easily forgiven and forgotten, and had they been, we would have built
a stronger bond together. We should always forgive
others that are close to us, especially when its really only petty things, as no one knows just how much
time we have to spend together. I know now, I would do things very
differently given a second chance, even if it was just a chance to apologize, but sometimes we don’t get second chances.