Richard Tocci

Richard Tocci
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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

RIP LaDonna Kay Cargill

LaDonna Kay Cargill died on July 7, 2011, only 5 days after turning 39 years old. She died in her sleep apparently of a seizure, a condition by which she had been suffering from for over 13 years following diagnosis of and surgery for an arterial venous malformation.

For those of you that remember her, Donna was my first wife of about 7 years, and mother to my daughter, Amanda Lee Dean.

To say that my relationship with Donna was tumultuous is an understatement - for the most part, it was an emotional train wreck. Not only did she suffer from a physical brain condition, but after our divorce she was later diagnosed with bipolarism with depression. Her seizure condition was a direct result of damage from the AVM, from which she mostly recovered but seizures were a reality she knew she would have to deal with for the remainder of her life.

For the longest time in our relationship, I begged her to get help for what I thought was a problem, but her stubbornness and drive to work through her problems herself - a trait to which I was attracted to back in our early relationship - delayed that until years after our divorce, when she finally broke down and sought help. It would not have caused her to stay alive longer, but it was help she so desperately needed, and it was a shame she didn't get it sooner.

I try not to think of all the bad times in our life, because it just brings back too many painful memories. I learned a lot about myself during those years, but that doesn't make those memories any less painful. I try to remember the more humorous aspects of our lives. After she had her brain surgery to remove the AVM and she woke up in ICU at Zale Lipshy Hospital in Dallas, Texas, the nurses tried to feed her ice chips. Her surgery, the second in 3 days, had lasted 9 1/2 hours, and after being in recovery for a few hours after that, her throat was obviously dry. When they tried to feed her ice, she waved the nurses away, but the nurses forced her to eat the ice. Well, that didn't work out so well as she vomited the ice right up. She found her voice and uttered two words: Dr. Pepper. The nurses obliged after a few minutes of fit throwing, and of course was perfectly fine after that. She remained under sedation for that night and the whole of the next day.

After those nearly two days, I walked into her room in ICU, after being woken up by Deon Sanders and his entourage while I was asleep in the ICU waiting room, to see her sitting up in bed, bitching about there being nothing on the TV, and eating bacon and eggs. Our conversation went something like this:

Me: "Hi!"
Donna: "Hi!"
Me: "Lay back down!"

Donna laughed, and then she was up walking around. Well, walking was not what I'd call it. It was more like a cross between hobbling and shuffling, since her legs had not been used in 2 days and had to be freed from pads designed to keep the circulation going while being bed ridden.

Her surgery involved removing a portion of her brain, and that caused her to temporarily lose the ability to read. Reading books was what Donna loved to do most, preferring Stephen King above all others, but would read books voraciously. Losing the ability to read frustrated her for a while, but after 6 months, she was back to reading at her pre-surgery rate. This is a testament to the human brain and its ability to heal. In fact, her doctor, Dr. Duke Sampson, was amazed she was alive and that her brain functioned, because motor functions that should have been damaged were perfectly fine despite the AVM. Those functions were routed to parts of the brain not affected by the AVM. It still caused damage, of course, but the brain is truly an amazing machine.

About a year or so after that surgery, Donna did something to just royally piss me off. I don't remember what it was, but it involved her talking WAY too much. I was so beside myself that I could only think of one thing to do. I picked up the remote control to the television, pointed it at her head, and pressed the power and mute buttons several times in frustration. Then I said "God dammit, they forgot to put it in!" Donna was pissed off at that for about 1 second, then laughed, as did I, and that was the end of that argument.

In her last days, Donna suffered from what she described as migraines, and the medication she was on to help control those did not seem to help. Her last words to the world at large were on Facebook, talking about her migraines. She sat on a chair to rest and try to nap it off. She fell asleep and never woke up.

When I was notified of Donna's death, my daughter had not been called, and I took the responsibility of breaking the news. I called Amanda immediately and left her a message on her phone to call me back as soon as she got the message. She cried so much when I broke the news to her. That night, she was at my house, and she spent the next three days taking care of her mother's affairs, including her mother's wish to be cremated. For all the pain Amanda suffered with her mother's death, she handled all of the arrangements with help from her aunts, cousins, grandmother, and the rest of her family, and she handled it with a strength I always knew she had. In those few days, I was most proud of her.

So if you enjoy Dr. Pepper, and if you smoke cigarettes, take a drink and a puff and say a word or two to Donna.


This post is simulcast in full living Technicolor on www.richardtocci.com and on Facebook.

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