Dan Gisvold at Bear Creek

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

He is gone

Today we turned off the machines. The transplant teams began their work and families that we have never met will receive the gift of life because of my brother.

His name is Daniel Edward Gisvold.

He was born on August 4, 1947 in Sacramento, California. He was six feet tall and skinny. He was 2 1/2 years older than me. He was a truck driver. He was a motorcycle rider. He was a voracious reader. He loved music--any kind as long as it was well performed. He loved people in general (not necessarily in the specific! ;-) )

He is gone. This is the story of how he left us.

At around 8pm on Saturday, December 10, 2010, I got a call from Dan. He was upset. He said something was wrong with his eyes, that he couldn't read the signs and that things didn't make sense. I asked him where he was and he could not get the words out. I knew that he had intended to drive to Corning, Ca. so I asked him if he was there. He said yes. I asked if he was off the road and he said yes. He kept saying something was wrong, something was wrong and there was panic in his voice. I told him to look for someone walking by his truck and he stopped another trucker who took the phone. I told that man to call 911. Dan got back on the phone and kept saying that something was wrong and that he was scared. I told him to breathe.

Then the EMT was there. And I heard Dan groan. It was a painful groan and I kept screaming his name into the phone. He didn't answer. Finally, the EMT got on the line and said Dan was being combative and was trying to crawl out of the ambulance. He wanted to know if Dan used drugs to stay awake. I asked if he had gotten a blood pressure or a pulse and he read them to me. They were low. I told him that Dan hadn't taken anything stronger than an aspirin for 30 years. He put Dan on the phone again and I yelled at him to let the EMT do his job. He kept asking me what was going to happen to him. I told him I didn't know but he had to get to a hospital because he was having a stroke. He kept saying he was terrified and I kept telling him that I understood and that he needed to get to a hospital.

Then a cop gets on the phone and asks if Dan used drugs. I told him the same thing. He hung up the phone.

That was the last I heard from Daniel.

The next call I got was from St Elizabeth's Hospital in Red Bluff, Ca. The ER doctor said Dan was calm and they were running tests. He asked for some history-which I gave him.

The next call was from the same doctor saying that Dan was bleeding into his brain and that he was being transferred to Mercy Hospital in Redding, California. That hospital had a neurosurgeon on call.

I kept thinking that this was going to be minor. That Dan would be just fine. That he always was just fine. But when I got that call I knew I had to go to Redding.

I called my daughter and told her to pack. It is an eight hour drive from her house to Redding but leaving at 10 we would be there by 6am. Meanwhile, I had called our older brother Bill who lives in the Bay area. His plan was to drive up to Redding in the morning. As I was leaving my driveway, I got a call from Bill telling me to go to the San Luis Obispo Airport at 11pm as he had chartered a plane for my daughter and I.

As I sat in my daughter's apartment waiting for the appointed time to go to the airport, Dr. King from Mercy Hospital called. He told me that Dan had suffered a catastrophic brain bleed from which he would not recover. They had put him on life support until family could arrive and he wanted to know if Dan was an organ donor. I told him that he was and that our plan was to fly there immediately. We landed in Redding at @2am.

There are things I will never forget...the sound of his voice on the phone, the feel of his hair in my hand as he lay there slowly dying, the kind words from the hospital staff, my last look at his face as I left for the last time.

He died December 13, 2010.

I will miss him for as long as I live.

I hope that soon I can talk about his life.


  1. Gael, this is Mava. I am so sorry, so very sorry. I can't imagine how you feel, and I hope I never have to go through it myself. My thoughts and prayers are with you.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. I am so sorry for your loss.

    I'm geering up to read the rest of your blog from here, and I admire your determination to share your brother with those who loved him and those who never got to meet him.

  4. Chills and tears. So many similarities... Grieving for your loss and mine.

  5. Gael, It's Diana. I feel so deeply for you and for Dan. When you write about him, I always cry real tears. I have never doubted for a moment that I would see/be with him again. That's what helps me look forward. Love and hugs for you.