6/1/64 - 12/23/95
February 3rd 1981. I didn't know who she was when I first met her,
but I had to meet her. As she spoke to Nancy she captivated my attention, even
as I attempted to help my customers. Nancy, her mother, had been my cashier for
several months but I hadn't imagined this could be the Pammy
from the motherhood terror stories and urgent phone calls from where ever she
wasn't supposed to be. After Pam left the store, my only question to her mother
was, "Who's the body?" I quickly learned this was a girl who was strong, opinionated,
very intelligent, devoted to friends and family, sensual and very eager to live.
We met, fell in love and were married within 5 months. She had just turned 17
As time went by we had a "normal relationship" with the strengths and trial
of many other couples, and some tests other would never make it though. But,
our arguments generally would end with laughter as we realized no matter what
the difficulty, we were still in love and that would carry us through, and
to let the small stuff get out of hand was just ridiculous.
In 1987, Pamela orchestrated the adoption bringing Samantha into our lives.
Doctors had expressed doubt that we could ever successfully have a child, and
adoption seemed the best solution. As Pamela wished, Samantha has always known
of her adoption and expresses her pride in knowing what her Birth-parents,
and what we as adoptive parents did for her in a difficult time. In August
1995 Pam even arranged for Samantha to meet her Birth-father and sister. Samantha
and Kandace even attend the same elementary school in Phoenix.
March 1988 led me into the Air Force and Pamela became a "dependent", a word
she despised because of her strong will and independent spirit. Zweibrucken,
Germany was our first assignment, it was beautiful there but I could tell Pamela
missed her family greatly, especially her mom. The phone bill proved it. But
there was more. She was experiencing extreme anxiety and loneliness. Then in
March 1990 a friend let Pam know what a relationship with Jesus would do in
her life. And what a change it was. Gone were the fears and the uncertainty
of the future. I soon accepted the Lord into my life and we were comforted
by the fact that He now laid out our path and His will was our will.
In June of 1991, two month after arriving in San Angelo Texas, Logan was born
to us, our "Miracle" who the doctors said was very unlikely to occur had arrived.
We settled into our Air Force life, teaching Bible studies, Pamela doing every
craft imaginable, it seems we made our best friends, for life, in Texas. Then
suddenly my vision deteriorated and I was no longer World Wide Qualified, and
quickly our security was gone. We were out of the Air Force. Our only choice
was to return to Phoenix and make a new life for our family.
Pamela took the bull by the horns and planned for a career as a Nurse Midwife
and started to attend classes and work part time. We split the difference with
the kids and did what we could to still be good parents. I was so proud of
Pam and the way she managed and still could encourage others. She even volunteered
at a crisis pregnancy center counseling young women, answering phones and arranging
for people in trouble to find the help they needed. Pamela even organized an
adoption, serving as a birthing coach for the birth mother and liaison with
the adoptive parents. The baby, Anna, was born in November 1995.
Late in November 1995, the flu struck my household. The kids first but they
soon got over it. In early December Pam had a Craft Show, but the flu seemed
to be holding on to her and she needed lots of rest. Pamela participated but
seemed slowed. I worked outdoors and figured I had brought some bug home with
me. Pamela even joked, "at least we'll never catch this again". On Tuesday
the 19th of December we went to the Emergency room, Pam had thrown up a little
blood and looked yellow to me. After about
7 hours in the emergency room, where they did take several tests, we left with
no more than instructions to avoid contact sports and see a doctor by Thursday
the 21st. Pam had a restless night at home and she was deep in thought or maybe
trying to deal with the pain. The next day, the 20th a pain was getting worse
in he ankle and leg muscle and she was visibly shaken and scared but felt she
could see the doctor the next day at a regular appointment.
Thursday the 21st was terrible, Pam insisted I go to work while Fidel, (Nancy's
husband) had arranged to take Pam to the doctors office. I was unaware that
Pam had to crawl to the car. She was unable to put weight on her leg and told
Fidel to take her directly to the emergency room instead of to the doctors
appointment. While at the hospital, for the first few hours Pamela was ignored,
overlooked and not given adequate pain medication. Also, when I called to check
her condition she was not told I had called. The doctors seemed baffled. First
it could be a spider bite, or a stress fracture or even blood clots. There
were no wounds or scratches of any type on her leg from what I could recall
from the night before. This was also noted on the hospital visit of the 20th.
They did not admit Pamela until 8 hours after she arrived in emergency. Two
hours after being admitted she was rushed to "critical care" because her pressures
dropped. When I was finally allowed to see her she told me, "You know, Steve,
if I die I am going to Heaven, so take care of the kids, I love you".
These were her last words to me.
At this time around 10 P.M., the nurse told us that they had seen this before
and the nurse assured my kids that Mama would be home for Christmas and all
would be fine. With this good news I went home to do a few necessary chores
and Nancy took the kids so I could rest and possibly go to work the next day.
Just an hour later I was called and told to be by her side because she had
taken a turn for the worse and would not make it through the night. Baffled
and afraid I would not make it in time I called Nancy and returned to the hospital.
Pam's pressures continued to drop and she was on a respirator now. She could
not speak and she was visibly shaken and agitated. The doctors still had no
concrete ideas about what was causing this but they only gave her a 1 to 2%
chance at survival. As I visited her I could the beginnings of the swelling
and discoloration in her leg as they searched blood clots. The nurse said that
before they put Pam on the respirator said, "Good, now I can rest."
At 7 A.M. on the 22nd, Pamela suffered heart failure, she was on full support
now and all of her other organs had failed or were going to soon. I was told
again that any doctor who came to the floor checked in on Pamela, to offer
ideas, or advice. The family was gathering to say their last good-byes. The
disease or illness, whatever it was, was visibly spreading from Pamela's legs
to her arms and chest. The swelling and purplish discoloration was straining
her skin and I know it had torn through in some places. I later learned what
to call this killer--Necrotizing Fasciitis, or NF. The name absolutely scares
me since I saw what it did to Pamela I felt nothing could stop the spread of
this. I touched my wife gently when I visited, hoping not to break her tender
shin. At 4 p.m. in this afternoon of the 22nd of December, I was told the doctors
had finally isolated the organism and had started to fight it. But, Pam's body
needed time to fight the toxins in her system-and she just didn't have that
kind of time.--I was right, nothing could stop this.
My partner, my wife, wasn't there anymore, I knew that God had relieved her
of this pain and she had already put on her Heavenly Garments and left this
would behind. As her pressures dropped and the emotional numbness took hold
I met with family and friends and encouraged as best I could and didn't try
to hide my tears. A song that I've heard, after all of this, came to me which
says, "sometimes He calms the storm, and sometimes He calms His child," I am
sure He was with me during these tough hours, all through the "storm". I napped
with the kids in a small room . At 3:30 a.m. on the 23rd . I awoke and knew
it was time to let her body go. The family prayed in the hall, then I went
in with friends to say good-bye to Pamela. As I stroked her hair and spoke
of her life and how I would miss her, her "life" glided from this body, smoothly
and gently, safely and comfortably--this world was finished for her. It was
4:35 a.m. on December 23, 1995. I sat with her for a few hours without machines
on or hurried activities all around, I wanted to feel her peace and her presence.
I always loved watching Pamela sleep, only now I knew she would awaken in a
place full of greater love that we can experience here.
I didn't know the exact cause of death until I read the Death Certificate
in January 1996. It said "Bronchi Pneumonia and Group A Strep". The autopsy
mentioned the sloughing of skin and how the internal organs and the brain was
damaged. I also read "Necrotizing Fasciitis" We would have won against pneumonia
or Strep, but not all three-or could we? Where could it have been stopped and
when? What is wrong with the identification and diagnoses of these killer infections
that my young wife cannot be with me today? These things happen I suppose.
I am very happy for all those who have recovered and can carry the banner
for conquest. I would be pleased to be in your group and applaud the doctors
skills and successes on Pamela's road to recovery. But--I carry a banner too.
It is a scar across my heart that will never heal, it's explaining to two young
children that going to the hospital does not always make you better, and all
they will ever have are memories of the best hugs mama could give, because
dad hugs are not the same.
Pamela made an impact in everyone's life she ever met. I will not and can
not let her be forgotten She is my lifes love.
June this year was a very tough month for me. The 1st was Pam's 33rd birthday,
the 22nd is Logan's birthday. The 23rd was the 18th month marking her death
. And the 27th was our 16th wedding anniversary.---But, really, everyday without
Pamela is tough....
Love doesn't forget--ever.
Written with love by Steven A. Berkemeier
E-Mail to Nancy, Pamela's Mother
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March 3, 2003