How I Made A Good Goodbye for David Bleicher

May 1, 2023 | 0 comments

Since 2010, when my book A Good Goodbye: Funeral Planning for Those Who Don’t Plan to Die was published, I have been advocating for people to plan ahead for end-of-life issues. And I practice what I preach. My husband David Bleicher and I have written advance medical directives and discussed them often. We did our estate plans and set up a trust. We put our funeral plans and information on file with a funeral home a decade ago and funded those arrangements last year.

During the month of April, all that work was put to the test. You never know when you are going to be faced with life-and-death situations.

What Happened

On April 4, my husband Dave had a TURP surgery. That stands for transurethral resection of the prostate. It’s a surgery used to treat urinary problems that are caused by an enlarged prostate. Dave had a history of cardiac issues, and took blood thinners and other medications. But after consulting with his cardiologist, he was given the green light for the surgery.

One of the problems with surgery when you take blood thinners is you have to stop the medication prior to the operation. Two days after the surgery, while recovering at home, Dave complained of chest pains. While that was concerning, he didn’t want to go to the emergency room. The next day, he was lethargic and his blood pressure was disturbingly low. We went to the Urgent Care ER. Blood tests revealed he had experienced a heart attack, had failing kidney function, and was headed into septic shock. He was transported to the hospital to the cardiac Intensive Care Unit (ICU).

David Bleicher in the Cardiac ICU

Cardiac Intensive Care Unit

Because of the compromised kidney function, the doctors needed to get him stabilized before doing a cardiac catheter procedure to understand what had happened to his heart. Turns out he did have a blocked artery which had caused the chest pain. The next day, he coded – his heart arrested, twice. He was revived after 23 minutes of CPR. Ribs were broken, he was intubated and in critical condition.

The doctors wanted to discuss Goals of Care. How aggressive do we want to be? They could put him on a heart/lung machine, called ECMO. During ECMO treatment, blood flows out of your body through a tube in a large blood vessel in your chest, near your groin or in your neck. A pump pushes your blood through tubes that carry it to a machine that adds oxygen and removes carbon dioxide. Then the machine pumps your blood back into your body. And what would this aggressive treatment yield for a man with a damaged heart?

I knew that such a treatment was not what either of us wanted. I said to change his status to DNR – Do Not Resuscitate. That didn’t mean they didn’t try to save his life. He got off the ventilator after a day and a half. There were other cardiac issues and serious impacts from the CPR. They make it look so easy on TV for people to recover from CPR.

After a week in the ICU, we got the word that he had heart failure. We talked about discharging him to a rehabilitation facility. But after a good day sitting in a chair and using a walker to navigate a circuit in the ICU, his health declined further. He went back to bed and stayed there.

Choosing Hospice

It was time for comfort care. I stayed with him overnight in the hospital ICU. The next day, a hospice representative met with me to admit Dave to hospice. On a lighter note, she had heard me speak a few years ago and gushed, “You’re THE Gail Rubin? I’m such a fangirl!”

Dave was on in-patient hospice care for a week. He was mostly non-responsive, but could still hear and understand the people speaking in the room. He occasionally tried to communicate with us, but it was hard to understand what he was saying. The staff was incredibly kind and supportive, keeping him pain-free and clean. They provided me with trays of food. It was a quiet and homey atmosphere.

My brother runs a metaphysical store. One of the psychics who does readings there said that she sensed Dave would not leave while I was there with him. And I was at the hospice around the clock, save for a few hours in the afternoon when family would come and sit with Dave while I left to shower and do a few errands. But on Friday night, I left the room to make a phone call. Within 15 minutes, the nurse came to say his breathing had changed and to come to the room. He had already exhaled his last breath. He did not want me to see him die.

Choosing hospice was the right thing to do for Dave. His body was devastated by so many medical complications. Not enough people know the benefits of hospice or are brave enough to embrace comfort care available at end-of-life. It is hard to lose a person you love. It is a blessing to know you helped them make the transition in a peaceful, pain-free way.

Dave and I had preplanned our funeral arrangements with French Funerals & Cremations. The team that came to pick up his body were so respectful and caring. It was a relief to have already chosen a funeral home and made the investment in their services.

Who was David Bleicher?

David Bleicher

David Bleicher

David Bleicher was 71 years old when he shed his mortal coil on April 28, 2023 due to medical complications after a surgery. Born in Los Angeles, his family moved to Brooklyn when he was 16, just shy of getting his California drivers license. He was disappointed New York didn’t grant drivers licenses until age 18. As a teen, he grew his amazing mustache, a facial feature for his entire adult life.

When he was a teenager, he thought he’d be a rabbi, but that didn’t happen. But as a cartoonist and graphic designer, he illustrated many children’s books for the publisher Torah Aura. Titles included I Can Celebrate the Jewish Holidays, I Can Learn Torah Vol. 1, Whole School Shabbat Stories, and others. He also painted rocks with cute characters and charming scenes with elves (before Keebler cookies started doing it).

David Bleicher business cardHe did graphic design work for the Yellow Pages, Scholastic, and as a freelancer in New York. He could tell with a glance if a line of text was one pica off. He had wonderful handwriting.

He moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico in 1990. With his former boss Roe Libretto, who moved west at his invitation, they founded NoBul Graphics.

After the business wasn’t fun anymore, they closed the company and he went back to school to become a teacher. At Rio Grande High School, he taught English, film, and journalism. In 2010 he became a National Board Certified Teacher.

As a film buff, he was known for extensively quoting dialogue from Young Frankenstein, Blazing Saddles, and Casablanca. His personal symbol was the bat. He worked with both bats and birds as a volunteer with Talking Talons. He carried pictures of Bernie the bat he fostered as a baby.

Dave was a midnight cookie muncher. He did the laundry and cleaned up the dinner dishes. He always had a cloth handkerchief in his pocket, offering it to his wife if she sneezed or started to cry about anything. She is certainly crying a lot these days.

He is survived by his wife Gail Rubin, his mother Myra Ross and her husband Alvin, his brother Steven Bleicher, an extended family including brother-in-law Mitch Rubin, and many heartbroken friends. He is predeceased by his father Norman Bleicher.

Thank you to the dedicated staff at Presbyterian Hospital for saving his life, and the caring staff at Kaseman Hospice for helping him gracefully exit. In lieu of flowers, please support the Talking Talons education and youth leadership program.

The funeral will take place in Albuquerque on Wednesday, May 3 at 10:30 a.m. at Congregation Albert, 3800 Louisiana Blvd. NE, followed by burial in Fairview Memorial Park, 700 Yale Blvd. SE. French Funerals & Cremations handled the arrangements and posted his obituary on their website.

May his memory be a blessing.

A Good Goodbye