Cynthia Amelia McLain (Vecchio) Obituary 12/16/10 Danforth Maine, Weston Maine, Baltimore Maryland : What Happened to My Mother

Rest In Peace Mom, 9/30/51-12/16/10

Below is the hardest obituary I've ever had to write, because it is for my own mother. Cynthia Amelia McLain.  My mother was battling rectal cancer which is common in our family. Two other generations of women before her battled this same illness and won.  The problems starting last summer, and and progressed until she was scheduled in October for six weeks of chemotherapy and radiation from October through November.  She made it though those treatments without fail. I was with her the month of November.  She kept up her appetite and her blood work and MRI's showed her as cancer free in her blood and lymph nodes (except for that darned tumor in her rectum.)  My mother was healthy and strong, and did not even get sick like most people do during her treatments.  I was so very proud of her.

We took her to one of Portland's best hospitals for her operation at 7am on December 15, 2010.  Her surgery lasted from 9am until 2pm, and she was moved from intensive care to a semi-private room by 5pm.  We visited with her in the hospital in Portland 6-7 pm that evening and she was happy and well and in good spirits, talking and joking with us and happy that her operation was a success.  She was most ecstatic that they didn't have to do a full colostomy, and that her surgeon that she spoke so highly of, was able to remove the tumor and declared her cancer free. 

She talked to us about her pain level, and it was a 5 on a scale from 1-10, so she didn't push the "Morphine button" much. She so much wanted so much to get out of the hospital and get back to work at her job at the Danforth Rehabilitation Residential Center.  She was so happy her body was officially cancer free.  She gave us kissed and talked to us until a little after 7.   My brother, stepfather and I returned to a hotel.

Five hours later, we received the call that no one wants.  We were told she was "found dead" in her hospital bed.  We were asked to come to the hospital at 1 in the morning, and it was a very sad scene.  Upon meeting with two doctors on the night staff, I was told she was found dead and unresponsive, and they tried CPR on her.  I soon found she was on no electronic heart or blood pressure monitoring, and we could not get answers as to what really happened or why she wasn't on such machines. We assumed the machines we had seen hooked up to her were electronic blood pressure or heart monitoring, and maybe even blood thinner to prevent blood clotting, but instead, they were morphine pumps and automatic epidural pain medicine pumps, a catheter and some type of automatic "rubber inflatable stockings."  I was told the stockings were self-inflating to prevent blood clots which were common after surgeries, so I had just assume she was on blood pressure monitoring. 

I was told vitals were taken during the "once per hour" nursing rounds and an electronic machine wheeled in every 4 hours.  Assuming from the situation, this just wasn't enough.  Sadly, as my mother did not have a living will, by the time they "found her unresponsive", it was too late and in my family's opinion she was left there to die.  

After I went against my own mother's wishes and  convinced my family to order an autopsy (of which I had to battle the hospital to get ) still no answers were found except her heart had damage which we could assume was the case after 40-something years of smoking.  What we only know is the death certificate which indicates 1) low oxygen in the blood 2) cardiac arrest and 3) rectal cancer, no one can explain to me why these devices weren't used.  Her surgeon took a lot of time on the phone with me and told me my mother had coronary heart disease, and asked me if she had symptoms which she didn't.  She had no shortness of breath or trouble lifting, in fact she lifted 50 lbs at her job.  No pains in her chest, and it doesn't run in our family.

When people heard she died, they assume she died during surgery or because of the cancer and that is not true so I here to set the record straight.  My mother was alive and well the last time we saw her.   We were celebrating the cancer-victory in the hotel when we received the call she was dead. To realize my strong-willed mother battled this for a total of six months, taking treatments subsequently for 6 weeks, then successfully making it though an operation, and won, then being found dead in a hospital bed hours later, does not give my family closure and makes me question what could have been done.  How many others coming out of major surgery were left to die unmonitored?

When people die people want to place blame on someone.  This is not the case here.  I would be so much more relived if my mother died in surgery or in regards to a complication, or if I was told they responded to a heart monitor and she had a massive heart attack and they could not revive her.  Instead, I have to live with the fact she may have been left there, dying, and no one knowing, and never knowing why.

Mom, I am sorry I didn't pay more attention to the machines you were on and that I couldn't convince you to come to Johns Hopkins for surgery.  I've always been a bit squeamish about blood and needles, and perhaps had I just paid more attention that night, I could have put two and two together and demanded you be on them.

The night staff doctor told me "They were available to patients but my mother didn't need them."  I'll let the people who read this determine whether she did or didn't. Perhaps it would have been that one tiny beep in drop of blood pressure or heart stress that would have alerted a nursing station and prevented this from happening.  Due to the window of opportunity a tiny beep may have meant they would have been able to save you and you'd be here today.  I'm no doctor, and I'm not God, so I don't know what happened if it was your time or an error, and maybe I'll never know.  The only thing I do know is that death is hard enough and  I hope no other family has to go through the pain we are suffering not knowing why precautions weren't taken to ensure you were getting the best treatment possible.

I know you are in a better place and your love is all around us.  I feel your love and I know you are somewhere over the rainbow.  I promise to do what I can in life to make you proud of me. Sometimes our relationship was rough, but I owe my life to you.  I love you Mommy. 
 xoxox Cyn Marie 

I learned a lot from you, you gave me life and I love you.
Not so long ago.

Weston, Maine
Cynthia Amelia McLain (nee Vecchio)
On December 16, 2010, beloved wife for over three decades to Daniel E. McLain, devoted mother of Daniel J. McLain and Cynthia M. Fahnestock-Schafer of Baltimore, sister to Brian Vecchio and Michael Vecchio of Maryland passed away in a Portland hospital.  She was predeceased by her parents Pat & Dolores Vecchio and eldest brother Orland Vecchio.  Originally from Baltimore, Maryland, (Overlea area) her special love for the Pine Tree state developed from her early childhood days when her Father had a hunting lodge and built what is now known as Living Waters.  While still a resident of Maryland she would spend summers with the Hayman’s on East Grand Lake, only a few camps down from the land her Father originally owned.  By the early 90’s she had relocated from Maryland where she and her husband built their home in Weston, Maine. She often remarked that she saw the beauty of God in every sunrise and sunset, in every aspect of nature.  She loved to cook, and had a special love for her job at the Residential Center in the town of Danforth.   Pursuant to her own wishes as expressed to her family, there will be no formal memorial service, instead she requested, “for people to have a good meal and celebrate her life and not mourn her death.”  In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be sent in her name to Cancer Care of Maine, 33 Whiting Hill Road, Brewer, Maine 04412.  Comments may be left online at