Never the same…

24 Jan

Tuesday December 24, 2013

My sister and I got back to the ICU early on Tuesday morning. Kissed our Mom and called her “sweet pea” and “beautiful”. Told her Greg would be there in just a couple of hours, and that Aunt Sharon was coming and so was Inga.

Mom was looking forward to seeing everyone. Not as excited as she normally would be about seeing everyone, but under the circumstances, and given how tired she was, her tentative “Really? Oh, that’s great…” was enough for me. The vascular surgeon came by and told us how well Mom was recovering from the embelectomy and her attending doctor came by and said we needed to start her overall recovery. Which means, get her up and about. Change her dressing gown, get her sitting upright.

One of the nurses came in and helped her into a chair, near the natural light from the window. She’d need to start sleeping at night, and be more alert during the day. I could tell it really taxed her, being moved to the chair, but she didn’t complain. She just moaned and went back to sleep. I didn’t think twice about that – she needed her rest.

When my brother Greg arrived later that morning, I intercepted him to better prepare him for seeing her. She didn’t look good – not just because she’d been through surgery and initial recovery, but she was once again intubated and her words were jumbled. I prepared him that “it’s the delirium effect from anesthesia and sedation – don’t be alarmed – just be patient.”

I explained why she had to be intubated again… the previous day, because of her nausea, and the inability for medication to control it, we could no longer give her any liquids by mouth. This meant she couldn’t be given her other medications – thus, they had to intubate Mom through the nose. Less invasive but still… Technically, Mom was on life support and the physical reality was harsh.

Greg understood. He walked in and hugged her, kissed her, held her hand. Inside, he fell apart. Greg is first born and he and Mom always shared a special mother-son bond. Seeing her hooked up to multiple lines and intubated was hard for him. My heart hurts that he had to go through this. Inside, I was glad I told him to wait to come – seeing her on the vent would have killed him.

I kept talking to the nurses about her continued word misplacement (I didn’t know what to call it) and they’d do a quick neuro test and assure me it was likely related to being exhausted from the constant attention from ICU nurses and doctors. That made some sense, but I didn’t quite buy it.

Mom became a bit unresponsive by lunch time. She’d slumped in her chair and the nurses would rouse her, rearrange her, and then Mom would moan, go back to sleep and slump again in her chair. Although her blood pressure was high, and her blood glucose were high, but the nurses assured us this was normal at this point.

Aunt Sharon arrived early in the afternoon with Uncle Joe and my cousin Laura. My cousin David arrived later that day, leaving his family dinner to come see his Aunt. Today was Christmas Eve for them. Not for us however. It was Tuesday. The holidays were something other people would enjoy.

Sharon is a just-now-retired-nurse. She’s done and seen it all. She too knew something was not right with Mom. Mom was mostly non-responsive at this point, although we were able to rouse her and she was able to recognize her sister. They talked briefly too. This is why I said my sister gave a gift to my Mom the day before when she had Mom and Sharon talk over the phone.

I no longer day dreamed about moving in and taking charge of her pantry. I couldn’t think anymore beyond the current moment in time. No thoughts about “later on”. No thoughts actually about food. The ICU nurses had to repeatedly remind us that we all needed to take breaks, rest, and eat.

Mom was once again slumped over in that damn chair and this time, I noticed the right corner of her mouth drooping. At first, I thought her mouth was lax from sleeping. Then I knew. I just knew.

We alerted a nurse who got the doctor. We sort of let my Aunt do most of the talking knowing she’d explain what was going on if we needed it. But the bottom line was that they were ordering a CT scan to confirm that she’d had a stroke. By 2pm Tuesday, I sent a text message to Rock “She’s not going to make it. I know it.”

The very thing that my mother most feared, she’d likely had.

Mom’s best friend Inga arrived that afternoon. Mom not only recognized her, she was attentive! They had a full on conversation about the fun they were going to have once Mom was outta this joint! Sandy and I hugged each other and cried. It felt hopeful. Amazing. It would be short lived. As soon as Inga left, Mom returned to her unresponsive state, not rousing easily or responding to the doctor’s and nurses prompts.

A thousand questions entered my mind, none of which I could wrap my head around, or my heart, or my voice. Not yet.

My family and I sat in the ICU waiting room while they took Mom for her CT scan. We held hands and I asked my sister to lead us in prayer. It was a somber moment, filled with fear, regret, anxiousness, faith and love. Soon thereafter, we had confirmation. She’d suffered at least three strokes. She’d never be the same. But would she survive this?

In the brief moments where Mom seemed able to focus, I stroked her brow and looked her in the eyes. Nodding, I told her she had several strokes. She looked like she was in a lot of pain. Weeping, I told her it was going to be fine, that if she wanted to fight, she should. That if she didn’t want to, I’d take care of everything.

Later that night, Rock picked me up from the hospital. We went back to my condo – I needed to get my mother’s advanced healthcare directive. The one that named me her agent. The one that would give me the strength to ask all the hard questions that were swirling around my head. The one that would allow me to execute her wishes, if it came to that, to not prolong life.

Having Sushi, Sept 2013

Having Sushi, Sept 2013


One Response to “Never the same…”

  1. Rose January 25, 2014 at 7:18 am #

    Your loss is so clearly portrayed here. There is not much anyone can say or do to make it better, but know that there are many out there who are thinking of you and sending good, healing thoughts your way. Your mother sounds like a remarkable woman and the pictures you post of you and her together show what great love you had for each other. I think you will look back on this series of posts years ago and be grateful that you had the strength to write them. Peace always, Rose

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: