Tag Archives: sorrow

Her heart failed…

21 Jan

Four weeks ago, to the day, Rock and I left for a spur-of-the-moment trip to Napa to celebrate our birthdays. I found us a cute little cottage on a farm in Carneros and organized the trip so that we’d visit all my favorite places where we’d taste phenomenal wines and learn about soil, climate, terroir. The restaurants were also picked with care, reservations made, and the anticipation for good food, good wine, and good times seeped through us.

I almost canceled the trip.

The Friday before we were to leave, my Mom calls me from the Emergency Room. She had finally made a doctor appointment to find out why she was so nauseous. Over the past couple of months, Mom started letting on that she wasn’t doing so well. Her hips continued to hurt her, making exercise difficult. She was frequently out of breath when walking and would need to stop. At Thanksgiving, she couldn’t eat her meal and refused wine (not a normal thing, if you knew my badass, larger than life Mom!) Over those months, she reasoned that it was her arthritis (her hips), her asthma (can’t breathe), and stomach flu (her nausea). When she saw her doctor, he knew something was seriously wrong, and had her triaged to the ER to figure out what was going on.

Turns out, she had a heart problem. Her symptoms started presenting themselves in the summer. Shortness of breath and nausea were signs that she ignored or didn’t think were serious. Turns out, she had Atrial Fibrillation, which is normally a treatable condition. The heart rhythm isn’t working all that well but can be managed with medication, diet, exercise etc.

Since she had been living for more than 20 years with high blood pressure, having A-Fib meant that she would need a different blood pressure med and start taking blood thinners to reduce her risk for stroke.

I was scared as hell, considering I lost my father 13 years ago to a massive stroke. Taking him off life support and watching his body struggle as he died will forever be imprinted on my memory. I didn’t want to imagine this happening to my mother.

One of my staff had just lost her mother and I recall telling her how sorry I was and that I couldn’t imagine how hard it must be for her – losing a mother. I told her I wouldn’t know what to do if I lost my own mother. I’d told my Mom this very thing several times over the last couple of years. She’d be wearing a beautiful piece of jewelry and tell me “I want you to have this when I’m gone…” would be met with “That’s awesome, but that’s a long ways away – and I can’t imagine losing you…” I always ended calls and visits with “I love you so very much”.

Sunday, after Mom’s ER visit, we met for my birthday lunch. I took her to one of our favorite restaurants and we ordered a ton of food. Mom’s appetite had come back a little bit, her spirits were high, she was not nauseous for a change. We even joked about her baby being close to 50. All this was quite a different story than on Thanksgiving, where I was more than alarmed and in hindsight, should have taken her to the hospital that night and not listened to her blow off her symptoms. We just didn’t know.

As I dropped my Mom off at her house that day and kissed her super soft lips, I told her “I love you so very much!”  I felt terrific. My badass Mom was going to be fine!

Rock and I decided to keep the last minute Napa trip on schedule. We left Tuesday 12/17 and each day was filled with good food and great wine – lots of laughs and new adventures. Until Friday morning, where, at the start of a wine blending event, I get a call from Mom. She’s back in the ER.

My heart sank. I started to cry. The night before, she had dinner with my brother, who was in town on business. She said she hadn’t been up to it, but she wanted to see Greg, it was that important to her. When she got back from dinner, she called the nurse’s advice line and they made her an appointment with her doctor for first thing the next day, Friday.

She arrived for her appointment that morning and her doctor took one look at her and rushed her again to the ER. A quick test confirmed something was wrong, although it would take all day to diagnose her. I told her I would leave Napa right away and come home (about an hour and a half away). She said “Absolutely not – stay there, enjoy yourself – let’s find out what’s wrong first…”

So I stayed. Of course, I was glued to my phone, calling my sister Sandy and my Mom every hour to find out what, if anything, was yet known. Through tear-filled eyes, I sipped wine, barely noticing how awesome it was. I’d blow my nose and try to eat amazing food. My heart wasn’t into it and I was simply going through the motions.

Mom’s attitude was “I have my iPad and Kindle… I’m set!” It might have been a front for her, that she was fine with dealing with this alone, but being connected via phone to me and my sister was enough. I’ll never know for sure.

Rock and I were at Morimoto’s that evening, with me checking my phone every 30 seconds to see if my phone was ringing (I wasn’t trusting that I’d hear the ringtone.) When my sister called me at 10pm to deliver the diagnosis, I rushed out of the restaurant onto their outside patio and began to cry. Sandy told me that Mom didn’t want to call me and ruin my trip. That made me cry even more.

Rock saw me slumped over and crying and signaled to the waiter, who also saw this. The check was delivered and paid for in about 2 minutes flat. On the 15-minute drive back to the cottage, I was coming out of my skin. I wanted to be with my Mom right then. “Let’s go back NOW!” I made a pot of coffee and started to pack.

Rock was right, we couldn’t drive after drinking. It wasn’t safe for anyone. We’d have to stay put until the morning. I called my Mom sobbing and apologized. I shouldn’t have listened to her about me staying in Napa while she was in the ER. She sounded scared.

I don’t know if I slept that night, but I woke up with a horrible, empty feeling in my stomach. My mother was in heart failure. And I was still an hour and a half away.