Mom was discharged from the hospital this evening. I’m glad she’s out because an extended hospital stay isn’t good for anyone. The doctors who were treating her couldn’t find anything wrong after blood work, CT scans, and x-rays, which is not to say that nothing is wrong, only that they couldn’t find it. She, of course, is in denial. I called her PCP’s office to make sure they follow up with her because the ER doctor wanted her to go on a monitor for two weeks, and mom is already saying that it’s not necessary . . .
I hope that this is a case of no news is good news, but I have a really bad feeling in the pit of my stomach, to wit, my mother says that she’s fine. On the other hand, I am completely exhausted.
Tintern Abbey, Monmouthshire, Wales by Phillip Capper (fotopedia)
“In a dream you are never eighty.” ~ Anne Sexton
Ash Wednesday. Cloudy and chilly.
I spent nine hours on Monday in the emergency section of DePaul Hospital. This time it was not my mother; it was my mother-in-law, my ex’s mother.
Some people find it strange that I still refer to this woman as my mother-in-law. I don’t find it strange at all; she’s been in my life since I was a young woman. I find it incredible to be able to have two mothers-in-law, both of whom I admire and love. How many people can stay that truthfully? My m-in-l here has Parkinson’s Disease, a very unforgiving disease that takes away chunks of the mind without warning.
On Sunday night, my sister-in-law Ann came over and spent a good hour crying. She had found her mother on the floor of her bedroom on Sunday morning. When asked why she was on the floor, my m-in-law said that “it felt good.” As the day progressed, she was better, but she was still talking a lot of nonsense. I told Ann that I was afraid she might have had a mini-stroke. We decided that we would take her in the next day if we could convince her to get in the car. Turns out, we didn’t have to.
When we got to her house around 9 a.m., she was on the floor of the playroom, the first room off the hallway. She was lying there, and it was apparent that she had been there for a while because her skin was icy cold. I went into the bathroom to get a warm washcloth to wipe her with, and the floor was soaking wet as was everything under the sink. When I asked her if she knew how the bathroom had gotten wet, she told me that the people who live upstairs had left their bathtub running.
There are no people upstairs.
Ann and I called 911, and she was transported to the ER. The EMTs asked her if she knew where she was, and she said that she was at the hospital. They told her that she wasn’t at the hospital yet. One of the doctors in the ER asked her if she knew the date, and Ann and I looked at each other—neither of us knew the date . . . Turns out that my m-in-law was dehydrated and had a urinary tract infection, but the CT scan did not show any signs of a stroke. The doctor admitted her to get her stabilized, but there were no available rooms, so Ann and I spent the entire afternoon in the little ER cubicle. I’m certain that the ER staff thought that we were both batty as we got the giggles more than once, and at one point, we were singing.
It had been hours without food, anything. Ann needed her insulin. I needed something besides Pepsi.
“When I was younger, I could remember anything, whether it had happened or not; but my faculties are decaying now and soon I shall be so I cannot remember any but the things that never happened. It is sad to go to pieces like this but we all have to do it.” ~ Mark Twain
During all of this, my m-in-law was in and out of reality. She would be talking to us about something, and then she would turn to her left and have a conversation with her sister (who was not there). It took a bit of getting used to, but we muddled through. There were times when she was eating imaginary food and sewing invisible clothes.
If I sound as if I’m making fun, I’m not. It was one of those situations in which the pain of the reality could become so acute as to be overwhelming, so the better approach was to just go with the flow and try not to think about anything too much.
I finally asked Corey to come and get me around 6:30 when I was certain that she was being moved to a ward. I had been wearing my contacts all day (something I am not yet used to), and my eyes hurt as did my back and my head. Ann was able to leave a little after 8.
In between all of this, I texted and phoned people, including my ex as I was acting as an intermediary between him and his sister. The whole brother/sister thing is very touchy as my ex has been unwilling/unable to pitch in at all with his mother’s care; therefore, it has all fallen on Ann. She makes sure that her mom takes her meds three times a day, that she eats, that she has groceries in the house, that she hasn’t set the house on fire.
I try to do what I can, and I know that it’s not enough. Paul’s reason for not doing more is that “it’s so depressing.” Oh, and I suppose it’s a piece of cake for the rest of us? Yes. I would slap him if I thought that it would do any good.
“The great secret that all old people share is that you really haven’t changed in seventy or eighty years. Your body changes, but you don’t change at all. And that, of course, causes great confusion.” ~ Doris Lessing
Today, Brett and I went to visit with Ann. When we got there we found out that they had to restrain her mom because she was trying to get out of bed. It’s like it was with my mom except that my mom was more coherent during the day.
Brett was not prepared for the state his grandmother was in, and it really upset him. She didn’t know who he was. I wish that I had thought to prepare him better, but the reality is that there probably isn’t any adequate preparation.
After several texts and phone calls, Alexis finally texted me back last night. This is a real sore spot for me, and I am not yet able to go into the full story on why I am so upset with her other than to say that it deals directly with Alexis’s participation in this family.
Last night, Ann and Paul and their respective spouses met for dinner, and Ann said that it went fairly well. Paul has agreed to go along with whatever medical decisions Ann makes, and he and Penny will do research for Ann as needed (big whoop). Ann told him that she isn’t asking for a time commitment but that if he could really try to go have dinner with his mom or spend an hour with her it would take some of the stress of Ann.
I suppose we’ll just have to wait and see how all of this works out.
“To know how to grow old is the master-work of wisdom, and one of the most difficult chapters in the great art of living.” ~ Henri Frédéric Amiel
For me, the saddest part of this situation is the loss of the woman I used to know, a woman who sang in her church choir (alto), a talented woman who sewed beautiful clothes, read voraciously, listened to classical music, wallpapered and painted every room of her house, and knew how to grow any kind of flower, herb or vegetable.
This person is gone, and there are only small glimpses of her, and those are appearing less and less. And I am left to wonder if she is aware of this loss. How much does she know? How much does she remember? In one instance, she could name the main road that abuts the hospital; in the next, she was talking about a ticket taker on the train. I hope that this logic makes some sense to her and that she doesn’t really perceive how far from reality she has strayed.
To lose a bodily function from disease, arthritis, whatever—it seems that we as humans have an ability to compensate for such a loss. We use the affected limb less, or we don’t lift as much weight as we used to. But to have a keen mind, a mind that hungers for knowledge, a mind that enjoys continually learning about new things—to lose that gradually must be infuriating. And then after a few years of the slips here and there, to begin to lose great chunks of time and memory—how does one cope with that?
Today, Yvonne held out her fingers to me and asked me if I wanted this (invisible thing). I said that I sure did, and I pretended to take it and put it in my pocket.
I have not yet allowed myself to cry, and I’m not entirely certain that I will because the tears would be tainted in a way. Would they be tears for her, for us, for what has gone, for what is going, for having to watch this helplessly, for not knowing whether or not to acknowledge the invisible things she moves around with her fingers, for the papery thickness of her skin that is blotchy with bruises from the blood that they try to take from her veins, for Ann’s burden, for the resentment that I bear towards my ex and my daughter for their unrelenting self-centeredness, for my sons who are visibly hurting.
What exactly? I have no answers, and that pisses me off more than anything, having no answers. That’s’ the part that really, really sucks.
More later. Peace.
Music by Bird York, “In the Deep” (I know that this is a repeat, but it felt right).
Memory’s Voice For O. A. Glebova-Sudeikina
‘What do you see, on the wall, dimly alive,
at the hour when the sunset eats the sky?
A seagull, on a blue cloth of waters,
or perhaps it’s those Florentine gardens?
Or is it Tsarskoye Seloe’s vast view,
where terror stepped out before you?
Or that one who left your captivity,
and walked into white death, freely?’
No, I see only the wall—that shows
reflections of heaven’s dying glow.
Beachy Head Cliff, South Coast of England (Pixdaus)
“Sometimes, when one is moving silently through such an utterly desolate landscape, an overwhelming hallucination can make one feel that oneself, as an individual human being, is slowly being unraveled. The surrounding space is so vast that it becomes increasingly difficult to keep a balanced grip on one’s own being.” ~ Haruki Murakami
I’m not even certain as to where I should begin to pick up the tale that has been my life over the last week and a half. I was finally able to stay connected long enough to put together the two posts that I had drafted on Word. Both are backdated to the time on which they were actually written, but so much more has happened.
As I write this, my mother is in the hospital where she has been since the very wee hours of Tuesday morning. She developed blood clots in her broken leg, and they traveled to her lungs. On Monday evening, I noticed that her leg was very swollen and filled with fluid. I suspected clots, but she did not want me to call 911 again as the EMTs had just been to the house two nights before (more on this later). I reluctantly agreed not to take her in as long as she woke me if anything changed.
Around 4 a.m. she yelled my name. I took one look at her entire leg, down to her big toe, all of which were twice the normal size and called 911. This time they took her to DePaul hospital instead of Leigh; however, I went to the Leigh ER as I did not know about the change. Once I got to Leigh, someone came out and asked my name and told me about the mixup. I broke the land speed record traveling from one ER to the other.
Very long story short, they finally put her in a room around 11 a.m. where she has been since; she will be moved soon to a rehab facility to continue treatment and receive physical therapy for her leg. All of this has really taken a toll on her mental state, which in turn is passed along to me in the form of panicked telephone calls during the times when I am not at the hospital with her.
“One can’t build little white picket fences to keep the nightmares out.” ~ Anne Sexton
The first night that my mother was in the hospital, the hallucinations began again in earnest. She called me and told me that someone was trying to get into her room, that someone was having a party next door, that children were running down the hall screaming, that someone was knocking on her window asking to be let in (third floor room). She did not want me to say anything to the nurses because they would hurt her.
Three nights ago, she called and told me that she wanted me to listen to the noise and then held the phone up in the air. When I told her that I couldn’t hear anything, she became furious. She said that she was going to call 911, call a taxi, call her neighbor, and she was going to get the hell out of that place. She wanted me to bring her purse. I refused. The conversation ended with her saying to me, “When you find my dead body somewhere, then you’ll have to live with that the rest of your life.” Turns out my mother can be even meaner when she’s hallucinating.
On Friday, I stayed at the hospital for hours waiting for the doctor who was supposed to come by, and luckily it was a female physician with whom I had spoken with on Wednesday morning. She explained the condition as sun downing, something that happens to people who are in the hospital and begin to exhibit symptoms such as mom’s in the evening. Sometimes sun dower syndrome is associated with Alzheimer’s, but not always.
The doctor spoke with my mother about going to a rehab facility (something my mother had already decided quite firmly that she had not intentions of doing as she just wanted to come home). The doctor pointed out that since my mother is still on blood thinners, if she came home and fell, the chances of causing internal bleeding were good, and she pointed out that I could not do anything for internal bleeding. Finally, between the two of us, we convinced mom that a rehab facility would be a good thing.
Can I just tell you how good it was to cross that particular hurdle?
“Hospitals are places that you have to stay in for a long time, even if you are a visitor. Time doesn’t seem to pass in the same way in hospitals as it does in other places. Time seems to almost not exist in the same way as it does in other places.” ~ Pedro Almodovar
Currently, she is being given seroquel at night to help with the night terrors, and thankfully, she did not call me last night, which meant that I slept, very heavily I might add. I decided to give myself time to write this morning before tackling anything else, hence the current, up-to-date post.
I do understand why my mother does not want to be in the hospital. Who does, really? It’s the luck of the draw if you are going to have a nurse who is compassionate versus one who is snotty. And regardless of their dispositions, they are all overworked, which means that they may tell their patient that they are going right now to take care of X, only to return an hour later, having completely forgotten the request.
After my last hospital stay post back operation, I don’t know that I ever want to be in a hospital again. My mother is chomping because they are keeping her completely immobile with a catheter and some are treating her as if she is demented. She told me that someone came into her room to ask her what month it was, and she told them December. She knew the month, but she just wanted to fuck with them.
I reminded her that if she keeps doing things like that, those who don’t know her personality may be inclined to think that she really is out of touch with reality. She maintained that if they are going to torture her, she is going to mess with them.
I did finally have to make someone put a note in her chart that before being admitted, she was mobile, using a walker and standing on her own.
“Funny how life is so like surgery . . . sometimes you can make that rocky davis in that right lower quadrant.. and then there are those days when your bowel ruptures and spells into your peritonium and all you are left with is intense pain and sepsis . . . oh brother, my kingdom for a tenblade when that happens !” ~ Dr. David Morgenstern, ER, “Let the Games Begin”
So getting back to the second ER visit, the one that happened the Sunday before the third visit (think it was Sunday, things are blurring together). On Wednesday, October 13, my mother developed diarrhea (too much information, I know). But after three days, of this, I knew that she was dehydrated: I could pull the skin on her hand, and it would stay raised and pinched.
I called her pcp’s emergency service and spoke with the triage nurse, recited the increasingly bad symptoms. She instructed me to get her to the ER, reaffirming what I thought in the first place. Mom, of course, did not want to go. I called for another ambulance as I was alone, and there was no way that mom could have assisted me in getting her to the car. She was taken to Leigh ER again, and pumped full of fluids and potassium. She was diagnosed with c diff (clostridium difficile), which is a microorganism that normally resides in the GI tract and only becomes a problem when it decides to go postal and wreak havoc with the bowels by producing toxins in the GI tract that result in severe infectious diarrhea and inflammation of the large intestine.
Regardless of the c diff, this was still an atypical ER visit in that my mother was joking around with everyone. I think that she was just glad not to be sick to her stomach any more. The more fluids she received, the better her mood. We got home sometime that night, and Corey and his mother were at mom’s house. My mother slept that night.
“Writing is a form of therapy; sometimes I wonder how all those, who do not write, compose, or paint can manage to escape the madness, the melancholia, the panic fear, which is inherent in a human condition.” ~ Graham Greene
So here we are: Mom is recovering from c diff, a broken tibia, night terrors, and blood clots.
In between all of this, Corey’s mom came to town for a few days. Corey was off work, so he was able to spend time with her, but I only saw her during breakfast on Sunday morning and a little bit in between. Everyone (family) got together on Tuesday night for dinner at P. F. Chang’s, but I was unable to go as Mom’s was having too many issues.
In the past few days, I have had a few good things happen: I have found a new musician, Ólafur Arnalds, who is from Iceland. Beautiful music. I have also had an Internet connection long enough to post. The other thing is that I have had some sleep, some even in my very own bed with my husband and dogs.