Friday, June 27, 2014


Lately it seems like my family has been subject to an awful lot of excitement. It should be pointed out that "exciting" isn't necessarily a positive word. After all, a car accident is pretty exciting. I've been thinking it would be nice to have a few spasms of boring.

I suppose it shouldn't have been much of a surprise when it started to feel like life was returning to some semblance of normal (new normal; we'll never have the same normal we had when Julian's vibrant light shone upon our lives) that something had to happen to disrupt us. On May 24th, my mother was attending her 55th college reunion in Oberlin, Ohio. While exiting a local restaurant, she missed a step and took a fall. In the end, she broke her left wrist and elbow. She will need surgery to repair the damage, but she has to wait until she's been off the blood thinners for 10 days and the swelling comes down.

Getting home turned out to be simple enough. The airline was very good about helping her out, and she was able to upgrade to first class. The problem comes with being unable to do very many things for herself in the splint. My sister Debbie, who lives with Mom, works as an in home care provider and is gone from Wednesday night until Sunday morning. This means Mom needs someone who can be with her. I am blessed and grateful to be in a position to provide this. The only hitch is, she has to stay at my home.

I can't really go to her house and take care of things there. I simply have too many things I need to do at home. Fortunately we've been able to make our home reasonably comfortable for her. I think she's actually rather fond of my husband's easy chair. The only other thing is, I need to have a second person here with us. The timing was perfect in that my husband came home right after Mom's fall and was here the first weeks we needed to take care of her. He is setting the bar a bit high. He's been cooking three meals a day. I'm afraid I won't be able to keep up with the expectations he's set.

Mom's surgery was ultimately scheduled for late on Thursday, June 12. What proceeded from there has been a wild ride.

My husband took Mom to the hospital for the surgery. I was tense and had a terrible feeling about the surgery, but it was important to Mom that I be able to continue with my plans to ride Descanso that weekend. I heard from my husband about 10pm. Mom was awake, alert, and doing fine. She would stay in the hospital at least overnight. He came home.

On Friday morning, Mom called and we spoke briefly. She felt she was best off staying in the hospital another night, as the cast on her arm was set nearly straight and she did not know how she was going to get around with it. She mentioned in passing having had trouble breathing in the night and receiving her first-ever breathing treatment. I figured it was simply a combination of age and anesthesia. We spoke again later, and she was definitely staying through Saturday.

Friday afternoon, Mom talked with my daughter. She wanted the charger for her Kindle, which was still in her car. So my daughter picked it up and headed up to the hospital to give it to her. When my daughter arrived, she was barred from seeing her grandmother. All the staff would say was that Mom was being moved to ICU. They would not tell my daughter anything.

At this point my husband and I had finished setting up camp and eaten dinner. Hoss was vetted and settled in for the night. My first instinct was to pack up and go on home, but truly, what could I possibly do? I made sure my sister knew what was going on (she holds power of attorney for Mom) and arranged for my daughter to pick up my husband in the morning while I went on the ride.

We really did not know at that point how serious things were. Mom was on a ventilator. She had experienced flash pulmonary edema and had a heart attack.

Hoss was not doing well, and we pulled at the first vet check. By this point I was far more aware, through text messages, what was going on, and I needed to get home anyway. Once we were back in camp, I threw everything in the truck and we left. I got Hoss settled at home, unhitched the truck, and drove to La Jolla.

I arrived at the hospital, frustrated, angry, and worried as all hell. I went back to see my mom. Fortunately, I happened to arrive when my mother was coming out of sedation due to pain, and I was able to communicate somewhat with her. I was able to see she was intact neurologically, a great relief. I wasn't able to get the doctor to give me any real sense of what the plan was. His answer to when she could be removed from the ventilator was "when she's ready." I didn't think of it at the time, but my question should have been, what exactly he's looking for to get her off. I did get that answer later, after I'd thought of it on the drive home and asked my husband to get the answer.

Saturday night my niece performed in the Youth Benefit Concert at church. We decided to go ahead and attend, as our mother would surely be furious if we failed to do so. And, again, there was really nothing to be done. It really didn't matter where we were while we worried.

Sunday was another tense day spent mostly hanging around the hospital. I did my level best not to threaten the staff, but I will admit it was hard. When someone told me they were "taking great care" of my mother, I responded with, of course they are, it's their job, I don't expect anything less, and why the hell is that supposed to be comforting? I am not good at this sort of thing.

Mom was on the ventilator through Sunday night. My husband had to drop my daughter at the airport early on Monday, so we was there before visitors were allowed back. He made sure the staff knew he was there, then repaired to the waiting room until visiting hours started. At precisely 8am, he headed back to see Mom, only to discover they were removing her from the ventilator. Obviously, this was excellent news, but boy, were we all ticked off! My sister had requested she be contacted at least an hour ahead of any action taken with Mom. They never even bothered to call her, or any of us, or even getting my husband, before starting the procedure.

Mom said later the first thing she saw was my husband's yellow shirt outside her room. She was confused, had no idea what was going on, and indeed still has no memory after she was anesthetized for the surgery Thursday night through being taken off the ventilator Monday morning.

Mom spent another five days in the hospital. I was having a pretty serious bout of asthma/bronchitis and was as a result unable to spend much time. Pity, too, as I probably would have gotten her out of there sooner. I only learned on Friday night (a week after she had the surgery) that they were only keeping her because they were messing with her blood pressure meds. Well, her blood pressure wasn't any worse than it was before she broke her arm, and she has a doctor of her own. Had I known earlier, I would have pressed to take her home sooner and get her to her own doctor. In the end, I went in on Saturday morning, and made it abundantly clear she would not only be going home that day, she would be doing so in time to make it to her hair appointment (I understand my mother's priorities).

Mom did go home on Saturday, June 21, and indeed we left in time to make it to her hair dresser for a wash and blowout. Then we dropped her prescriptions at the pharmacy and I took her home.

Monday, June 23, was my mother's birthday. My sisters and I and our families gathered at her home for dinner and sang a very heartfelt, very grateful, Happy Birthday to the matriarch of our family.

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