Mom seemed distracted on our way to her appointment with the spine specialist. "What if this doctor wants to do surgery?", mom broke the silence. She had told me many times that she would never have back surgery. She had heard too many stories about people being in more pain after surgery than they were before. Mom was echoing my own thoughts. "I don't think I could live very long if the pain were any worse", she said, "I wouldn't want to".
"You don't have to do anything you don't want to, mom, it's your choice", I told her with a lump in my
throat, "We've come this far, let's wait and see what the doctor says". I wanted to believe there was still hope. I had to believe.
"Can you believe this?", mom asked me as we got off the elevator. I knew what she was talking about immediately. We were both amazed that doctors here used the same elevators as patients. They even chatted with us like we weren't beneath them. That was something we weren't accustomed to.
Within minutes of our arrival, moms name was called. We were ushered to an exam room where moms vitals were checked. "The doctor will be with you shortly", we were informed in a cheery voice. Was everyone here this happy? Before I could even process the thought we were joined by a smiling Physicians Assistant. It seemed everyone was this happy!
The P.A. was friendly and seemed genuinely interested in mom. He asked mom all the "usual" questions. I remember thinking how impressed I was that he actually seemed to be listening to moms
"Can you stand for an x-ray?", the PA asked mom. I quickly pulled moms most recent films from her most recent hospitalization, hoping I could save her the pain of yet another x-ray. "We'll take a look, but we'll still need to get a new one today", he told me as he loaded the disc in to the computer.
"Do I have to?, mom wanted to know.
"Getting an x-ray doesn't mean you've agreed to surgery. They probably don't even know if you need surgery without looking at an x-ray", I wondered if I sounded convincing. At this point I felt surgery may be the only option. "Do you want me to go with you", I asked.
It made me angry how mom had been treated by the doctors at home. Why hadn't they listened? People get hurt when no one listens, I thought hatefully.
Wow, I thought, That was quick! Radiology would take mom right away and she should be back in "about 15 minutes". I wondered if I looked as surprised as I felt or as astounded as mom sounded as she echoed my thoughts. "Wow!", mom exclaimed, "That was quick".
As I prepared the dose of liquid morphine mom requested before she went, I cautioned the technician about moms pain, her bad knee and her very brittle bones. "I'm sorry, I'm sure you know how to do your job," I apologized. I had taken to giving everybody who came in contact with us explicit directions on her care, I couldn't help myself.
Luckily, I didn't have time to work myself in to much of a frenzy.
No sooner than mom had been wheeled off to x-ray, the surgeon appeared. She said she was sorry she was running a little late and unfortunately had an appointment at another clinic across town and didn't know if mom would be done in x-ray before she had to leave.
I had spent a good deal of time researching this woman's outstanding credentials and was amazed at how comfortable I felt babbling like an idiot in the presence of this nationally accredited surgeon as she studied moms previous x-rays and MRI's.
Maybe it wasn't comfort I was feeling as much as it was desperation. Either way, I continued to tell her stories of the indignities my mother had suffered at the hands of medical professionals charged with
I wondered if she was just ignoring my presence, blatantly dismissing my concerns or maybe she was thinking I was a raving lunatic. I was tired of being dismissed. I was just getting worked up to tell her how sick I was of being treated like I didn't exist when she turned and looked at me incredulously. Uh-oh!
"There's no x-ray of her upper spine", the surgeon wanted to know why. Of course I had no idea why so much
had happened, or hadn't happened and I told her so. As she scrolled through the films that were available, the surgeon demanded, "Who's taking care of her knee." I hadn't even realized there were films of her knee on the disc I had given her. Had she even been listening to me?, I wondered.
I gave the spine specialist the name of the Orthopaedic doctor mom had been seeing at home for her knee. Before I could stop myself, I was also telling her of his assessment and my ever growing lack of confidence in him.
I told her about scheduling an appointment with one of her associates and the prior appointments we had been forced to cancel due to moms numerous hospitalizations. "Unfortunately, he doesn't have an opening until February", before I finished her hand was on the door knob.
She seemed disgusted. "That knee is NOT fine", she seemed almost angry, "Do you mind if I bring someone else in?" Assuming she meant she could get us an appointment before February, I readily agreed. I had been worrying about that knee night and day. As the doctor slipped out the door, I panicked. Was she coming back?
Wait! Don't leave. What about her back? I started crying and couldn't stop.
On one hand, I didn't think it would do much good, at this point, to fix her knee if we couldn't control the pain in her back. With that horrible pain in her back, I couldn't imagine how she could handle the required rehabilitation after a knee surgery.
On the other hand, if mom needed surgery on her spine, I wasn't sure her knee was stable enough to carry her through what was sure to be a long rehabilitation period. Besides, mom already said she didn't want to have back surgery.
I was amusing myself thinking maybe another hand would help when the door opened.
The surgeon returned and told me the knee specialist would try to take a look at the films, but it was likely they would need more x-rays. She was sharing her impression of the condition of moms spine when there was a knock at the door. We were joined by another man. I didn't have to wonder who he was for long.
After quick introductions, I watched as the films of moms knee were being displayed. I listened as the spine surgeon recounted our unbelievable story to the knee specialist. I wasn't sure she had even been listening to me before and was stunned at the accuracy she was recalling every detail I had told her.
I was thinking how crazy it all sounded. It indeed sounded like a fictional thriller derived from a very delusional imagination. They probably just thought I was crazy, I sure would. I wish the voices in my head would just take a break already!
Maybe I was in denial. Maybe there was nothing that could be done to ease my mothers pain. Maybe it was time to give up this plight. Maybe I should just gather mom from x-ray and we should go home. I felt dizzy. I felt sick. I felt helpless.
Had my resistance to the truth caused mom more pain? Should I have just accepted what I was told by doctors who didn't seem to care, one way or the other, about my mother. I didn't want to cause her more pain and undue stress. "......they told her to call hospice.....the poor thing has to be in incredible pain........", the surgeon wasn't talking to me, but I figured I had better try to focus.
I thought mom should be listening too. I wondered how much longer she would be. I hoped she was OK.
She seemed more than OK when she returned. "They're amazing", mom sounded almost giddy as her voice interrupted my thoughts as well as the conversation going on between the two surgeons. I watched in awe as my mom hugged the technician and then thanked her for being so gentle. She didn't look stressed now, I observed.
Seemingly unaware that we were not alone in the room, mom began to tell me why they were so amazing. "They were so patient and they didn't hurt me at all", she told me excitedly, "they acted like I was important". I was pleased mom had been treated with the respect and dignity she deserved. These people seemed to really care, even if they couldn't help.
The knee specialist excused himself after agreeing to take a closer look at moms knee "in a few weeks". "Thank you", I was shaking his hand and searching his eyes. The compassion I saw in those eyes brought tears to my own eyes.
As I wiped my eyes and blew my nose, I tuned in to the conversation mom was now having with the spine specialist. She would also make sure she worked us in for an appointment "in a couple weeks".
They would need more x-rays; an MRI; and a CT, before they attempted surgery, the surgeon didn't feel the films we had from previous testing were adequate. She wanted them done somewhere that she could depend on the integrity. Did I miss something? Had mom agreed to this?
"What if mom doesn't want to have surgery", I was nearly hyperventilating as I replayed moms insistence that she would never have back surgery. Had I made a terrible mistake bringing her here?
We'd made enough mistakes.
We couldn't afford any more mistakes.