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Saturday, May 7, 2016

"Here's your sign"

Thank you for continuing to follow our journey. Since my mother's passing, it has become more important than ever that I continue. Mom and I discussed my blog often and she always encouraged me to share the WHOLE story, but even with her unending support and encouragement, I felt somehow the sharing many things would strip some of the dignity I struggled so hard to help her preserve. I made a promise to my mother that after her journey home to The Lord I would reveal some of the more personal "stuff" about my role as a carer and hers as her need for care increased. As always, I will attempt to be delicate and tasteful, but some of you may find some of the details to be a bit graphic.

September 4, 2013 started out just like every day for the previous 2 months.  With my eyes barely focusing after only a couple hours sleep, I stumbled out of bed and in to the shower.  I listened to the morning news as I dressed and got ready to head to the hospital.  Finally feeling human and ready to face the day, I headed out.

Maybe I hadn’t been ready to “face the day”.  I found myself experiencing a little road rage as I made my way through the end of the morning rush hour.  By the time I pulled in to the parking lot, I had lost count of how many people had irritated me during my 15 minute drive.  I was feeling like Kathy Bates in Fried Green Tomatoes as I circled the parking lot.  I was even fantasizing a little as I saw yet another car swung in to a space I was clearly waiting for – TOWANDA!

My mood didn’t improve a whole lot when I finally made it to the in-patient rehab unit and got the results on moms’ hearing test from the day before.  Seriously?!  Why even bother to do the test?  The
results showed mom to have “severe to profound hearing loss” that was “unlikely to be corrected with hearing aids”.  I could have told them that without any fancy equipment!  First, even if the aids might have been beneficial, there was no way mom would be able to put them in with her crippled hands and lack of mobility.  Besides, the thought of one more thing on my “to do” list was enough to make my blood pressure skyrocket.  I wanted to know what caused it and why it happened so quickly; their only purpose for testing was to make sure it wasn’t caused by her new medications.  Since they determined it was “unlikely” the medication caused it, there would be no further testing; we were welcome and encouraged to seek the opinion of an off-site audiologist once mom was released.

Of course, I was pretty sure I knew the real reason that “no further testing” would be done.  It all boiled down to Medicare guidelines.  Since they determined it was “unlikely” the medications had not caused the sudden loss of hearing, Medicare would not pay for any further testing until she was released.  I was still mumbling to myself about the ineffectiveness of the Medicare program as I walked in to moms’ room.  I was a little surprised that the TV volume was at a normal level; I was very surprised to hear my mother carrying on a phone conversation.  “Well, Brenda just got here, so I will let you go” mom ended her conversation and smiled brightly at me.

For the next ½ hour or so mom & I chatted and there was no sign of hearing loss at all.  Then, all of the sudden I noticed moms’ brow furrow as she started increasing the television volume.  There was something oddly familiar about the way she was tilting her head.  “Does it feel like you have water in your ear? I questioned mom; no answer.  Mom giggled as I stuck my face right in front of hers, “What are you doing?  I told her I was trying to get her attention and while we were face to face, so she could read my lips, I asked again, “Does it feel like you have water in your ears?”  Yes, she said that was exactly what it felt like.  Wouldn’t they have noticed fluid in her ears?  Could it be that simple?  I was making a note in my phone to make an appointment for mom with the ENT when we got back home, just as PT showed up for moms’ daily therapy.

I continued to be amazed at my mother’s strength as I watched her in PT; her resilience was pretty incredible.  I could tell she still was not hearing well, if at all, but mom worked through her exercises like a pro……..until they attempted the two stair practice.  Even with one leg fused straight with a rod from her thigh to just a few inches above her ankle, mom struggled up the first step and then time seemed to freeze.  “Good job, Mary”, the therapist exclaimed, just as mom started to sway.   “I’m really dizzy” mom said in a voice just above a whisper.

“I got you”, the therapist stepped closer to mom and was visibly supporting most her weight.  “I need some help over here”, the therapist shouted without taking her eyes off of mom.  Within seconds there were 4 therapists hovering and discussing what they needed to do.  After what seemed like forever, but was probably only a few seconds, the four of them had devised a plan.  They were easing mom in off the step and in to her wheelchair just as the nurse appeared with a blood pressure cuff & stethoscope.

“Weren’t you getting enough attention?” the nurse joked with mom while she took her vitals.  Surprisingly, mom, all the sudden, could hear again, “No, they were ignoring me”, mom joked back.  Even though mom insisted she was fine, the decision was made that she needed to rest instead of continuing her “routine”.

Once mom was safely in bed and we were alone, she looked at me with tears in her eyes and asked, “How are we going to do this at home?”  The truth of the matter was I had absolutely no idea how we were going to do this at home; I was scared.  Mom was looking expectantly at me while she waited for an answer; I honestly didn’t have one.  “We’ll figure it out mom”, I brushed her hair away and kissed her forehead.  “I’m going to go back to the hotel and do some laundry.  Do you want me to order your lunch before I go?” I was trying to change the subject to anything other than what I knew mom was thinking.

Mom wasn’t ready to change the subject; she needed reassuring.  We went through this every time she had any set back at all.  I sat patiently as mom clicked off all the pro’s and con’s of going home with me vs. finding a Skilled Nursing Facility for her to stay in.  As I listened to mom go through her lists, I vividly pictured her previous two stays in SNF’s.  “What do you want to do, mom?” I already knew her answer was the same as mine; she wanted to go home with me.

Wanting mom to go home with me didn’t nullify the fact that I was scared to death of the new
challenges we would face.  It also wasn’t lost on me that once we went home, I would have very little, if any, time to myself.  I desperately needed some “me” time; time to do anything I wanted or do nothing if I so chose.  I just wish I could have figured out how to balance the need for “me” time with the deep seeded need to make sure my mothers’ every need was met; her every whim catered to.  I had planned to leave hours before.  I had told mother goodbye at lunch time; she had finished dinner and was ready for bed before I finally prepared to leave.  I hated that everything seemed so out of control; I couldn’t plan for anything.

I also couldn't seem to tell my mother that I needed a break; a couple days without spending hours at the hospital.  It somehow seemed almost hypocritical of me when she had spent many more hours than I had.  "I won't be here very early tomorrow" was the best I could make myself do.  I gazed out the window as I gathered my jacket and keys.  The sky looked ominous; I hoped it wasn't a preview of what was yet to come.  That thought had no sooner crossed my mind when a huge clap of thunder struck.  "Here's your sign" I thought to myself as the next bolt of lightening lit up the sky.

1 comment:

Alana said...

Mothers Day, for me, is a bittersweet time. My Mom passed away 50 years ago, but I know so many women going through what you did. My mother in law has had her moments but nothing like this, not yet. And because I have no daughters, I can only hope that whoever my son eventually marries or has a long term relationship with will step us when the time comes.