July 20, 2008

A Rambling Update on my Mother

Humor has always been my most public emotion. Don't get me wrong, I cried until I had an asthma attack when I watched Armaggedon. Just ask Bobby Wechsler. I think he wanted to take me to the emergency room. But, for the most part, I've always preferred to communicate my feelings through laughter. I try to make that as apparent in my blogs as I do in my life. So, when you are reading one of them, assume that before thinking honestly that, for example, I believe Osama bin Laden is the SpongeBob Squarepants mastermind. I do think it might dumb down an entire generation. I don't think it is really al-Quada warfare. By far and large, my blogs are intended to entertain you.
This, however, will not be one of those. I'm not really writing it for anyone in particular, just bouncing it out of my mind, into the vast nothing.
If you haven't been reading or aren't one of my close friends I've actually spoken with, my mother had an emergency appendectomy on Wednesday, July 8 -- almost two weeks ago now. Although she was discharged from the hospital the following Friday, she made her return visit the next day. We've been here ever since.
I've tried to be at the hospital as much as possible and, for the most part, I have. I did, however, go home to my babies the night before last. My longing for them was consuming and, truthfully, Mom seemed to be on the upswing when I left. Of course, I planned on being back yesterday, but I expected to return to a patient on the near mend. And, that's exactly I found. It was just with the patient across the hall. Don't get me wrong, I was glad for Joe. I just hoped for the same with mother, whose progress instead had totally backslid. Blood transfusion. High fever. Another bowel blockage. More high fever. Rising white blood count. And, lastly, fluid on the lungs.
When I got back, my aunt was definitely stressed about all these combined new complications. Together, we started discussing our options, including a possible transfer to Oklahoma City. On one hand, a fresh pair of eyes might bring a new innovation to spur the healing process. But then on the other, moving any patient in the fragile condition Mom was in would usher in the new possibility of complications. Its just a balancing act.
After exhaustion fell over Mom, I stared at a blank screen last night. I expected that poetic words of blessing and concern would well out of me like a fresh spring from earthy soil. But, instead I just gazed at an empty page, paralyzed by the day's unexpected downturn and the fear of what might be ahead. One of my favorite authors, Hunter S. Thompson, used to say that WRITING WAS THE ROCK IN HIS SOCK. Of course, he was applying this to the likes of the bullying eye of Richard Nixon, but still, that's always resonated with me. When life hits the skids, I find solace in pouring myself into the written word. Yet with all this going on, with a thousand cluttered concerns scattered through my brain and with a million more thought fragments floating around them, I couldn't write one legible sentence.
Mom had about three good sessions of sleep last night, all of which were interrupted by mounting pain or spiking fever or rumbling nausea. We'd remedy the guilty nuisances as best as we could and then she would partially slumber for a couple of hours. Sometime after midnight, as I helped her to the restroom, I noticed that her flushed skin felt like a stretched heating pad. She was running fever.
Of course, her body temperature eventually lowered to normal. Each time Mom woke through the night, I did, too. Well, at least I think I did. I remember stirring briefly at 6 am to calculate on which hour we did what. Honestly, it wasn't waking up, but more like taking a brief time out from sleep and then plunging back into it. Even in a semi-conscious state, I could count each aged spring in the two-inch cot. It's no thicker than the average book. Not Gone With the Wind or some fancy parlor room Bible, but The Scarlett Letter. That size, by the way, is perfect in terms of reading, but not so awesome in terms of comfort.
Even so, I've been grateful for each night I've spent on the cot and each morning I've woken back up on, for I know that even the most wretched coil in my makeshift bed leaves me a million percent more cozy than my poor momma.
I feel asleep last night dreading the dawn of this day. We had made the decisions collectively, as a family, that if the antibiotics produced no progress, we would probably transport Mom to Oklahoma City. Beyond that, I worried each individual problem would had yesterday might get worse.
But just like the first day after winter's last frost, with daybreak, the color in Mom's face bore small traces of recovery. Now, I know I've already blogged this once and then 36 hours Mom started the worst day she's experienced thus far, but I do have renewed optimism.
Mom had yet another cat scan this morning. The surgeon filling in for our guy, who is celebrating his 60th birthday in New York City his weekend, came in after seeing the initial report and told us that he thought another surgery may be imminent. The partial bowel blockage, it appears, is not just a temporary effect of surgery, which is relatively common, I am told. Instead, it is possibly from scar tissue left from the ruptured appendix. The surgeon then explained that he was also having a radiologist look over the scan. After he received that report, he said that, compared to the cat scan from three days ago, the blockage is shrinking. The only reason this isn't totally greek to me is because I've had it explained to me as though I'm a kindergarten. (THANK GOD FOR THAT!) So, I don't know if I've done a very good job of relaying all this, but it is good news. Another surgery is still possible, but doesn't appear to be necessary at this moment. Mom's only been on the antibiotics for a day and a half, so he wants to see if this will continue to improve that situation.
While this turned out to be good news, the cat scan was not without peril. Yesterday's x-ray showed signs of a small amount of fluid in her lungs. The result of today's cat scan indicated that it is now pneumonia. This, of course, is always a serious condition, but is also easily treatable. I think. Hell, I don't know. What do you think? Any of you, drop an opinion.
Hopefully the antibiotics she's already on while correct the double lung conundrum, but only time will tell. Like I've said before, with each step we take forward, we take one back. Hell, sometimes we take two.
I've been in the lobby for quite some time now, pounding away at this keyboard. I left Mom's door cracked so I could check on her without interrupting her needed slumber. I've never been one to publicize my prayers, but I'm gonna break precedent. And to many of you, this might be a funny place to start since I'm throwing vulgarities around like a Death Row rapper. But, with all my strength and infallibilities, I know that God sees my genuine plea for the remedy of His hand. My mother, who has been a good and faithful servant to Him and a heaping bounty of her fellow man, needs repair. Now, I know her life isn't threatened, but it is difficult seeing your mother ache and hurt as I have seen mine for the past week and a half. Walking through the electric doors for the millionith time this morning, returning a hefty round of phone calls to concerned loved ones, it occurred to me that our hellish two weeks is the never-ending reality for those living with chronic and/or fatal diseases. Regardless of whatever anxiety I feel at the time, I mask it for my mother. I can only imagine what she's feeling. But, with that said, I'm confident within the next few days, we will finally wake from this nightmare. So, for all of you who spend your life or a big bulk of it scheduling medicine and re-wearing clothes because you thought you'd be home a day before you were and working from hospital lobbies so you can be with your ailing loved one and walking assisted because you are too weak to walk by yourself, you have my unfettered respect. We've had to not treat one sickness to properly treat the other. We've had to add one medicine because we've added another. It's impossible to balance, no matter how hard you try.

Well, I actually went home for two different nights, but I've tried to stay with her around the clock. Through me, she does a better job explaining what she is experiencing to the doctors and nurses. Plus, Mom and I have always been close and I think my presence is a small comfort to her. Just a few moments ago, I slipped away to the cafeteria for some much-needed coffee and she sent on of the nurses to find me. When I got back to her room, she apologetically whispered, "I hope I'm not smothering you."
That in itself tickled me. I've been worried that she might want a break from me, her ever-present chamber maid. As agonizing as its been to watch her painful and often scary journey to wellness, I've enjoyed our alone time. Since I become a mother nearly four years ago, we are seldom together when a bouncing Ridge and Rolan aren't soaking up the attention of the NaNa they so adore. I almost never leave my kids. Most of my work is done from home so that I can be an overbearingly watchful momma, so naturally my heart is aching in their absence during my lengthy hospital stay with Mom. But, like I said, this roller coaster ride has at least presented us with the rare opportunity to be a mother and daughter instead of a mother and a mother. That entire train of thought my be complete jibbish since I'm running on high stress and little sleep.

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