Who Are You, and What Did You Do With My Mother?

Who are you, and what did you do with my mother?

That is the question I just asked my  84 year old Mom as she sits painting her fingernails in my living room.  She smiles as she kicks her legs out and asks me if I think she got all the hair.  What?  She says she shaved her legs this morning.  Who is this woman?

She came home from the hospital last Thursday evening.  If you’ve read my previous posts, you know she has been one very sick woman, and quite frankly, we thought she wasn’t long for this earth.   As the doctors talked about releasing her, I was very concerned about my ability to take care of her this time around — she was so sick in the hospital.  All day Friday, Saturday, and Sunday morning, she was weary, weak and had absolutely no energy.   I intended to “make her comfortable” and hope for the best, but expect the worst.

But Sunday afternoon,  she rallied, and we are shocked.  We don’t know what to think.  Is it the new thyroid meds?  Is it my sister visiting from out of state (adrenaline)?    Weren’t they just chasing a “last stage, incurable cancer last week? (we have heard nothing more out of the oncologists) Wow.

She doesn’t look like the same woman!

She went with my sister to their rented lake cottage on Sunday afternoon, out to lunch with us on Monday, and back to the cottage this afternoon.  Amazing.

I don’t know what this means.

Yes, she is weak and certainly, still frail.  But her energy level is up, and her appetite is good — very good.  Even her dementia is barely noticeable; she seems pretty lucid.

This could just be a fluke.  Maybe she is just having a couple of really good days.  I don’t know.  Time will tell.

But for today, we’ll take it, and be grateful for it.   Thank you, Lord.

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Another Doctor. Another Hospital. Stay Number 7

My sister did  some research and found a cardiologist who specializes in Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension.  Mom got an appointment within 4 days!

The office is over an hour from my home.  We have to leave at 6 a.m. to make the appointment.  Oh my.  That is not too early for me as I enjoy getting up with the chickens, but wow, the crack of dawn is a wee bit early for Mom.   But we prepare the night before, and plan the best we can.

Mom goes to bed early, but doesn’t stay down.  ‘I feel like I’m drowning when I lie down’.  What?  She has never said that before.   Oh, Mom, please just hold on one more night.  The ER lights flash before my eyes.  She sits for a while in her chair, watches some TV, and gets sleepy.  Her next attempt for bed is a success.  She falls asleep quickly.

She does get up several times to use the bathroom.  This is routine, and doesn’t alarm me.  However, at 3 a.m., I hear her going in and out of the bathroom several times.  I get up to check on her.  Her stomach is upset.  She feels the urge to “lose her cookies”.  I get her something to settle her stomach — her old standby med.   She goes back to bed and sleeps.  I wonder if the med helped her stomach — or her mind.  Funny how that works.

As we get ready to leave in the morning, I pack a few extra things for Mom: her phone, her charger, extra hearing aide batteries along with a few other personal items.  I just have a feeling…

I love this doctor.  He is not only kind and gentle, but he is thorough in his physical exam of Mom, in asking questions to her and to me, and in reading all the reports sent from the other facilities.   He is with us a long time and then he asks to be excused to do further study of the reports.

When he returns, he lobbies for Mom’s admittance to the hospital.    I think of the bag tucked in the car, and obviously this is no surprise to me.    I know she is more ill than she has ever been.   He IS the specialist.  He wants to run his own tests.  He, too, feels as though something has been missed.

Hospital Stay Number Seven since December.  Big Fat Sigh.

By the time we get across the street to the hospital, it’s 10 a.m.  I get her registered, but we have to wait for a room so I take her to the cafeteria to get her some toast and coffee.  I even buy her a small piece of pie.  Pumpkin pie is ok for breakfast — it’s a vegetable, right?  (smile)

We get Mom settled into a bed, and a few exams are already on the docket.   After several hours and a few bedside tests, the CT scan is still delayed.  They are holding her lunch until after the scan.  By this point, the toast and pie are forgotten and Mom is cranky.     “I want some food”.   She expresses this to every nurse, tech and doctor who walks into the room.  Oh my.   I have “felt her pain” and not eaten myself.  I don’t want to miss anything going on in the room and I certainly do not want to eat in front of her.  (This doesn’t occur to Mom as she never mentions me going for food.  I think that in itself might be worthy of another post another time.)

They finally come to take her for the scan.  When she leaves, I order her (now) supper and hope it arrives in the room upon her return.   I also ask the nurse for a carton of milk and fruit cup.  At least if supper takes longer than expected, she’ll have something to snack on while she waits for her turkey and potatoes.

I take my leave as she begins to eat her much anticipated meal.   She probably won’t eat half of it.  But the food was her issue today.  That’s what I see with the dementia.  Each day has it’s own issue.  The thing that she dwells on.  The thing that consumes her thoughts.  One day it could be the pain in her legs.  The next day it might be her allergies and how they are the cause of all this illness.   And today it was the food.

Again, I am hopeful as I drive home.  This doctor appears to know what he is doing —  like the right tests will reveal the right answers.   I don’t know.  Really?  Doubts.

No, let’s not go there.

Another doctor.

Another hospital.

Maybe this time, we’ll get the answers and Mom will begin the road to recovery.

I pray this is true.  Dear God…

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Doctor’s words: I think We Missed Something

The doctor’s office didn’t call back that day.  Sigh.  When they did return my call, I was standing in line at the grocery store, and just allowed their message to go to voicemail.  Who wants to talk about intimate details of your mother’s health amongst tabloid magazines and inquisitive strangers?

When I got back to my car and listened to the message, the nurse had apologized for not getting back to me sooner.  It has been 36 hours since I called and it is now 6:15 p.m.  The doctors office is closed.   ‘I’m sorry, your message got lost in the shuffle.   I see she has an appointment for tomorrow, but  if your mother worsens during the night, you can always take her to the ER.’     Seriously?  The ER?  Again?  That is exactly what I was trying to avoid.  No.  Mom is having trouble, but she is stable.

I will wait until the appointment.

I pray we can wait for the appointment.

The doctor is rather shocked at Mom’s condition.  At one point during the appointment, he looks at me and quietly asks, ‘are you sure you can take care of her at home?’

He actually says, I think we’ve missed something.  Her physical state does not match her clinical report.  Something is wrong.

Ah, yes.  Something is wrong.  That is what we have been saying for months.  Finally.  He gets it.  This isn’t just Afib or congestive heart failure.  This isn’t just dementia.   There is something else they have missed.   Her rapid downward spiral is happening right before our eyes.  Before his eyes.

He changes her meds again.   We schedule an appointment with the cardiologist for his “next available”, and we head home.   I am disappointed.  I don’t know what I expected him to do for her.   Mom is weak and frail and so sick.  I help her into her chair and make her comfortable.

The ‘next available’ seems like a long way off.

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