One month. Four and a half weeks. Thirty one days.

19 Aug

Today it’s been thirty one days since my mother had the seizures that put her in a hospital bed.

As I write this, I’m waiting to hear, from my beleaguered siblings, whether the medical team overseeing her care, has recommended to try the surgery a second time, or not; as well as what her prognosis is, under whatever treatment we, the family and the doctors, decide on.

In the meantime, my siblings tell me, she is stable, vital signs-wise, and aware and coherent a good two thirds of the time she’s awake. On the down side, she’s in pain, and uncomfortable with all the many indignities that come with being helpless in a hospital setting.

As Ms Jones said, being the one at the other end of the phone–or text or email–is hell.

Below the cut, a bit more detail, and a couple of rants, so feel free to skip this–I really don’t want to depress anyone with my shit.

You know the problem with being a largely healthy family? That we are really not familiar with the utter chaos that is the healthcare system.¹

For example, no one (including me), thought to keep a log with doctors’ names, medication prescribed,  diagnoses given, studies done, analysis’ results, and dog knows what all else, until my mother had been in hospital for several days. Yes, someone eventually suggested it, and it has been done pretty consistently since, but no one knew we would need to do this.

The hospital she’s in right now is one of the best in Mexico City, and their oncology and neurosurgery departments are top notch–but this is the third hospital she’s been in.

She spent almost four days in an ER bed in one hospital. In a fucking ER, where my siblings literally slept on the floor, and weren’t allowed to bring in anything to comfort her–from socks to a blanket, to lip balm, to music.

Then she was transferred to another hospital, where she spent almost two more days in the ER, and then a few more days in a room–before being transferred, yet again, to the one she’s in presently.

Where–you guessed it!–she had to spend several hours in the ER before being given a bed in the proper floor.

And in each of the first two hospitals, every time the shift changed, the ‘new’ doctor had no idea what was going on with my mother, what her medical history was, or what the hell.

But they all were quick, and happy, to run off their mouths. First take: “Oh, it was an embolism, and she’s been having them for a while, but no worries, some blood thinners and she’ll be out in no time.” Second take: “On second thought, we need to do some tests to see why…” Third take: “Do you know what happened with the tests she had done?” Fourth take: “She needs to have (such and such study) done. What do you mean, she had it done yesterday, right here?” Fifth take: “See, what happened was…” And so on and so on, and so on.²

My siblings and their families–and oh lord, do rain blessings on my nieces and nephews!–have had to learn, on the fly, to be forceful advocates for my mother’s health. And they have, by and large, done an amazing job of it.

They have a chart–literally, on an erasable board–with shifts, so there’s at least one family member at my mother’s bedside around the clock. They ingratiate themselves with the nurses, and doctors, and administrators, and security personnel, to ensure my mother is as comfortable as humanly possible while she is, essentially confined to a bed, lost in pain and confusion.

And, from what I hear, other relatives and friends also came through, big time, to put the family in contact with people with enough pull to ensure she ended up where she is now, and in the care of one of the best neurosurgeons in the country. One who, my siblings tell me, seems to actually give a damn about my mother’s wellbeing, in the short and in the long terms.

I have to be grateful, to all of them.

And yet, despite all of that.

Here we are, almost a week after the surgery had to be interrupted, and we still don’t know what actually happened (her blood pressure bottomed out…no, wait, it spiked too high and too long…no, she had a stroke!, hold on, she has an enlarged heart…no, actually, she just had a bad reaction to the anesthesia…no, that wasn’t it…–and so on and so forth).

We still don’t know what the results of the many tests done on Monday and Tuesday are.

We still don’t know what the alternative treatment would be, or what to expect in the coming weeks or months either way.

Being in the dark over here is bad, but at least I cannot go on a rampage on any of the people who are, in essence, keeping my mother alive. I am profoundly grateful that all my siblings have kept their cool–though I can hear their frustration as hours, and days, and weeks, go by, and nothing, it seems, is done.

I’ve been coming in early to work, and leaving late, because a) my concentration has been shot to hell since my mother landed in hospital, and b) if I don’t keep myself busy, I’ll probably end up running outside naked, screaming my effin’ head off.

So I’m sitting at my desk this morning, right after 7AM, when the HR person comes to my desk, to ask me how my mother is doing. I tell her, “still in hospital, still stable, we are waiting for news.” She says, “Yeah, you know, hearing this makes me so sad, makes me want to cry, because when my mother, twenty years ago…..” and off she goes for fifteen minutes or so, while I sit at my desk, speechless.

First off, I didn’t tell you anything about my mother, and I am beyond pissed that one of the two people I did tell in the company shared my fucking private business with the worst gossip I’ve met in many a year.

Second, I didn’t go to your office to give you depressing news that make you ‘want to cry.’ YOU came into my office and asked. Don’t like what you hear? Don’t fucking come here and ask me.

Third, I’m very sorry you lost your mother TWENTY FUCKING YEARS AGO, but I am losing my mother now, to a horrible, cruel disease that’s causing her unspeakable pain, while robbing her of the comfort of her own mind to boot.

Fuck cancer.

~ * ~

¹ Yes, all this is happening in Mexico, but I am willing to bet that it holds true every.fucking.where.

² Are all doctors everywhere trained NEVER to admit to not knowing something?

21 Responses to “One month. Four and a half weeks. Thirty one days.”

  1. Helen R-S 19/08/2016 at 8:52 AM #

    That is so insensitive of the HR person. Even if she thought she should do a welfare check on an employee going through a difficult time, talking for 15+ minutes about _her_ mother’s death is not the way to do it. “How’s your mum, how are you, is there anything we can do to help you?” is what she _should_ have said.

    I’m glad to hear she’s in the hands of a top neurosurgeon, and continuing to send good thoughts to her and you.

    • azteclady 19/08/2016 at 9:14 AM #

      Thank you, Helen, I appreciate it.

  2. Mad 19/08/2016 at 11:54 AM #

    *hugs* I am so sorry you’re not getting the answers you need about your mother. I remember when DD3 was going through her health issues and I’d tell them some of the meds made her sicker and they’d always reply with “oh, that’s a med that never makes anyone sick blah blah blah.” No? Well, put it down that it DOES and she’s the first, if you want to say that. It took me weeks to finally get someone to listen to me, to switch her meds where she could finally eat and keep it down without immediately throwing it up. She is now included in reports where they discuss her case with resident doctors to teach them that not all cases are the same. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone to have to deal with and knowing you’re not able to be there in person? That has to be the worst and I’m praying for you and your mom.

    • azteclady 19/08/2016 at 12:08 PM #

      Thank you, Mad, so so very much!

      It’s very hard. There’s being unable to do anything tangible to help, and then there’s the waiting for news.

      My siblings are rightly overwhelmed as it is, because while there’s plenty of people (large family), coordinating shifts, and having two or three people going to this or that office/department, in order to get things done, plus the usual work and family obligations. So, occasionally, I’ll spend up to 16 or 20 hours without an update.

      And I’m the kind of worrywart for whom, “no news” always means “something horrible happened, and a) there’s no one left to tell me, or b) they are afraid to tell me the bad news.”

  3. Lori 19/08/2016 at 1:01 PM #

    AZ, so many hugs coming your way. I can’t imagine anything worse than living in the constant fear of hearing bad news. Not for this long and not for someone who owns such a large piece of your heart.

    I’m still sending prayers up for all of you. And thanks that you have people strong enough to fight for your mother’s health and dignity.

    • azteclady 19/08/2016 at 1:06 PM #


      Thank you–you guys have been so incredibly supportive of me always, and more so during this crises. Thank you.

  4. Art Kaufmann 20/08/2016 at 10:58 AM #

    I’m so very, very sorry. Getting the run around while dealing with this is adding insult to injury. I wish I had more to offer than my love to you and your family.

    • azteclady 20/08/2016 at 11:15 AM #

      It is very much appreciated, Art; there’s nothing anyone can really do, but hope, and love. Thank you.

  5. bamaclm 20/08/2016 at 7:30 PM #

    Big hugs, Az. You are a strong woman but I know how hard this is for you. You are blessed to have such a supportive family. Thinking positive thoughts for you and yours.

    Oh, and yes, I do believe doctors are trained that way because somehow, when they leave school, attached to their diploma is the ‘god complex’ without which their education is not complete.

    • azteclady 20/08/2016 at 7:34 PM #

      Hugs right back at you, my friend, and thank you.

  6. Erin S. Burns 21/08/2016 at 1:23 AM #

    I’m so sorry 😦

    If it isn’t too forward to ask, is it just time and work responsibilities holding you here? Or is there some way we can help you get there?

    • azteclady 21/08/2016 at 5:19 AM #

      You are a sweet, sweet human being, Erin.

      There are many issues at play, among them, the fact that there’s no telling how long this situation will last.

  7. heavenlea27 21/08/2016 at 12:34 PM #

    (((((AZ))))) Sinceriously, you are well within your rights to run outside naked and scream.

    Thank god for your family who doing all they can, and more for your Mum. AS to the medical staff, it’s global, mores the pity. Your HR person needs a slap upside hte head. Clearly she skipped sensitivity training.

    Still sending all the best wishes and warm hugs and best thoughts to your and yours. Wish we could do more for you, even virtually.


    • azteclady 21/08/2016 at 12:46 PM #

      Thank you, Lea; it does help, more than I can say. Thank you!

  8. Dorine 21/08/2016 at 10:37 PM #

    My thoughts are with you. I hate the unknown. When you know what’s going on you can take some sort of action. It’s the unknown that’s so frustrating. They do miraculous things with surgery. I pray you get results for your mom.

    • azteclady 21/08/2016 at 10:48 PM #

      Thank you, Dorine. I keep hoping that surgery will be the course of action recommended by the medical team. We’ll know soon–hopefully.

  9. SuperWendy 22/08/2016 at 1:22 PM #

    Ugh. Yeah, your HR person sounds like the literal worst. It should have been a “wellness check” on you a “if you need to take time off etc.” sort of thing and left at that.

    Your siblings have some restraint. I would have stared dumbfounded at the doctors and been like, “Does my mother/grandmother/aunt etc. have a chart? And is anybody writing in it? And CAN YOU READ?!?!”

    (BTW, excellent advice on keeping a personal record on medications, tests performed etc.).

    • azteclady 22/08/2016 at 1:28 PM #

      HR person: this is the same person who routinely steals other people’s creamer and/or coffee from the staff lounge, so one can’t expect much from her. Which is why I had not told her anything about this.

      Medical log: I had heard that suggested by a number of people dealing with long term/chronic issues, here in the US. However, we all thought this was a small-ish health event with minimal long term consequences. Goes to show, even if/when one believes this, it’s smarter to keep a written log of everything.

  10. Kat 22/08/2016 at 1:38 PM #

    Keeping your mum and your family in my thoughts, AZ. I’ve never understood why doctors aren’t better trained at people skills. Glad to hear that your mum finally has a good one.

    • azteclady 22/08/2016 at 1:54 PM #

      Thank you, Kat.

      I have never understood why medical schools do not give more emphasis to ‘bedside manner’ (aka, people skills) either. I understand their arrogance, from an intellectual perspective–they hold other people’s health/life in their hands–but boy! it makes one want to throttle them often!.


  1. Surgery, take two. | Her Hands, My Hands - 24/08/2016

    […] consistently better care around the clock in this hospital than she had for almost two weeks in the previous two hospitals. Also, the neurosurgeon, the cardiologist, and the anesthesiologist who are caring for her are all […]

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