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!..no, 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.
~ * ~
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?