I should be organizing a play reading, or packing or making phone calls, but I’m going to write a post instead. My in-laws came on Thursday to give us a hand with the kid because we have a lot of packing to do. Lucky for us. I almost lost my mother on Saturday.
I get a phone call Saturday night letting me know that my mother’s physically deteriorating and reminded that she’s on a Code 2 which means that if she’s sick, she should be kept comfortable at the home. I tell the *@! nurse to call the doctor cause I have no idea what hell she’s saying when she’s just reading me vital stats. The doctor calls me back and tells me basically that it appears she had a cardiac incident and may have had mini strokes, she’s non responsive and may not last the night if I don’t do anything. I call the nurse back and tell her to call an ambulance. I haven’t even sat down yet since we just returned from the new house for dinner and I pick up my purse and coat and we are out the door. DH and I go the hospital and wait… and wait for my mother to arrive. I chant under my breath. He goes to check with the triage nurse. I text my sisters and my Buddhist friends who respond that they are chanting for my mum. She is in a home 3 minutes from the hospital and we are 15-20 minutes away but we have arrived before them. Then I call the home again and discover the nurse is doing paperwork before she calls the ambulance. I tell her as firmly as possible to call the ambulance first and then do the damn paperwork. She arrives … eventually. When I see her through the glass, I rush to the window and stare at her, willing her to acknowledge my presence, my love for her. Her eyes are closed and she’s moving her head back and forth slowly but rhythmically. I almost lose it. A triage nurse gently asks me to wait in the waiting room until I am called to see her.
Long story short, she has sepsis. I am warned that she may not last the night. I am freaking out not only because I think I am about to lose her but also that I have made no preparations for her passing (as I have been repeatedly warned and pretty much ignored for 8 years). Inside I know that it is not the worst thing that it should happen considering her state but I will be devastated. I make the phone call to my sister. She is in a state of shock and can barely process what I am saying. I need for her to understand the import of what I am being told. She tells me to call my older sister and I tell her no, she has to do it as I am not prepared to repeat myself again. Not causing I’m a bitch, or it’s inconvenient, but I was in the midst of dealing with her acute medical care and trying to remain strong for whatever happened. If my eldest sister was interested in my mother’s care, she would have actually visited more than twice in 8 years or called to ask about her in the past 2 years. My younger sister is so overwhelmed she can’t even stay on the phone, and my husband talks to hers. You know, man talk. (Here’s the deal. Reply: Okay, got it.)
Once it’s explained to me that I have to give them an okay for a “DO NOT RESUSCITATE” order before anything bad actually happens (they would have had to put a IV in her neck), I call my sister again. I already know that I would do but I needed to give her an opportunity to have her say. Luckily she agreed with me about not making any heroic attempts to save her life because life as in a non responsive state would not be the most compassionate action. So I go back and tell the doctor my decision and then I know I have to stay. So we wait and wait and wait. I speak to nurses, I watch the monitors. My husband says, “See, we’re back in action. When something goes wrong, we pull together like a team.” This is true because oddly enough, we are utterly united in that moment. Tears flood his eyes as he tells my mother she’s tough and she’ll pull through. I put my head down on the bed rail and finally let the tears flow. Just for me. Cause she’s my mother and I love her and I don’t want to say goodbye. I know there’s never a right time, but not now, not now, not like this. The Buddhist half of me says, no fear, no fear, it’ll just be like taking off a pair of tight shoes for her.
Time goes by and the antibiotics and fluids seem to be helping. Her vitals are improving and though I am warned she is not out of the woods, I am encouraged. By 3:30 we are exhausted so we find a quiet room to lay down in. It’s called a comfort room. Being a Catholic hospital, it has a crucifix inside above the door. I stare at it, remembering I am in Catholic hospital chanting a Buddhist mantra. I hear the usual cacaphony of noise that is to be expected in an emergency room of an urban hospital. Raised angry voices, something goes crashing to the floor. I see people on stretchers in the hallway, nervous girlfriends wearing high heels, cops and security everywhere. And an old black woman snoring, tucked into a private glass cubicle, her exhausted guardians nearby. At 5 am, I decide we are going home to rest. Somehow I know it is okay to leave then.
We come back 6 hrs later and mum seems better. She is responding to the antibiotics and fluids and she manages a smile or two. I say, “Look, mum, I got my hair done – do I look pretty?” She replies haltingly, “Do I look pretty?” DH: ”You look beautiful, mama.”
And she does.