Usually my posts are about politics and current events, and I apologize in advance for this post if that is what you came to read. Last week, I didn’t follow the news and I suppose I have some catching up to do. But I spent the week caring for my mother, and she came first.
A few weeks ago, my mother called me and let me know that she had scheduled her surgery to have the tendon repaired that tore in her shoulder. I insisted she let me take her and I told her I’d even to take off a few days to help her while she recovered; and that there was no need for her husband to take off work, especially with possibility that his union would be striking soon.
When I took her in for her surgery Wednesday, I could tell she was a little a nervous about being put under anesthesia. Frankly, I was too. I’ve heard many stories about people going in to have a minor surgery and then die because of the anesthesia. I feared that could happen to her, especially since she has developed allergies to about a half a dozen medications through the years. One of the medications she developed an allergy to happened literally overnight. She was taking the medication fine for a week, and the next day she went into anaphylactic shock and was rushed into the emergency room. I feared that she would have some similar reaction to the cocktail of drugs they used to put her under.
She made it through the surgery fine, though, to my relief. Afterwards, I helped her get dressed and use the bathroom. Once the doctor released her, I carefully drove her home and got her into bed. I sat with her sometimes and just listened to her breathe, just to make sure. She was fine. She was going to be just fine.
The next day, she was complaining that she felt nauseous, but otherwise she was okay. She said the pain medication that the doctor prescribed was working well, and that today she felt like she could work in the rehabilitation chair that they delivered the day before.
I helped her take off her arm sling and helped her position her arm into the cradle that would mechanically lift her arm up and down. No sooner than I had gotten her strapped into the chair, she said, “Get me out of here, I need to throw up.” I tried to hurry to loosen the straps.
She said in almost a whisper, “Hurry, Wendy, I’m going to pass out”.
Just as I released the final strap, she slumped forward. I pushed her back into the chair and said, “Mom, wake up I got the chair unstrapped.” Then I looked at her face. I had seen that same face before in my first few years of college when I thought I was going to be a forensic pathologist in books I had checked out in the campus library. Her eyes were open, her jaw was lax and her tongue was distended just outside her mouth. She was pale, horribly pale. I had seen that expression on dozens of photos of post mortem patients. My mind started racing, “Oh my god, she died.”
“Mom!” I screamed. “Wake up! Please wake up!” I patted her face, “Mom, wake up please!” She didn’t respond. I reached for the phone, and tried to call 911. I misdialed, hung up, and then dialed again.
“911, what’s your emergency?”
“It’s my mother, she had surgery yesterday..and she isn’t responding. Please send someone, please help me.”
The operator said expressionless, “okay ma’am, how old is your mother?”
“She’s 57. Please hurry!”
“Okay, ma’am I’m sending someone, is your mother breathing”
“No..wait, I don’t know. Hold on let me check”
I tilted her head forward and put her mouth next to my ear.
“Yes, she is breathing, thank God, but she won’t wake up”
The 911 operator sat with me on the phone for what seemed like an eternity giving me instructions, “Hold her forward, don’t let her fall out of the chair. Can you lie her down?”
“No, she’s in this chair, I can’t.”
Just then my mother took in a deep gasp and said, “I had a dream.”
“Ok, she’s awake. Mom, are you ok?”
“I need to lie down.” I helped her into bed and relayed what I was doing to the 911 operator.
Then she started vomiting, just as the EMS arrived. My mother apologized to them and to me for being such trouble. They reassured her that it was no trouble and not to worry about them.
They took her vitals and asked her a series of questions. They said she was okay, but she probably should get on a different pain medication. My mother refused to go to the hospital. The paramedic told me she will be okay, but to call again if anything happens.
After they left, I helped her change her clothes and wash up and I change the bed sheets. I paged her doctor to request a different medication. I got her back into bed, gave her a kiss and sat beside her until she drifted off to sleep.
And once she did, I cried and laughed. My worst fear was not realized. My mother was not dead, and she was still here. I let the tears run down my face as I listened to her breathe.