Mom had not been the same since coming home on July 5th from her hospitalization for a seizure. She was very weak and had just started physical therapy on July 21st in attempt to build up her leg strength. Thankfully, one thing that wasn’t damaged or weakened at all from that seizure is her incredible spirit … When she says “Oh Hello!” when you walk in or “Thank You”, for something you’ve done for her, you feel her authenticity and warmth in your entire body. She smiles through whatever is happening and it warms your heart. Everyone loves my Mom.
The start to this week took an interesting turn on Tuesday. Mom lost her balance that morning due to her weakness striking her left shoulder, but thanks to her great caregivers she didn’t hit the floor. As the day progressed a huge bruise appeared and I was asked to take her to Patient First to get an Xray. It was a struggle getting her there and back due to her weak legs, especially holding her up for the Xray but we did it. We were told by the doctor on duty that nothing appeared to be broken and we were relieved. But then came Thursday. First thing that morning Mom had another seizure which was really concerning, but the caregivers and I had a virtual appointment with a neurologist who gave us instructions to hopefully end the seizures once and for all.
Later Thursday morning I received a distressing call from the Patient First radiologist that his review of her Xray revealed that Mom’s left clavicle was broken! I was shocked and very upset, but followed the instructions I was given to call an orthopedic physician near us. I made an appointment right away but was worried about taking Mom given all the trouble I had getting her to Patient First, and she seemed to be getting weaker by the day. I made arrangements for my favorite caregiver Janet to come to the orthopedic appointment with me, and I felt great that all would be well since there’d be two of us assisting Mom and we’d have a wheelchair with us too. What could go wrong?
That answer came Friday morning when Janet called to alert me that something seemed “really wrong” with Mom and that she didn’t think we should try to take her to the appointment. I rushed right over and Mom now had a huge knot on her chest under her neck, her eyes looked really sick and she seemed to be taking deep breaths and was moaning slightly. The best decision we made was to call the ambulance for her. They took Mom back to Southern Maryland Hospital where she’d been on July 2nd. I spoke with a fabulous Doctor who told me that Mom’s oxygen level was low so they had put her on oxygen and were going to do a full workup on her to get to the bottom of what was going on. She said Mom was so nice and polite and she was happy to be working on her case. She told me she would call me back in a few hours after all the tests were done.
Instead, I got a call back from the doctor in just 90 minutes, and she sounded a little more serious than she had in our previous conversation. She said, “so your Mom has four broken ribs and we are going to transfer her to Washington Hospital Center where they can deal better with this kind of trauma”. I said “WHAT??” and she repeated it. I asked if this was serious? and she said “YES, there is fluid building up and her lung capacity may be damaged so she needs to be seen by the trauma physicians to determine if she needs surgery”… I asked “did you say surgery?” I’m nearly hysterical at this point. She calmly said “we will take great care of your Mom while she’s here I promise you”. I said ok and immediately started to cry. I felt horrible that I didn’t understand how injured Mom was from Tuesday’s incident, and worried that she’d be alone AGAIN in a hospital because of COVID. When I went to give the news to Mom’s caregivers at the group home, they were devastated! It was a really sad moment!!
Mom easily made the transition to Washington Hospital Center and based on their protocol for broken ribs at her age of 91 she was immediately put in the ICU. I didn’t hear a word Friday night but was assured that the Trauma Team would call me. We finally talked around 7am on Saturday morning. They gave me the great news that Mom was delightful and had no problems during the night. The night nurses took turns sitting with Mom and they loved how she made them feel special when she said “thank you” for any little thing they did for her. I was proud. I was told that due to her age and the fact that she didn’t seem to be in too much pain, that they weren’t going to do any surgery on her. Nurse Lexi sat with Mom several times during her shift and played music for her. They absolutely loved Mom’s spirit, and though they were glad to see her leave the ICU they were sorry to see her go.
When Mom was moved out of ICU, Nurse Lexi went with her to ensure she got all settled in her new room. The new nurses loved Mom just as much as the ICU nurses. One of my friends said to me this morning “everyone loves your Mom!” and that’s an understatement! I always say that Mom is a rock star! I hope she won’t be in the hospital long, and I still have concerns given that Mom can’t follow instructions well enough to do the breathing exercises she needs for her lungs. But I also believe in silver linings. One of the things Nurse Lexi said was that “Mom’s kindness made her day” and that they hadn’t had a patient as delightful as Mom in a long time. The silver lining for me is that even in her now late-stage dementia, Mom can still share her great spirit with others. She’s calm and relaxed (even when apparently in pain) and when she smiles she can still light up a room.
Not even a broken clavicle and four broken ribs could dampen her kind heart and her spirit. Even on the worst of days she has no fear because she no longer knows what fear is. All she knows is that she’s “doing fine, thank you” whenever she was asked how she was by the doctors and nurses. As ugly a disease as dementia is, I’m grateful that the one thing it has not robbed my Mom of as of yet is her ability to make someone else’s day better, and at two different hospitals! And that’s why everyone loves my Mom, especially Me!! Get Well Mom, I know they want to keep you in the hospital but we can’t wait for you to come home!