Tuesday March 23, started like every other day. I got up at 4am, worked out, then got ready for work. I had just pushed the button on my coffeemaker at 5:55 when Janet called from Mom’s group home. Mom was in pain and moaning, so 911 was immediately called.
Mom arrived at Southern Maryland Hospital’s emergency room at 6:55am. The first call I received was around 8:30am requesting permission to treat her, but it was the second call around noon that stopped me in my tracks. I was told that Mom has some sort of infection / inflammation in her gallbladder which had spread to her liver and that they’d give her something for the pain and the surgeon on duty would call me shortly with “options”. My head started to spin.
The call from the surgeon came around 3:30pm. She explained that Mom was in acute liver failure and needed some sort of surgical intervention and she was calling for a decision on what I wanted done for my Mom. One of the hardest things I’ve done over our now 15 year journey was to explain to the surgeon that my Mom didn’t want any type of surgical intervention or tubes or anything done to her. I asked if Mom could survive without surgical intervention and was told that Mom’s condition was extremely critical and that it was unlikely that someone her age would survive this. She stated that any surgical intervention would likely hurt Mom more than help her without prolonging her life. I asked if I could see her and she said due to COVID she couldn’t authorize it but she’d try to get permission for me to see Mom. I was asked if I wanted hospice to be called and I said yes. Our family has had wonderful hospice experiences with my grandmother, aunts and my sister.
Permission was granted and I arrived at the emergency room right before 5pm. By that time Mom had been alone for about 10 hours. She looked small, frail and literally scared to death. I was devastated. I asked if there was a prognosis and was told she’d likely live for a few days or weeks. We were moved to a room and I was told I could stay with her as long as I wanted and could spend the night in the Lazy Boy chair in Mom’s room. I advised that I wanted Mom to be taken back to the group home and they agreed to discharge her on Wednesday.
I began reading to her from The Book of Joy by Archbishop Desmond Tutu and His Holiness the Dalai Lama. It’s an incredible and uplifting book and Mom started to nod as I read certain parts. She was breathing funny and I was pretty sure she was dying. They gave her oxygen so she could be comfortable. I played spa music and continued reading. Her eyes had been closed for most of the evening, but then at 11pm her eyes opened and she was awake for almost the rest of the night. Every time she looked at me she nodded and smiled. She was recognizing me!
Through the night we hummed along to jazz, the oldies and some gospel music too. I continued to read to her. By morning when breakfast arrived she had no idea how to use the spoon for her oatmeal so I fed her. I turned on the tv and she watched the people move across the screen. She began pulling on her oxygen tube and was very fidgety but I didn’t have anything with me to keep her hands busy like I usually do. I found the hospital’s menu in the drawer and that saved the day! She read the menu items over and over and was literally having a ball. Who knew menu items could be so exciting!!!
By noon on Wednesday I had met with the hospice leader and some of the rest of the hospice team who were assigned to Mom and she was admitted to the hospice program. I was told Mom would be picked up and transported back to the group home at 4pm. I was relieved. Just then the nurse supervisor came in to notify me that I had exceeded my visiting time limit and needed to leave as soon as the doctor came and spoke to me. I was surprised as they’d told me I could stay as long as I wanted and Mom was leaving in four hours anyway. But I said OK I’d leave. Ten minutes later the doctor arrived and took one look at Mom and how great she looked compared to the previous day in the ER. She told me to “disregard” what the nursing supervisor had told me, that it was clear to her that Mom was responding to me being there. I can’t imagine being in the hospital during this COVID period because very few people come into the room and there’s virtually no interaction unless the patient is in crisis. I was relieved that I could stay and the nursing supervisor returned and apologized to me. For the remaining four hours before Mom’s transportation arrived we hummed and sang, read the menu and laughed at absolutely nothing. We were together for 23 hours and it was priceless.
Mom is happily in her own bed in the group home, is now feeding herself again we are taking it day by day. She’s being pampered every single minute by Janet and she deserves it! I really need to get her a Wonder Woman cape! On Friday afternoon I went to meet the hospice and group home nurses and the hospice social worker who was there too! After they all left, Mom and I had a wonderful visit, and you KNOW it included LEGO bricks!! I had just attended a lunch-time session called “Six Bricks” given by a LEGO facilitator from Ireland and tried some of her techniques with Mom. It was amazing!
The COVID pandemic has left millions of people isolated, alone and unconnected, and that’s so devastating because the Power of Connection is what keeps us going! I know how fortunate I was to be able to be with Mom in the hospital this week. I was terrified for the first few hours when she was doing so poorly, but the more we connected through the night, the stronger we both became. Never underestimate the Power of Connection! Please connect with someone today!