It has now been over 1.5 years since my daughter…
Both and raised in central Kansas, my Mom and Dad led a very simple life. Nothing extraordinary every happened in their life as farmers/ranchers. They were not sick, only ever visited the local family doctor and life was status quo – until mom was diagnosed with an Aortic aneurysm in Nov, 2006.
My mom would turn a stubbed toe into a “why did this happen to me” event. Don’t know if it was for attention or that she didn’t realize that the entire world had injuries, sicknesses and disabilities. Regardless, she was a major drama queen and we all as a family coddled her to our on detriment – kept her as happy and secure as possible. So, back to the diagnosis.
Due to her blood pressure issues, the doc in the local small town decided to run some more tests (miracle in itself). They discovered her condition and recommended a surgeon in Houston, TX. Omg the DRAMA. So, at Thanksgiving that year I drove my parents down to Houston for a consultation. He informed her that it would take TWO surgeries to correct her condition, one open heart and the other through her ribs in the back. Rightfully so, this is pretty scary. Mom cried all the way back to Dallas. At this point Mom was otherwise healthy, albeit skinny, 77 year old mom with lots of life left….loved her grandkids, kids and husband.
After the dramatic discussion of whether to or whether not to have the surgery, it was then scheduled in January 2007 – in Houston. Here is where the real story begins.
The family gathered in Houston. There were initial tests the night before and then the surgery the next day. As far as we knew everything was fine when we left the hospital the evening after the surgery. The morning of day 1 was a shocker. The doc called ME about 9ish and told me of an “Event” that had happened early in the a.m. Her heart had stopped. They had to re-open her to get her heart started again, and because of the length of time that took, 20 some odd minutes, to bring her back to life, it was imperative to pack her and her chest in ICE into a hypothermal induced coma. OMG – the sight of your mother in recovery with her chest wide open, packed in ice, on respirators and every other type of machine was unimaginable. Dad was utterly beside himself. He didn’t understand it, couldn’t comprehend it. And, my older brother could not handle it at all. He sat and shook. It was apparent then I had to be the rock, the informant, the decision maker. My brother left….said he had to go back to Kansas and back to work. Thanks.
After 24 hours in a hypothermal coma, they decided to bring her temperature back up to normal. Yet another 24 hours before we would have any idea of brain damage. It could be extensive….or none at all. She could be a vegetable or never walk. The doctors gave her about a 50:50 chance of survival and recovery would not be a rosy picture. They eventually sewed her chest back up. Two days passed while we waited for her to come to….meanwhile it was just my Dad and I there to make decisions, figure this situation out, etc. In other terms, I had to comprehend the medical situation to my best ability and translate that in layman terms to my Dad but all he could think and say is that she would not want to live this way…..We were counseled by the resident minister who without her, there is no way we would made it.
During these 4 days, I was also in charge of keeping all the extended family and friends informed as to her condition. I turned into a machine of facts with little to no emotion.
So – Dad decided on day 5 that he would pull the plug the next morning. REALLY???? All ne knew was she didn’t want to live this way – what does that mean by the way?? By this time she was breathing over the respirator and the CT scans show some brain waves. But again, we had NO idea what her condition would be if/when she came to. I was having a really, really difficult time with this. You can’t pull the plug on a woman who was fighting for her life.
So we phoned my brother – again he just shook over the phone.
The next morning we arrived at the hospital heart surgery recovery center to find my mother’s eyes were fluttering and she was breathing even farther over her respirator. She was coming to. She squeezed my hand, blinked her eyes when I asked if she loved me. OMG – a miracle.
After a week in Heart Surgery recovery, she was moved to intensive care for further recovery she was awake, she was aware, but she couldn’t talk due to the respirator. I had to go home. I hadn’t been home in over two weeks.
I drove back down to Houston on the day they said they were removing her respirator – wow, what a milestone. Dad and I were so excited but very scared. Now we would find out if there was any brain damage to her speech….her mobility seemed to be fairly good – just terribly, terribly weak. We could not understand her first words. She didn’t have the mobility to write so again we are forced to wonder about her outcome.
During all this time, I would explain to dad over and over and over again the details of her condition. I might as well been talking to a rock. He didn’t/wouldn’t understand. No grasp of the situation at all. But he kept asking me the big questions….will she talk, will she walk, etc. etc. Each time saying that she never wanted to live that way. All I could say is “SHE’S ALIVE”.
Remember in the beginning of the story I told you want a drama queen she was…..This was the beginning of the biggest pity party on earth.
7 weeks in Houston at two different facilities, one of which was the most miserable care on earth – they didn’t bathe her, attempt to get her out of bed, nothing – her condition did not improve any – it probably suffered. We finally got her out of there followed by 6 more weeks in Dallas. She had a plethora of conditions due to the coma and poor care, she was a wreck.
The drama through that time frame was unbelievable. Her will to live was iffy at best, but they eventually sent her home. She then visited her local doctors who don’t deserve their medical license for what they did. I knew her condition inside/out but nobody would listen to me. Honestly – nobody would listen to me because apparently those local doctors were the best in town. Bull shit. Really??? Dad did his best but was more overwhelmed than words can say. There was no way could not articulate her condition to them. At home he had to help her do everything, I mean everything. I went from traveling to Houston every weekend to going to Kansas almost every other weekend. I was spent as well. I go clean, do laundry, cook, etc. etc. and then come back to Texas and go to work for 4 days.
She recovered….as best as could be expected. A FLIPPEN MIRACLE. She started getting out of the house, out to eat and doing some shopping, even to the casino! We retired the wheelchair and walker. My mom was back!!!! We talked nearly every day that I was not in Kansas. As she got better I slowly reduced the frequency of my trips (7 ½ hours each way UGH) I can’t count the miles I travelled. Most everything was back to normal. Her will to live was pretty strong!
Two years after her surgery disaster….she started to contemplate having the second surgery because we all knew that only half her problem was fixed. She was still a ticking time bomb. Her aorta could explode at any time. We talked about it in length. What should she do? Should she go back to the doctor??? Should she go back to Houston for the second surgery? Did she want to know what the extent of her condition was???
What do you tell you mother? You need to live for your family. Was that the right answer? No. Yet I was the one she came to for answers. Really – me? Dad just shook his head and told her to do what she wanted to do. Pretty much the story of their entire 57+years or marriage. She did want she wanted to and we appeased her.
In the end, I told her that if she didn’t want to know what her condition was, don’t go, just live the rest of her life. Don’t go to the doc unless you are committed to the second surgery. Luckily dad agreed.
She didn’t go. She had turned 80 years old. She instead started to get weaker a little bit every day. Needed frequent naps. Really slowing down.
One fall day, she asked Dad to take her to the casino – her very favorite pastime! On a pull of the slot machine her aorta exploded. She had just enough time to ask for Dad. She died on the spot. Emergency took her to the hospital where she was pronounced dead. Dad spent the next 2 hours with her, saying his goodbyes before calling me.
Once again I had to become the machine. Dad couldn’t make any decisions, my brother was no help. We met with the funeral home where I made the decisions; met with the preacher where I chose the service. We met with the local florist where I picked out the casket spray. OMG I didn’t have time to grieve. We went to the viewing where I had to tell the funeral home her makeup was all wrong….I had to pick out her clothes, jewelry, everything… I’ve never been so exhausted.
Now after almost four years, I don’t think my family thinks I did anything. I’ve lost some respect for them. I stay in touch with my dad but there is nothing I can do that will compare with the care he gets from my brother. I guess it’s his turn. I took care of mom. I’m really not needed anymore.
Is this the demise of my family as we knew it?
It’s fair to say that nothing is the same without her and it never will be. I’d like to pick up where she left off with her love and flair for entertaining – especially the family but I live too far away. It is assumed that I will always travel home for the holidays and any other occasion. But it’s too far for anybody to come to me.
Is this what happens to families? I think it is probably more the norm than not and I should just accept that.
I did what I did because that was my mother and I loved her unconditionally. It was never a question of why should I do this, it was always this is what I have to do, my mother needs me. My mother knows what I did for her as does everyone else. They just don’t want to acknowledge it as that would bring to life their shortcomings during the whole event, then it would be real. And, they don’t live in the real world.