On ER Visits, Morphine Dreams, and Role Reversals
How quickly things can change- truly in the blink of an eye. After I spoke with Mom this morning and learned about the sad loss of her two remaining cousins, I settled into a peaceful day of working at home and looking after Dan following his endoscopy. The phone rang at about 1:30, with the distinctive ‘Ahhhoooogaah’ ring that I have set for Mom’s calls.
“Neese, this is Mom. I’ve fallen backwards and am on the floor. I can’t get up…I’m so sorry.”
I dropped everything, grabbed my purse and dashed out the door, heading for Princeton Towers at top speed. When I got to Mom’s apartment, her bedroom door- which is always wide open- was almost closed. I slowly opened the door and found Mom on the floor, her walker turned over and almost in the closet, and all of the contents of the tray she keeps on her walker strewn everywhere- including about a million buttons that she was ‘playing’ with. It looked like she was was on the wrong end of a bar fight at a sewing convention.
She was wincing in pain, and I knew this was serious. Her home nurse was due to arrive at any time to dress her leg, but I didn’t feel we could wait. I called 911 to get help. I didn’t want to try to pick her up as I’d done in the past, for fear that she had broken her hip or ribs. I placed a pillow under her head, kissed her forehead, and began picking up the mess- oh, lord, the buttons…to clear the way for the medics.
I called Theresa, her nurse, and Joanne, her buddy and left them both messages. I texted Dan and our friends, and gave my sister a quick call. Mom began to give me instructions, making me laugh wryly with her first vehement request…
“Neese, I need my hairbrush and hairspray. That is the most important thing.”
Momma, are you kidding me? Nobody is going to care how your hair looks at the hospital.
“I will not leave this apartment with my hair standing on end. Oh, and I need my denture stuff and my favorite house shoes.”
I gathered the requested items and heard a knock on the door. All of the sudden there was a flurry of activity. Joanne came in, shaking with worry about Mom. Mom’s friend Linda came to check on her and tell us the ambulance had arrived. The medics came in and filled the apartment with their crew and gear and began to assess the situation and ask me several questions. Janet the program director came in, full of compassion and concern. Mom’s usually spacious apartment felt like a packed telephone booth.
The medics loaded Mom onto a straight board, and the sounds of her yelling out in pain did me in. I began shaking, the tears streaming down my face, as Joanne held me. This was the third fall in a year….really the proverbial nail in the coffin. I had so hoped to keep Mom at Princeton Towers, but is that realistic? How many times will she fall being here on her own before she finally breaks a hip or hits her head and knocks herself out or worse?
The ER is always a sobering experience. Hundreds of questions, asked multiple times, invasive tests that strip away any hope of modesty or dignity. On tv everything moves so fast in the ER, but in real life- when someone you love is in pain- it seems like things run in slow motion. Mom was dying of thirst, but they wouldn’t give her anything until all of her tests had been run. She was in tears the pain was so bad, but they couldn’t give her anything to help until tests had been completed.
X-rays, CT Scans…..When the results came, I was weak-kneed with relief that there were no fractures. Finally they were able to take off the horribly uncomfortable neck brace, and then came with blessed relief- a cup of water and a shot of morphine. I bent the straw and gave Mom the water, which she enjoyed like it was a glass of the finest champagne. The morphine began to take effect…and my mother- who never drinks a drop of alcohol- began to say the funniest, nuttiest things. She was drunk. If the situation hadn’t been so sad, I would loved to have video-taped her to show her when she got home. She made all of the nurses crack up…and her daughter.
The morphine made her a chatterbox, and she went from one thing to the next, worrying about so many things, telling me again where important papers were, who was to get what…it was sad, it was touching, it was emotionally overwhelming to see her like this again. Finally, she was admitted and kept for observation and pain management. I left her in the care of two kind nurses…after getting frustrated with the young man who wheeled her to her room…all while checking his Facebook status (and typing) the whole way. Unreal.
As I left Mom, I kissed her forehead, stroked her hair, and told her to sleep well. I had a sudden flashback to my childhood….it used to be Mom tucking me into bed, kissing my forehead, stroking my hair, telling me to “sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite!” Our roles have reversed so completely. Now I need to be the strong one, the one to look out for her and protect her the best I can.
Finally, I am home. I am so tired I’m dizzy, realizing that I had gone all day without food, water, or even a visit to the ladies room. Dan had a hot dinner waiting for me, and encouraged me to write out my demons before coming to bed…and so I did. Here’s hoping and praying that the days ahead are happier ones for my sweet Heavy D.