Thursday, July 18, 2013

It's Okay, You Must Be So Tired

I haven't posted in few years (gulp!). So much has happened it is a bit mind-boggling. I will be documenting, post by post, the events that have rocked my world these last few years.

Christmas Eve 2009 I gathered with my family at my sister's house. Our mother, who suffered serious back issues coupled with arthritis, was losing her mobility and becoming stooped. She showed us her lower legs and it was horrifying - they were "weeping" fluid and the skin was red, scaly and blotchy. She had gone to the doctors and it was linked to congestive heart failure. The excess fluid had no place to go so it came out through the pores of her skin.

To clarify, I had a distant relationship with both parents for the sake of my sanity. I had learned a long time ago that I could not get the support and love I wanted, on a consistent basis, without extreme emotional pain. She was judgmental, dismissive and rather unkind a lot of the time. She began to display signs of mentally illness in my early 20's and refused to get help. Honestly was she ill long before then? I don't know. The things she said and did I guess were based from this, but there were times there was such clarity that I still don't know where they came from. As a result I kept my distance because the alternative would have sent me to a mental institution.

In the summer of 2010 things were getting worse for Mom. She was in constant pain, she was experiencing a lot of anxiety and she was slowly no longer capable of caring for her personal hygiene. She sat all the time. Moving was torture as her back had deteriorated further. She was giving up. We all tried to come to my parent's aid (by this time my Dad, who had a cancerous tumor on his lungs) was taking care of most household duties and was feeling helpless. Mom was fighting us on getting any kind of help; however we finally were able to get her to a pulmonologist about her legs, which had continued, on and off, to weep all year. We also were trying to get her to see a therapist because she was experiencing anxiety, depression and delusions. It was such a scary time.

We finally got her to agree to see a therapist. In September 2010 I drove to the doctor's office to meet them (my sisters and I were beginning to insist coming along to any doctor appointments so we knew what was going on). I see my parents in the parking lot, my father standing by the car looking angry while my mother, distressed, was sitting in the passenger seat. She could not breathe and my dad thought she was having an anxiety attack about the appointment. They had called an ambulance, which arrived a few minutes after I had gotten there. They took her to the emergency room.

Her body had a tremendous amount of fluid due to congestive heart failure and they sedated her because she kept ripping out the tubes they had inserted to help her breathe. This turned into a 2 week stint in the ICU as the doctors tried to stabilize the fluid and regulate her heart. She was sedated for most of that time.

She stayed about a month in the hospital. In the meantime we learned that my Dad's cancer was showing signs of growth and he began chemo treatment. My sisters' and I spent that September and October running between the hospital and the chemo place. It was exhausting.

Mom was not really getting better. She was transferred to a nursing facility for long term recovery but it was clear to us that she would likely never come home and spend the rest of her days in a nursing home. She was also being treated for mental health issues at this time. She would stabilize, and then have to go back to the hospital when the fluid got out of control. During this time Mom was semi-conscious and not very alert.

She stayed in two different facilities between hospital stays; the first one was under-staffed with horrible conditions. When she went back to the hospital we insisted she not return there. The second facility was near my house in East Greenbush. It was much nicer, cleaner and the staff more attentive. We were relieved and knew this was a good place for her.

3 days into her stay, on November 13, 2010, we got a call that she was once again sent to the hospital. I took my time getting there as this was becoming routine. However, when I got there I knew almost immediately that this time was different. The ER doctor came out to see us and told us that it was not looking good. They tried to resuscitate her at the facility and on the way there (this was a different hospital than the usual and they had no DNR on file). She was puffed up like a balloon with excess fluid and she was not breathing. They could not bring her back and my dad said she could be let go. There was no further need to bring her back because she was gone.

While it may appear to an outsider that this was not outside the realm of possibility, to us it was like a bomb went off. For a long time we were so focused on my dad, who had been fighting lung cancer for 5 or 6 years and had thought that of the two my dad was the one "to go" first. I don't think we had conceived the idea that Mom was so close to the end. She had always been so strong.

In the last few years I had been making strides with making peace with her, knowing she did the best she was capable of and that I needed to accept her as she was. When she died I think that while I grieved a part of me had said goodbye a while ago.

She was a good person who was handed a lot of challenges early in life. She made a life the best she knew how and raised a beautiful family. She loved to read, play cards, and bake. She had a big uproarious laugh and she gave big strong hugs that could crush you. She taught us hard work and perseverance. She was my Mom.

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