March in Minnesota is usually still winter. April is one of those in-between-months. It may snow or rain. Flowers poke out of the earth, trees may bud. It is a season of hope.
Call the Ambulance
This spring was not what we expected. After a year of relative calm, in late March I received a call at work from my brother-in-law. My dad had tried to call me, then my youngest sister, and finally reached her husband. Paul said, “Your mother can’t breathe, and your dad doesn’t know what to do!”
I called my dad who was in a panic. I said Dad – push the button on Mom’s necklace!
“The button on her necklace Dad!”
“OK.” A minute of silence, then he returned to the phone. “I pushed it and they said they will send an ambulance.”
Good job Dad!
I also called the helpful sisters across the street from my parents, who promptly came over to wait with them for the ambulance. My mother entered the hospital. After I met her there, I called Terri, my oldest sister, who quickly came. I told her I couldn’t cope – she told me to just go home and she would wait with our mother. Bless her loving, care-taking heart.
Stress and Confusion
This time was very stressful for all of us. Dad became confused again, sometimes he talked like his wife was his mother, he couldn’t remember when we were going to the hospital.
Dad had a congenital heart defect, and when he was stressed his heart would beat fast. (It could have been repaired when he was in his 50s, but he decided he could control it – he just needed to lay down and his heart would go back to normal.) One night we were leaving the hospital and he clutched his chest.
“I have to lay down!”
“Let’s just go to the emergency room Dad”.
“No! I just have to lay down until my heart slows down.”
He laid down in the back of my car, hands crossed over his heart, and waited for his heartbeat to subside. When his heart returned to normal, we headed home.
Thank goodness for multiple sisters, we could share the duties of visiting our mother in the hospital and taking care of him. Linda came from out East, and spent many nights sleeping in the hospital next to our mother. As time progressed, we learned both lungs had collapsed, and the cancer had spread to her lungs. At first they said she had lung cancer, but then identified kidney cancer cells. It was terminal.
Linda was there (thank goodness) when they talked to our mom about receiving palliative care and ultimately about accepting hospice care. After 20 days in the hospital Mom moved home, along with oxygen, two long tubes hanging off her chest to keep her lungs inflated, pain pills and a hospice plan. This was on a Monday.
(I later discovered that Medicare will only cover 21 days of hospital care. After nearly 3 weeks of what felt like nothing happening, amazingly on the 20th day they said she could go home.)
Stomach Flu or Worse?
After Mom came home, Dad became very ill, throwing up and diarrhea. I called the clinic, they said he could have caught C-Dif (Clostridium Difficile, a contagious disease, at times spread in hospitals.)
I took him into the clinic, and as he was talking to the doctor, I burst into tears.
“I’m sorry, my mother is home dying.”
The doctor was kind and understanding, even though I wasn’t the patient. I literally had very little emotional reserve left.
The culture showed he did not have C-Dif. So if it wasn’t C-Dif, was it still contagious, or just stress?
I guess it was contagious.