What Happened to My Mom and Me Part III

You are tired of waiting. You try to pull yourself together. You WILL NOT sob in front of people. Making your way to the visitor’s desk, your best friend is coming through the sliding glass doors. You will look back at this later as fate and good fortune entwined since you have never felt so alone in your life. You don’t want to do this alone. Now you have an ally. You both are brought back, but intercepted and sat down in a waiting area within the ER. “I will come back in about 15 minutes,” says the nurse, but you know hospital time is different from the world outside, and aren’t surprised that fifteen minutes becomes a half hour. You and your bestie watch a mini drama unfolding between a woman, her grown son, and a couple of nurses. Waiting with dignity intact is not brain surgery, but apparently this gent has actually had brain surgery in the past and fainting or some such has brought his presence in this ER. He, along with his mother, are arguing his place in triage and are showing their proverbial asses. You look and listen with disdain. You want to say, Hey asshat, at least you aren’t dying, but your mother raised you better. Instead you passive aggressively give the pair the evil eye.

Once again you tire of waiting. You are careful not to act impatient as you ask for an update, explain you don’t mean to seem impatient, and apologize.  At last you are both brought back to your mother. The ventilator is in place, your mother is unconscious from the sedation. Does she hear? You and your friend say hello to her. You’ve seen two other people on ventilators before haven’t you? What happened to them, Lisa? Your grandfather, later your grandmother. You were 15 when you watched your grandfather die in the ICU, 23 when your grandmother died in the Respiratory Care Unit when they pulled the plug. Yet you still hope. It seems important to you to let your friend know this isn’t her fault.  She’s crying. You tell her, “It will be OK. If it’s her time to go, she would have caught that cold anywhere. God makes no mistakes and she could have caught it somewhere else.” You find it almost funny that it’s your mother dying, but you’re trying to comfort someone else. A switch has turned on in your head. You are nice, but steeled. The mental midget you, anxious and alert for trouble at all times, has walked away, until you need her again.  You need to thank her, for it was Mental Midget You that always thought something awful was about to happen to your mother. She was the one who told you your mother is dying if she was late picking you up, was a victim of crime, had a heart attack. Or that you would die while you were away from your mother. Mental Midget You’s scenarios are always worse than fighting for life in a hospital. It is an advantage of having fear as your constant companion that anything bad that happens has already been imagined in far more extreme circumstances, so that you are anesthetized to reality.

You are allowed to see your mother before they cart her away to ICU. They tell you to wait an hour before trying to see her in her intensive care room, because “setting her up” takes a long time and the doctors will want to see her.

OK. You go to the café, the alternative to the bland cafeteria. You can’t eat a sandwich, so you stick to Reese’s Peanut Butter  Cups. This still isn’t real. You feel hyped. The world is different. Then you go to the ICU. Outside the door is a red phone that only connects to the Medical ICU when you pick up the receiver. You are told to come back later, the doctors are still working on her. Oh.

You and the bestie go to the elaborate waiting room for this ICU. It is two floors big, plenty room to spread out, even little nooks for families to huddle together. All fine, but you need to update Elsie and Bob, and your phone can’t get reception, so you go outside. Someone is outside stealing a smoke, stealing because the Smoke Nazis won’t even let a soul smoke in the parking lot. Funny. Your mother is dying, no doubt in part due to her smoking since she was 17, weakening her lungs to infection – yet you find it ridiculous that you can’t light up in the open air. Later, when your mother is no more than ashes in a plastic box, you will still think this.

You call Elsie. You tell her that there is a good chance of your mom dying and Elsie still can’t believe it. You can’t either, but that other you is there, and she will face it while Mental Midget You takes a vacation. But now you are alone. Steeled You’s armor is let down a bit when you are alone. You feel a tear, but you need to get back inside. Your friend will worry, so you gather your armor again for the battle inside.

Another hour passes and you return to the red phone. Doctors are still in with your mother. You thank the nurse, you are just so polite aren’t you? They will not know you are getting impatient. They have free Wi-fi for the people waiting for family members to give up the ghost. Among the advantages of being obsessive-compulsive is you bring virtually everything you own with you if you might be waiting awhile. You and your bestie play Pac-Mania on your netbook, but you are fine turning the computer over to your friend. Someone’s family is here, including a young girl on her netbook. They seem upbeat. You doubt their family member will die, or maybe it’s because it’s a big family supporting each other.


OK, this is just a little note telling everyone I’m OK. I’m living with a gay couple down the hall, one was a chef so I’m eating well, one loves me but the other is indifferent. My cats will be living here with their 2 pugs, hopefully when my cats go out they won’t get lost. My mom died Sept 13, cremated Oct 6, and will have a memorial service Oct 15.  That’s how ghetto folk take care of their dead.



What Happened to My Mom and Me Part II

When someone is brought to the ER via ambulance, the people who come to be with their loved ones must wait for admittance. We go to the visitor’s desk, but Mom hasn’t been registered in the computer yet, so the woman tells us to wait 15 minutes. We comply. I hope Elsie and Bob don’t catch something here like I believe Mom did. They are 88 and 80 years-old, and if my mom caught a cold bad enough to bring her to the hospital, think what would happen to them? I feel so alone though, so I am grateful that they came.

I return to the visitor’s desk and my mother still hasn’t been registered in the computer, so the woman is kind enough to go find where they’ve taken her. When she returns, I go to my mother on my own since it’s hospital policy to only allow two people at a time and it wouldn’t have been right to drag Elsie back there to see what’s happening or exhaust her. I’m led far into the emergency room away from the run of the mill  curtained off beds and into another section, which must be the area for people in respiratory distress. There was my mother in a hospital gown. She is wearing an oxygen tube in her nose like the one my grandmother used at home the last 13 years of her life. This is what I remember of our last conversation, which happened between doctors and nurses coming in and out of the little room:

“Hi,” I say cheerfully, as though punctuating the shitty day with a grin.


“Oh well, at least it will be something to blog about!”

“Great, I’m going to be blogged,” says Mom with fake (maybe) annoyance.

“Are you nervous?” And the award for the dumbest question of the year goes to me.

“Uh yeah.”

My mother is uncomfortable. She needs another pillow. I foolishly ask a doctor if she could have one. So no, she didn’t get an extra pillow. My mother’s throat is so dry from coughing and not eating, so that she talks like her dentures are out of her mouth for a couple of days now. They give her ice to suck on, because they won’t allow her to drink. I think she might have snuck a little down her throat anyway.

The full oxygen mask is now being used because the one for her nostrils doesn’t seem to help her and she said so herself.  At some point, Mama says to me, “I’m sorry to put you through this.”

I tell her I was just glad she was finally getting help. The three weeks leading up to the hospital had been hellish for me as I watched my mom’s decline. She had suffered.  The fits of coughing were long and frequent. I’m not coughing up anything yellow. I will be all right. Nearly falling a few times, one time even needing a neighbor to help her through the hall. If I faint I’ll just wake right up the moment I hit the ground. It’s OK.

I think my mom’s last words was a garbled attempt to ask me to sneak her some water, but I couldn’t tell for sure. She said something like ” Doctor… nevermind,” when the doctor appeared.

The doctor, a kind man with a European accent, takes me outside the curtained room to talk to me. I doubt my mom heard us in the commotion of treatments and the general sounds of a busy ER. I hope she didn’t. “I’m going to level with you. Your mother is a very sick woman. The infection has spread to her blood. We’ll keep pumping her with antibiotics and do what we can, but there’s a chance she will die.”

I ask him what are her chances of living.


I don’t cry. I am polite. I thank him for telling me the truth and that I appreciated all he was doing for my mother, that I was sure he would do his best. My mother’s dying, but Emily Post would approve.

Through the course of all of this, I went out to my friends, who said they were my family, for fear  no one would deliver the message to come out to the waiting room. They had left and returned to check on me. I tell them all I know, plus that Mom’s heart is in afibrillation and that I overheard a doctor say, “kidney failure.” I tell them that I’ll call them if I need a ride and to update them.


They are going to put my mom on a respirator and stick a huge IV to give antibiotics near her neck. It looks more like something one would plug into a wall outlet and I know it hurt my mother. Though I was too chicken shit to watch, I heard her groan. Mom, I should have been in there and held your hand through everything – you would have done it for me. I’m sorry. Luckily the sedation probably kicked in by the time they put the respirator down her throat. By then they sent my pacing ass back to the waiting room to do this and prepare her for the Medical ICU.

This isn’t really happening. She was supposed to go to the hospital, get some antibiotics, maybe stay the night to be re-hydrated. 50% chance of living. Those odds aren’t bad. She’ll live, antibiotics will save her, they’re just telling me she might die just in case. She’s always been healthy before now. It takes her a long time to get over colds because she’s been smoking since 17. She’s only 68, her mom was 85 when she died, her grandmothers were 91 and 80-something. Not happening.

A little girl, about 3 years-old, comes up to me and says hello in the waiting room. I say hello back, but when she leaves I feel my tears.



What Happened to My Mom and Me Part I

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It’s been 3 weeks since my mother’s death as of today, Tuesday October 4,  2011. I don’t believe I’m a contender for the ‘Daughter of the Year’’ award. My mother until today remained in the hospital morgue, no doubt decomposing. Only today was I financially able to send my mother to the crematorium and the funeral director came to see me at my friend’s apartment down the hall. My home is in a state of disarray and only getting worse day by day. I tend to my cats and the few remaining plants that are in my mom’s room, the rest of it can go to hell. We had a yard sale in the courtyard of my apartment building, took in $90.00, but it doesn’t even scratch the surface of all the things accumulated in 8 years of living in that apartment.

I wasn’t able to tell about my mother and me for a while, but now I’m strong and numb enough to tell our story. It may take a few entries because a lot has gone down in 3 weeks.

I didn’t know my mother was dying and it’s a blessing that she didn’t either. It was a cold. Just a common cold caught maybe in an emergency room, maybe at the local grocery store. My mother was healthy too, she had no compromised immune system, was full of life. The first week passed and I got the cold too, but I slowly got better. My mother didn’t. Two weeks went by and I began a campaign to get her to go to the doctor.


I’m getting better.


I think I’m getting better.

I’ll go next week if I don’t get better.

I once even threw my phone and nearly hit Dondee, the cat (not my intention). I remember mumbling terrible words, hopefully she didn’t hear. A word that started with a ‘B’, maybe even a ‘C’ word. But she forgave me like always. I don’t think I deserve forgiveness, but if she hadn’t forgave me, told me “I know you’re just worried and you’re hungry,” I would have that on my conscience for life. 

All our arguments seem petty now. My mother was the one who could throw me into rages of my own making, my perfectionism and frustration. So stupid of me, so bitchy. I’m so thankful for her, “I know you’re just worried about me,” so thankful.

I should have known she was dying when she stopped watering her plants, when she wanted me to drive everywhere, when she’d leave food and drink containers out when she was done with them. I watered the plants a couple of times, but I was still weak and sick, coughing hard at exertion. Mama, I’m sorry. I tried so hard to get you to go to the doctor, but you were afraid of the cost and you were a former RN afraid of medical help. I’m really sorry.

Then Monday September 12, 2011 came.

“I need to go to the doctor. You were right. I’m not getting any better.” I always like to be right, but not this time. We debate on a walk-in clinic or the hospital. I call the walk-in clinic. $168.00 for a visit, up to $200.00 if a patient needs an x-ray. My mother had Medicare, a $100.00 deductible, though she never used it before. We decided the ER is the best bet, you can be billed. My mother realized she couldn’t walk enough to get to the car anyway. We came up with a plan, so that we wouldn’t be separated at the hospital. I’d call our friends, Elsie and Bob, they’d come to take me to the hospital, and we wouldn’t call the ambulance until they came. It wasn’t a matter of life or death anyway, right?

I called my best friend to let her know what was happening and she said she would try to come out after work. Waiting for my friends I tweeted on my phone:

trying not to act afraid. dissolved ativan under tongue, mom needs hospital


why is it everything bad happens in sept, autumns revenge?


i wish my friends would get here. still have urge to vomit


While waiting for our friends, I avoided my mother sitting in her chair in the kitchen, being with her made me more anxious. I’m sorry, Mama.

When my friends got there, I called 911. I told the dispatcher we thought she had pneumonia and that she was so weak, she had trouble walking. The woman told me to not let her drink anything anymore in case it affects what the rescue squad does to her. My mom thought this was silly, but complied. Though my mother could barely walk, she insisted on changing the garbage bag and I took out the trash. I helped my mother get to her ragged recliner and then went to meet the ambulance. The rescue workers took one look at the cluttered apartment and couldn’t figure how to get the stretcher inside, so I said, “It’s mainly mine. I kinda hoard stuff to resell.” More fodder for the’Daughter of the Year‘ award.                                                                                                                                                                                        The rescue worker listened to my mother’s lungs and said they didn’t sound too bad, but they decided to take her in her weakened state. When they got my mom in the ambulance they waited a long time stabilizing her inside as is customary now. I rushed through the apartment finding whatever I could. My mom’s toiletries, drinks and food in case I got weak, and a few amusements for me in case we had to stay a long time. I checked my cats’ food and water, then we were off.

 Rush Limbaugh played in the background of Elsie and Bob’s truck as we made the 5 minute trip to the hospital. My mother and I often listened to him in the car while eating lunch, hearing the ‘other side’ of things and tsk tsking.  It was sunny.                                                                    

To be continued…