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.