In case you missed it:
I try again on that red phone and this time we are allowed into the ICU. The third time is the charm. My mom is in room 14. The doctor I met in the ER asks me questions, the one with a European accent and wonderful bedside manner.
“We can keep the antibiotic drips going, which may let her live for a little while longer, but I’ve rarely seen anyone get better this far along. But it’s your decision.”
“How much difference would there be in time if I take her off the drips?” I ask.
“It’s hard to say. She could last a few hours or a few days.”
“But it’s near impossible for her to get better?”
“Less than a 1% chance, but if you say to keep going, we will keep pumping her with antibiotics and doing all we can.”
“I need to think about it a bit.”
He asks me about taking extraordinary measures to keep my mother alive, but I know my answer already. “No, my mother wouldn’t want that if she would be brain-dead. I’m certain I don’t want you to resuscitate and she’s told me before she wouldn’t want it.” Break my mother’s ribs so that she can be a dead woman breathing? No. NO.
“I don’t know if in her condition any of her organs could be used, but if they can, I want them to be donated. My mother wouldn’t mind. She had ‘organ donor’ on her driver’s license. It would be nice to know my mom hadn’t died completely in vain.”
They are going to do some other procedures to my mother, so Bestie and I go out to the waiting room again. Bestie is on the phone with her mom and telling her about my indecision in keeping Mama on the antibiotics. And of course Bestie’s mom wants to give me her sage advice in the matter. I politely listen.
“She’s your mom. You can’t give up on her.”
“Yes, you’re probably right,” I reply.
“What kind of insurance does your mother have?”
“Well, you know with people without anything but Medicare, they try to do as little as they can with them and get them out of there.”
I tell the doctor that he should keep the drips going just in case. Afterall, they are also keeping her on pain meds and sedation just in case. I probably would’ve made this decision anyway without the intervention of my bestie’s dear Mama, but…
I have to ask, though. How do you ask such a question without giving offense? “Um, I don’t believe this of course, you’ve all been so wonderful, but…my friend’s mother is a bit of a cynic, and she told me y’all don’t do everything for Medicare patients because of their insurance. Is there any truth in this?”
The doctor’s answer was no. “In fact, this is a teaching hospital, and most of the patients that come here don’t have any insurance at all, so we do everything we can for all our patients.”
I decide to go home for some sleep. I am assured that the nurse would call me should my mother take a turn in the night. A nurse is attending my mom’s IV and I remark to him, This must be one depressing job.”
“It can be.”
“How much of the people who come in here live?”
“About 50 %.”
It is 10 pm when Bestie and I head home and I collapse into bed. I know no more until about 4 am when the phone rings.
“You might want to come now. She’s taken a turn for the worse,” says the doctor.
“Hearing the phone at this time of the night doesn’t give me a warm and fuzzy feeling,” says Bestie. She was sleeping on the couch and we go to the hospital in the quiet of the ear morning. This time I don’t have to wait when I pick up the red phone. I tell Bestie that I want some time with my mother alone at times, but would check on her in 20 minutes because my friend is an anxious soul too.
I tell my mother that I would understand if she has to go, that I would be fine, but if she could, please stay. I make myself not beg her to stay for the sake that if she can hear me, I don’t want her last thoughts to be worry over me not being OK without her.
I see the chaplain when offered. He is a young Episcopalian and we pray together. I like him so much I take his number in case I need someone to preach a funeral (my mom and I hadn’t been to church in a number of years). I even end up asking him if he thought my mom would be OK if cremated. My grandmother didn’t believe in cremation and I suddenly felt the need for reassurance from a man of God. “God is bigger than that”, was his answer. My mother felt cremation was fine and to rid myself of the ashes in the sea was what she wanted.
I even saw an old high school friend and he was a nurse there. Small world. The last time I’d seen him he was a server at one of those steakhouses where they think it’s a good idea to use roadkill as decor. I guess the road to the original Texas Roadhouse was fraught with many an animal.
Shortly before 8 am, September 13, 2011 my mother took her last breath. I couldn’t restrain my tears now. She was gone and I held it together as well as I could to not upset her. I tried to calm myself again for the Bestie to not upset her more than she was. Who was that woman that shoved anxiety ridden Lisa into a corner and took her place in my body those two days? It wasn’t the me who had dreaded this day for years and went to extremes to prevent her death. It was the Lisa that only comes out when I’m drowning and that Lisa swims.