Friday, June 26, 2009

Mom is not well

This Friday has me working on an offline essay about my mother.

The biggest realization I had during my trip to MO last week was that my mother will most likely die sometime this summer. She is only 73.

Everything I do, everything I think or say has that fact behind it. I bake bread; my mother is dying. I walk around the neighborhood; my mother is dying. I sit at the kitchen island pecking on my laptop; my mother is dying.

I've worked my entire professional life with the critically ill and dying. I'm no stranger to death. I have worked as a critical care nurse, an oncology nurse, a hospice nurse. I thought I knew what it would be like to face the demise of a family member.

What I'm learning is that although death is universal, the experience of it is particular. And what I thought it would be like is not at all like the reality.

The reasons I think she will die are myriad. Her kidneys were "knocked out" (Kirkepiscatoid will appreciate that term) by the dye given to her during her stent placement in April. Her vascular surgeon tried his best to keep that from happening; he absolutely flooded her with IV fluids before, during and after the procedure. But it didn't work; she is a diabetic and kidneys are fragile in diabetics. My brother had been pretty graphic in describing what I would see, and he was right. I use food metaphors to describe what she looked like as they work; her color was that of unbaked pie dough, her legs and lower abdomen were hard and puckered like orange peel, and she had large berry stains under her skin where her insulin injections were given. My brother told me that her coagulation studies were "way off", thus the berry stains. She had a stress echocardiogram earlier that indicated her pulmonary circulation was was as pliable as a brick wall. Thus the swelling; she is in congestive heart failure that is not helped by the kidney issues. But her vascular system is too fragile to even think about passing a catheter for dialysis.

In the meantime, her ischemic (no blood circulation) feet are giving her lots of pain. She cries constantly, despite the Vicodin the doc gave her. And she is exhausted. She sleeps probably three hours for every hour she is awake. She is apathetic. And she no longer can do the activities of daily living, like take a bath, most of us take for granted. She no longer walks.

My father, who has mental health issues, is going absolutely bonkers. He has been much better over the past few years but during my visit I unfortunately regained the crazy dad I had as a teen. Mom and I were chatting and suddenly Dad yelled, "Don't make fun of me!" We weren't speaking of him or anything related to him at all. A few minutes later, we heard, "What's going on in there?!" "Nothing," Mom replied. "We are just talking about vacuum cleaners" (which we were). Later that evening, Dad begged my brother not to put him into a "home."

It is difficult to live regular life with all this in the background. My brother, who needs some surgery, went ahead and scheduled it as he can't predict what will happen with Mom, or when. None of us have crystal balls. Taciturn and I have planned a vacation to Vermont since February; we decided, unless Mom really crashes, that we will go ahead. After all, although she is dying, her process is not acute. If we have to return all of a sudden, we will.

No matter what any of us do, my mom is dying.


FranIAm said...

Oh Laura, Laura... I had you on my mind all day and I just came home, turned and the computer and came here.

Oh Laura, I am so sorry.

And your observation about the universal/particular is so very true.

Sending love and an over abundant flow of prayers your way.

Kirkepiscatoid said...

Oh, God. Prayers for you all.

(And yes, I do appreciate the term "knocked out." I actually have several terms for what happen to kidneys during renal failure. Knocked out, gorped, and (Fran will appreaciate this one since it's Yiddish) plotzed. Esp. plotzed b/c it has a double meaning. Broken beyond repair, and literally "crapped out.")

But there is no doubt you are very matter of factly describing what I call "death by inches." I am so sorry to hear it.

What makes this hard is that everyone knows it is happening but no one knows "when." What do you plan for? What don't you plan for? Then there is that place where you find yourself feeling guilty as hell because you catch your self wishing "this was over" yet do NOT want to lose someone you love.

All I can say is, you are loved, and there are plenty of us here for you and to pray for all of those in your family.

ROBERTA said...

At times, life can truly suck. this is one of them. so glad you are going on with living though, by keeping appts. and taking vacations - it's a great way to honor your parents - and yourselves.

peace be with you,

Arkansas Hillbilly said...

Laura, I am sorry. Losing loved ones hurts, no bones about it. I'll keep you in my prayers this week.

Jan said...

I am so sorry. It is hard to lose a mother, especially a beloved mom. Mine died when she was 72, and I miss her still. Being with my cousin in Calgary brings my mother to mind because my cousin looks a lot like her.

Mary Beth said...

So, so sorry to read this. You will be in my prayers.

love to you.

bethoc said...

I'm sorry Laura. You and your mother are in my prayers.

Diane said...

ohhh, praying so hard. so sorry about your mom.

Ruth Hull Chatlien said...

Laura, I am so sorry to read this. It's so hard to contemplate losing a parent.

Saying prayers.

mibi52 said...

Walking down this path is hard, isn't it?

We like to think we are in control. In the little things, we can at least put on the facade of control. Events like this, not so much. And letting go of the illusion of control and trusting God to see her through the journey, especially when you know that journey will end with your mom's death, is so hard. There are no words except I love you, friend, and I'm praying for you and for her and for easing of pain.