This Mommy Runs on Caffeine

This Mommy Runs on Caffeine

April 27, 2012

The Avalanche Continues....

(I'd prefer to title this My Life is a Shitstorm, but to avoid being moderated I decided to use some filter)
There are not enough martinis or lattes to help me through the hardships that has fallen upon my family.   
      Trust me, I'm not a 'woes me' kind of girl and am one to tend to see the glass as half full but there's just a point in your life where you have to say ENOUGH. I'm waving the red flag now, unfortunately, my surrender will have to wait a bit longer.
     My mom has been hospitalized with a long-term illness since March 7th- nearly two months of daily hospital visits and holding my breath whenever the phone rings. For the most part the journey has been emotionally taxing, not to mention one that took a toll on my job, my home-based business, my husband, my daughter, my friendships and even my health.  It's been a roller-coaster ride that I would very much NOT like to repeat in this lifetime; unfortunately it's getting worse. 
      I underwent my very first invasive surgery last week (the same day mom had a tracheotomy!)- had to have a cholecystectomy- a fancy medical term for gall bladder removal. Okay, so I wasn't even quite sure what a gall bladder did until it kicked me in the ass, er, rib cage a few weeks ago.  I was leaving the hospital after visiting with Mom and had the inclination to walk myself into the ER on my way to the parking lot, but that hospital wasn't my provider. After agonizing at home for a few hours, and a call to the advice nurse, we dropped Mini off at the grandparents and went to the ER.  The nurse called it on the spot- I guess fluffy (not so much anymore) white females of childbearing age present for gall bladder disease quite commonly. I thought I was going to give birth again. Quite painful. After a five hour stint, I was released with pain meds and a follow-up appointment for an ultrasound. The ultrasound did in fact determine that I had gall stones and would need a surgical follow-up. Fortunately, I wasn't harboring an infection and didn't need emergency surgery, but would have to watch my diet.
      This is something that is normally caused by a fat-laden diet, which mine is not. I am not a fast-food junkie- my idea of fast food is in fact Subway.... well there is that pregnancy craving of an occasional crumb cake donut- so what if I've had 32 months to do so.  I suspect that it was a rapid weight loss with the stress of my Mom's medical situation that caused my gall bladder to produce enough stones to fill up more than half of its capacity. Meanwhile, I've been off of my feet to recover and Anti-latte had to fill in my spot to go visit my mom, and his step-dad and take care of Mini and take care of me. I swear that I was as low maintenance as possible. Even after the second 11-hour ER visit (long story- I'm fine, but a bit pissed at said hospital's lack of ultrasound techs during the night shift). I'm recovering although a bit slower than I had hoped- I suspect an inordinate amount of stress has been a factor.  What's more stressful than a loved one being hospitalized and undergoing the knife yourself? Oh just a the fact that I hate CANCER.
    My father-in-law has been battling a very nasty bout of pneumonia, well, since my mom was hospitalized, actually, and an infection on top of that. He visited my mom at the hospital when she was on her deathbed and it prompted him to quit smoking cold turkey. Between being ill and the smoking cessation patch, he has been really miserable and after several weeks and numerous doctors appointments, he has been diagnosed with lung cancer.  After his initial diagnosis he had to wait for almost two weeks to meet with an oncologist to find out that it was Stage 4, and that is had spread to his liver, lymph nodes and more. As I write, Anti-latte and his mom and other family members are awaiting a visit from the hospital chaplain to discuss the plan to discharge his to hospice to live out his final days. We thought it would be months, but there's a chance that it could be just hours..... so fast. It was like he was playing with Mini one day and unable to walk the next. Now he is suffering and everyone sits by to support him.  It's torturous. I love this man and know how the family feels- the waiting and pleading is all too fresh in my memory from seven weeks ago. Now we just hope that with enough medical intervention, they can keep him comfortable. We'll surround him with all the love that he needs while we await him earning his wings.  I know that Mini will miss him dearly and we'll ensure that she won't forget the man who claims that she has his eyes.... (um, no, but it was always a source of laughs at family get togethers.)
     This presents an additional problem with child care as they were my main providers- we can wing it for the next week while I'm on medical leave and then have to figure out what to do next. Mini's grandmas' #1 priority should be caring for her husband... I think I have it figured out, but it's yet another stressor to deal with.
     And if that isn't quite enough to make anyone crazy, there's more.  We've had two other family members who had to make ER visits within the last 12 hours; and my mom was moved to another care facility that is a 40-minute drive away. It's a step-down rehab unit to prepare her for surgery, still a hospital, but the drive is going to be so very inconvenient. I used to work out that way and don't look forward to the daily commute, but we do what we have to do. It's just another wrinkle.... as usual, I'll iron it out..... your good vibes and prayers are much appreciated.

April 17, 2012

Day 42: Guilt

I smiled my ass of on Sunday; despite all of the medical drama going on with our family, I painted my face all up and trekked to the city- sans-MiniLatte to enjoy dinner and a concert with my hubby. It was a blast, and I feel guilty as shit. I know I shouldn't, however, according to my therapist, it's a very common emotional response to an experience such as mine.  It's called survivor's guilt and is actually a form of PTSD. Even though there wasn't a shared event between us that landed my mom in the hospital and not me, this extended hospitalization is a traumatic event that is dramatically shaping our lives and I have to cope with the fall out and the emotions that go with this. Trust me, I've been doing my share of bargaining to wish my mom healthy again.
    Back in February, with just a little under a week to go until Mom came for her visit; I had one of those red-letter days- work was fantastic; the weather was summer-like and I came home to two e-mails; one congratulating me for getting picked for a Meet & Greet with Blake Shelton at his upcoming concert, and the other with pre-sale tickets for one of my favorite bands- Train- for their San Francisco tour. I was beyond excited.  I frantically called my mom until she picked up the phone because I was so excited to share all of the good news. Not that any of it benefited her, but because she is always so supportive of me. As usual our phone conversation was uplifting and filled with laughter- we could do that, make each other laugh over nearly anything, our sense of humor are very similar (is that genetic??!!). 
    There have been so many celebratory events since she went in the hospital- St. Patrick's Day, our ten year anniversary; her 62nd birthday, Easter that have been low key and glazed over.  All-out celebrating just doesn't feel right, nor do I have the energy. We've also managed to go to two concerts and a basketball game during this time.  The outings are much needed distractions and although fun, I spent most of the time feeling guilty for attempting to have a good time while my incredible mother is bed-ridden, a prisoner in her own body..... I'm somewhat rational and realize that my presence either in the hospital or elsewhere isn't going to change the outcome of her prognosis for that day. It just doesn't feel right to be having a good time either; it also doesn't feel right to wallow in negative emotions. There isn't a happy medium right now- if there was, I'd give anything to find it- I'd give so much more to wave a magic wand and make her instantly better.
   I also know that if she could talk, my mom would tell me to laugh, smile and play.  She wouldn't want me to be missing out on living and in fact is probably feeling like shit herself for thinking that I'm sacrificing for her. I am, but that is just something that you do for someone that you love so very much.  I know that if this situation  instead was myself and MiniLatte, I would tell her to go, live, laugh, play.
     I also have a hard time with the conversations with her- I used to talk to her when I was stressed before and she would tell me that she wished she could be right there with me.  Well, now she is, but she isn't.  Is she thinking that, and it's having a detrimental effect on her emotional well-being? I tell her a story and she cries. She can't tell me why- it breaks my heart. I can't even really talk about the weather.... It's exhausting. What should I do......

April 14, 2012

Day 38: Jinxed

We have a running joke around our house to not bring attention to the fact that things are going well.... like, "I haven't gotten sick all year...." "I  haven't missed one green light yet," the instant you say it, it happens. The next day you awake with a scratch throat, or you hit the next 10 signals red, red,red.  Jinx.  I jinxed it-  the earlier post about mom doing so well completely went sideways. I recived a call this morning around 8:30- when the 231 prefix comes up it always makes my stomach drop.... and sure enough..... Mom became unresponsive this morning and they called a Code Blue to revive her.  (I hear these every day at the hospital--- it makes me sad especially when the next intercom page is followed by one for a chaplain.) She recived CPR and needed to intubate her yet again- if you're counttingg,  this time makes four.  Back to square one: arterial line; feeding tube;  monitors; back in the Cardiac ICU.  The  diagnosis from today  is that  she aspirated on her own  saliva and began choking; with her already in a precarious condition with her lungs,this caused her to  stop  breathing and then her heart stopped beating.  Fortunatley she didn't have to be shocked..... if there is anything fortunate in this situation. Her lungs are in really  bad shape- from the COPD and pulmonary  edema. For this reason alone, she may not be a candidate for heart surgery, ever.  But they said we'll have to wait out the next 24 to 72 hours.  That must be the standard response as I am having a vivid flashback to March 8th when I  first heard that her condition was grave.  She pulled through that time- I hope that her has the fortitude and heart to do it once again..... and that I can stand by  patiently  watching.  This is so. flipping. hard.  I'm surrounded by a team of very supportive people to help me through this and the only person that I want to go running to right now is my Mom..... so ironic.  I can hear her telling me, "Oh babe, I'm so sorry that you are going through this."  She wasn't really one to offer unsolicited advice but she sure is a great listener. Amazingly so.  She's always been that way.  And offers up a funny one liner in that charming sense of humor of hers to make you laugh and temporarily forget about your troubles.  I wish that I could remember more now to get me through     I am so, so glad that we took MiniLatte  to see her on Thursday. She looked amazing and  un-alarming  so MiniLatte was happy to see her Grandma and vice versa.  A bright spot Im sure.  My intentions are also to reminder her what she has to fight for-- to see this wonderful little girl grow up.  She will get to see that. She has to, I can't imagine my life without my  Mom.     The next few days are going to have some sleepless nights attached to them and I know that  the walk from the parking garage is going to be tortuorously long enough for that enormous lump to  appear in my stomach as I fear what I'm going to walk into......

Day 37

A glimpse of 'before' Mom today. Before the heart 'incident' that has so turned my world upside down. She was sitting up in a chair when I walked into the room this afternoon and gave me a big smile when she saw the vase of one dozen pink roses that I brought for her; she can have flowers now that she has been transferred to a Progressive Care Unit instead of the ICU. "Oh, babe, they're beautiful...." she whispers and then her head drops down to her chest.  Speaking four words takes an unimaginable amount of energy for someone who's been hospitalized for so long.
    Forming each word, let alone a sentence is something that you or I may take for granted; even the simple act of sitting upright in a chair or brushing your teeth may seem so mundane.  For Mom, they're tasks that must be thought out and deplete all of the energy from an already-taxed body. She has not suffered any neurological damage during her hospitalization, however the large amounts of sedation has made talking quite the chore. Walking is another story- she has lost most of her muscle tone and cannot support herself in an upright position sitting.  Yes, she was sitting in a chair today, however she was secured to the chair with a Posey belt with an attendant not too far away. The 90-minutes of sitting left her spent- which is actually a good thing as she might get some much needed rest and will not suffer from anxiety the rest of the day.
    We found out yesterday that she is weeks away from the heart surgery that she needs to replace the valves. She won't survive it in her current condition- it is a surgery that a somewhat healthy person will have problems recovering from so that option is completely off of the table. The surgeons are going to reevaluate her each week; the nurses and support team will be providing her with aggressive therapy to help get her on the road to recovery much faster.  "If it were my mom, I wouldn't do it," states the surgeon. I understand that and appreciate that- I just wanted the doctors to be straight with me. Her primary pulmonologist and cardiologist weren't telling me part of the story- for each internal organ that is not working correctly, it lessens recovery by 25%. With low functioning lungs, hear and liver, there's only a 25% chance of recovery at this point- wait it out and odds will improve. 
    Fine, we'll wait this out day by day. In the meantime, try to provide her with the moral and emotional support that she needs to cope with her new 'living arrangements' (at least it's a private room!) and be her advocate.  I'm so thankful that an acquaintance is actually an RN in that unit and has called dibs on my Mom whenever she is on shift.  She's a great nurse and takes extra special care of mom and goes the extra mile for us.  Another little blessing in this adventure- I'll take each one that we find!  Especially because things are so difficult.... trying to return to some sense of normal at home outside of the hospital. We'll see- it will have to be after my own surgery (yeah, really- I have to have my gall bladder removed- nice timing, eh?) next week. Oh, and I almost forgot to mention this is on top of the news that a very close family member has been diagnosed with lung cancer (nameless right now as most of the family doesn't yet know); and my 93 year-old paternal grandfather is currently in hospice care with bladder cancer.  This year has been a dozy--- that's why we are just surviving life one day at a time right now.  We're not the first, nor will be the last, family to overcome adversity but sometimes it's a lonely journey......