Monday night, August 7, 2006
"(She don’t try to hide it) / People say she's crazy. She got diamonds on the soles of her shoes. Well that’s one way to lose these walking blues: diamonds on the soles of her shoes. She was physically forgotten then she slipped into my pocket with my car keys. She said you've taken me for granted, because I please you wearing these diamonds..." -- Paul Simon
The things we all take for granted. They give Mom sponge baths, but whether they wash her feet or not, it seems as though she’s been wearing the same pair of skid proof periwinkle sock/booties with blue diamonds on since last week. Probably another $5 added onto the room service bill, as it were, but she's got a new pair and the others will be washed out.
Another routine right of ours is swallowing. Still on the ice chips. she may be able to swallow water again in a few days. But one tube out, several more to go. One taped and retaped and retaped has been taken out of her nose. She still has one nostril nuisance for oxygen support but not one draining ... one odd looking fluid or another.
She thinks by now she's seen the head of every department. Of course. By now they all know how special you are. (And please don't sue us for negligence/malpractice.)
One day Mom's tall dark and handsome caretaker has a name tag that says "James," the next it says he's "Eddie." Same guy. It sees after a few months working shifts there he reveals to his coworkers that they've been calling him the wrong name all along. James it is. [I appreciate the charm of this. Whenever I see a stack of "HELLO, MY NAME IS" adhesive name tags, want to (and occasionally do) write "Inigo Montoya, you killed my father, prepare to die."] I do ask his other nurse for the night, (who says "He'll always be 'Eddie' to me") which of "James" or "Eddie" is the evil twin. She laughs as we both watch "Days of our Lives."
She gets a kick out of the fact that there's one doctor on the show who specializes in everything from triage to fertility and DNA to pediatric organ transplants. (Dr. Lexie is a former cop, who studied for, though may not have ever spent a day at med school.) My soap habit stretches back to my own time in the hospital with a ruptured appendix (Friday the 13th September 1985). Distracting me from my own pain were "Jeopardy!" in the afternoons, new episodes of "Fame" on the weekend, "The Wuzzles" cartoon (I did get Mom to buy me the hybrid EleRoo stuffed toy a purple and orange striped half elephant/half kangaroo the morning I saw it) Rock Hudson is rapidly dying of AIDS on the newscasts (Oh God, did I have a blood transfusion?), and hey who's that guy in the pirate eyepatch stalking the blonde woman... 21 years later, "Days of our Lives" still gives me something to talk about with women.
Mom's new roommate just got married on Saturday. The scruffy looking groom wanders in to see his betrothed in bed #2. As he asks "hey, you got a snack yet?," I'm really hoping he's the groom. I flash back to the times we'd visit my bipolar Korean War vet uncle at Veterans Administration hospital at Fort Meade outside Sturgis. Disheveled men in a variety of official gowns and moth-eaten bathrobes would roam the halls bumming cigarettes or coffee machine funds or hitting on visitors and/or their wives and daughters with material from Bob Hope specials. Even before VCRs or DVD players, somehow M*A*S*H was always playing on a 9 inch black and white screen in every common room. The happy (well, in theory) couple is here on the same hospital floor because of the Sturgis motorcycle rally and a motorcycle collision.
We're told that once Mom does head home (which we really aren't prepared for yet with moving of furniture or packing away clothing) she'll be on a colostomy bag for six months. Mom asks, "Won't be fun helping me change all these dressings and emptying colostomy bags?" "That’s why she has a loving husband," I respond. But not a loving son," counters Dad."Get the older loving son to do all this first," I dare. "He lives farther away from her than you do." Yeah, why do you suppose that is?"
On the way out of the hospital, I notice the worn sign in the elevator that tells us that in the rare emergency situation that we are trapped inside, "PLEASE BE PATIENT." That's the direct opposite of our plan at the Moment.
Tuesday night, August 8, 2006
If one paid attention to Moon Unit Zappa, being "totally tubular" was a good thing. I happen to like "What Do You Want From Life?" by "The Tubes," myself. Mom's tubes however have been far from "bitchin'" and all things considered "gagging her with a spoon," because she can't "go to the galleria."
She is, at the very least, now freed from the finger-pinching, red lit oxygen monitor (on her "E.T." finger.) And able to take another significant baby step: sips of water. And she's increasing her lung power day by day.
She still 24 hours later hasn't had the new socks put on. (If you want something done ... ask a nurse. If they dont do it ... ask another nurse.) Marla got the new ones in the room and on her desk last night, but James/Eddie at least got the old socks off tonight.
The clear plastic "how much can you breathe" machine has a name -- Incentive Spurometer (which i think was one of Groucho Marx's names in "A Night at the Opera." Does it spur her on? If not, I'm pretty sure they have actual spurs in one of the cabinets outside.
I brought the dog, a few rainbows from last night to Mom via the laptop. I waited until after the new blonde nurse, aka "todays nurse," was in to check pulse, blood pressure. Not knowing if I'd raise or lower it with thoughts of forbidden pleasures, of a sort.
Bad ideas run in the family, it's not just my Brother. My paranoid hypochondriac jailbird / explosives expert / detective / vet / uncle's common law wife calls Mom daily with each new illness / calamity (she fell and broke her $400 Walmart recliner, which they bought rather than having ... running water). An actual sister in law (Dad's side) also called tonight to share her misery (breathing, back problems).
In other good news, we can have a home care nurse in to change bags and dressings for... "a while." I've completely changed my mind about Medicare/Medicaid buying one of these $3,000 souped up Rascal/Hoverround electric go-cart "mobility" chairs. A debate should never be made personal.
Mom assumes her back is a mess with all the taping of tubes and itching an epidural. Oh, and wiping out every message from every "ABC AfterSchool Special" -- "Morphine is really nice."
The bride and groom motorcyclists, who were hit by a truck on their way to the Sturgis Rally have been released. Every other day there's an empty bed closer to the window with each new roommate heading home after a single day. Maybe Mom should switch beds when they ask. With a semi-private room it's easier to determine that she's the person with something beeping. Tonight's weird new alarm? Well that just means this device has it's got a low battery and needs to be plugged into the wall. (Should we ask why it's not always hooked into the wall?)
And another advance just as we leave for the night ... apple juice!
Wednesday afternoon, August 9, 2006
A quick drop in visit with an actor friend of mine, Eric Johnson, a former student of Mom's. A new face brightens her spirits, and Eric lets her know that a sister of his made it through the same things. "You know, it's tough, but survivable." Eric has even offered to get a copy of the archive film of "The Man Who Came to Dinner," the Black Hills Playhouse show he's starring in that she'll be missing while laid up here and ultimately recovering at home.
My Brother has made it his mission to go attempt to cheer Mom up every day. (Yes, I know, it seems downright counterintuitive, but with getting dentist's appointments and other schedule modifications done, we haven't let her psychiatrist know what's been going on). One of Mom's concerns is that the regular hour (or two) lunch get-togethers going out to eat on Mondays and Fridays with my brother won't be possible with her trapped at home. But whether it's just making sandwiches out of luncheon meat at home or bringing in takeout food (which she'll probably pay for herself), my Brother is committed to ... something or another. We'll be generous and call it "helping out."
James/Eddie, the nurse doesn't know who he is today. He'll been called a lot worse things already than either name he goes by.
It's incrimental progress for Mom who's finally up to bland food. A grape popsicle for breakfast (which I certainly never got to have growing up), and some potato soup and pudding.
At home, Dad has finished building a portable wood closet for the garage as the minor remodel commences. I'm still thinking that to handle all the shoes and decades of forgotten dresses and outfits by her beside (and underneath it) we need several 20 gallon tubs just to Tupperware them up in storage until they can be sorted through (if ever). We're not prepared for her triumphant return. This we know. Another hard to accept fact -- this will not be a short story.
Thursday night, August 10, 2006
"I call my baby. Baby I say Debbie get up get up, its time to get yourself together. It's such a beautiful day outside. Simple pleasures are the best. Yes, they are." -- Bobby McFerrin
Arriving in the hospital room, even if Mom's asleep, there is usually somthing a minute later that wakes her up. A monitor or a telephone ring, or a buzzer whether it's in room 603 or down the hallway. She's asleep today. Unlike her husband who often accidentally dings the trash can with his foot, or sets down a bag or package, I let her continue her slumbers. I'm not going to make that decision for her if sleep may be the best thing for her.
There's a new peace plant by the sink, and I almost feel sorry for her new roommate du jour. It's been a week and there are bud vases and bouquets and bouquets and bouquets -- from friends, from work, from inlaws, from us. There are more flowers here than in Martha Sewart's conservatory, ballroom (and any of her other rooms from the Clue board game). Yes, people care a great deal about your well being. Cards, letters, email via the hospital website, ecards. It's hard to express things we frequently should without a gift, or assistance from one of the Cyranos at Hallmark. Personally, I hate sympathy cards. I didn't know the person nearly as well as you did. I don't know if they're headed for a better place. I don't know all that I don't know.
A biker wanders into the room looking for his wife. He thinks mom must be the new roommate. We are definitely not the droids he's looking for.
It's dinner time, and for a clear liquid diet, it's actually closer to a non hospital dinner than she's had in a while. Orange sherbet, cranberry juice, an unidentifiable tan-ish soup, (it's not potato, and it's not a clear broth. Chickenless vegetable-free gumbo?) and coffee, (which dad drinks for her, and we alert the nurses to this so they don't miscount her fluid and nutrient intake). Like myself, mom has never taken to coffee. The cafeteria sets its own menu each morning. Full or clear liquid is the choice. It may be coffee one day and iced or hot tea another. Mom can always request hot tea, she's told. (She's the type of person who probably won't. It might inconvenience the nurses.)
Advance of the day: the catheter's out. This is of course, something they didn't announce to her until she noticed one less apparatus. Now having to make it to the patient bathroom on her own, she's glad she hadn't found out about this development serendipitously. The colostomy bag will deal with her other waste disposal for a half year. She's disgusted by the thought, but as my brother is kind enough to note, it's part of life whether sick or well.
The new catchphrase is "You're Not Really Helping." If can be applied to dad mentioning that there are terrorists attacks over in England too, where an airmail salutation was sent by a friend's daughter. "They probably think we're all screwed up over here" notes mom. ("Well, look at why you've been here all week," I counter).
The new word from the hospital is, mom's intestinal wall was weak in the first place, so even if it is entirely their fault, it's "less" of their problem? She might have wound up in the hospital anyway and it's better to deal with this sooner than later. Ahem, Y.N.R.H.!
Mom does still have something "hand grenade shaped" to be dealt with on her side, she says. And I thought I was going for the "Reader's Digest" direction of "Toward More Picturesque Speech." Hopefully, whatever it is, doesn't explode.
Dad is prepared for the changing of bags and bandage application (which he'll be seeing in movie form tomorrow. I'd rather see "Talladegah Nights: the Ballad of Ricky Bobby" if those were my only choices). What he's not ready to deal with is an augmentation of her previous depression. For someone who watches more "Oprah" and "Dr. Phil" than even Oprah" or Dr. Phil, the theraputic themes seem lost on her. "What I can't do." "What I won't be able to do." Variations on the theme were all she really talked about today. An evil night nurse tells her "she sleeps too much during the day." Even if this is true, I say, she probably wants you to fight her and prove to her that you can inspire her and eventually come back and then beat her up.