Monday, September 7, 2009

I really labored this Labor Day

Monday Sept 7

A week has gone by and so much has changed. Looking at the last entry, I can hardly believe that was only seven days ago.

Mom began to deteriorate, sleeping way too soundly again. Her heart rate was dropping into the 20s. Hunky doc ordered a culture of her toes and said when it came back on Monday (today) that if it was clear, he could do an “emergency pacemaker” and then the cardiologists would have to finish the job. He kept saying that Mom was determined and still had a brain, and that made her a good candidate, even if she was 90.

In the meantime, my first cousin, once removed (yeah kids, it’s a real measure!) his wife and daughter came up from Houston to visit. The significant issue here is that his wife, Kathy, is a cardiac ICU nurse and knows what she is doing. We had been talking regularly and she gave me advice and consultation from the beginning. Having her there during this weekend was good. She talked to hunky doc and approved of him and his plan. That took a big load off my mind. Then they left to return to Houston.

For the last few nights, Mom had been moaning and complaining in her sleep so loudly that I didn’t sleep at all. Kathy took one look at me and told me to go home, she would stay with her. When I came back, she told me she didn’t know how I did it. Last night after they left, I sat next to her bed and really made the decision that if they weren’t going to make her better, I wanted to take her home for as long as I could.

During the night, she suddenly started gasping and arching her back. I pressing the call button and told the aide what was happening. She said that she would tell the nurse, and I heard nothing. She did it again. Nothing. I thought it must be nothing, because they were watching the heart monitor in the nurses station. When the meds arrived, they asked her if she would take her pills. She moaned no and they left. Then another nurse arrived and asked if she could put Mom’s eye drops in, she moaned and said no and I said NO, because they were EAR drops, hydrogen peroxide based. That would have been a disaster. I spent the rest of the night worrying that Mom wasn’t getting her magnesium which is what keeps her heart pumping regularly.

Morning shift came, she wanted out of bed so they moved her into a chair. Suddenly she started the gasping and arching, and then her head dropped. There were nurses all over, shaking and calling her name. She had had another torshads episode. They forcefully told me I needed to make up my mind about the “Do Not Resuscitate” order. I told then not to do it, because I knew that they would break her frail old body with the hammering and shocking. They moved her into the bed and a few minutes later she did it again. This time they turned to me and told me she was gone. I was in shock. I couldn’t believe it. A minute later she moved her head and was back. They called the doc, he ordered a giant push of IV magnesium, and while he was there she did it again, and after lots of activity, he turned to me and told me he was sorry. But then she recovered again. He told me that if we were going to do it, now was the time. That she was obviously determined to stay alive and he was going to honor that.

In the meantime, I called Marian and told her I needed her and she was there sooner than dressing and driving 15 miles should have taken her. We watched, and cried and waited and talked.

Hours and hours later (not really but it seemed like it) he came in with the pacemaker kit, explained that there was a question about the pacemaker itself but he was going to go ahead, because he could hear it working, even if the sensing dial wasn’t registering. He thought perhaps the sensor didn’t work until it was hooked up, but the owner’s manual didn’t say that. The nurse, Donna, told me he was really good at this, and I chose to believe her.

So there in her room, hunky doc and wonderful nurse Donna put in the pacemaker. He threaded the lead into the heart and hooked everything up and her heartbeat climbed steadily to 75 beats a minute. He had called the X-ray lady in from her holiday festivities and she waited in the hall until he called her in to X-ray her chest. The lead was in too far and coiled. So he adjusted, she X-rayed, better but not exactly where he wanted it. He adjusted, she X-rayed and this time it was just right. He sutured her up and there it was. As we watched, she went from pale to healthy looking, her lips rosied up, and she stopped moaning. Hunky doc talked to her the whole time, and asked her questions. He told her she was looking good, pointed to the monitor, and asked if she saw what her heart rate was. She looked and said “75”. We cheered. He watched her a bit longer and then climbed into his silver SUV and rode off into the sunset.

The nurses and aides descended on the room and told us she was going to the ICU room, and suddenly everything was moved. Every time I said anything, she would wake up and look for me. I told Marian that maybe this was the time to go home and do the cat/shower thing so she would sleep and when I came back I would be ready for transport to wherever. She walked me to the car and told me to stay home and sleep, she would stay there for the night. I accepted. I am so tired. But when I tried to take an afternoon nap, I started crying so I got up and worked and watched recorded 30 Rock episodes in hope that I would doze off. Didn’t work, so here is the very long tale of my labor day. Sigh.


  1. Wow. What a ride. It does sound like Mom really wants to be around a bit longer.
    Thank God for Hunky doc.

  2. Awwwwww, Jean...(big sigh). Today was the first Gravel Pit meeting, if you can call it that. Sterling forgot his speakers, so the freshman/sophomore boys danced to the radio while the older kids sat around and talked. They assured me they would be prepared next week...not that I minded. Zack is having his surgery tomorrow, so I'll be home most of the day. Keep me updated, lady!

  3. Holy cow -- you have been there and back! I can't imagine the roller coaster this has been for you. Sounds like you found a good guy in hunky doc, though! Stay well!

  4. Dotson...I miss you! I am thinking about you and my heart goes out to you and your mom. You are both warriors. Keep the fight on and please take care of yourself.