A Trip to the Hospital
This past weekend my sister and I made the journey together to visit my mother who was admitted into the hospital the day before. She had fallen while attending her cousin’s funeral. She had lost her breath and felt unstable. My mom is currently seventy-six years old and will turn seventy-seven in April. The cause of her shortness of breath was caused by pneumonia and bronchitis, originally thought to be just a cold. After many tests the doctor concluded that her heart is in bad shape.A fact she was told two years ago, but kept secret from my sister and I.
As I turned the threshold to enter into her small but adequate hospital room, she was standing next to her bed, straightening her top sheet which had become twisted from the already many hours spent lying there. She was wearing the standard blue hospital gown with the opening in the back, but luckily it was drawn tight to cover all the vital parts we weren’t accustomed to seeing. Tethered to her I.V., she could only stand directly next to her bed without assistance, limited mobility tried her patience to say the least.
It’s funny to see someone before they see you. For that split second you get to take them in, in a sort of voyeuristic way. She appeared smaller than I remembered, I suppose because she was in her stocking feet. As she heard my footfall, her head snapped to my direction, a faint smile turned up the corners of her mouth until her focus became sharp and then a look of relief filled her face. I hadn’t seen my mom since Christmas. We always plan on a family Easter dinner which coincides with her birthday, now just a month away. Sheree and I helped her climb back into bed, all the while listening to the litany of complaints she had stored up from the accumulation of idle hours. After she vented a while she became cheerful, considering, then morose. She told us of the test that was to be administered the following day. A TEE scan, (transesophageal
echocardiogram) and how they insert inserting a probe with a transducer down the esophagus rather than placing the transducer on the chest. The probe will check for blood clots first and if none found, a shock of electricity will be administered to try and regulate her defibrillating heartbeat. We were then told that if this procedure doesn’t work, a slew of medication is to be administered in hopes of bringing her heart back to normal. On and on she described the procedure with gory detail finally admitting how scared she was. As she told us this last part she sat with her dotted hands across her lap, like a child and whimpered about her fear.
Now if you’ve ever been in the position of having to console a loved one about something they’re afraid of you might agree that there isn’t much you can do, except listen. I tried to interject positive affirmations and comparisons to other operations she has already endured and how this test will be a piece of cake compared to those other procedures and that she’ll be just fine. She listened intently. I could see behind those scared eyes that she was taking it all in, concentrating on the good of it rather than the bad. I even stopped the doctor who was just about finished making his rounds by the time we arrived to, just for a moment, please tell us again what we could expect. He was patient but informed us he had already been here once and couldn’t stay long. My dad just happened to walk in the room as the doctor was beginning his second explanation. My mother was relieved when we all were finally up to speed. For some reason she felt better just knowing we all knew what she would be up against with the dreaded test.
Test day has come and gone for my mom. Her TEE test went well, no blood clots detected. The electric shock was administered. However it didn’t work. Her heartbeat is still irregular. Now comes the onslaught of medications and or possibly surgery. The wait and see game has begun. I thought in the interim I would send flowers, which I usually never do. Only because she does not advocate flowers feeling they are best left in the ground and not in vases. This time was different though I thought. I’ll do it anyway. My aunt was there when the flowers arrived. Even my dad said they were beautiful. I was pleased.
Staying overnight at my parent’s house, a small cape cod in rural Pennsylvania, I felt strange without my mother’s presence. Their Jack Russell terrier, Lily, is even more a terror than usual. She misses her mother, my mother.
I stayed in the spare bedroom directly across from my mothers. I couldn’t help feel my mom’s absence. I glanced into my mom’s bedroom and stared at her empty desk chair, computer monitor perpetually dark. I stood scanning her desk, neat as a pin. My mother has proven to be quite the computer geek in recent years. As she became more aware of the personal computer and internet, she has fancied herself as technophile who borders on IT expert, purely from trial and error. She has sat, literally, for days on the phone with the Microsoft tech help, resetting her computer. She, at seventy years old, bought and installed her first computer. I am very proud of my mother, for all of her accomplishments, but especially her self-taught computer knowledge. As I walked into her sanctuary, I stood and took account of her things. I envisioned her, sitting at the small desk, forwarding virus filled emails to all her elderly computer compatriots.
The light filtered softly through the ruffled shear curtains, the same curtains that have framed the same window for twenty years running. The bed was neat and appeared not to have been slept in for what seemed forever. I felt sad she was not there. I felt very alone. The silence that dominated the space was soon muscled out buy the twenty-pound Tasmanian devil, Lily. She realized I was in “their” room and came bounding upstairs to investigate, really to supervise the goings on. The mutt bound from floor to bed, to swivel rocking chair, staying just long enough to gaze out the window and wonder, I suppose, just where my mother had gone. Lily is a whirling dervish never to stop long enough even to allow anyone to pet her. I managed to snap a picture of her nevertheless.
Being back home, in my own warm bed I felt so grateful to be healthy and well, alive. I snuggled down deep under my covers, in my bed and thought about my mother, alone, in her hospital bed. I ask God to watch over her, keep her safe, help her not to be scared, and to bring her home soon.
I tried not to worry or fret and turned it over to the force of nature that I believe is in all of us, surrounds us with light and positive energy, if we let it. As I dozed I thought about her beautiful garden in the spring and looked forward to seeing her out there, in all it’s glory, tending to her flowerbeds and planning great things.