Sunday, October 12, 2008

1936 - 2008

My mom died in the afternoon of October 9th.

Her birthday was last Friday, October 3rd and we spent it in the ER. She'd been feeling sick for a couple of days, hard time breathing and coughing. It took a couple of days to finally convince her to see a doctor.

My mom had a hard life and was really frail. She looked all 85 of her 72 years. So when we showed up in the ER they took her at once.

They did the usual; took blood, EKG and X-Rays. After about 3 hours a doctor came in and talked to me while my mom was in the restroom. She let me know that they found what appeared to be a tumor about the size of my fist between her lungs pushing her windpipe out of whack. She let me know that they couldn't be sure without a biopsy but that there really wasn't anything else it could be.

After my mom returned I let her know.

She acted surprised, but I don't think she really was. She had been a lifetime smoker who'd had another type of cancer almost 40 years ago.

About 30 minutes later another doctor came by to re-deliver the news. We all agreed that she should be admitted and get a biopsy so we could really see what we were dealing with. About 3 hours later she was admitted to the hospital. After spending a couple of hours with her and making sure she was asleep I went home. Our house is only 4 minutes away if you don't hit a red light and at 4am I really needed the sleep.

At 7am Saturday morning my phone rang. It was a nurse calling me back. My mom had ripped out her IV, left her room and didn't know where she was and wouldn't believe she was in a hospital. She was at the nurse's station when I arrived about 10 minutes later.

I was able to get her to her room and we talked. She was very disoriented and had no idea why she was in the hospital. She didn't believe me when I told her she was sick. I didn't mention the tumor. I was able to talk her down a little and they sedated her so she would be able to get some sleep. Then they let me know that she would have to be restrained when I wasn't there because she was so frail and shaky they were worried that she'd fall and break something.

So I stayed.

She woke a few times and was still confused. I told her where and why we were a few times hoping that she'd remember but it didn't happen. That was how we spent Saturday and Sunday. She'd wake up lost and I'd tell her what was going on. I told her about the tumor when she asked, but stopped after a couple of times. It just was too hard to deliver that kind of news over and over. Looking back, this was probably the toughest thing I've ever gone through.

Besides the disorientation she was also aspirating, fluids were building up in her lungs. She was scheduled for a bronchoscopy and biopsy on Monday morning but they cancelled due to her condition. They also stopped all oral food and fluids. Late Sunday night one of her doctors prescribed a nicotine patch hoping that it'd help her mind a bit.

She snapped back on Monday and that was about the coolest thing ever. But I had to deliver the news again.

The whole time she was in they were giving her oxygen and every day they had to increase the amount.

Tuesday afternoon she was able to have food again and was doing much better, so the bronchoscopy and biopsy was rescheduled for Wednesday morning.

We spent an hour together before she was taken down for the procedure. They showed me where to wait and told me it would be about an 30 minutes.

About 90 minutes later the doctor came out and let me know was going on. She had reacted badly to the anesthesia and her blood pressure plummeted. Then he showed me pictures of what they'd found. It was lung cancer and it had invaded her windpipe. I'd seen pictures like this before but noting prepares you.

He tried to discuss treatment, but my mom already had said she'd never take chemo. So that was that.

Breathing was very difficult for her and she spent most of the day knocked out.

Later Wednesday afternoon they moved her to a private room so I knew they didn't think she was going live throughout the night. That night family came to say goodbye by wishing her well. She couldn't talk but she was able to smile. My sister and her husband were able to make it to town and we all stayed until 11:30 that night.

I came home and ate and went back up at Midnight.

At about 1:00am she tried to get out of the bed. I tried to stop her but she wasn't going to be stopped, so I helped her up on her feet. We stood and hugged for a few minutes and I laid her back down. About 30 minutes later she tried again. I helped her up and we hugged again.

About 1:30 she fell asleep and I left at 2:00.

My wife took off work and we went to the hospital around 9:00. Mom was drifting in and out, sometimes she'd try and communicate. One of the doctors came by and told us that she was too weak to survive the day. Mary left to get the boy. I stayed and held my mom's hand and cried.

My mom awoke when Mary came back with the boy. She couldn't talk. She made the sign of the cross. She wanted last rites.

Mary called the closest church, they told us that the priest was on vacation and offered nothing else. So Mary hunted down the chaplain at the hospital.

After my mom received last rites we waited and I called my sister.

As my sister was entering the hospital mom's breathing changed. It had been hard fought but now it seemed to smooth out. It wasn't so desperate.

I remember holding her hand and kissing her on the head a few times, but if you asked me to when she died I couldn't tell you. She just faded away and stopped breathing.

We cried.

She wouldn't have been able to handle the treatment because she was so frail so this is much better than letting the cancer take her over the next 2 months or so.

We had a good relationship, we got to say goodbye and she passed quickly.

It's been a week since she passed and I'm on vacation. I've caught myself thinking of calling her on the phone a couple of times.

I think the hardest part of the whole thing is going through her belongings and papers and finding helpful little notes for me.

Even in death she's still helping me out.