Friday, September 22, 2006

A personal post

(No humor today)

If you followed along with us on our trip over the last three weeks, you know that we spent two full days in Virginia visiting my 90-year-old mother and my sister. Sis had told me that Mom was seeming more and more lethargic of late, wasn’t eating as well as in the past, and that her doctor was concerned about her kidney function.

We spent all day Friday and Saturday with them, and then left on Sunday for our golfing in Georgia. Mom was scheduled for another doctor appointment and some blood work on Monday.

We noticed right away that Mom had lost weight and seemed very tired. She’s still quite sharp mentally, but is not very mobile. When we left, we asked Sis to call on Monday and let us know how the doctor visit went.

Monday afternoon we were on the back nine of our second golf round of the day when my cell phone rang. Sis was calling to say that the doctor had called her after she and Mom got home from the appointment to tell her that Mom was dying. Her kidneys were not keeping up with their necessary blood-cleansing job, and there were no alternatives. Dialysis was too strenuous for Mom at her age (and besides, she had a living will requesting no use of machines to sustain her), and a kidney transplant was also ruled out. The time was very short; probably just days.

Sis urged me to just continue my vacation. Mom had not been told, and if I were to show up unexpectedly just after a two-day visit it would be hard to explain. After some discussion with Carol and a lot of thought, I agreed. My presence would do no good, and I had just had a very good talk with Mom including lots of reminiscing about the good times we had all shared and experienced as a family, the training and example she had provided for me and Sis as kids, our fond memories of my dad (who died 30 years ago), and much more.

When we had parted we had told each other, “I love you.” There was not much more to be said.

My thoughts turned to Sis. I asked her if we should come and help her in some way. If nothing else, would she like the moral support? Or would we just be added burden to her?

She convinced us that there was nothing we could do, and she’d keep me apprised of any changes or events. With heavy hearts, we continued our vacation.

The golf, frankly, was not a whole lot of fun. I was never able to just put Mom out of my thoughts and play. I found myself not caring much whether I hit the ball in the fairway or into a water hazard. It just didn’t matter much.

I called Sis every day to keep up with events. Mom was dehydrated, so an IV was started at home to keep fluids at the proper level. That made her feel better, and she ate a bit more. By Friday her blood chemistry actually looked a little better, but the doctor cautioned again that we shouldn’t be optimistic. “Don’t expect a miracle cure,” he said.

Over last weekend Sis reported that mom was eating, and enjoyed watching her beloved Washington Redskins play on Sunday (even though they lost to the hated Dallas Cowboys!).

On Monday of this week, as we were driving home from Tampa, the doctor found Mom to be anemic and prescribed a blood transfusion. He also agreed to Sis’s request that a kidney specialist be consulted. So yesterday an ultrasound scan was performed and a specialist reviewed the case.

The nephrologist sounded more hopeful than the other doctor had. He immediately took Mom off of two medications she had been taking for blood pressure, saying they both could sometimes inhibit kidney function. He held out the hope that without those drugs in her system, Mom’s kidneys might be able to keep her in a stable condition. He made a couple of other recommendations, ordered weekly blood tests, and told Sis he wanted to see Mom in three weeks to check her progress.

That’s a far cry from the first report Sis got! The first doctor was telling her it was just a matter of days, and now she’s being told that it may be weeks, or months.

Mom now knows all the details, and has reaffirmed that she has no interest in dialysis or other “heroic” or mechanical means of keeping her alive. But she is enjoying the time that she has left, however long it may turn out to be. Sis and I figure that each additional day of enjoyed life is cause for rejoicing, whether few or many. Of course, we’re hoping for many.

I’m posting this partly as an excuse for my limited posts during the latter part of my trip and afterward, and because this blog is read by family and friends who I haven’t called since I returned.

Now everyone will know what’s been occupying my time and my mind for the past few weeks.


r.e.wolf said...

I had a feeling because I knew you were going to see her and you only wrote about one whole sentence about the visit. That's a heavy weight. Disturbing that the first doctor was *so* negative. I'm glad, no matter what, that you had an enjoyable visit and that you parted so well.

Christina said...

Good summary of the situation. I mentioned it briefly on my blog, but didn't identify anyone.

The one other thing that i feel is worth mentioning is who is responsible for changes that were made.

My cousin, who is a veterinarian, and therefore has quite a bit of medical trainig, arrived immediately after hearing the news of Grandma's impending death. He reviewed everything, and made some suggestions. The doctor agreed that even if they didn't help, following thru on Jeremy's recommendations certainly wouldn't hurt. But "don't expect a miracle".

Well, obviously the news is somewhat better now, and although guarded, her condition is fairly stable. she is eating, interacting with family, watching football and enjoying life. I hate to think that if we had just done nothing, she may well have died a week or so ago.

Even if her time is short, every happy, pain-free day with her family is precious. Hats off to Jeremy for stepping, and thanks to God that she is feeling well and enjoying life.

Candace said...

What a wonderful, loving family she has! Something tells me she deserves it.
I'm glad she was told what's going on (although she probably already knew).
It's great that you got to have such a good visit with her, John.

Karyn Lyndon said...

Who would believe this story has a happy ending? And very reaffirming to never give up. Oh, btw...Go

schnoodlepooh said...

Awwww..... best of luck to you and your Mom. It's difficult to deal with, but it sounds like you have a wonderful relationship. I hope you will have a little bit more time with her.

Michelle said...

I hope the nephrologist was correct in his prognosis and that she will still have many more years with you. She will be in my prayers.

Nankin said...

John, I'm so sorry to hear about your mother's ill health. We're facing much the ame problem with Jimbob's mother, who is also 90.

She had back surgery nearly two months ago and hasn't been the same since. There's been talk of her living with one of the boys, but she needs 24/7 care.

Right now, she's in a rehab center, and she fell again yesterday. Thank God, she wasn't hurt. Butit's really tough because some days she's very confused and doesn't even recognize the boys.

BTW, thanks for the good word on my poem. Some times I write this stuff and look back later and ask, "Where did that come from?"

kenju said...

John, I know how news like that can keep you from thinking about much else. I have been through similar circumstances and being hundreds of miles away never helps at all. I hope your mom will be comfortable and pain free throughout her last months.

M.E Ellis said...

Oh crap, John, so sorry to hear this. I sat and cried through the whole post. Exactly right, live for each day, sod the future, or yesterday.

Best wishes, and bless you all.


Jennifer said...

I'll be keeping you and yours warmly in my thoughts.