Tag Archives: surgery

A storm of emotions

Today was Mom’s surgery day. We had to be at the hospital before sunrise, and the air outside was swirling eerily, a rush of warm wetness with an undercurrent of bitter cold wind. A winter storm warning was in effect, but no one knew quite what Mother Nature would bring.

It was a relief just to get Mom to the hospital. Then she was taken and I was left to sit and stare at the clock in the waiting room, and try to occupy my rushing thoughts like I had done so many times before with Dad. It began to rain, with the skies dark and bruised with clouds.

hospital

Almost two hours dragged by before I receive word Mom was out of surgery. The doctor rushes out and lets me know Mom did great and everything went as planned.

The rain began to pound harder, and the wind picked up with it. Ice pellets start to pop off the ground in the hospital’s garden.

I am led back to see Mom in ICU. She is calm and peaceful, just like Dad had been when he was sedated last year while on a ventilator. There is a serenity that could almost pass for death, but the machines and Mom’s rising chest prove she is quite alive. She opens her eyes and recognizes me. With Mom, I expect this more, but I remember being caught off guard when Dad seemed to recognize me a little over a month before he died.

CNN was just beginning to report the Connecticut school shootings while I was stroking Mom’s forehead in ICU.

I walk back out to the hospital lobby to let Mom rest. People are gathered around the huge windows, staring out into a winter apocalypse. The driving rain has turned into a wet snow, which is being blown sideways by the 40 mph + winds.

The weather reminds me of the winter storm we slogged through last year to see Dad’s body at the mortuary. We barely made it back home before the roads became impassible.

And the same thing happened today. I hated to leave Mom but the nurses said she was doing quite well and I didn’t want to get stranded at the hospital overnight. There were a couple of scary slides and heart-pounding moments on the way back to Mom’s place, but I was finally able to close the door on this emotionally draining day.

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Mom’s new dream of Dad

Mom is having her second major surgery of the year tomorrow. Of course, she’s having a great deal of anxiety about it. Major surgery carries plenty of risk factors that can lead to death, and as you get older and have other complications (like Mom’s blood clots) that potential brush with death seems even more real.

This morning, Mom wanted me to wake her up so we could go for some pre-surgery blood tests. I stopped in the bathroom first, letting her get a few more minutes of sleep. Suddenly, through the door, I heard a plaintive plea:

“Pat! Pat! Pat!”

Pat was my Dad’s name.

I rushed out of the bathroom and Mom realized that she was having a dream and it was actually her daughter in front of her. She said she was having a dream about Dad, and had mistakenly called out his name instead of mine.

Perhaps Dad is sending supportive and loving energy from wherever he is now. I know he wouldn’t want Mom to suffer, and would do whatever was in his power to make her better.

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Memory takes a hit with illness

With Dad, he was already in the mid-stages of Alzheimer’s when he developed gallstones and had to have major surgery. It was hard to tell if his mental state suffered from the anesthesia and slow recovery period. His “new normal” mental state was already compromised.

With Mom, she was showing a few signs of mental decline, but now it’s hard to know whether it was related to the cancer creeping up on her or actually the beginnings of dementia. Her mental state actually has improved quite a bit, I’d say she’s 80 percent there. She does complain about holes in her memory, especially during the time when she became so ill and through the surgery period when she was in the hospital.

I get an update today on when she will be released home. She wants to go, but her memory of home is fuzzy now. Hopefully, all of the familiar items will bring her comfort once she’s settled back into her “new normal” of a life with a colostomy bag.

And perhaps those glitches in her memory are a protective mechanism. There’s a lot in the last two months that I would like to forget! Maybe Mom is better off with the cloudy memory for now.

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One day at a time

The doctor stopped by to visit my mom today. She’s still recovering pretty well, but the doctor is waiting on a few signs to happen before moving her to the medical floor, and then back home. The road to recovery always has stops and starts. There’s a plan for the day, but things don’t always go as planned.

When Dad had his emergency gallstone surgery, there was no returning home for him. His mental decline, along with his weakened body, made returning home impossible. He went to a skilled nursing facility, then an assisted living facility.

For Mom, the plan has always been to return home. And I believe that will happen, but I also think she will need more care than the home health service may be able to provide. As to be expected, major surgery takes a lot out of an older person. I have to accept Mom may never regain that spring in her step.

Or maybe she will surprise us all and come back strong. I hope for her sake she can stay as independent as she can for as long as she’s able to comfortably. With Dad, placing him in an assisted care environment was different, because he had lost sense of what home was. Mom still knows, and while she is the model patient, I don’t think she would be happy in a group home environment.

But as the doctor said today: “One day at at time.” It’s good advice, yet hard to follow.

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Repairing the body, not the mind

Mom did well during surgery, and is now recovering. The marvels of modern medicine has saved my mom’s life, but of course it also hits an elderly person’s body hard. Mom looks and feels like she’s been caught in a tornado, but her sense of humor is still intact.

From time to time, a flicker of fear flashes across her eyes. Is it because of her near brush with death? Or is it just a side effect of all the pain meds she’s on?

I remember seeing that same look of fear in Dad’s eyes toward the end of his life. He looked more and more like a little lost deer that had been separated from his mother.

Dad also went through surgery. His body recovered from the gallstone surgery. Unfortunately, there was no doctor in the world that could repair his mind.

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The eyes and smile of a fragile parent

Mom is headed to surgery tomorrow. All best wishes and prayers accepted!

As I was watching her rest today in the hospital, she opened her eyes from a nap and rested her gaze slowly on me. A dawning realization spread across her face, and a weak smile greeted me. This was the same reaction I got from Dad, though with less recollection of who I was. Still, he always seemed grateful to see me at his bedside. It is such a sweet, innocent, pure gesture. It’s love in action, in its simplest form.

It’s beautiful and heartbreaking, yet rewarding at the same time.

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My childhood fascination with dad’s scar

When I was a small child, I was fascinated by my dad’s surgical scar and the story behind it. I’m sure that I did not understand all of the details at the time, or even understand the concept of death and how close my dad came to losing his life after complications from abdominal surgery.

What I do remember is the scar on my dad’s stomach, which was a rigid, pale rope of hardened tissue that ran in a vertical direction. I always asked permission before touching it, though it caused him no pain, just a reminder of a frightening moment in his younger days.

At the time, I had a kid’s doctor kit. It came with a plastic stethoscope and reflex hammer and some other vaguely medical-looking doo-dads and a box of “pills” which consisted of candy. My dad would humor me while he was lying in bed reading by allowing me to “examine” him. He would always dutifully accept the prescription of “pills” that I offered him each time.

Sadly, at the end of his life, I could not prescribe him any cure for his condition, nor could the best specialists in Albuquerque. But I still have sweet memories of this daughter-dad bonding moment from my childhood.

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