Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Rescue and Recovery and what it means...

On the eve of 9-11, I recall lying in bed and watching the news, and rethinking the timing of this pregnancy. DH and I had waited 10 years to become pregnant. 10 years, and now there are men flying airplanes into buildings.

5 years ago today , I was working 12 hour shifts at a Nursing home as an LPN and Unit Coordinator. I was about 4 1/2 months pregnant. I was standing behind my medicine cart, wheeling it down the hallways greeting everyone, giving insulin injections, injecting medications by gastric tubes, greeting my staff with a coffee cup in one hand and a standing sideways so all could see my growing belly. All of this while watching images of smoke rising into the sky on television out of the corner of my eye. It was the beginning of we Americans were hoping to be a rescue effort...

After I passed my medications, I called my Mother who was 2 days out of hip replacement surgery, 12 hours away. The chemotherapy, and massive doses of steroids to treat her colon cancer and metastatic brain tumors, had made her bones brittle,and she had walking on a broken hip for weeks. (She had even just attended a game at War Memorial Stadium and climbed about 100 stairs, and endured the pain to watch her Nebraska Cornhuskers play Notre Dame.) The nurse passed me through to my Mothers room, and she complained of some thigh pain, and redness on the post operative hip. So I told her to make sure she had put on her anti-embolism stockings and tell her nurse. I ended that phone call with an "I love you, have a good breakfast, and tell your nurse OK?" My Mother replied with an "I love you too".

After that phone call , I went to the residential dining area, and assisted some of the residents with breakfast, passed trays, and then gave the medications that must wait until after a meal. After breakfast, I put my medicine cart away and sat down, ready to make a list of priorities for the day.

I went back to my desk, and felt the need to call my Mother again. So I dialed the number, and when the unit secretary answered, there was no putting me through to my Mother's room. The unit secretary, was flustered, and confused.

It seems that while physical therapy was walking my Mother back to her room after she had finished her breakfast. My Mother fell into respiratory arrest, stopped breathing, and had collapsed. Victim of a pulmonary embolism, which means she had a post surgical blood clot, that essentially was thrown into her lung. This can kill the healthiest of people... My Mother's chart had a green dot on its spine, which meant. Resuscitate.

My Sister works in the dietary department at the hospital, and just happened to be collecting meal carts, when she heard the code blue called. She walked onto the 4th floor and saw my mother clothes torn open nurses performing CPR in the hallway.

I was excused from work, went home and packed. Dear Husband, came home from work and helped me. I had to go home yet again. I was not sure if this visit, would be my final goodbye, or if she would recover. We had been lucky to be recipient of at least 2 medical miracles over the last 2 years.

There had been the colon cancer, that was supposed to kill her, then she recovered. Then there was the metastatic brain tumors, that almost took her life, then after radiation therapy...All WERE gone. She had outlived her initial prognosis of "2 1/2 months, if she is lucky"...She was a bonifide walking miracle, 2 years later

So we arrive "back home", to find my Mother on a ventilator in the ICU. Which threw me into a state of surreal existence of sorts. I had at this point worked in hospitals, and hospitals, and hospices, since the age of 15....I can do death, and illness. At the age of 15, I had my first patient die, and was left to prepare the body for family to visit. His cause of death, was colon cancer....Since that time I have seen a lot of people die....I am a pro at death and illness.

~when I was 6 and took swimming lessons, I recall the swim teacher teaching me how to float at a vertical, with my only face looking up at the sky, the rest of my body verticle under the water...And I excelled, I was the best floater in the class. I could float for hours if I needed to, and I was great at it. My swim teacher, told me I would survive almost anything

Can, I tell you to see my own Mother on a ventilator, restless, with IV's oximeters, drugged lying almost lifeless in bed, was too much. I of course kissed her, and combed her thinning hair, swabbed her mouth, applied lubricant to her lips...

This is not my Mother, this is a patient

Of course, I compartmentalized.

So we took turns, holding her hand...

and that was the hard part for me.

If I was bathing, or putting compresses on her forehead, or brushing her mouth out, or turning her, or helping the nurses change her...I was ok.

But the minute I was left alone with her, and held her hand, and looked at her familiar hand, or face. When she fought and twisted the ventilator...I had to get up and leave. I could not sit and be.

I would look up to see the monitor
B/P 132/80
pulse 82
O2 92%

and I would have to leave, because I could not cry....

because I would not stop.....


I would have to go into the waiting room and I would see my family there, all exhausted, and older, and scared. And the television would show images of The World Trade Center, and The Pentagon, and Shanksville...

I keep hearing, there are few survivors

People are working so hard, and there are few survivors

And I am praying they find survivors, and I am praying my Mom survives...

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