It’s been a rough couple of months. Some of you may know that my dad was killed in a car accident two weeks before Christmas. Not a good holiday season. I was once told by a dear friend that grief sends ADHD into overdrive; now I have proof of that. I walked around in a daze, forgetting my own name, bumping into furniture and feeling that someone had transported me to San Francisco on a foggy morning. I’ll write more about that in another post. For now, I’ll report the rest of the story…
A month later, I made one of my regular visits to my mom in central Illinois (I actually rented an apartment there since I was spending so much money on hotels – my dad was in failing health even before the fatal accident). I was determined to get her caught up on doctor’s appointments, etc.
It was a sorrowful time. The eye doctor gave her a clipboard to update her information and she couldn’t remember her address. I was puzzled, then realized that for the very first time she had to circle the word “widow” on the sheet. Awful.
I knew she needed to be seen by her regular doc but on the eve of that appointment, the nastiest stomach flu struck. Although the doctor prescribed meds for her (other) infection, she never quite recovered from the stomach ache. Wasn’t hungry, kinda lethargic, but she was still experiencing acute grief, right? Yes. And that wasn’t all.
Two weeks ago, she began bleeding internally and was taken to the hospital by ambulance. She had a serious duodenal ulcer. Four units of blood restored her color but two days later the nightmare continued in the ICU. Docs did an emergency procedure to stop the bleeding internally, and it seems to have worked. Two more units of blood. It was dicey; many sleepless nights in the ICU and much worry.
Mom is out of the hospital after 11 days and is spending a brief time in rehab but I am flat out exhausted. After a week or so, I just gave into the situation and let myself float along without trying to make sense of anything. Just worry, sleep, food and more worry.
Ironically, my ADD kicked in during this emergency – we ADDivas do, after all, come to full alertness when there is a crisis. But this crisis lasted so long that my ADD eroded the edges of my life to the point that I was clueless about time or space or obligations (apologies and thanks to my patient clients who waited for me to regain some sanity).
Honestly, I feel like a truck ran over me (but my dad was killed by a semi, so that’s not a good analogy). I can’t quite grab ahold of reality yet. I can’t find my underwear drawer on the first try. I don’t know when to eat and when to stop. My brother and I are making so many crucial decisions about my mom’s future and medical treatment that I am in the middle of that childhood merry-go-round watching the horses whiz by. I wonder if I should try to get on while it’s whirling. But I’m immobile, watching in amazement that once-upon-a-time I actually rode those angry stallions with the wild eyes and frozen expressions.
I know I’ll come back to life again. Heck, simply writing this blog post is part of that road to reality. But let me tell you, ADD has been part of this entire horrible experience. Not sure whether that’s a good thing or not. I’ll let you know in a couple of weeks.
In the meantime, I’ll bet some of you have your own horror stories to tell. Drop me a note or leave a comment here. I’ll be back to you, I promise.
Thanks Anita. Your support is so appreciated!
Left Illinois Wed and going back in the morning. Mom still in rehab but hoping to get her out next week. Her memory has disappeared which really makes me sad. With 8 units of blood missing, her brain undoubtedly suffered and her mind lost ground. Where is my mom? For that matter, where is my dad? And where is my old normal life? Oh yeah, creating a new normal. Not good, not bad. Normal.
Our gift of living in the moment is part of how we can be so ON for crisis, emergencies. But ANYONE throne into this is gonna be stressed and find these fast future decisions tough, if not they’re lyinlyinlyin. I wish you gentleness and strength,Linda, love and hugs,
Hope things have turned a corner for the better at this point Linda, and that you, brother, Mother et al. can receive help to create the more extensive support system your mom will now need/use. Each hospital has knowledgeable staff who can get her/you connected to her city’s or communities outpatient care for home visits etc.
My youngest sister has had a time with babies.
She lost her first baby, many women do, they say that a high percentage of the time, this is nature’s way because there is a genetic problem. There were things that happened during the pregnancy that I didn’t think were being addressed, being a newborn intensive care unit nurse for 13 years at that point gave me some knowledge, and, maybe because of my ADD, I kept bringing these things up and was told by my family that “her doctor’s taking care of her”, which basically meant, butt out.
Well, at 18 weeks of the pregnancy, all the fluid around the baby was gone. 5 weeks later, my sister developed a raging fever, not the flu but infection in the uterus. Little Katie was delivered some hours later using Pitocin. She was alive at the beginning but I guess the labor was too hard for her, she was stillborn. Her name was Mary Kathryn, the name I actually share with my mom.
About 14 months later, after an uneventful pregnancy, Amanda was born at full term. They knew right away something was wrong, she was struggling to breathe and her color was not good. She had several other physical findings that were concerning, but not necessarily life threatening. After more tests, it turned out she was basically missing the chamber of her heart that pumps blood to the body.
I received the call from my next younger sister and, although this was now about 19 years ago, I distinctly remember the numbness, tingling and the feeling of being sucked into an echoing tunnel. I got a flight for the next morning, arriving in Kansas in the dead of winter, January, with a fierce wind blowing.
This is a condition that even with the best outcomes, 50% of the babies die before the first surgery and of those, more than 50% don’t survive to the second surgery. My sister and former brother-in-law decided they didn’t want her to go through that. So we were going to bring her homw to my sister’s apartment to die.
After some frustrating delays, we got her home bundled in a long-sleeved thermal onesie, a thick sleeper and a puffy, quilted winter coverall. She looked so tiny in all those clothes, even though she was 7 pounds.
The feeling was so surreal. We were glad to have her home. She was never not being held, except for a diaper change. We all took turns, my sister, her husband, my other sister, mom, dad and me. We just passed her around and my middle sister and I stayed at the apartment at night and took shifts holding her constantly while our younger sister got some sleep.
We had to give her formula through tube in her nose, she didn’t suck. She had beautiful, black, silky hair, but it went far down on her neck. She had a crease all the way across her hand and her thumbs were low set on her hands. She had rosy cheeks, but then when she opened her mouth, there was an obvious groove in her palate. She was pretty quiet and sweet. She had pretty, dark blue eyes that we looked at and talked to whenever she was awake. We cuddled her all the time but she wasn’t exactly cuddly, because she was totally hypotonic, even when crying, we never knew why. We left my sister and her husband alone for a few hours one day so they could have some time alone with her.
The morning she died, I was holding her and had a slow realization that her cheek was cool against mine. I woke up my sister Colleen, told her to call mom and dad, then woke up my sister JoAnn and her husband and told her, “it’s starting”. I had listened to her heart rate twice each day and each day, it had gotten faster. Surreal is not strong enough a word. Could this really be happening?
Her breathing became more labored, but I knew her carbon dioxide was going up so she would not feel distress about it. She finally stopped breathing…..I listened every few minutes….until I couldn’t hear her little, weak, incorrectly developed heart beat any longer. Her mother’s birthday was 2 days earlier, she died on my other sister’s birthday. Her name was Amanda Lynn, she was 5 days old.
We all held her again, each for as long as we wanted to. We gave her a bath, dressed her up again, then called the police as we were instructed to do. Then…..we heard sirens. We sent my sister and brother-in-law to the funeral home with the baby. My dad handled the kind policeman and the EMS crew who burst in to help. It turned out ok but was a scare.
I remember very well not knowing what time it was, not caring if I ate or what we watched on tv, not wanting to talk to anyone about anything. There was definitely a numbness that continued for weeks after I returned home and to work, with intensive care babies that reminded me every day of the niece I would never know. And thoughts for my sister, devastated at the loss of a second daughter. She received a phone call a couple days after Amanda died from one of the doctors at the hospital wondering how Amanda was doing. About a month later she received the autopsy report in the mail, and then a phone call from someone trying to sell life insurance for Amanda. Good grief.
2-1/2 years later, my sister had a son, born sick with an infection and a non-lethal heart defect. Ryan is now 18 and on a baseball scholarship at a Kansas Community College. 2 years after Ryna, Nathan was born, wonderfully, on his mother’s birthday! He began throwing up and was diagnosed with Hirschprung’s disease. He had a colostomy for a year and then surgery to repair that. He has issues if he eats the wrong foods and was hospitalized a couple times when he was young for obstructions. He is otherwise healthy, a pitcher on his high school baseball team in Kansas.
My sister just keeps on keepin on. She divorced her husband after discovering he was addicted to and selling methamphetamines. Her boys are wonderful and the light of her life. I think she has just continued to put one foot in front of the other, one day at a time. Her only words were that she couldn’t change it, couldn’t do anything about it so she just kept moving on. I’m sure she had her moments though, privately.
I’m so sorry Linda, it will get better. YOU are a stong and powerful woman, don’t forget that! 🙂