In spite of chronic pain, my mother is still a delight. Her good attitude refuses to surrender to depression or self-pity. You’d have to get up pretty early to see her without her make-up or in her jammies. Her bed is made every morning – of course, we recently found out that she’s been sleeping in her recliner so she doesn’t have to make it. Naughty Mama!
She continues plays cards with her friends when she can, goes to the Hale Theater with us if the weather is good, and still works on the second volume of her life history. Mom is creating this project with the Heritage Makers program, which means she uses the computer to write her story and post pictures she has sorted through, scanned, and cropped! Impressed?
Mom may be ailing, but don’t think you can put anything over on her as her humor and wit are as sharp as ever. Her teasing keeps us laughing, and we do our best to return the favor. We have to act fast, however, when she decides she wants to rearrange her furniture, fix her printer, or shop for something she needs. If we don’t, we’ll find chairs moved, cords everywhere, and packages from one or more of the dozen catalogs she receives. (Ex. “Eggies” that “boil” eggs in the microwave and the super-mini fridge to keep her diet Cokes cold and within reach. The Eggies don’t work, but the little refrigerator is great!)
Mom has three majors issues with her spine, and no amount of medication or number of shots will totally eliminate the constant pain. All we can hope for is to manage it. The problem is the way her body metabolizes these pain-relievers..
When the problems first manifested themselves, we had to rush Mom to the emergency room one day. The technician couldn’t get into her tiny veins to administer the needed medication, and so the nurse gave her a shot. Two hours later, she was still hurting – a lot! The nurse gave her another dose, and that did the trick. In seconds, she finally relaxed – too much. By the time she was admitted to her hospital room, she was non-responsive.
I watched a sweet little nurse try to wake her up. Hoping not to scare me, she phoned the on-call doctor and then dashed to find him. Gratefully, MOM’S doctor was there that evening and was already rushing to her room. Seconds later the crash cart arrived, and I called my sister the nurse who was working in Same Day Surgery.
ConnieB arrived in nano-seconds and held on to me. That’s when I knew it was REALLY bad. Thankfully, a drug that reverses the effects worked, and the paddles stayed in the cart. Mom came ’round and wondered what the fuss was all about.
That was the first time I faced reality. Mom wouldn’t be with us forever – at least in this realm. I experienced Daddy’s death four-plus year ago, and deep down I know that Mom will follow him – some day. But she had been so healthy, vibrant, and alive that I forgot how quickly things can change.
That experience was a turning point … for all of us.
Last week I wrote of my wacky dreams, but nothing I experience in the dark of night compares with the scary hallucinations Mom encountered last November. Because of her independent nature and determination (aka stubbornness), we thought Mom could handle her medications. So while we awaited her first appointment to a pain management center, she administered her own pills – maintenance and pain meds.
While at work meeting one morning, I received a call from ConnieB. When I stepped into the hallway to call her back, I noticed a missed call from Mom. I called her before returning Sis’s call, but no one answered. Then I noticed Mom had left a message when she made the call at 6:30 A.M.
Renae, if you want to know more about the fire in your mother’s kitchen, call.
It was Mom’s voice but not her intonation. My heart pounded through my recriminations for not noticing the call and message earlier. I dialed Connie’s number and I learned that a neighbor found Mom’s little dogs barking and running up and down the breezeway. When she returned Betty and Lilly to Mom, she invited her neighbor in to see the “fire’s” damage. Thank goodness, there was no fire, but Mom swore there was, and she could see the charred walls.
“See all the damage there along the baseboards,” she said to her friend. That’s when the wonderful neighbor called my sister.
Over the course of the next 24 hours in the hospital, the doctors ruled out stroke and infections and determined the cause was related to erratic drug dosages and interactions. No overdoses but problems with metabolizing the pain medication.
During that time Mom told us about all the visitors who invaded her home during the night and those who had apparently followed her to the hospital: scores of 6-inch, well-dressed children (she knew some of their names and described their cute clothes), and a 7-foot man and woman who ordered her around during the “renovation” of her burned home.
She was so frightened and couldn’t get them to leave her little condominium even though she “tried to be gracious about it.” Mom said they forced her to do bad things while they rummaged through her cupboards, closets, and drawers.
Some attempted to repair the fire damage but those “workers” did a terrible job, and Mom felt so bad. Others redecorated her bedroom in garish green wallpaper and didn’t put anything back where it belonged. One or two threatened her and breathed menacingly in her ear, and a couple of the little folks tried to comfort her. She said she prayed and prayed while some of the “visitors” questioned her faith! I cannot imagine how terrified she was as it was all so real to her.
Once we were by her side, she still saw frightening scenes: sores on my neck, a snake coiling from my niece’s hair (probably her long braid), and blood stains on my sister’s scrubs; funny scenes: buck teeth on my husband (she mentioned that she AND he were planning plastic surgery, but she was NOT going to pay for his), pin-curls in my hair, and the 6-inch children in sailor suits; and worries: would my 12-year-old granddaughter be upset that she wouldn’t let her move in; would someone fix the poor repair job done in her kitchen; would we get the strangers to leave her home – none of these circumstances were real except to Mom.
There were light moments when we all laughed: like when her inhibitions let down a little and she shared interesting tales of her and Daddy’s romance that delighted my oldest son and me. And when she described the tiny children, all I could imagine were the little minions from Despicable Me. None of that, however, changed the fact that this experience was terribly unnerving for all of us.
Although doctors assured us that Mom would be all right once everything was regulated, I still worried that the episode might trigger the onset of dementia or Alzheimer’s. Neither of these have happened, but her memory is getting worse. As a result, Connie and I, along with support from our spouses and others, have taken over management of her critical needs while she takes care of whatever she can that doesn’t endanger her health.
As a result, we’ve seen such improvement over the last six weeks. And while things are still up and down, and we know she won’t return to full health, Mom still enjoys a nice quality of life – still painful, a little quieter, but filled with family, friends, and visitors (real people) who love and care for her.