(UPDATE: Mom is doing incredibly well. She’s alert, oriented and, once I assured her she wouldn’t die, amazingly cheerful. I still will have limited access to blogging for the day, but I’m much happier than I was at this time yesterday.)
I don’t know how much posting I’ll get done in the next day or two or even the next few days. My mother got sick this weekend, with a combination of intensely felt back and leg pain, coupled with confusion. She’s had both of these problems before.
The care facility in which she lives attributed the pain to a diminution in the amount of opiates she gets for pain relief, something done because she falls all the time (as she did a few weeks ago). As for the confusion, Mom’s gotten that from going on opiates, going off opiates, having bladder infections or pneumonia (with confusion being her only symptom for either), and from random drug reactions. Given this history, her caregivers opted to adjust her pain medicine up, to test her for bladder infections, to keep an eye out for pneumonia, and to assume that she would get better without too much intervention.
By yesterday morning, though, it was clear that Mom wasn’t getting better, so off she went to the hospital. Given her fall history, even though Mom doesn’t appear to have fallen again in the last two weeks, she got a CAT scan, which showed massive fluid intrusion into the brain. The choices given to me were immediate brain surgery or wait for her to die, with death occurring within one to twenty-four hours. My mother, although she is a deeply negative person, has a ferocious will to live, plus good organ health, so it was a no-brainer for me to authorize the surgery.
I don’t care that Mom’s old. She’s someone who values her life and I’m only grateful that her insurance is such that I was able to make the decision for her. It would have been awful if the decision rested in the hands of some DC or Sacramento bureaucrat who sees only my Mom’s age and health problems, rather than her vitality and lust for life.
The surgery went well. Mom’s brain has shrunk, which is typical for nonagenarians, and shows signs of multiple falls, with old blood and new, as well as fluid build-up. The surgeon cleaned up the stuff that shouldn’t be there and put a shunt in to keep the drainage going. She survived the night and seems to be stable as I write this. Interestingly, she’s sweeter than usual — compliant, gracious and, although confused, seemingly happy. Every hour that proceeds without complications presages an optimal recovery.
I’ll spend most of the day with her today (she finds my presence calming) so blogging will necessarily be intermittent.
As for me, I’m neither optimistic nor pessimistic. I’m sorry we didn’t get her to the ER sooner, but that’s water under the bridge. Given Mom’s complicated health history and personality, it’s not always easy to know what to do. That’s my perspective. Whether her medical caregivers made the right call is another question because it may be that their fund of knowledge should have dictated a different decision tree. That too, though, is water under the bridge. Mom seems to be getting excellent care in the hospital, so the thing to do now is to make her comfortable and then to wait and see.