Where to begin… A few months ago my family lost our beloved mother. It caught all of us by surprise, an unexpected event that turned our world upside down and changed my life forever. In August on a Saturday evening my mother tripped over her cat and broke her hip. My wife and I were celebrating the completion of our summer patio project with our friends at a barbeque when I received the call. My mother had fallen and she was waiting for help. There was nothing I could do 1,800 miles away.
The next 16 days were the roughest of my life. I spoke to mom the day before her surgery and she was positive and upbeat, telling me not to worry everything was going to be alright. I wasn’t so sure. I searched hip replacement surgery online and discovered it wasn’t a walk in the park. In fact the mortality rate is quite high because of post surgery complications related to hip surgery. The day of her surgery seemed like an eternity. Hour after hour ticked by and I didn’t hear word. Finally my brother called late in the afternoon and informed me that mom’s surgery went well; however she was still in the ICU because she was having trouble coming out of the anesthesia. This was one of the post surgery complications I had read about. Little did I know that it was only the beginning of her problems.
The days following her surgery I was trying to decide when it would be the best time for me to go home. I had a limited amount of leave so I wanted to be smart with it. A thousand little things were going through my mind. Would she need long term care? Should I start making arrangements to move her out with my wife and me and would she even want to? What kind of care would my mom need and could she get it out here in North Dakota. So many things had to be addressed and I had no starting point to address them. It took two days for her to recover from the anesthesia. She was moved from the ICU to a regular room and all the information I was receiving is she was eating and talking. Things looked as if they were moving in the right direction, then my brother called and told me she was having some cognitive issues.
I could hear the panic in his voice over the phone. “She didn’t even know who I was”, he said. I spent the rest of the day leaving messages for her doctor to call me. I wanted to know what was going on with my mom. It was late afternoon when her doctor finally got back with me. She told me that my mother had experienced a series a mini-clots in her brain. These clots were caused by the trauma to her hip and fatty tissue that had passed through her blood system. The good news was the clots did not impact her motor functions. The bad news; they were directly related to her memory loss. The doctor seemed more concerned with my mother’s breathing than her cognitive issues. She asked me a series of questions. Did she ever smoke? Did she have asthma? Had she ever experienced trouble recovering from surgery before this? I knew something was very wrong by the tone of the doctor’s voice. I began to make plans to head back to Pennsylvania.
The next two days saw my mother’s condition deteriorate. Her best friend flew up from Florida to spend some time with her. I spoke to my mom for the first time on Friday, four days after her surgery. She kept telling me how much she loved me. “I love you, I love you”, she repeated over and over. I told her how much I loved her and that I would call her in the morning. Again she said, “I love you.” Those were the last words spoken between us. My mother was moved back into the ICU the next day because she was struggling with her breathing. They incubated her. Her best friend from Florida called me on Sunday and said I had better get home. I left early Monday Morning, exactly one week after her surgery.
As I began my 1,800 mile trip a thousand little things were banging around in my mind. I had no idea what to do or what to expect. All I knew is I had to get to her. I needed to see my mom. I was on my way home.
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