Monthly Archives: April 2006
Today was an up-and-down day.
We left the hospital about 8:30 and had breakfast at Bob Evans’. It was the first place we’d seen in a long time where they asked us, “smoking or non-smoking?” — that should have been a warning. It wasn’t easy to find non-pork dishes on the menu, either, but we succeeded — both of us had pretty greasy omelets. We’ll try somewhere else next time.
We spent most of the day doing things; I went back to Stein Mart to buy another Hawaiian shirt, then we went to Circuit City to pick up an XM radio for Mom’s room, and then we had lunch at Red, Hot, and Blue — much better than Bob Evans, but Diane wasn’t impressed with her pulled chicken salad. I liked the brisket and would be willing to return. After that, we went to Dave’s Comics and Silly Ass Toys to pick up this week’s arrivals for Jeff — Dave showed us his commercial for Free Comic Book Day, which was quite silly.
Right after that, my brother called. He’d talked with a social worker at the hospital who thought Mom’s vital signs were so good that she could be discharged to a nursing home soon. So I started thinking of returning home sooner…perhaps even as soon as Wednesday.
But then we went to Mom’s apartment to do a little cleanup and to check out her email. I was sure some of her friends would be worried about her, and I was right — so I sent mail out explaining what was going on (and I got a quick reply from her friend in Florida). It felt wrong to be in the apartment without her.
Then we went back to the house for a glass of wine and dinner before returning to the hospital for the evening. My sister-in-law had spoken to a nurse, who wasn’t nearly as optimistic as the social worker. So I decided against buying a ticket just yet.
We spent not quite four hours at the hospital. Mom slept nearly the entire time, though she did perk up a few times, and she seemed to enjoy the music again. I’d carefully left the XM radio at the house, so I couldn’t try it out, either.
My niece is spending the night with Mom tonight, so we’ll get to sleep in a real bed for the first time in a while. I’m looking forward to the novelty.
We did wind up spending the night at the hospital last night — we must be getting better at this, because Mom, Diane, and I all slept through the night, only waking when the nurse came in at 6am and had to open the bathroom door, letting more light into the room. And then I think we all fell back to sleep again for a few more minutes.
I played music for Mom again last night just before bed — this time, I went for the full-strength treatment of Frank’s Place, which brought smiles to her face, especially when Sinatra himself was on. The last time I listened to that channel was as we were driving through Palm Desert in December; then, I was listening almost as part of a private joke. This time, I think the audience is more attuned to the music.
We’re back at the hospital (for those who are interested, it’s the Forest Campus of Henrico Doctors’ Hospital) and they have been as helpful and friendly as anyone could want. One of the nurses here even recommended Palani Drive as a good place to get smoothies, and she was right. The menu looked interesting, too, so I’ll keep them in mind for later.
Mom was very agitated about an hour ago, so they gave her some Atavin, and now she’s sleeping very quietly. I look over from time to time to see how she’s doing — it reminds me of when Jeffrey was young, and I’d open his door and be sure he was breathing.
It’s not clear who’ll be staying here tonight, but it might well be us.
We’ve just gotten back from the hospital. Mom had a mostly-quiet night, and I slept more than I’d expected (I guess the snoring wasn’t too bad after all). Nothing much else to report now; we’ll be back to the hospital later this afternoon.
Diane and I are spending the night in Mom’s room at the hospital; they’ve got a fold-out bed in the room and have brought in a recliner, so we can be as comfortable as possible (it sure beats trying to sleep on a regular chair, which is all most hospitals seem to provide). Mom’s been sleeping much of the day, but she did wake up enough to talk to her brother on the phone.
Things are quiet here — even though the hospital runs 24/7, the night is definitely “down”. There are a couple of empty rooms on the hallway, too, which further reduces the hubbub.
Mom was restless about 30 minutes ago, and Diane suggested music — Mom asked for Rachmaninoff, but I only had one piece on my computer. So then I thought about seeing if I could make XM’s streaming audio work over Verizon’s “BroadbandAccess” — and it worked just fine. I put it on the 40’s channel, and Mom clearly recognized the music they were playing…then the Atavin kicked in and she went back to sleep.
It’s nearly midnight — I think it’s time for us to try to join her. It may not be easy, though — Mom snores.
I didn’t spend the night at the hospital after all — my niece offered to stay so that I could go back to the house and sleep in a real bed.
I’ve been back here since about 10:30am — they’d given Mom’s some Atavin just before 10, and so Mom’s been sleeping pretty well since I arrived. I’m going to make a quick trip back to the house to pick up Diane and Jeff, and if I’m lucky, Mom will be more awake when we return.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t thank everyone who’s commented, e-mailed, or phoned to express your support, prayers, and love for Mom. I’m passing along the messages.
We enjoyed JetBlue’s “ShutEye” service from SJC-JFK (the skycap at San Jose got us seats together instead of being scattered in middle seats all over the plane — but the seats were at the front bulkhead, which meant there was light and noise from the crew, so we had more redeye than shuteye), followed by a quick hop to Richmond; we were at the hospital by 10:30am.
Mom was awake and she was happy to see us (and we were happy to see her!) — all of us spent some time with her before her energy sagged and she fell asleep. We took that as our cue to go to my brother’s house and change, then I came back to the hospital so my brother could get away. Mom was still napping lightly, but a few minutes later, one of my nieces came in, wearing heels. The “tick-tick-tick” was enough to wake Mom somewhat — and a few minutes later, we administered a miracle drug which woke her completely: some of an Edy’s Strawberry Whole Fruit Bar. As the nutritional analysis shows, it’s loaded with energy…and so was Mom!
A few minutes later, my older niece stopped by on her way to work — her timing was great with respect to Mom’s energy level, and they had a good conversation, some of which brought back memories for me, too (especially of a song Mom sang to my brother and me when we were young, and then she inflicted it on the grandchildren, too!). But then the nurse came in and gave Mom some medication, and now she’s asleep again.
My younger niece and I are still here — she’s going to stay through dinner, and then I plan to be here all night (with both of us sleeping, I hope). I doubt I’ll write another update tonight — this one has taken me two hours (hospitals are busy places!).
Ever since I’ve started blogging, I’ve had one reader who I could count on to read every entry, to comment occasionally, and even to gently nudge me if I didn’t blog for a long time. I am referring, of course, to my Mom.
But I’m afraid (in more than one sense of the word) that I’m going to lose her very soon, and that’s why we’re sitting at SJC waiting to board a flight to take us back to Richmond.
All was well three weeks ago; then she started to suffer shortness of breath — enough that she went to the doctor, who diagnosed her as having pneumonia and recommended that she be admitted to the hospital for tests. They found the problem: lung cancer. The pulmonary specialist who made the diagnosis told her the prognosis very bluntly and then went on his merry way. That was Friday, April 4, as I was flying home from my trip to the IBM Research Spring Strategy Session.
On the 5th, we flew to Valley Stream for a long-scheduled trip including a few days in Richmond. Mom was back in her apartment and seemed to be doing well — until the night before we went to Richmond. She fell that night and couldn’t get up — but she was able to call my brother and sister-in-law, who were able to help her. And she arranged to have help during the day.
We arrived on the 11th and had a nice visit. We knew about the cancer, but we all tried not to let it dominate our time — and so we visited the University of Richmond, went to ComedySportz, and continued on to Washington on Saturday, as scheduled. I could tell that she was a bit weaker than before, but things didn’t seem dire.
Tuesday night, we flew home. I spent Wednesday at home working (clearing 500 pieces of mail can be done as easily at home as in the office!), and all was fine. Until about 4:30pm, when my brother called me — Mom had had problems the night before, and had fallen in the bathroom and hit her head. She wears a ADT pendant, which she pressed — they called 911 and then my brother. She didn’t want to go to the hospital, and seemed to be holding her own, so he stayed with her.
About 7pm (Pacific), my brother called again. Mom was complaining of being terribly cold, so they were going to the hospital. Later on, he said she was unconscious and not expected to live through the night, so we booked tickets for the 6:30am flight and spent most of the rest of the night packing. We got a couple of hours of sleep (which was probably more than he and his wife managed), woke up at 3:15, and were in a taxi at 4:45, en route to the airport.
Just as we turned into the airport, my phone rang. It was my brother, with the welcome news that Mom had had a transfusion, had strengthened, was talking, and didn’t want us to come out. I didn’t believe it until she told me herself — then we had the taxi take us home and went back to sleep. It was the best trip to nowhere I’d ever had.
We woke around 9 and went to work. I was telling my manager about the story when my phone rang — it was my brother, with bad news again. Mom was bleeding and the prognosis was unclear. I kept working, but started investigating flight alternatives.
The phone calls kept coming, and the news got grimmer with each one. So I booked tickets (again), and here we are.
Jeff and I were able to talk to Mom for a minute or so this evening, and each of us told her how much she means to us. She was able to respond, and my brother told me she was smiling.
I told her how much I loved her, and how she had not only taught me to be a mensch, but that she was a wonderful example of one.
If a miracle happens and you’re able to read this, Mom, I know you’ll be embarrassed. And I don’t care. I love you.
It’s been wonderful not having to set an alarm, although we might have done better this morning if we had set one. Despite that, we still had enough time to have breakfast at Open City before dashing to the National Zoo for a quick cache hunt (we’d also hoped to see the Bat Cave, which Jeff had really enjoyed when we last visited about twelve years ago, but it’s permanently closed).
After that, we made a quick foray to Bombe Chest, the consignment shop of the Jewish Social Service Agency of Metropolitan Washington — Diane had seen a Lenox Seder Plate like the one we’d lost in the Loma Prieta earthquake in their window when we arrived Saturday night; of course, the shop was closed then. This morning, the plate was gone from the window, but only because they’d put away their Passover items, so Diane bought it and we hauled it home with us. Then back to Open City to get dinner for the plane, off to Dulles, and home (via Long Beach).
We managed to watch most of the last two episodes of The Next Food Network Star on the plane, so it’s time to decide: Reggie or Guy.
But even more importantly, it’s time to call it a night. So I will.