Wednesday, March 2, 2011

the first first

It was a Friday but let's back up to Thursday. My mom had been in the hospital because we had brought her there a week before. She hadn't been eating or getting up and moving around at all. We were worried about her. They admitted her because her blood pressure was terrible and we found out she had a blood clot in her lung. I was scared and like I always did, I visited her everyday at the hospital. I didn't want her to be by herself but I think part of me was so terrified that something would happen and no one would be there with her. That she would die alone.

I snuck her cupcakes and other sweet things. I read her cookbooks. We are foodies in my family. We had a really good time. I was sick on Wednesday so I didn't go to the hospital but my mom wasn't alone, her boyfriend had visited. They had a really nice visit and my mom was excited because the social worker had come to talk to them about transitioning her into a nursing home for a few weeks to rehab. My mom's legs had atrophied and so she needed to build strength. She was doing so well. She was getting up to go to the bathroom on her own. 

On that Thursday morning I got there pretty early because I hadn't been there the day before. I knew instantly that something was wrong. I called the nurse because I was scared. In hindsight, I knew. I knew this was it. I sensed it. My mom was so pale. Her lips were whiteish and she looked bad. The nurse told me that she had fallen early in the morning when using the bathroom by herself. That sounded like my mom, stubborn. She probably knew that she needed help but she wanted to do it herself. I think it could have been a result of her blood pressure too though because she told the nurses that she had passed out. Well, she hit her head when she fell. I was so mad at her and the nurses but I didn't show it. I was more scared than anything. I KNEW something was really WRONG. 

We sat around and I talked to her. She barely talked that day. It was good until about 2. She was complaining, she didn't feel good. She was tossing and turning. I had to keep switching to different chairs so I could look at her while I talked. She didn't really respond except for a smile here and there. I loved her smile. It was amazing. Around 2 I called the nurse again, my mom was really uncomfortable. That's when I demanded to talk to a doctor. I kept saying "I don't like this I don't like this I don't like this." I wanted to talk to a doctor. I knew something was wrong. They called a doctor. The nurse stayed with us because she knew it would be a while before he would come check on her. 

Around 3 my mom started not responding. She was rolling her eyes back in her head and her arms and head were moving on their own in a weird slow motion way.  I was so scared. I instantly started crying because I didn't know what to do. She was either having a seizure or a stroke. We never found out. They kicked me out of the room and did a rapid response call where everyone from the floor or hospital that is free has to come work on her. I was standing outside the room pacing. I called Doug and told him he had to come to the hospital. I didn't want to be by myself. I called my brother first and then I called my mom's boyfriend second. No one answered their phones. I felt helpless. They were in there working on her. Finally someone realized I was freaking the fuck out and they came and sat with me in the lounge. I wanted to be in that room with her. My fears were coming true, she was going to die and I wasn't going to be there. 

A nurse came to get me because my mom wouldn't respond to the nurses. She didn't want to talk to them. She wouldn't even answer their questions. She only wanted me. She asked for "my Alex." I ran in the room and held her hand. They were sticking her with needles and all kinds of stuff. It was chaos. They wanted me to ask her questions that they needed answers to because she wouldn't answer them. I asked her what hurt. She said, "Everything hurts. Everything hurts." That was the last thing she ever said to me. 

She became unresponsive. They had to take her back to the MICU. She had just been transferred out of there a few days before. The chaplain that had sat with me stuck by me. We grabbed her stuff and went to the 3rd floor back to a place I knew too well, the MICU. I hated that place. People died in there. I saw families being called because they were going to pull the plug. There were people in a vegetable state in there. It was a weird place. 

They finally had let me in her room after an hour or so. They had given her a breathing tube. We had not discussed our plan with the doctors about resuscitation. They had to give her a sedative so she wouldn't be uncomfortable with the tube. She had so many tubes going into her body. She looked pitiful like that. They told me that they wouldn't stop giving her the sedative until she could breathe on her own.

She wasn't doing well. Her blood pressure was terrible. Whatever had happened in that room had done immense trauma. I stayed with her for a long time until a doctor came and talked to me. Doug was there with me in the room. I knew it was going to be bad news. He was so nice and young and I could tell he wasn't experienced in telling family members that someone was not going to make it. He told me she had 24 hours at the most. He said it could be one hour or 24 hours. He said she was really unstable. He said she had an infection from the Foley she had to wear when she couldn't go to the bathroom by herself. He said that infection, because she had cancer and couldn't fight it off had become a blood infection.

I called everybody that my mom would want there. Some people came. Doug's parents came and they really helped. Wally and Kath came and brought Sweden (Wally's service dog). It was so good to have people there. I felt like I could do this. My brother was a manager at his job and had to sleep so he could open in the morning first thing. He came as soon as he could. My mom's boyfriend, Lance was hard to reach. Turns out he was at his mom's house who lives in the middle of nowhere.

I was told that they were going to max her out on blood pressure medication and then they wouldn't be able to help her anymore. Her blood pressure was so low. I was ready for her heart monitor to stop beeping any minute. But she held on. She was such a fighter.

They maxed her out on the medication. They said she wouldn't make it much longer. I stayed overnight at the hospital with her and Doug stayed with me. I slept probably one hour because the nurses told me if anything happened that they would come get me. They said she would be fine without me for a little while. I think they knew that the next day would be a big one, her last day, and that I needed sleep. I slept for that hour and the nurse came and got me. She said that her vital signs were terrible. That she thought I should stay in the room with her and talk to her. She told me my mom could hear me but wouldn't be able to respond. She said the medication they had her on for the breathing tube would allow her to know what was going on around her.

I sat in that room and held her cold hand all night. I talked to her all night. I knew she could hear me. She kept squeezing my hand! I knew it wasn't a reaction because it was in response to things I said. I knew she would be gone in a few hours and that I would have to tell her all the things that she needed to hear from me because she wouldn't be here anymore for me to tell them. I told her a million times that I would miss her. I told her that one day the Sabres would win the Stanley Cup and that I knew she would be with me on that day. I told her that she wasn't leaving me that she would always be with me. I told her she did a great job as a mom. I told her that I was a better person because she was my mom. Doug came and sat with me and I had one hand in his and one in hers. He came and told my mom that she wouldn't have to worry about me, that he would take care of me. He was going to miss her too. I got it all out there and it felt good. I knew I could do this because of the time given to talk to her.

That next morning people were calling me and asking if I could put them on speaker so they could talk to her. I had posted on Facebook that she hadn't had much time left. It was easier to post on there than to call everyone. Everyone called me. My mom knew everybody from everywhere. Because of her job in the federal government, she knew people in every HUD office it seemed.

Everyone had come to the hospital. One of the nurses came and talked to Derrik (my brother) and I about turning the ventilator off. I knew and we knew that's what she would have wanted. We knew it would be better for her to pass away in a much more peaceful way. We knew having those tubes and tape on her face would be traumatic. They told us pretty much all of her organs had failed already and that even if her heart stopped the machine would still be on. We didn't want that. My mom wouldn't want that. We decided to get everyone in the room, take the tape off and take all the IV's out. They took the tube out and turned all the machines off while we were all telling her we loved her and would miss her everyday. It wasn't a happy moment but I knew this is how she wanted to go and that she would be happy that she could go peacefully.

It was 10:22am October 1, 2010.

My mom breathed on her own 4 times. I saw her do it once and I had to look away. I thought for a second that we had done the wrong thing. I was told later that when people die, they exhale. It was her last breath. It was too much. I had to leave the room. I had been in the room all night. That was the last time I saw my mom. I didn't want to see her like that. I didn't want to remember her like that. I went and sat in the waiting room and everyone was around me giving me hugs and telling me it would be okay. The chaplain from the day before came and gave us a blanket and a box of tissues with lotion (those are hard to find in a hospital). My face was raw from crying all night. After I left that room I didn't feel sad first. I felt relieved. I didn't feel happy but it was a feeling that was close to it. I felt proud I guess. My mom had been a fighter. I knew that her fight was over and that it had been a good fight except for the fact that cancer ultimately took her. I can't describe these feelings in words because I don't think there are words that fit those emotions.

We left the hospital and went to Kathy's house.

Oh my gosh, I am listening to Itunes right now and Bennie and the Jets just came on. That song reminds me of my mom more than any other. Chills.

It was such a nice day outside. It was like 72, sunny, not a cloud in the sky. My mom had picked a perfect day. Everyone kept saying that to me. It was really the most perfect day.

I talked to everybody on the phone. People were telling me their plans to come stay with me. My aunt Julie was coming the next day and my best friend Katie was too. I needed Katie more than anybody. I can't really explain it. She has stood by me for the last 8 years. She has been the one constant. I needed someone solid there with me. I needed her there because I had just lost my mom. I had called her in the middle of the night and she had talked to me even though she had to be at work. She really is the sweetest person I have ever met and that's why she's my best friend. I can't tell you how much it meant to me that she paid I don't know how much to come be with me that next day. Just because I needed her. I will always be grateful for that and her.

Everyone came to Kathy's and we sat outside and Wall and Kathleen brought wine and we drank and told stories until about 7 when we went to eat dinner. Jill and Dave and Kristin came all the way to Kathy's house to be with me too. It felt good to have everyone there. I didn't want to be alone.

That night Doug and I went home and I knew I would never be able to sleep even though I had only one hour of it the night before. I decided to watch a movie to fall asleep. Our favorite movie to watch together, my mom and I, was When Harry Met Sally. Whenever I was sick or not having a good day or just because, we would watch that. I watched it and fell asleep and then the next day I picked up Aunt Julie and Katie and they helped me tremendously. They kept my mind off of everything. Katie made me laugh like she always does and so did my aunt.

I was going to get through this. 

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