My mother passed away last Monday at 1:42pm. She had suffered a stroke on a Friday…a week and a few days before her passing. Prior to that, she was getting treatment for cancer. She had one treatment for cancer….but because her pain was so bad in her back…they admitted her to the hospital to get her on some good pain meds…and they decided to start radiation to help shrink the tumor so that she wouldn’t have that pain. The cancer she had was advanced stage lung cancer. She wouldn’t have had that much time with us anyway..apparently..but…I hoped. I believed that there was going to be a miracle. I couldn’t imagine my life without my mom. She lived with me. And although there were many times we didn’t get along..I needed my mom.
Gosh, two weeks before her cancer diagnosis, she was going to look for somewhere else to live, because we weren’t getting along.
After the diagnosis though, she was happy that she had moved in with me two years before. I was getting her meds together for her and she actually said she didn’t know what she would do without me.
The days before her stroke, she was a little shaky. I took her to radiation one of two days..but she got through them. My daughter took her on a Thursday and they said that her blood pressure was low but her heart rate was high. She had to go to the ER straight from radiation. She did and she was released.
The next day (Friday), I was going to work. She had her pj’s over her legs like she was cold. I didn’t want to make a big deal over her and keep asking her if she was okay (as I did so many times), so this day I just gave her a kiss goodbye. Told her my brother would be taking her to radiation that day. She was fine. I tried to call her, and couldn’t get a hold of her. BUT..I tried not to panic…I chose not to…because she always said…”if you can’t get in touch with me, don’t panic..I am probably outside smoking a cigarette or in the shower.” So when I didn’t get a hold of her, I tried to remember that. I called again, still nothing. I sent my brother a text and asked that he check on my mom that evening (even after radiation, because I was supposed to get my hair done that night). He said that he would. But according to him, something told him to check in at that time. He tried to call her and couldn’t get a hold of her. So after about two calls not going through, he decided to drive over..in his pajamas to check on her. That is when he found her on the floor near the bathroom.
He called me from the house and told me what he saw. I cursed “FUCK. FUCK.” He called 911. When I got to the house the ambulance was there. They were rolling my mother out. I said hi to her and that I was there…but she didn’t respond. It reminded me sort of my dad. When he had a seizure and couldn’t communicate. I asked my brother what was going on and he told me that she had a stroke. I tried to remain calm but my body was torn up inside. I went out the ambulance to see how she was. She could not really talk. They were getting her all set up. The EMT’s didn’t seem to know that she lived with me..and not my brother. Just because he was in his pajamas did not mean that he knew everything. I asked where they were going to take her and they said “Sinai.” I argued about that as she was a St. Joseph’s patient. All her records were there. They said that because of the type of trauma, they needed to get her somewhere that would treat it. They asked if I was Power of Attorney. I said that I was. My brother asked if I had the paperwork. I said that I would need to find it. He said..then without the paperwork, they can take her to Sinai. He then asked if I was going to tell them what they needed to do..to go over them and tell them to take her somewhere else. Putting that decision on me was not good. I was so upset. I didn’t want her to go to Sinai.
I went inside trying to find paperwork that my brother was trying to find.
I went out. When I did…the EMT’s said that they could take her to University of Maryland in the city (that hospital would have her same records as St. Joseph’s). So I agreed to that.
They asked if I wanted to drive with them, but I couldn’t. I feel terrible..but I couldn’t go. My anxiety was so bad. And I feel bad even now about that. My mother needed me, but I left her with strangers. My sister in law was there and said she would go. My mother didn’t like my sister in law much, but I said okay. My brother went home to change. I followed him to his house (we were going to drive together). But I couldn’t sit still, so I told him I would meet him down there. On my way, my sister in law called me to find out what time I left for work (they wanted to see how long my mom may have been on the floor before being found). I got to the hospital and the doctors had me go in to a room to tell me my moms’ condition. They wanted to know if my mother would want something invasive (as she had a blood clot) ..and with the cancer…I guess it would be hard to come through. I guess if she had the invasive surgery, there were risks…then she would have to get through that and then do cancer treatment. She would be far behind on the cancer treatment, so she would eventually die. I guess they wanted to know if it was worth it for her to go through the treatment of the stroke. I couldn’t think. I wanted my mother to live. I asked if she was okay. They said that she can talk…her left side was paralyzed but that I could see her if I wanted to. Through their trying to talk to me, I was panicking. I couldn’t sit in the room. I asked to leave. I needed air. So that is what I did.
I called my daughter who was working. She came to meet me. She was able to leave her job as an RN at another hospital to be there.
By the time my brother came, I had calmed a little so that I could sit in the room and discuss things again. We decided that my mom would no want anything invasive.
The next step was to be transported for comfort care then. My mom could not move her left side (but didn’t know it). When I kissed her and told her that i loved her, she said that I was ridiculous (I guess she was thinking all was going to be okay). Instead of her staying in that hospital for comfort care, I asked if we could move her to St. Joseph’s…where she worked since 1978. If she was just going to be in a hospital, why not move her to where she knows people and they know her.
I reached out to her manager who made a few phone calls and made it happen. My mom’s manager, Hannah and the Pallative Care doctor at University of Maryland downtown got things rolling. My mother was transported that night…to the 6th floor of St. Joseph Medical Center (where she started her career as a unit clerk).
While there, she had many visitors. People that she worked with on the 6th floor were taking care of her. She could not talk real well. Anytime I got near her and tried to talk with her, she would say that I was agitating her. she was given pain meds. She couldn’t have anything by mouth, but they were giving her meds that she needed. They took really good care of her. Her “girls” from DDC (where she worked after retirement until she started cancer treatment), came to see her. They helped move her. I have a picture/video of that. So much love was given to my mom. My daughter stayed every night with her, except for one night. I felt so bad to put that on her. I felt so bad that I could not be strong and just stay with her, but I was selfish. The one night that my daughter could no stay..I stayed. My mom had just seen some friends from DDC that day. One of the nurses told her how to get some of the mucous up in her throat. When she couldn’t do it, when I was there, she told me to call him. It was a Sunday. He was not working. She didn’t know..and hollered at me to call Dave…Gave me the extension 1537. She told me that if I had called 4 hours prior like she told me he would’ve been there, but I waited too long. Took me back to my dad…and all the times that I didn’t do things on his timing I guess. I tried to appease my mom, so I called 1537 and left a message on the voice mail. I also reached out to Hanna, who reached out to Dave. He did eventually call me back that night, but my mom was sleeping. She stayed there another day or so. Speech Therapy came to give her a swallow test.. The first day she tried it, she was completely out of it, so she didn’t pass. The next day, she was more awake and could eat some applesauce and ice chips. it seemed though that when she would drink, she would cough. It was going down the wrong tube. They scheduled a barium swallow where they could do an x-ray to see where things were going that she was swallowing. She thought she passed…but apparently she did not. The palliative care doctor talked to my brother and said that she could eat things …but not anything that would give her the nourishment she would need in order to stay alive.
We could do a feeding tube, but she had always said that she didn’t want that. My brother told me that she even pulled out the tube that was put down her nose to give her nourishment.
So…the palliative care doctor talked to us..and we decided that if she couldn’t eat….swallow..there was no point for rehabilitation as she wouldn’t be able to have the strength for it I guess.
I look back and wish that we would’ve just kept her around for longer. But instead, we chose to send her to Gilchrist for hospice…
She would be able to eat what she wanted, if she wanted anything…
My brother and I actually interviewed two places to make sure that we were sending her to the right place for hospice. Gilchrist has a good sell, I guess. The woman knew what she was to say. The person that came from the other company (Stella Maris) didn’t have all the answers…so that turned me away.
Gilchrist assured me that they would not hasten death..that they would just make her more comfortable..and if she wanted to eat, she could eat whatever she wanted.
Before my mother went to hospice, she had ice cream and a soda. Well some of each. The soda..she was able to slurp through the straw. The ice cream, she was able to take from the spoon and enjoy.
She is gone now though. That night, hospice came to pick her up and transport her. My daughter and I stayed with her the first night. I tried to have many conversations with my mom. In the hospital and at hospice. I wanted so much for her to come back to me…but each time she had pain, we would have pain medication given to her. She couldn’t stay awake to eat. She would listen and may have something to say to the conversation, but she was pretty much out of it.
On October 8, I went in to work…not real happy about doing it, but knowing that I had to..or I would make my agoraphobia worse. My sister in law paid someone to move my daughter (as my daughter had already planned to move the beginning of the month, but was unable to because of my mom being sick). I worked half a day…and then went to hospice. My mom had been holding on for some time. There were nights that I would leave and be afraid that I would get the call that she didn’t make it through. But that was not the case. I went to see her after work… I walked in the room. Gave her a kiss on her forehead and said that I was there. I was going to relieve my Aunt Beth I guess at that time (who had been there since the morning). My sister in law was there. My mom didn’t like my sister in law that much…but she had really helped during this time (although my mother had no idea). After I kissed my mom, I noticed her breathing decrease, but didn’t want to get anxious about it. My aunt then said “did you see that her breathing had changed.” My sister in law went to get the doctor. I didn’t see a point in getting the doctor though, as this is what was supposed to happen..she was to pass. It was either this pause in breathing or another after this….that I was holding my mom’s hand and just cried out “Why….why….” I didn’t want this to be happening. My mother then took another breath and she was back with us. The doctor came in and confirmed that my mom did not have a pulse, but had a heart beat and this does happen towards the end (which we had heard previously). She did say that it would probably be best to gather those that we wanted at her bedside as it may be soon.
I called my daughter. My sister in law called my brother ..and someone called my niece. My aunt must’ve left the room for a minute (after we argued how I wanted her there with the family). It was just my sister in law and I in the room when my mother apparently took her last breath.
I don’t even know if I was holding her hand. I had held my dad when he took his last breath. I was there. Although physically present in the room with my mom, I feel like I was almost protecting myself because I didn’t want to see that last breath. I didn’t want to believe what was happening. I wanted my mom. I still do.
My sister in law had said a few second prior to my mother’s last breath that she felt really cold. I shooed her to almost knock it off. I thought she was being a bit dramatic. But she felt cold. She asked my aunt (when in the room) if she was feeling cold. I, of course, was not. I hadn’t eaten much and was hot and a bit shaky and in disbelief.
I knew my mom was gone when she was not breathing anymore. A nurse came in…as we stared, to listen for her heart beat. She listened for one full minute. She apologized for the length of time, but said that they have to do that. She told us she was gone. Time of death: 1:42pm on October 8, 2018.
The doors to the outside kept opening (as they had been doing for a few days..in fact, I thought that I had broken them). My sister in law was trying to close them…but I told her to stop. In a way, I was hoping that it was a spiritual thing (if there was such a thing).
I felt like others were cheated. I felt bad. I was there..but I didn’t think I wanted to be there. And my sister in law was there. Why? Why was she there.
It wasn’t until a few days later that my sister in law and I spoke about it.
She told me that on the day my daughter was moving, she felt the need to get to my mom. She said that she realized she was the only one that didn’t tell her it was okay to go. She told me that she went in to the room…and went to my mother (as my aunt was in the room). She told my mother that this was her time…to be at peace. She promised to take care of me…and my brother and everything else. She told my mom that my daughter moved and told her that she took my mom’s table to her new house. She said that I walked in the room about 5 minutes later and told my mom I was there.
My sister in law said that when things started happening, she felt cold. She felt something that she had never felt before. She said that she didn’t know who was behind her…trying to get to my mother…but it felt like my mom went through her to get to those people (and maybe the door was open for a reason)..I don’t know.
My sister in law believes that my mother felt okay to go ..because she promised to take care of us…and when I walked in the room..it was proof that we were there together. Maybe it was my mom’s way of handing me over to my sister in law. I don’t know.
All I know is that I have been to work each day since my mom passed (except for one day when we had to go to the funeral home). We will be having a memorial in a few weeks, as my mom was cremated. I am still waiting for her to come home from the hospital or work or a trip or something I think. I am getting through each day, but not without anxiety and depression.
I guess it could be worse, but maybe I am not allowing it to get worse. Maybe I am trying to just get through.
Tomorrow, my mom’s work will be having a mass for her. So I will be at the hospital with all her friends. Some of my family will be there. Because of my anxiety, I plan to sit in the back. I am scared. I just want to get this all over with. It’s hard for me to go to these things. And if I leave…as people say that I can…I will feel like I have taken too many steps back.
Yes, I may be white knuckling my anxiety quite a bit right now. But I am scared.
Hoping to see/talk to my mother one day. They say that she loved me. I do know that she was happy to be with me the last two weeks of her life, since I was getting the meds right. But..maybe I should’ve done more. They changed one of her meds….that was to prevent a stroke. What’s to say…that she would still be here had it not been for that medication change? Nothing can bring her back…and unlike what I wanted to do with my father’s death, I am not going to sue. My mother always told me to trust the doctors.
I’m just sad. I miss my mom. I want my mom. Now..I’m like an orphan. And I have to learn to live in this world again.