Monday, December 17, 2007

Taking Up Where Mom Left Off, part 1

In January 1994 my mother and I planned a trip to New York City to celebrate my birthday. My mother wasn't feeling well, but decided to make the trip anyway. She lived in Boston, I lived in Vermont, so we met at the hotel in NYC. After a few hours together we realized we needed to do something, because mom was sick, really sick, and could barely stand or walk on her own. I took her to an Eye, Ear, Nose & Throat specialist, because mom complained mostly about something feeling like it was stuck in her throat. But the specialist said we should go to the hospital, because she (the doctor) couldn't figure out what was wrong. At New York hospital my mother ended up in the ICU, because sometime that night she went into insulin shock.

Mom had had diabetes for 10 years by this time. She had chosen to treat her diabetes without taking insulin, or other medical intervention. She ate well (loved to cook), walked everywhere and went to the Y religiously, and loved what she did for work, as a Jungian Psychoanalyst and Psychiatric Social Worker. I don't know what kind of medical advice, if any, mom was getting before that trip to NYC, but whatever it was it did not prepare her for almost a week in ICU at New York hospital.

After that she had to start taking insulin, and within six months she started to lose her eyesight. She had a number of laser surgeries, which maybe slowed things down a bit. By 1997 her eyesight was completely gone.

In October 2004 Mom fell down a flight of stairs while visiting a friend, ending up in the hospital.

The hospital people would only let mom out if my brother and I agreed to help her get services set up at home. I took time off from work and stayed on the couch in mom's apartment that first week, while my brother ran errands. My brother John and sister-in-law Kirsten lived 45 minutes from Mom, had already been running errands for mom for years. Since I lived 3 hours away I hadn't been doing much of the leg work, so I decided I would stay with her and provide some relief for John and his family.

Between October 2004 and March 2005 I think mom was in the hospital three or four times. Mom had several diabetes related health issues, including the loss of eyesight. Her kidneys were only functioning at 20 percent. Also, she had advancing neropathy in both her feet. The pain in her shoulder was initially diagnosed as a rotater cuff injury, but after exploratory surgery it was discovered she also had arthritis. She also had high blood pressure. My mother got a new doctor sometime after the October hospital visit, who put her on a low potassium diet. This was supposed to help her kidneys function better, but it killed mom's morale, since it severely limited what she could eat. Mom loved to cook (and eat) and having only a few ingredients to work with (and ones she didn't like that much) was no way to live.

In March 2005 Mom was found unconscious in her apartment, after accidentally taking too much insulin. During the ensuing hospital visit we (the doctors, John & Kirsten, me and very reluctantly, mom) determined mom needed physical rehabilitation before she could either come back to her current apartment, or move into an assisted living apartment. In April 2005 we all decided mom wouldn't be coming back to her current apartment. In the next six months she spent time in several rehabilitation centers and at least one nursing home.

We were all hoping she'd move up the list on the assisted living apartment and be able to move in before winter, but mom's health never recovered. Mom had a heart attack and died in the hospital in September 2005.

No comments: