It is raining steadily today, having transformed from tiny ice crystals trying to decide whether or not to be snow. It is the last official day of Winter in Ohio, but of course Mother Nature is in charge, so the nasty stuff seems committed to the final hour just after midnight tonight! Robins hop along looking for good nesting material, geese are pairing off and the weather suits the ducks and their frisky pursuits without bother. While the earth is being reborn, the life who gave me life, and has been the repository of family love and knowledge is slipping away.
Every trip we have ever made to the Southern Ohio region, since growing up here and leaving it, has been important to us. But none more so than this trip. On our way here a couple of weeks ago, I checked email messages just as we arrived in Melbourne, Australia. There was word from my brother that Mum had been taken to hospital in an unresponsive state but had regained consciousness. It was with that limited information we departed for the USA the following morning. I knew there was nothing more I could do; we were getting there as fast as was possible. Still, I didn’t sleep a wink on the 14 hour flight, plus another 12 hours before arriving at 10pm that night at our destination. An update in LA told us she was awake, but even after a battery of tests the hospital staff was uncertain of the cause. She had two more episodes in hospital, nearly ‘coding’ and with the electric paddles and cart at bedside, ready.
When we arrived at the hospital they were prepping her for surgery to insert a pacemaker. There was SO much factual as well as contradictory information for us to absorb. I was the only child/next of kin present when the surgeon asked if we knew her medical history. I knew she had not had a history of this kind of thing but I had not seen her since early November and emails and video chats do not carry this kind of information. Things can change. I try to keep up but there is nothing like being there to inform a person. At least I knew who had the answers and could direct the surgeon to my niece who is a nurse and has good knowledge of Mum’s medical history. Eventually we were able to stop the procedure but not before Mum was on the table, draped for surgery! The surgeon, and we, thought it likely that the medicine she had been prescribed after a stent procedure in early January, was probably the cause of the episodes.
We brought her home to the assisted living apartment where she lives and began to try and unravel the cause of a variety of problems ranging from miscommunication between emergency crew to family response. It was so confusing. Every day there was a new piece of the puzzle to fit into the picture, and most days a new complication as well.
Finally we established the cause of most of the issues. It was a small piece of paper called the File of Life that hangs on Mum’s fridge, in case of emergency. It had not been updated in nearly 4 years! So, in her unconscious state, incorrect information was given to the hospital, which was not even the hospital from where her heart specialist works. Incorrect facts layered upon misunderstandings. The situation surely could have gone a devastating way very easily. That dated piece of paper could have been the File of Death.
Despite our best efforts, we have all learned we must be more vigilant and proactive. Mum is not able to advocate for herself any longer. It is a shock and a steep learning curve when these things happen, but they happen to most of us in one form or another. It is obvious to me we were meant to be here exactly when we arrived, and doing exactly as we have done. I can see clearly now, the rain is gone… even if I can’t see all the obstacles in the way.