As I am spending most of my time w/ my mom in her room at Green Hills, and as the cell-phone reception here is hit-&-miss, and the internet access is in the library in another hall, I’m writing from her room, and hope to get a chance to copy & send it via email and face book to all of you w/in the next day.
I’ve had opportunity across the past 10 days to call only a few people, and usually it has needed to be family and a few of my mom’s closest friends, so my apologies for my delay in communicating w/ you.
Saturday, August 28th, my mom fell backwards off a step-stool and bed (one foot on each!) having lost her balance while trying to hang a heavy painting above a bed in their home. Even though my mom turned 89 in May, before this fall she was yet totally independent and very active w/ house-keeping, cooking, flower-gardening, other interests, and taking care of herself and my dad who has dementia. So (unfortunately) she thought nothing of standing on beds, & hanging pictures!
When she fell, she hit her neck and upper right shoulder-blade on the edge of a dresser. Providentially, she did not break any bones. However, her spinal column had (has) stennosis at C6 & C7 and some at C3 & C4. (I.e. due to arthritis, the space w/in her spinal column for the spinal cord was narrowed. Due to the fall, and impact w/ the dresser, her spinal cord had contusions, was swollen. Given, neither the x-rays, nor the MRI showed adequately whether or not there was other damage (the most serious concern being the stability of the “facettes” which keep the disks aligned), her doctors recommended we take her to Riverside for a consult w/ a neuro-surgeon.
The neuro-surgeon was able to determine that her column was stable. That was extremely good news. Until then we weren’t sure if she was at risk for severing the spinal cord or doing further damage to her spinal cord every time she was moved. And of course, we were relieved she did not require surgery.
Due to being “confined” to a hospital bed for 10 days, other complications have been found or have developed. (She’s actually been up doing some therapy at each facility, either for evaluation or for initial therapy. Today was her first full session w/ both OT and PT.)
The great news is: my mom’s mind is sharp and she is so fully “with-it” that she has through all of this been the organizer and guide to all her children assuming her care and dad’s and maintenance of the household and the farm and their rental and etc.!!! I thought I was so proud of my mom before all this; but throughout this ordeal she has astounded all of us w/ how she not only keeps her head in the midst of stress, but is able to mentally manage all the details of her daily concerns from afar and through the aide of others. Plus, she has kept fully informed of her diagnosis and on-going condition; even though she hasn’t worked as an RN for 50 years, she continues to think in medical and nursing terms. (They say ‘Once a nurse, always a nurse!’ J) Plus, she manages to ask all her nurses and nurse-aides and therapists and doctors about their lives and families, etc. My mother has always seemed such a quiet and unassuming person, but it turns out she is quite the matriarch and all-around capable and generous person!!! J
Other great news is that all the doctors and therapists agree that my mom has the potential to fully recover through vigorous physical and occupational therapy. We’re hopeful she might accomplish this w/in a month!
However, she continues to have tremendous pain. This wears her out and sometimes makes her nauseous. Some of her medications make her nauseous also. We have found that w/ micro-adjustments to her position the pain can sometimes be relieved w/out more pain medicine, which is preferable.
When she’s w/out pain she can feed herself, but sometimes she needs help w/ that, and also needs help adjusting pillows etc for micro-positioning. So I am her personal attendant most of the day and as-needed at night for now. Our expectation is that as she advances in therapy and can become mobile again and do more and more for herself and learn how to move through and beyond the pain that she will need me less and less.
Special note to my students: Even though’ there is so much more to tell, this “note” has already become much too long! I’m hoping that you, my students, can bear with me in delaying lessons until October, as I really need to be available to my mother. All my brothers and sisters have been helping w/ mom & dad’s needs through all of this too, but it has taken all of us at times to do all that needs doing! Also, we’re making preparations for the next stage when mom returns home so that she doesn’t have to do all that she was doing before.
I’m so grateful to have a family that can pull together in this time of crisis and do what needs to be done as a well-honed team! (We’re all so strong-headed that as siblings we could have quite the dramatic gatherings. But in this experience, it turns out we’re not only using our best gifts and traits to advance our mother’s care, but even all those things that we thought of as ‘faults’ in each other have proved to be strengths and skills, i.e. exactly what’s needed, in certain situations! I must say, I am really proud of my family, and so grateful. Also, all our past grudges w/ each other have simply melted away as if they never existed! J
So many people at Mary Rutan (where mom was hospitalized initially) not only gave her good care, but were also people w/ whom she was acquainted at one time or another, and everyone was so kind and encouraging. Seeing people she knew kept mom’s spirits up.
The whole staff at Riverside Hospital was (is) phenomenal. And although we didn’t previously know any of them, they treated mom w/ not only the 1st-rate excellence they are known for, but also the utmost consideration and generosity. (When they saw how many family members mom had wanting to attend her, they switched her to their largest double room but took out the second bed and put in lazy-boys for us. They really cater to the whole family there!!!)
Here at Green Hills she is receiving very good and very personal care. I’m confident she will receive the therapy she needs. I’m hoping that soon she will be more willing to allow visitors as I know her friends will be a tremendous encouragement to her. Even though my mother is a woman of profound and abiding faith, being so unable to care for herself is a great trial. She needs cheering-on from her friends! J
THANK YOU for your patience w/ my long letter. It does me good to connect w/ the “outside world” at this time. THANK YOU most of all for all your prayers and well-wishes. I’ll try to keep further updates much shorter!!! J
w/ love & gratitude for all God’s blessings, especially those delivered through friends and family,