Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Many Layers of the Black Umbrella

The last couple of weeks have brought a lot of junk into my life - like a big black umbrella blocking out the sun.

Several days ago my sister phoned me to say that my 80 year old mother was being helicoptered to a major hospital in Minneapolis from her small town in central Minnesota. She has been struggling with both emphysema and heart failure and her condition was serious.

I raced over from work and found her on the cardiac floor, hooked up to tubes and machines but still smiling and saying she was glad to see me. I spent the night in a recliner in her room, getting up every so often to pace the halls because my restless leg syndrome was acting up. The next day the woman who helps her with housekeeping said she'd found 11 days worth of untaken meds shoved in a drawer. The doctors concluded that the episode was brought on by noncompliance with her diuretic, which helps control the buildup of fluid. I asked her about this and she said she was sure she'd taken all of her meds.

They got her through the physical crisis and suggested an evaluation for cognitive function. Even though I knew that she was failing mentally, I heard myself tellng the social worker that I didn't think it was necessary. (Yeah, Kathy, just refuse to face it and maybe it'll go away.)

The day of the evaluation I woke up with a raging sore throat and fever. I went to the Minute Clinic in Target and was given some Zithromax and told that I absolutely could not visit anyone in the hospital until my fever had been gone for 2 days.

As I laid in bed, staring up at the ceiling, I started to feel these great waves of fear and sadness - thinking about her death and also my death (maybe from diabetes) and what lay between. I microwaved a Lean Cuisine but forgot to take any insulin, and later in the day my bg was 470. I corrected, but really didn't care. I was sinking deep into the "life is hard and then gets harder" mindset.

My mom's evaluation determined that she has "moderate dementia" and cannot live alone primarily due to the possibility of medication error. She also will not be driving anymore. My other sister had driven to M's home and found a large array of unpaid bills strewn about, and a frig full of old food. Two more days and her utilities would have been shut off. She had fooled us, always saying everything was "ok".

She transfered to a full care facility in her town this last Mondayand will remain there until an apartment becomes available in the assisited living wing. I did not get to see her because I am still not well. I went to my internist and he said "well, your lungs sound good - I guess you'll just have to wait it out". Last night I was coughing so hard my neighbor above me came down to see what was going on. After I shut the door I started crying, asking why everything has to happen all at once.

Now this afternoon I got an email that I have to be at work tomorrow because my company was visited with a surprise audit from the New York Stock Exchange, something which happens about every 10 years.

I am ready to blow a gasket. I am not good at dealing with multiple stressors. If anyone has any magic tips, do tell.