Your mother’s sneezing??
I’m staring at mom as I type. She’s sleeping in one of Brelle’s nice lounge chairs, not five feet away. I don’t feel comfortable taking my eyes off her these days, especially after yesterday. In fact, this is her first time to be home since about 12:30 yesterday afternoon, when she left for her 1:00 p.m. appointment with a nutritionist. How long ago it seems.
Yesterday will go down as one of the scariest days of my life – of all of our lives. Mom awoke a little groggier than usual, and was dragging her left leg considerably. But, given that she had just started a new chemo regimen, we chalked it up to simply newby’s fatigue. She seemed fine during lunch, and spoke a bit during the 30 minute ride to the University of Colorado Hospital. She seemed a bit tired during her hour long appointment with the nutritionist, but again, her behavior – sans a little left-legged restlessness — was not unusual.
After her appointment on the second floor, we wheeled her to the first floor to join Craig for his weekly consultation with Dr. Flaig, where we’d also learn the results of his latest CT scan. Mercifully, Craig finally received some good news. It seems the chemo is having some effect in slowing the tumor’s growth. Most of his tumors have shrunk slightly, with only one growing, but only by a few millimeters. We’re hoping Sorafenib will continue to strengthen as time progresses. In any event, we feel like we’ve turned a corner in Craig’s treatment. And it was great we (including Emily) could all be there with him in support.
Just after finishing with C’s appointment, Diane and I wheeled mom to the public bathroom just next to C’s cancer unit. Erin eventually joined us after trying to get C’s prescriptions filled. We transferred mom from the wheelchair to the toilet, and vice versa, and then wheeled her to the sink to wash her hands. I was standing behind her, and E was helping her with the soap and water when all of a sudden, her left arm started twitching like she wanted to move it from the counter. Her twitch soon progressed into a convulsion, with her left arm contorted into a bicep flex, and her head awkwardly cocked to the left and facing the adjacent wall. In a turn of a second, mom was seizing.
Almost immediately, I ran out the bathroom door and hooked left towards Craig’s cancer unit. I ran inside, mumbled to Emily that mom was seizing, and then proceeded to the front desk for help. I told the assistant that mom was seizing and asked that he alert Jennifer Bryan, Dr. Flaig’s nurse, for help. Annoyed, the helpful assistant replied “your mom’s sneezing??” Quick, someone get some Kleenex and Claritin stat…and make sure it’s the D kind! (Good Lord) At the same time, another nurse overheard and had started towards the back to get Jennifer. Frustrated by helper bee, I broke protocol and entered the hall where I saw Jennifer gathering her things. I then ran back into the main corridor to join E and D. By that time, mom was blue and in full body convulsions. D took her legs, and E and I grabbed her shoulders, and on a count of three, we hoisted her then limp body from the wheelchair and onto the ground. Jennifer was behind us with a pillow, and within seconds, Craig’s doctor, along with his entire cancer team, was there assessing mom’s vitals. I remember telling them that she wasn’t breathing, and just as I did, her color changed from blue to ash-gray. It was then I thought we’d lose her, and in the most ironic of circumstances..
Craig’s team – already equipped with oxygen and a defibrillator (as a precautionary measure) – took over while the three of us held her hand. Soon after we had her on the ground, I got up and headed for dad, who was sitting down. Dad had been waiting for us out in the lobby, and was visibly shocked by the scene. I knelt down, put my arm around him and told him she’d be okay. For a few moments, we both sat there watching as mom’s body continued to twitch. I quickly rejoined E and D and continued to comfort mom as the team continued to work. Slowly, her body started to calm, with her color returning to a chalky red. By the time the paramedics arrived – we waited 15 minutes for the ambulance to drive her next door (cheers to protocol!) – she was responding to verbal cues.
D and I walked to the ER while dad joined mom in the ambulance. E stayed behind to tell Craig, who, at the time, was having an ultrasound performed on his bladder to see if a tumor was preventing his bladder from emptying completely. E quickly joined D, dad, and I in mom’s ER room, just as the paramedics were transferring mom to the ER docs for care. Craig and Emily arrived ten minutes later; C looked visibly upset. He stood behind mom’s curtain for a few moments and then proceeded gingerly into her line of sight. By then, she was awake, though still a bit out of it. I stood beside him with my arm softly on his back, while D and E held her hand. Soon, C and I joined Erin and D at her side, and held her hand while she cried. I placed my hand on Craig’s shoulder and the four of us stood there teary-eyed, looking at each other in disbelief over what had just occurred. Remarkably, Emily was with us through it all, and at one point, I walked over and put my arm around her as she cried along with us.
The docs attribute her seizure to a combination of things, including a UTI, her recent decrease in steroids, and an introduction of Ritalin. Though they were going to discharge her last night, we staged a sit in and insisted she stay overnight for observation (and so that we could prepare ourselves for mom’s arrival, including securing a medical bed). I spent the better part of the afternoon tracking down medical supply companies in order for a bed to be delivered this evening. (She was discharged at 6 p.m.; we’re still waiting on the bed!)
The doctors warned us that she’ll be groggy and “not herself” for the next few days as she recovers from this event, and gets used to her new anti-seizure med. The next 24-48 hours will be touch-in-go in terms of having another seizure. I hope yesterday was a freak occurrence, and that she’ll never have to endure something like that again. I hope I never again see my mother blue, not breathing, and frothing at the mouth. I hope I never have to whisper words of comfort to my dad while seeing my sisters circled around my mom. I hope I never see my brother so distraught. And I hope I never feel so helpless.
Twice now, her condition has selfishly pushed her to the edge. Thankfully, she’s had other ideas. She’s a fighter; she always has been. And we all have that fight in us. I remember glancing at my sisters as we sat calmly next to my mother as she struggled to breathe. I thought how strange it was that we weren’t crying – at least not then. We responded just as she taught us. We were by her side, and were going to be whatever the outcome.
We’re now watching t.v. She’s coming back to us, slowly but surely. It’s nice to hear her voice after so long. I told her not too long ago that I’m glad she’s here. Her response: me too. – J
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