My Mother

Her body misbehaved and flung clots. Some lodged in the brain and messed up motor and sensory, a little bit of cognitive, all of which she’ll probably bounce back from. One lodged in her right calf muscle and they had to make two parallel slices and weren’t at all sure she could keep the limb, although eventually they detected enough pulse in the foot that they stopped threatening to remove it. Unfortunately the remaining clot blocked the femoral artery in the other leg and a good chunk of that leg turned into the equiv of raw pot roast, and they had to take it off at the knee.

She’s in the same state of mind I think I’d be in if it were me. Except that she’s 82 and has some other impairments and more amassed legitimate reason to consider calling it quits.

I’m alternating nights with my dad, so we never have to leave her unattended (my sister was doing this before I got down here, she has mandatory training this week; she’s done and will in the future continue to do more of this than I do but this is my week to be useful).

She says if this is how it is, she should have died, doesn’t want to stay alive. On the other hand, we can’t exactly smother her with a pillow, nor does the hospital bring a form each morning with a blank to check “No, let me die” as an option. So in hopes of getting the fuck out of there so she can go home and die, she’s demanded PT and told them when they appeared “Help me transfer to that chair”. PT: “… oh really? Already? Uhhh… hold on we need to get some equipment”. They brought in a “Sara Stable” device with an overhead bar to grab hold of with your hands and thigh pads to lean your thigh(s) against, and wrapped sheets around her butt and flung her upright and she was standing. Briefly. Did I mention that her remaining leg has a pair of deep incisions in the calf muscle where they cut out clots? One of them began to rip open, flinging staples. Next time, Ace bandage around that calf. She’s discouraged a bit. Hates the damn tubes and wires: oxygen, multiple IVs directly to heart from clavicle area, foley catheter, multiple cardio electrodes, finger attachment-thingie that reads her O2 levels, etc.

She has cognitive impairments that lead her to send me down for orange juice and when I come up with it she doesn’t want to drink it all: “Save the rest for the foot. Use the orange juice to unscrew my foot so we can get out of here”.

It’s hard when she’s not coherent. It’s hard when she is. There’s so little that I can do. I think maybe I’m the only family member authenticating how she feels when she feels like she’d rather be dead. You would in her situation. I would. Anyone would. Not all the time, but some of the time. And also mourning. It’s a horrible loss. All this optimistic bouncy cheerful “you’ll be back in no time, good prosthesis, you won’t let this stop you” stuff has got to be exhausting. In her case, if anyone’s, it’s probably accurate, but fuck. Everyone needs some time to cry about what they’ve lost.

Including me. Not that I’ve lost her yet. But the event really underlines for me that they day will come, it’s just a matter of when, unless for some reason I predecease her. Do not like. I don’t like to see her like this. Don’t like to contemplate all that she’s lost. Don’t want her alive and suffering miserably. Don’t want her to not be in my life.

I was packing up stuff for her to take to rehab in case they transfer her tomorrow. She has a jewelry box on her dresser I remember from when I was 6 or 7 or so. It was also a music box, you could wind it up and it would play a Japanese melody. We were forbidden to play with it as kids but she’d wind it up for us now and then and let us listen as a special treat. Yeah of course I tried winding it up. It doesn’t work any more, probably hasn’t done so in decades. But it was her from when I was seven, you know? And doesn’t play any more. Hit me hard. Finally crying.

Better crying than numb and moving from task to task.

I’m very, very sorry for what you are going through. I don’t have any words of wisdom. I can just empathize with what you’re going through.

“Use the orange juice to unscrew my foot”
She wants a screwdriver? Mix her up one. :stuck_out_tongue: Be as kind as possible to her and to yourself. Best of luck AHunter3.

I found this very hard to read and I am sure it’s even harder for you to live through. We are absolutely at the mercy of our bodies and that is horrifying. You are doing a good thing to be as real for her as possible. I know she appreciates it.

I’m so sorry. It’s a hard adjustment to make at any age. Do they know why she threw so many clots? Any concern it will happen again?

{{{hugs}}} I wish I could offer you more. :frowning:

Oh I am so so sorry! I don’t really have anything else to say, I know it sounds trite, but hang in there. :frowning:

You story’s unbearable. Stick with her and try to get her home where she’ll be a lot happier.

This all sounds terrible, AHunter. You have a lot to process. I wish peace for you and your family, whatever the future holds.

Sorry, dude. Sad for Mom, Sad for all. I’ll think about y’all when I meditate.:frowning:

I’m really sorry and hope this will pass as painlessly as possibly, for all four of you.

I’m sorry, it must be shitty for all of you having to deal with it.

All I can say is that things do heal and when they heal things are not quite as shitty. The platitudinous “oh, things will all be great” is obvious nonsense when you’ve got something permanent to put up with, but things can be MUCH better. I am saying this as somebody who ended up with 3 major surgeries instead of just one, and six weeks in hospital (got out end of July) and ongoing things and things I am probably stuck with forever. Things do improve over time. I try to remember when it was (much) worse and when I do, I realise that I’m better than I was and things are better than they were.

Even though your mum is an older person, older people can improve after significant health incidents. Look at Kirk Douglas. He had a debilitating stroke and he’s still kicking at a hundred and something years old. He worked after the stroke, even though he had to learn how to speak again. I know how hard it is to stay positive when you feel awful and have to contend with medical “stuff”, but things can and do improve over time, even with older people. They might not spring back as quickly as a young person might, but that doesn’t mean they won’t recover in time.

I know what you mean about being numb, and going from task to task. Please take care of yourself as much as you can without guilt.

I’m not skilled with words of comfort, but you and your family have my sympathy and best wishes.

She’s got an intermittent atrial fibrillation, generally non-life-threatening and reappearing a couple times per minute in perpetuity. If I understand/recall correctly, there was an expensive invasive and somewhat risky procedure that she opted not to go for because it wasn’t causing any discernable problems, but it does make clots more likely. Anyway they say that extended over the years like this it was a bit of a time bomb.

Is she religious at all? When my mother-in-law was in the hospital after a sudden heart attack, there was a chaplain who came and met with her several times. It gave her great comfort. If your mother is not inclined that way, perhaps the hospital have grief counselors or something similar to help her process this.

Grace, peace, strength, and kindness to all of you!

Yes, they’re just words, but they’re all I have.

Hugs for you and your mom, I’m sorry for this.


She was in rehabilitation, where they were supposed to help her gain the physical skills to transfer from bed to wheelchair, to become more self-sufficient. No one came when she clicked the buzzer and she didn’t care for the place.

One morning when I came in, the staff approached the family and said they recommended putting her back in the hospital; her oxygen levels weren’t good and she had symptoms of congestive heart failure. I said “She won’t go”. Mama confirmed that. “Well, in that case, can we at least inject her with Lasix, to reduce her water retention?”

I asked, “Umm, she should already be on it, as an oral medication. Has she been getting her ‘HCTZ’ pills?”

Nope. Lost in the shuffle somehow. Yeesh.

My sister didn’t care for this facility either and found a rehab facility that looked to be more professionally run and had her transferred there, with her consent (since, as I said, she didn’t like the first place).

Hours later they bundled her off to the hospital and stuck more tubes down her throat. By now I was back in NY. My Dad says she was crying, very unhappy with the situation. She apparently indicated to social services that she wanted to go home to die. There was a delay getting things ready on the home front but the family supported her decision and she was in the living room in a hospital bed, at home.

She ate well and seemed to be in good spirits and interacted with people. I spoke with her on the phone briefly.

Next day, apparently, she began to withdraw. Didn’t want to eat, and … the way my Dad put it was that talking to her was like calling an office and getting the answering machine. She’d answer questions put to her but wasn’t really tuning in. Then when they were turning her to change the sheets she just…quit. No breath, no heartbeat.

It’s all been shockingly fast. This time last month she was cooking supper, swimming laps in the pool, answering emails on the computer, singing in the church choir.

Neither she nor my Dad ever wanted a long drawn-out convalescence spiraling down through increasing indignities before death. She said her time had come and that she wanted to die at home, and she did. I hope when my time comes I approach it with similar dignity.

I’m glad I had a chance to say goodbye and talk with her as we did.

When I was 8, she had become concerned about racial inequality and in particular how black children in the south didn’t get to start off from the same equal beginning point in school. She got involved in Head Start and then a couple years later switched to being a full-time elementary school teacher, always teaching in the schools in Valdosta GA that were designated “underprivileged”. Some of her students had never actually seen a white person at close range. She taught at Central Elementary and then at West Gordon, and regularly conspired with an administrator, Mr. Virgil Beck, to try to secure an equitable portion of the town’s educational funds for their schools. She didn’t talk much about social politics, just enough to inform us of why she wanted to do this. Picket signs weren’t her kind of thing. She just did what she believed in.

(She also became the first woman in the Methodist Church to show up for a church function in a pantsuit, in 1966 or thereabouts. She later overheard some other women chatting: “If Missus Hunter can do it, I’m going to do it too”)

When I was in high school she went back to take adult education classes in differential equations and calculus and qualified to work at Los Alamos National Labs in the “CMB” division, doing spectroscopic analysis of nonmetallic (hence “ceramic”) materials. She was the first woman in her work group and there were some guys who didn’t want any women in there and were nasty and belligerent about it. She outlasted them and integrated the place, blazing a trail in her nonchalant quiet way.

She made a loving home and made me and my sister feel deeply cared for. It meant a lot in later years when the world beyond the walls of our home was not a very welcoming place for me.

When I was in my mid-30s and early 40s I enjoyed telling my friends that my 50-something Mom had taken up scuba diving and was out in the Caribbean exploring coral reefs and such.

She taught me how to cook her recipes. (I also inherited her kitchen mannerisms, dashing around and telling everyone to get out from underfoot, get out of my kitchen, don’t be in my way. My partner refers to it as “dervishing”). She taught me the beginnings of how to play the piano, and to sing.


Oh Ahunter, I am so, so very sorry. Please accept my condolences to you and your family.

My condolences to you and your family. Thank you for sharing some of your memories. She sounds like an amazing woman. I’d love to learn more about her sometime.