Friday, October 19, 2007

Mom's in the Hospital

My mother's back in the hospital, this time with breathing difficulties caused either by bronchitis or walking pneumonia; they're doing tests on her to try to figure out what's going on, but on the meantime she's on antibiotics.

I found out about this last night. Gary and I were at a chamber-music concert when my phone started vibrating in my purse (during intermission, fortunately!). I never keep my phone on unless I'm traveling, but I'd forgotten to turn it off after the Vegas trip. Thank goodness I had it on vibrate: I would have been mortified had it started ringing.

Anyway, by the time I fumbled through the contents of my purse to locate the buzzing monster, the caller had left a message. When I was looking for the phone, I'd figured the call would probably be a telemarketer or something, since it was 11:30 Eastern time, too late for my family to call unless something was seriously wrong.

But the phone told me I'd missed a call from my sister's cellphone, and I started to panic. This couldn't be good. I listened to her message and she said she was taking Mom to the hospital but that it wasn't "really critical," whatever that meant. I tried to call my sister's cell, but the call didn't go through because my battery was nearly dead. (One of the weirdnesses here, I later learned, is that she called my cell by accident, assuming I'd be home; she decided to leave a message anyway. But ordinarily she wouldn't have called the cell, and I wouldn't have had it on.)

At that point, the second half of the concert was about to start. "You can't do anything from here," Gary said, very sensibly. He settled in to enjoy the music. I thought about leaving to try to call Liz, but Gary couldn't get home without me, so I stayed, twitching and fretting (which was too bad, because the music was really lovely). The minute the concert was over, I raced outside the hall and tried Liz again.

This time I got through, but the call kept breaking up, so I told her I'd call her when we got home. But the next time I reached her, from a land line in our kitchen, she said, "I have to call you back. The doctor's here."

So I settled down to knit and wait. I still wasn't sure what was going on, except that Liz didn't sound overly worried. I kept having visions of sudden codes, kept imagining my mother as a patient at my own hospital. Wasn't the doctor taking a long time? It had been twenty minutes already!

I calmed my nerves somewhat with the knitting. One of the mantras I say to myself when I swim, to a three-beat pattern (would that make it a swimming waltz?), is "Help me dis/cern your will;/help me walk/in your ways." This time, since I was knitting in a K3 P3 pattern, I modified the mantra to, "Help me ac/cept your will;/help me dwell/in your peace."

It sort of worked, but I was very relieved when the phone rang. My sister said that in addition to having a lot of breathing trouble at home, Mom had been very disoriented (which could be caused by all kinds of things, including infection). My sister had called Mom's doctor, who said she should be seen, so Liz called the ambulance. "The doctor was really nice," she said. "He was very thorough; he was here for a long time."

I didn't tell her that I'd been having visions of intubations and chest compressions. I did start asking medical questions, although I should have known better, since my sister can't stand that stuff.

"She's breathing better now? They have her on oxygen?"

"Yes, and she's less disoriented, but the doctor says he still wants to see her breathing get easier."

"What was her pulse-ox when she came in?"

"I don't know!" I could just see Liz rolling her eyes. "I wasn't here when she first got here, and I wouldn't even think to ask that question! I don't even know what that means! If you want to know that, you have to ask the doctor!"

I spoke to Mom this morning; she said she felt lousy, but she sounded very oriented. All her cardiac tests checked out okay, which is a relief. She isn't sure how long she'll have to stay in the hospital, since they aren't sure what's wrong with her. She had a chest x-ray this morning and almost fell getting off the x-ray table, but the tech caught her. She's been having falling problems for a while now, and Liz and her husband are careful not to leave Mom alone. I asked Mom if she had a special hospital bracelet to alert staff to her falling risk, and she said she did, so that made me feel a little better.

Today I was supposed to chair a committee meeting at work, but four of the seven people on the committee were ill or otherwise unable to attend. The three of us who were there had a productive discussion, and then I headed back to my office to e-mail everyone else about rescheduling the meeting. And since the campus bookstore is moving to our new student center (all the way at the other end of campus!) and was having a 40%-off sale, I decided to do some retail therapy.

The place was mobbed, with very long lines. I got basic stationery supplies for my office, and also a nice straw totebag, colorful and lightweight, which I used as a shopping basket. I wound up in a slow line, and started chatting with the woman in front of me. I mentioned something about how I'd probably use the tote bag as a knitting basket (yes, another one!), and she perked up and said, "Oh, you knit, too?"

She's been knitting for twenty years, it turns out. She knits mainly socks. At my request, she showed me the ones she was wearing, which were gorgeous, knit from a bamboo-and-wool yarn. I told her that I'd like to knit socks, but that it looks intimidatingly difficult; she told me that it's easier than it looks, and gave me the name of a website devoted to sock knitting. She told me that tube socks are the easiest kind to knit. She also told me the name of a good yarn store in town, one I hadn't known about.

And now I realize that on my brain-fog-inspired detour yesterday, I passed that store. I looked at the sign and forced myself not to stop, because I was already late. The lady in line couldn't remember where the store is -- although I could have looked it up in the phone book -- but I already know, more or less. So the detour served a purpose after all!

Knitters: they're everywhere!


  1. I hope your mom's better soon. :)

  2. Prayers ascending, Susan! Hope your mom gets better quick.


  3. I hope your mom gets better soon. I'm getting kind of scared about the convergences - mine's in the hospital again, too (after spending much of the summer there). I'm really glad your mom is doing well. She's definitely in my prayers.

  4. It's scary when moms get sick, isn't it? Mine's not doing well either. I'll pray for your mom too.

  5. Hope your Mom gets better quickly, Susan. It's hard being far away.

  6. Hi Susan,

    glad you noticed my post, I'd meant to leave a comment on your post first but didn't. Could it be.... perimenopause? not implausible.

    so, you think highly of librarians- I think very highly of your blog and find it the perfect combination of medical, philosophical,spiritual and just plain interesting. My prayers are with your family, please keep us updated. Susan

  7. I'm so sorry to hear about your mom! Prayers for her.

    Stress can also make you forgetful, as I keep reminding myself as I forget things while I pack. (On the other hand, they say that perimenopause can last as long as ten years, so that's a great excuse for a long time.)

  8. Anonymous6:13 PM

    Susan, have been sharing my office and my computer with several people this last week, so haven't read about your mother before today.

    Both of your parents are "survivors." Survivors give us many scares, but they're tough as nails. I remember a line from a book I read decades ago: "The only way to greet death death is to have worn out life." Life is wearing out people I know, but in a different way. It's humbling to watch long life, and what we have called "premature" death. I have an old friend who's daughter (age 42) is facing death from cancer and a staph infection. This young woman has not "worn out life", but still there she is. And so, I ramble, your post about hope is appropriate. Ally needs hope; others need release.



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