Flash forward 8 years and I arrived at her apartment at 3 pm, but she did not answer the door. I called the office of her apartment complex demanding they bring a key to open her door. Although I had a key for the inside door, I did not have a key for the outer storm door. The maintenance man arrived then said, "I don't have a key to the storm door either. Maybe I could see if she left a window opened?"
I looked at this man in disbelief, "What do you weigh, about 150 pounds? I could throw you through the French Door. That will get me in." Suddenly he decided to cut a hole in the screen to unlock the storm door. I entered, fearful I was about to find Mom dead. She's 77 now, so anything is possible.
Instead I found a dizzy and disoriented woman. She had been laying on the floor for eight hours and injured herself while trying to climb to her feet. She'd hit her head causing a concussion and had trouble walking. I quickly pulled out the walker from the back of the closet that had not been used since her knee surgery all those years ago.
Upon our arrival at the hospital, we were told her blood pressure was 248/100. Her calcium and kidney levels were too high, she was in renal failure and I was told she most likely had some sort of cancer. Mom began forgetting things such as her kids' birth dates and her own social security number. I was hysterical. Everything about her looked weak and dying. Her hands were wrinkled and dry looking with veins popping out, she could hardly move, and for the first time ever--- Mom was an old lady. She saw how upset I was and told me, "Don't worry. I have no expiration date." What the HELL was that supposed to mean?
After MRIs, Xrays, CAT, Scopes, EEG, EKG and a ton of other tests, it was determined she had no cancer--- just a small cyst, high blood pressure, anemia, and some stomach issues. But no cancer--which is what I expected because of her family history. She was still forgetful and seeing things--such as bugs crawling on the wall and shapes in the curtains--due to a concussion. At one point the nurse asked her who the US President is, she knew... then asked what day of the week it was, she got that wrong-- but that is normal for her! I wanted her to remain in the hospital for a bit, so I convinced the doctors to send her to rehab once she stabilized. I figured this way she could receive 24/7 monitoring in case the blood pressure got out of control again.
A couple days later, she was moved to the rehab floor. I arrived at the hospital with bags full of clothes for the next week. What I found was a feisty and determined young Mom, not the frail, dying one. She kept getting out of bed which caused a horrible alarm to ring, because she was considered a "Fall Risk". She shouted, "Isn't this ridiculous? Every time I move a buzzer goes off like a game show. I want out of here."
An aide came, "You need to stay in bed. You know to call me if you want to go to the bathroom."
Mom did not take kindly to this, "You aren't all the big, I'm not afraid of you." She climbed back into bed, but each time her wait shifted, the alarm sounded. "That's it, I'm going home." There was no point to refuse her.
The doctor came in and I asked what she thought. "I've never seen anyone recover from renal failure so quickly. What is wrong with her can easily be controlled with meds, and she does need rehab for the knee, but if she is willing to have the home rehab, I see nothing wrong with her going home today." That was all she needed to hear. She grabbed her clothes from the bags I brought and shuffled to the bathroom to dress. Once we checked out, she suggested a diner then wanted to walk around CVS--all without a walker.
When bedtime came around, I was concerned about the height of her bed. She normally uses a step stool to get in it--she's really short and it is really high. There is no hand rail on the stool though, so I worried. Before I could adjust the height of her cane to use as support, she hopped up into the bed and huffed, "Oh, how wonderful... my own bed!" She smiled and said, "I told you, I'm not dying... I have no expiration date... I'm going to live forever."
When I told her she isn't allowed to drive for two weeks she responded, "My god, am I on parole? You put me in jail, now I'm on parole and they are going to tell me where I can go and what I can do?" I just shake my head, equating a hospital to jail is something I never considered.
Of course she'll die eventually. But somehow my vision of her living to be 110 seems more real than before. My nerves are still shot.. my insides still tremble, knowing how dire things had become. She's perfectly happy in her bed asleep.