The “D” word

So Little Sis and I arrived at Mom’s today to join her for lunch. We found Chiquita in the chapel with about 12 other residents; they were doing a strength and flexibility workout video. It was being led by J., one of the nurse’s aides and one of the “girls” who helps my mom three days a week with showers and laundry. J. is a whirlwind of energy and enthusiasm. A former kindergarten teacher, she brings that same fun, kindness and gentleness to her current line of work.

J. waved us in, and we ducked to the back of the room and sat near Chiquita. Little Sis immediately jumped into the workout and copied everything, much to Chiquita’s (and J.’s) delight. She was J.’s helper and collected all the resistance bands from the residents. About 15 minutes later, the relaxation portion of the video started. A few moments later, eyes closed, Little Sis murmured, “Mommy, I feel sleepy….” So cute!

After the class, Chiquita and Little Sis headed down the hall to the dining room. I hung back so I could catch J.

“Thank you so much for coming!” she bubbled.

“Thank YOU for…well, for taking such good care of my mom.” We hugged.

“Today was the first time I EVER saw my mom work out in my life,” I told her. “My sister and I have been trying for years, and you’ve done what we couldn’t. What was your secret?”

“I told her I was nervous about leading the class, and that I needed her there for moral support,” she smiled. She told me Mom had been to all three weekly classes so far.

J. mentioned that Chiquita had told her about her doctor’s appointment last week. The appointment was with the kidney clinic. AFter being told that her kidneys were down to about 20% efficiency, she’d already been put on a strict renal failure diet (in addition to the heart diet and diabetic diets she was supposed to be on). At this appointment, though, they discussed studying dialysis options.

“I know your mom’s worried,” J. said as she straightened the chairs in the chapel.

“Has she told you about her sister?” I asked.

Her eyes widened. “No…what happened?”

I told her about how her sister, my favorite aunt, had died of complications of diabetes. She was a diabetic, and by the time her kidneys failed, she was too sick already to be put on the transplant list. She went to dialysis, and slowly, gradually, the complications appeared. Eyesight failing…amputations…first, just fingers and toes, then feet and hands…pretty awful to watch. She was an elementary school teacher who didn’t take any crap (believe me, my sister tried!) but dedicated her life to her students and nieces and nephews. She was my mom’s best friend.

She died December 26, 1998. She loved Christmas, and vowed to make it that long, I guess.

I miss her terribly.

But that’s why Chiquita’s so afraid of the “D” word: dialysis. I guess she figures it might be the beginning of the end.

But she’s working out now. And she’s been more strict about this eating plan in the last month than any other since…well, ever. So maybe we can hold out a while.


About Kathleen

Kathleen Heuer is a serial arts advocate and volunteer. She is the mom of two beautiful girls, wife to a brilliant nuclear engineer, and referee between her golden retriever and her hissy 18-year-old cat. For more, go to
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3 Responses to The “D” word

  1. I hope she can hold out for a long while.

  2. Beq says:

    This is such a heart-warming story. I’m grateful for loving healthcare workers like “J”. I need my mommy…I am thrilled Chiquita has changed her lifestyle.

  3. Pingback: Rally recap « Sandwiched

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