Continued from yesterday:
I was visiting Mom at the nursing home on a Thursday afternoon. She seemed okay, but a bit fatigued. She told me she’d gotten dizzy at rehab that morning, and she was lying on her bed when I arrived. I gently chided her to get up to receive her esteemed guest, but she was too tired.
We watched TV for a while, but she seemed to have trouble working the remote. She went to adjust the volume, but ended up changing the channel. And left it there. Which is weird for a woman who’s now watching My Wife and Kids on ABCFamily after decades of watching nothing but the Food Network and Fox News. She’s never even heard of Damon Wayans.
After a while, I decided to go downstairs to find her case manager and talk to him about getting Mom released. He wasn’t in his office, so I came back upstairs.
When I walked back in the room, I felt that something was terribly wrong.
“Mom?” Still lying on the bed, she turned toward the sound of my voice. “Mom, are you okay?”
She looked at me, literally googly-eyed. One eye managed to fix on my face, but the other reeled in her eye socket. Her face was flushed.
I rushed to her side, alarmed. “Mom, can you talk?” I hit the nurse call button. I waited for alarms to blare, but…nothing. I pounded it. “I’m calling for the nurse, Mom!”
She only seemed to be moving the limbs on her left side. I was sure it was a stroke.
After what seemed like hours, but must have been only seconds, I darted into the hallway and started for the nurses’ station. There was no medical profession in sight.
“I need a nurse,” I called. Panic seeped in. “Nurse!”
A nurse in Steelers scrubs appeared from a doorway. “It’s my mom…Connie!” She followed me back toward Mom’s room. “I—I think it’s a stroke!”
I choked back a frightened sob as the room filled with people. They surrounded the bed, talking to her, examining her. Someone called, “Check her sugar! It was low this morning.”
Sure enough, her blood sugar was 31. Normal is 80-120.
She was slurring her speech heavily by this time. Someone ran to get her orange juice. A nurse injected something (Glucose? Fructose?) into her belly. By the time the juice arrived, she was even more out-of-it. She drank only an ounce or two.
They checked the sugar again. Still low. Too low.
Less responsive. Approaching a diabetic coma.
Another injection. They switched from juice to a sugary gel. She couldn’t swallow it.
They called the paramedics. If they didn’t get an IV into her….
Now, it sounds easy. Call the paramedics, get an IV.
Except every time she’s needed blood drawn over the last several months, she’s needed a half an hour and three or four people to try it. Her blood vessels are so bad, she’s needed a central line put in at the hospital. They can’t stick her in the crook of her arm and get anything. Even her hand isn’t reliable.
The EMTs arrived. One of them says, regarding his IV skillz: “They tell me I’m good…let’s see if it’s true.”
He nails it. Left hand. First try.
Sugarwater flows into my mama’s body, saving it from shutting down.
Mom begins to come around. “What’s going on?”she slurrs, drunkenly.
“It’s a party!” I told her, looking at the roomful of nurses and EMTs. “We started the Steelers party early!” It was days before their last playoff game.
One of the nurses held up the tube of sugary goo Mom had been working on. “You started with the frosting, Connie!”
So the EMTs took her back to the ER. We held Mom’s room at the nursing home to the tune of $300 per day. It took days for Mom’s sugar to stabilize. They never did pinpoint the reason for the sugar crash, but a leading theory was that the cancer was attacking her adrenal gland, thereby affecting her blood sugar.
That night, she requested a DNR (do not resuscitate) status.
That was tough.
She arrived back at the nursing home on Super Bowl Sunday, just as the game was starting. The four of us went over to watch the first half of the game with her.
She continued her therapy, and finally came home to her independent apartment, six weeks to the day since she had gone to the doctor’s office.