13Oct/1812

Mom’s Passing & The Last 6 Months

I received an e-mail at 3:09p.m. on May 21st, 2018 from my mother:

“Something is wrong with me–I need to go to the clinic to get checked out please. I don’t want to alarm Gram.”

This short message took Mom a very, very long time to type out on her computer and send. Her overriding thought was simply not to stress my grandmother out. The cost? Several minutes during which time each and every second counts when you’ve had a stroke. Thank God for Ralph because while I raced to Mom’s house from work, he talked her into allowing him to call an ambulance.

The first stroke pushed her back on her butt, but Mom rebounded and, while processing things a bit slower and talking a bit slower in order to get the words right, rebound she did. Then Grandma died six days later. We were afraid Mom would end up right back in the hospital if she went to see Grandma that day, so we didn’t bring her. I’ve mentioned previously how I drove over to the house and give Mom the news.

Knocked back on her butt again.

We spent weeks working through intense fatigue, speech therapy, and physical therapy. Me, my aunt, and Mom’s friends became her cheerleaders. We pushed. We made sure she knew we had her back. We supported. Mom, for the first time in her life, listened to the doctors and took her medication. She was diagnosed with diabetes, high blood pressure, and put on blood thinners. And when Mom went into the hospital for something seemingly unrelated in July, they had to take her off blood thinners while they got things under control.

She had a second stroke three days later.

I was at my neighbor’s house feeding their dog when I received the call. A blood clot formed somewhere in her body, broke free, and got lodged in the left side of her head. They needed my permission to go in and remove it. I gave verbal consent, then hightailed it back to the hospital. My aunt waited with me while the doctors managed to snag the clot on the first try. Unfortunately, damage had been done.

Mom wasn’t eating much since the first stroke, possibly because she’d gotten it in her head she needed to lose weight due to the diabetes. Her appetite got worse after the second stroke. The doctors weren’t concerned the first couple of days, but her lack of an appetite eventually became an issue. The temporary tube they’d put down her nose delivered enough sustenance to keep her going, but it was a short-term solution at best. A friend of Mom’s brought in food for her to eat. My aunt brought food in for her to eat. I brought items from Outback Steakhouse, Boston Market and a local bakery for her to eat. Little progress was gained.

The doctors talked me into having a peg tube inserted into her stomach so they could continue to feed her, plus give her medication. I finally agreed.

We all worked with mom during her recovery, did everything we could to keep her spirits up, tried to get her to eat, etc. Things looked up, but perhaps we were being a little blinded by what we hoped for versus what was. It never dawned on me she might not come home. Her primary doctor agreed.

Mom recovered enough after 5 or 6 weeks to be sent to rehabilitation facility in August. She continued to receive radiation therapy during this time and would need it for another two weeks after discharge, so we chose a rehab place close by. I didn’t like what I read about Heartland of Grosse Pointe online, but as I said, they were close. The therapists were wonderful and the only positive thing about Mom’s stay there. She fell three times during her weeks there—not uncommon, perhaps—and was found lying in her own feces twice, something that shouldn’t be common.

She became combative during her time there. Mom didn’t want to cooperate with the staff, lashed out at them, called out for my father and her mother at the top of her lungs, and wound up getting medicated to calm her down. We couldn’t figure out why her behavior changed.

The final straw came when I received a call on my cell phone while at work that Mom fell while under observation in front of the nurse’s station where they lined all the other patients up in wheelchairs who needed constant supervision. They told me mom had a little red mark above her eye and they were sending her to the hospital to get an x-ray on her arm since they thought she landed on it.

Her arm was fine. The little red mark above her eye turned out to be much more than that. I’ll share a picture of it at a later time. It doesn’t feel appropriate to do here and now.

Mom also suffered from a urinary tract infection and dehydration, which explained her change in behavior. The hospital did put her on some anti-psychotic medication to help level her behavior out, which it did.

She spent three weeks in the hospital recovering and got sent to Medilodge of Shoreline near Lakeside Mall in September. This visit lasted 10 days, during which time the therapists couldn’t get her to progress. Insurance finally cut her stay off and I was to have Mom transported to a facility where her family doctor would have staff give her a psych evaluation in order to figure out what was going on.

Medilodge didn’t feel Mom needed the psych eval, that she was simply adapting to a new place and this would be her behavior from here on out. Mind you, they were giving her anti-psychotic medication every 8 hours, which essentially turned her into a babbling vegetable. I was so freaked out by the change in her behavior that I took video footage of it on my phone. The administration would only put on the transportation order that the move to another hospital was at the request of the family, meaning I’d be responsible for paying for the ambulance since it wasn’t considered a medical emergency.

Fine.

I took a Friday off from work, arrived at 1:30 to pack mom’s room up, then sat with her at 2 when the ambulance was supposed to arrive. The drivers showed up at 4:10. They had paperwork to drive her from Lakeside to 11 Mile and Dequinder. I left 5 minutes before they did, arrived at the hospital, and waited with my aunt for over an hour. No mom. I finally called Medilodge and after a brief check, they called me back and said the ambulance dropped mom off 5 minutes from where she’d been. No explanation was given or been offered since.

I asked if Medilodge would please call the ambulance company and ask how they’d get her from the wrong hospital to the correct one. I was told “Well, your mother is no longer under our care, so we really don’t want to do that.” I called the Emergency Room where Mom was, talked to the doctor there, and discovered Mom’s blood pressure was dangerously low and she had yet another urinary tract infection.

We drove back out to Henry Ford Macomb Hospital, gave them Mom’s discharge and medication paperwork, and spoke to the staff. My aunt stayed until Mom got moved up to a room, and I went home to take care of Mom’s dog. Again, that was Friday. Saturday was quiet until later that night. I received a call from a nurse that Mom pulled her peg tube out. They wanted to know if I wanted it put back in. We were assessing Mom’s condition at this point and looking at her possible future, so I told them I did NOT want it put back in right now. They said that was fine.

My aunt called me Sunday morning and told me the peg tube had been put back in. I still do not have an explanation at this time as to why this was done against my wishes. I suspect it’s a moot point now, though.

I spoke to Mom’s doctor and a couple of other staff members, gathered all the information available from all the tests, and looked at past and present behavior. I then spoke with Ralph and my aunt, and I had a heart-to-heart with mom. She wasn’t talking that Monday, but was instead focusing, listening, and nodding, a very rare bit of time when I could reach her. I laid it all out for her. I told her this is how her doctors saw things, how this would continue to be her future, this would be her quality of life, and then I asked “Do you want to stay like this?”

She shook her head “no” and I started crying. She reached up and pulled me closer to her. I told her this is the answer I needed, and that I’d do everything I could to respect her wishes.

I gave the okay the following morning to put Mom into hospice care. They discontinued feeding through the peg tube, and stopped all medications except those that added to her comfort. She already wasn’t eating, and continued to not eat.

We transferred Mom to a nursing facility where the rest of hospice care would play out. We’re pretty certain she had a small third stroke based on a facial droop on her right side, plus her right hand isn’t active at all either. Her left side, though? Mom has always been a tactile person. It drove me nuts when I was growing up. But now we all sit next to her and hold her hand, which she grabs onto and rarely lets go.

I drove home on October 6th to feed her dog, then drove back. Everybody else was gone. I sat down and decided to talk to mom and put any lingering thoughts she might have about us to rest. I told her I had no unresolved issues with her and hoped she didn’t have any with me. Letting her go is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do, but I would do so with a glad heart knowing she’d be with dad, grandma, and her favorite grandparents.

Things will be fine here. My aunt will be fine, I will be fine, and Ralph will be fine. I know she’ll look in on me from time to time and one day, when it’s my time, I’ll join her, my dogs, and my relatives in the next adventure. Until then, our journey here will continue.

I brought in a CD player and burned a number of discs for her to listen to, songs I knew she loved. I played them to comfort her. It’s all about comfort at this point. And we could only sit there, hold her hand, talk to her, and watch her light fade.

Mom passed away today, October 13th, around 8:30a.m.

I haven’t talked about these past couple of months on social media. My co-workers knew and remain incredibly supportive. My relatives knew as did my mother’s closest friends, and they remain incredibly supportive as well. Some of my friends knew. Amanda (some of you will know her as G.A. Hauser) and I e-mailed almost daily. Martha Davis sent me e-mails asking how mom was doing and how I was holding up.

My sincere thanks to all of them. They helped us keep our sanity.

Part of me is angry. We’ve lost my father-in-law, my father, my grandmother, so many friends, and now my mother. And yet part of me is okay knowing they’re all safe, with each other, and waiting for us to catch up one day.

Imagine the stories we’ll have then to tell them.

Just imagine.

________________________
Kristoffer Gair (who formerly wrote under the pseudonym Kage Alan) is the Detroit-based author of Honor Unbound, A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To My Sexual Orientation, Andy Stevenson Vs. The Lord Of The Loins, Gaylias: Operation Thunderspell, several short stories featured in anthologies (to be combined in a forthcoming book), the recently re-published novella Falling Awake, and sequel, Falling Awake II: Revenant.

12 Responses to “Mom’s Passing & The Last 6 Months”

  1. Diana Kathryn Plopa says:

    Dear Kristoffer,

    I am deeply saddened by your loss, and am sending warm thoughts of kindness, support, and gentle healing at this most difficult time. I know that you did everything in your power to make your mother’s last weeks, days on Earth comfortable, kind, warm, and loving. I am certain she loves you for all you have done and continue to do in her memory.

    Heartfelt Hugs,
    Diana Kathryn

  2. Rose Guastella says:

    I’m so sorry, Kristoffer.

  3. Ruth Gutscher says:

    I’m sorry you all had to deal with hospitals & nursing home issues as you did trying to get the best care for your Mom ..
    This made me cry,brought memories back from when my Mom passed..It’s hard to let them go,but knowing they’re in a better place free of pain,and with other loved ones eases the pain just a small bit ..And know they will always be with you in your heart to treasure .
    My deepest sympathies are with you & your loved ones at this time ..

  4. Martha Swartz says:

    My heart breaks for you. I know the loss all to well from losing my mom less than 2 yrs ago. Know you are deeply thought of & loved.

  5. Susie Happ says:

    I am so sorry about your Mom and that you had to go thru this nightmare but I know you did the very best for her. I didn’t know her real well but loved chatting with her at the flower shop. It breaks my heart and makes me think my worries are nothing in comparison to what you all have gone through. She is in a better place it’s true but that doesn’t make you miss them any less. Always and forever in your heart. Sending peaceful thought and prayers she loved you so much.

  6. Bambi says:

    Kristopher… that was just beautifuly written…
    I’m sorry I didn’t get back to see her…
    I do believe she is together with family and will forever watch over you…

  7. Carrie Klein says:

    Kristoffer,
    I’m so very, very sorry for the loss of your mom. I will always remember Kathy as a strong and funny woman. I know she loved you fiercely and I’m very sure you and she made the right decision to let her go with dignity.
    Take comfort in your memories and in knowing that you brought a great deal of joy to both of your parents.

  8. George Pappas says:

    You’ve done your mum, and dad before, proud Kris and as much as any child could do. As you know I’ve been through the mill with my parents and can empathize.

    Your mum is now no longer suffering and after the funeral is convened you can begin to ‘peacefully’ grieve and mend, without the emotional and psychological hysteria that acute suffering and sudden death creates.

    My thoughts are with you and Ralph….

  9. Jodi Slaughter says:

    I send healing peace and solace for you and your loved ones. Healing Grace

  10. Denise Klein says:

    Kristoffer,
    My heart goes out to you, not only for the passing of your mom, but all the pain and difficulty you went through with end of life medical care, and the many decisions you had to make. Your mom was blessed to have you be there. Wishing you peace. Take care of yourself.
    Denise and John

  11. ErrynB says:

    As hard as it was to share, someone may learn from your heartache. Thank you for letting her go peacefully. That probably meant more to her than you’ll ever know.

    You are in my heart.

  12. Ann Alaskan says:

    Dear Kristopher. Sincerest Condolences to you and your Family and friends. All of you are in my Heart & Thoughts & Prayers Allowing our Loved Ones to leave us with our assurances of well being is a great gift you gave your Mom. She will Always live in your memories & Heart & Soul. We respect your need for privacy & are always here to support you. Now known as AnnWY .. Love from Pat Smalley

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