Monday, 20 June 2016

Another hospital visit for mum

When I got up to the nursing home to visit mum today she was like she looks in this photo: quite incommunicado. Not hearing, not responding to words. We called the ambulance. I popped downstairs to have a word with the deputy director of the nursing home. She heard me out as usual. I got from her the message that mum is getting close to the end. I went back upstairs to wait for the paramedics to arrive, and when they did I talked to them to answer their questions, then went outside with them and drove to the hospital.

I sat in the emergency area waiting room for about 45 minutes then snuck outside to the kiosk and bought a sandwich and a drink for lunch. I was hungry and the simple food they serve there was exactly what I craved. I went back in the emergency waiting room and went to the desk to ask if it was ok to go inside, and if the doctors inside had asked to talk with me.

They let me in. The nurse at the desk told me to put on a plastic apron before going into mum's enclosed room. (She is quite toxic because of the MRSA in her leg.) I sat there with the white apron over my outdoors jacket feeling a bit odd, like a cook without a stove, and talked to mum gently while she lay there. Occasionally she would say something like "My legs are cold" and I would get a new blanket for her. Mainly though she just lay there breathing with the heart machine beeping away happily.

I spoke to the young female doctor. She brought me a copy of the AHD which the nursing home had included with mum's things to go with her in the ambulance. We talked about it. Especially the part where it says that in the case of a terminal illness she is not to be given antibiotics. I told the doctor that my inclination was to give her vancomycin but that if the hospital said otherwise I wouldn't complain. Then when the doctor had left to get back to her work I called the nursing home and asked to speak to the deputy director.

The nurse I was speaking to talked to me gently and told me that I could choose for mum, but that she understood it was a terrible responsibility. She said it was an awful thing to have to decide; whether someone lived or died. But she said she understood if I wanted to end things because the vancomycin - although it is a strong antibiotic - was only a "band aid" (the exact word she used). If we gave it to mum today then in two weeks' time she could be again on her way to the hospital in an ambulance.

Then she said I had done everything possible for my mother. I had been a good son. And this made me weep. The idea that I could have got this right - this caring for mum in these awkward days I had not prepared for - made me break down and shed hot tears. I tore off the apron and headed outside to the emergency nurse's desk, and said I had to go home. The nurse however followed me out into the hallway and asked if I was ok. I told him that I thought that it was pointless to keep treating mum because she was just going to get sick again, and that we should respect the words in the AHD that mum had herself signed off on two years earlier. I told him through the tears that I had been looking after mum for seven years now. And that now I was tired of the constant worry and anxiety the sickness instilled in everyone around her.

I went out to the car and stopped off at the servo on the way home to refuel and buy a sandwich. When I got home I opened a bottle of wine and poured myself a glass. Never had wine tasted so good. I was so exhausted by the neverending worry about mum and her leg. Later, after I had eaten some dinner, the nursing home called me to tell me that mum had returned, but that she wasn't able to take the oral antibiotics the hospital had sent along with her. I called the hospital to confirm what to do and they called the nursing home. The nursing home called me back a while later and we had another conversation, the nurse and I. But I feel as though my mother is already calling from beyond the grave.

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