I’m sitting next to my mom’s hospital bed right now listening to her snore softly. I feel sad to see her bruised cheek and black eye from yesterday’s horrible incident. I have an unlikely mix of high emotions going around and around inside me: extreme gratitude and the after affects of major trauma. Logically I know she’s ok for now, but my adrenal glands are stuck on overdrive as I’ve had a year’s worth of adrenaline pumping through my system for the past 24 hours. I’m in tears every few minutes and flashbacks woke me up several times throughout the night and then came rushing in again early this morning.
Yesterday’s incident is a reminder of how dangerous and tenuous dealing with brain cancer can be. Just last week my mom and I were making plans for Christmas and we talked every day. She sounded very tired and didn’t linger on the phone with small talk, but she was happy and present. But last Thursday she became confused and unable to speak or walk, and was running a fever. So my dad rushed her to the ER and docs quickly ordered an MRI to see what was going on in her brain. They found no tumor growth (hallelujah!), but she did have an infection. They believed all of her symptoms were related to her infection so they immediately started IV antibiotics and thought she’d be in the hospital for only one night.
And she would be home right now except she had a terrible accident yesterday morning.
This is what happened…
Yesterday morning my mom told me she needed to go to the bathroom, and so I asked the nurse to help her. She didn’t come right away and I had to go back and ask her twice. She was busy working at her computer but finally relented. She was very rude while she angrily stomped down the hall and commented under her breath about not being able to get any work done. I had a million different comments rolling around in my head, but since I know the nurses are understaffed and juggling a lot of patients, I bit my tongue and let her bad attitude slide without confrontation. I told my mom I’d be right back. Sometimes the bathroom thing can take awhile, so I went to the little kitchen down the hall and washed out my mom’s soup cup. When I walked back to her room I saw her door was almost all the way closed and I heard my mom quietly apologizing to someone for taking so long. Since I knew it would probably take a little while I decided to go back down the hall and read some books and cancer pamphlets in the family library. I’d been gone maybe 12-15 minutes when all of a sudden I had a bad feeling about my mom. It was a distinct prompting to go to her, so I immediately left all my things and walked quickly to her room. I didn’t know why I felt this feeling, but thank God I acted on it.
I saw that her door was still closed but I didn’t hear any voices this time, so I opened the door and quietly called for my mom. I didn’t hear any response so I slowly opened the door all the way. What I saw shocked and horrified me.
My mom was lying on the floor unconscious. The portable toilet was tipped over and urine and feces were all over the floor around her. I ran to her and dropped to my knees. I picked up her head in my hands and could see she was struggling to breath, but she couldn’t respond to me.
“Oh my God! Mom! Mom!” I yelled. Everything slowed way down and I could feel the urine soaking into my jeans as I assessed the situation.
They left her alone on the toilet. How long has she been on the floor? She’s on blood thinner. Doctors said if she had the slightest fall she could bleed to death. Oh my God. Oh my God! They left her alone. The da&*nurse was too busy with her computer to sit with my mom and wait for her! I should never have left her alone. She needs help. She’s going to die.
It’s amazing how quickly those thoughts raced through my mind. I jumped to my feet and ran down the hall yelling to the nurses.
“She’s on the floor! She’s unconscious! Hurry up and help me! How could you leave her alone! She wasn’t strong enough to be on her own! Get over here and help her! She’s on blood thinner!”
I’ve never been so scared or angry in my life. I ran back into her room with a parade of nurses following me. I kneeled down again and cupped her head in my hands. Mom, mom, can you hear me? I’m here. You’re going to be ok. Oh, mom. I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry.
A minute later she started to seize. Her muscles tightened and I could tell she couldn’t breathe. “She’s having a seizure! Oh my God. Get a doctor. Hurry up! Don’t just stand there – call the doctor!” I growled through gritted teeth.
The room was full of people who were educated to take care of my mom, but nothing could have ripped me away from her side. A nurse got down on her knees on the other side of my mom and started to talk to my mom. “Open your mouth, honey. Open your mouth.” She struggled to get a tongue depressor into my mom’s mouth for what seemed like a lifetime. Finally she got it in, but my mom’s kept seizing.
I looked at the clock and yelled, “It’s 10:40 – write it down!” I held my mom’s head and kissed her a hundred times. Mom, you’re ok. Just relax. You’re going to be ok. I kept repeating, “Mommy, I’m so sorry. Just breathe. Just breathe. Jesus. Jesus. Jesus, help my mom. Mommy, mommy.” I don’t know why I called her mommy, but I kept repeating it over and over. I never call her that. Not even in jest. All I can think is it was primal.
After 10 minutes I yelled, “WHERE. IS. THE. DOCTOR! Get him in here NOW!” No one knew why it was taking him so long. My dad wasn’t there, and I really thought my mom was dying in my hands right there on the floor with urine and poop all over the both of us. All I could think was my dad wasn’t there to be with my mom…and what a fricken’ careless choice. My mom was going to die not because of the brain cancer but because the stupid nurses left her alone to go to the bathroom.
I was incensed.
13 minutes later the doctor arrived from the ER. He was calm as can be like nothing was happening. It took about 2 more minutes to get my mom the anti-seizure meds that finally stopped the seizure. My mom was in seizure for 15 minutes.
15 minutes of absolute hell.
While the doctors were preparing my mom for a CT scan that would show whether or not she was bleeding in her brain, the head nurse started a full-on cover up about what happened. She lied through her teeth about leaving my mom alone before this event. She swore she stayed with my mom at all times when she had to use the bathroom, and she blamed the aide who was supposed to stay with her. The aide said they’d left my mom alone when she had to use the bathroom throughout the night and twice that morning. She was instructed to give my mom the call button and tend to the other patients until my mom called for them to help her. Someone was lying and I was pretty sure I knew who it was.
The lying was gasoline to my fire.
Now, anyone who knows me knows that I’m a very forgiving person. We all make mistakes, some of us big ones, and we all need grace. Just admit what happened and move on. But if you lie to me, we’re going to have serious problems. And if you neglect my mom’s fragile health and then lie to me about leaving her, I will have your head.
I won’t go into detail about what transpired between me, the aide, and the nurse. But I can tell you the truth came out and my mom will never be left alone again.
I spent the next 45 minutes in absolute trauma reaction mode. I called my husband was crying so much I could barely recognize my voice. I couldn’t calm down and I felt like I needed to scream.
Thankfully the CT scan showed no bleeding in my mom’s brain. But my mom has had a serious set-back in her recovery and she can barely stay conscious. Docs say that this is normal post-seizure and that she’ll regain consciousness. I hope and pray she makes a full recovery and that she can continue to gain her strength and health.
Only God knows what’s going to happen, and I keep trying to surrender it to Him.
Last night before I left the hospital a nurse came into my mom’s room. She stood at the foot of my mom’s bed and looked at my mom and then at me and said, “I’m so glad you’re mom doesn’t have any bleeding in her brain.” She put her hand over her heart and looked like she was going to cry. I thought it was an unusually emotional response from a nurse so I said, “Were you on shift when she fell?”
She looked at me with tears and said, “You must not recognize me. But I was on my knees with you the whole time.” She was the nurse who got the tongue depressor in my mom’s mouth and stayed on the ground with me and my mom. We both cried and hugged, and I thanked her for helping my mom. She knew how serious it was. Her tenderness touched me.
In all the horribleness of the past 24 hours I’ll never forget my mom’s first words to me this morning. My dad told me my mom remembered everything that happened when she fell. She remembered falling and the seizure. She remembered me ‘not being happy with the nurses.’ She remembered my prayers and that I called her mommy. After giving me the news of everything she remembered he put me on speaker phone so I could talk to my mom.
With slow, slurred speech she sweetly mumbled, “Thank…you….for…. rescuing…me.”
All I could do was cry. At least she knew I was there.