But let me step back to say a few words about who my mom really is first. Mom is normally involved in everything, has her days filled with sewing club, weight group, volunteering at her church. She took care of my grandmother until her passing and before that her sister who passed. She’s keeping the peace, or trying to resolve a grudge between any mix of her six younger siblings, reading a book in a day or night, or is always cleaning her home which never looked like it needed it, has a new craft project or putting together the big family Christmas party. Always something. Then in the past seven years, Mom has had to deal with the effects of rheumatic fever as a child which left her with COPD, a heart valve locked at 90% closed, breathing issues on and off, sleep apnea and weight issues which run in her family.
Then five or six years ago she had a stroke that luckily took only part of her speech center. Four days later, she had a heart attack. She suffered several more minor strokes since then, has been admitted six or seven times for edema which is also caused by the heart issues, has had three surgeries to replace both her knees. Yes three, she broke one six months after surgery stepping off a curb and it required replacing it.
She saw a civilian cardiac surgeon who treated her for more than two years and told us over and over that any surgery on her heart could wait, it was no rush and it wasn’t that bad yet. During a check of the interior of the heart with a camera through a blood vessel in her thigh, the doctor accidentally nicked a blood vessel causing blood to fill three quarters of her right lung. When we went into the ER at the local military hospital because Mom could not breathe or walk for than ten feet, we found out why.
Surgery was scheduled for the next Monday to drain it off because they needed her off her blood thinner for three days. While draining the lung, they “had to” scrape the lung of 40+ years of cigarette tar. This is when we forced mom to get a second opinion away from the civilian surgeon and with the military one that just performed the lung surgery. We found out after a PET scan that instead of “No Rush,” she had maybe six months. In the same appointment when Mom said okay to the surgery, thinking it would take one or two months to get approved, the doctor said, “Great, we’ll do it in three days.” After the surgery we fully realized how bad it was. Six months was being nice, it was more like only four months. Mom improved. Just about eighteen months ago, Mom went through double heart valve replacement surgery. During all of this, Mom medically lost her driving license for just about a year. For her, taking that away is like removing a scalpel from a surgeons (to her). She was admitted several more times for edema and follow-up issues with the heart surgery. The top valves were not speaking to the lower valves which sent Mom to a specialist who deal with the electrical firing impulses in the heart. She since has had two more surgeries.
So you can sort of understand why she’s depressed. $500,000.00 of surgeries over four or five years and she still is not back to where she wants to be. She stopped going to her sewing club, volunteering at the church slowed down to maybe once a week, weight loss group stopped, she sleeps all day, and I mean “ALL DAY,” has become disconnected with us boys, rushes everyone off the phone, cancels lunch and coffee times as well as doctor’s appointments and more. It’s so bad the doctors have put her on anti-depressants and upped the dose twice, have her going to a psychologist and a psychiatrist and as of April 1st nothing has seemed to work. Several of her doctors (GP, her cardiologist and neurologist) have all said that it is very common after heart surgery for most patients to come down with a bout of depression and it usually hits early after the surgery. Mom’s depression came on slowly then hit her hard about two years after her surgery.
Before going into the rehab facility, Mom’s normal routine was to wake up, walk Taffy, eat and then sleep. Wake for lunch, walk Taffy, then sleep and the same for dinner. But then it was sleep until the next morning and then repeat the process. This went on for just about the past five months. Only in the last few months did she finally agreed to see the doctor about it and begin treatment.
Once she arrived in rehab and we got her off the narcotics, something changed. It’s like mom’s depression has completely disappeared. She’s up every morning, going to physical and occupational therapies, going to the library cart every other day and on average reading two to three books in just as many days, attending bingo twice in one week, right there for all three meals, is even going out onto the patio for a few hours when people come to visit. She’s now talking about going down to the internet cafe to get online and even to sign up for Facebook to keep in closer touch with family.
What’s the difference? At home, where she’s more or less alone, no one is there to get up for, she’s not being pushed to get things done. In the facility she’s on a schedule, has company, things to do right at hand, meals scheduled. She can either eat in her room or tell them she will take her dinner in the main dining hall, please. She has conversations with a number of people–housekeeping, therapist, doctors, nurses, aides, other patients. She’s getting cards from high school friends from years ago. A good friend informed them of Mom’s situation over Facebook and the cards keep coming in; one even sent Mrs. Fields cookies.
The moral of this story is that, “Depression needs Connection” to cancel itself out. Mom is like her old self again. She still has an issue with day and night but she has agreed to take melatonin to aide her with sleep. Once she gets this back on track I believe we will see a rapid improvement in Mom’s recovery as well as her depression. I hope.
- Mom’s Secret Decoder Ring (pickyourpain.org)
- Need a Hand Up? (caregiving.com)
- Depression and Caregiving (caregiving.com)
- Three Pounds Overnight Or Six Pounds in a Week (caregiving.com)
- Mom: “The Woman Allergic to All Pain Meds” (caregiving.com)
- Me, Myself and Mom (caregiving.com)