A Night at the Museum (or, Today Is A Good Day To Die)

jan

A Night at the Museum (or, Today Is A Good Day To Die)

jan
I've seen quite a few dead people in my day, but all of them have been embalmed. I wasn't sure what I was seeing Sunday night, but it was something I'd never seen before.

We got a call from my mom's facility that she was sick; she had chills, a fever, had vomited. They gave her Tylenol and had called the Hospice Team, who were sending someone that evening. My husband and I went right away to see her. She was in bed, engulfed in bedcovers; the AC was off and it was stifling hot and smelled of sick. She wasn't responding. She was soaking wet. Her eyes were closed. While we waited for the Hospice Nurse to arrive, I cleaned up the room and put a wet compress on my mom's forehead. It felt very non-emotional. I found her sweaty little hand in all the bedcovers and held it. My husband reminded me to tell her it was "ok to go", and it felt very calm to just sit quietly with her, tell her I loved her, she was the best mommy ever, Dad was waiting for her, and her parents, and our dog. The Weekend Hospice Nurse, Stephanie, arrived and was an angel sent from Heaven. My mom had a temperature of 102. Stephanie worked tirelessly to troubleshoot the issue, make my mom comfortable, and try to figure out how exactly to help her within the scope of the Hospice program. If she had an infection that could be treated, such as a UTI or had aspirated some food leading to pneumonia, she could be given an antibiotic. Or her fever could simply be part of the end-life process and this was The End Of Her Life.

The aide and I changed my mom's clothing and bedding. I called my sister and told her that I didn't know what I was seeing, and I couldn't tell her to come or not to come. That would be up to her. She chose not to come.

The complicating issue was that there are no nurses at the facility from 11 to 7, only aides. If the aide saw something she was not comfortable with after Stephanie left, her only recourse would be to call 911; she would not be able to call Hospice. I, however, could call Hospice, so I decided to stay all night. Stephanie made contact after contact for opinions and advice, finally providing an antibiotic, hand-delivered by another nurse after she completed her shift. Before Stephanie left, she handed me the booklet, "A Very Special Journey". I told her it would be a privilege to help my mom this way. I really hoped it was over for her. Her breathing was shallow and rapid, her eyes darted, not seeing. She jerked. When she coughed, it sounded like choking.

My mom received the antibiotic and her fever decreased fairly quickly. She slept and looked comfortable. I stayed in her room and saw first-hand how the aides did their best to be kind, calling her by name every time they touched her, even those young slender girls lifting and cleaning her.

I saw how the facility wakes up in the morning, and the cook making breakfast was friendly like he always knew me.The aide was generous in offering coffee. And I had a new appreciation for how hard this job is, for someone who is and who isn't your family member.

So by Monday afternoon we were on the right track, and 24 hours later my mom was back in the Karaoke Zone. Part of me wants her to stay well and part of me wants her to be unwell enough to stay in Hospice care. This wasn't The Big One; just a Little One. I was ready but she wasn't. Good practice, I guess.

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