Oh, Bloody Hell, a Fall
Oh, Bloody Hell, a Fall
My 80-year-old mom hasn't been feeling well. It started about 2 1/2 weeks ago with pain in her back. She spent a night in the hospital two Wednesdays ago to get relief from her pain and for an x-ray and MRI. It seems arthritis was the culprit.
Her recovery has been so slow and she's spent more time in the house than I can ever remember. She and my dad went to a dinner party at a a friend's the Saturday after the hospital stay. She held her bridge club meeting at the house on Tuesday. But that's been it. I've been helping her more and doing the laundry and grocery shopping. (I didn't get the grocery shopping right on Sunday so had a redo on Monday.)
Her spirits haven't been great and she's been somewhat crabby and, quite honestly, a bit difficult.
On Friday, we headed to my sister's house for a cookie decorating party -- her third outing, including a recent doctor's appointment, out of the house in two weeks. My oldest niece organized the event, which included appetizers and cookies ready for frosting and our artistic flair. At about 8:30, after we ran out of decorating ideas and couldn't eat another cookie, my mom said she was ready to leave. We thought she might want to leave before I did so had plans in place to get her home, which is only two miles from my sister's. But, my mom thought she could drive home on her own and refused the ride offered from my brother-in-law. She said her good nights, got on her coat. I asked if she wanted me to walk her out to the car.
"Oh, no," she said, "I'm fine."
She walked out the front door and I stood and watched to make sure she would be okay. So, I watched her make it down one step to the landing on her way to two more steps. I watched as her feet got caught and, oh, my, I watched as down she went.
It only took me seconds to get to her but by the time I did, a pool of blooding had already started to form. She was moaning. I rubbed her side and told her all was okay. She picked up head and I could see the blood coming from her nose. Thank goodness it was only the nose--no huge gash or wound on her head. My brother-in-law and I got her up, the nieces brought a chair to the hallway, my sister got towels.
We sat her down and tried to take stock -- what was missing (a few teeth), what did she need (ice) and how did she look (bruised). As we worked to stop the bleeding, my mom repeated over and over: "Where are my teeth?" and "Where are my hearing aids?" and "What happened? Did I fall?"
I'm used to searching for teeth and hearing aids so deposited teeth from her partial and a real tooth into a plastic bag. We found a safe place for her hearing aids. After we stopped the bleeding, we had her walk to the nearby bathroom sink to wash her hands and face. But, her questions about what happened continued.
My brother-in-law called 911 and I called my dad. The paramedics asked her all those questions they ask. "What day of the week is it?" (I think that's a tough question to answer when you're retired. A work week keeps you oriented to the days of the week.) "Who is president?" This question really stumped her. "I know it's not George Bush," she said. She looked at me. "Who is the president?" The paramedics asked, "Would she normally know who the president is?" In unison we all said, "Oh, yes. Definitely yes."
My dad arrived just as the paramedics had loaded her into the ambulance. We followed (my sister, brother-in-law, three nieces and myself) in two separate cars.
We saw my mom again a little after 10 p.m. and she seemed much better. We stayed until just about 1:30 a.m.; the CT scan and x-rays only showed a small fracture in her knee and a mild concussion. No bleeding on the brain, no broken bones. But, oh!, the bruises on her face. Any time a doctor or nurse came into her room, you could see immediate sympathy.
The fall, interestingly enough, has improved my mom's demeanor. She's been pleasant and open to suggestions (like drinking more water) and delightful company. She's in no pain, she says, and managing on ibuprofen. If you saw her face, you would be amazed that she doesn't have a splitting headache.
Her confusion cleared up by about 11 p.m. on Friday night. She talked about the grocery list, the ham she needed to buy for Christmas. She argued a bit with my sister, who volunteered to go grocery shopping. "Dad or Denise can go," she said. She finally relented when my sister insisted and my dad said, "Listen to your daughter -- let her shop for you." After my sister and brother-in-law dropped us off at home at 1:45 a.m. on Saturday morning, my mom sat with my sister to go over the grocery list.
I was plagued by guilt on Friday night and into Saturday. Why didn't I walk her to the car? I'm to look out for her. I felt I had truly failed her. As you know, that is just a horrible feeling -- that feeling that you've failed what you've accepted to protect. Making that call to my dad and having to say, "Mom fell," was like standing on stage in front of a crowded house and admitting utter and absolute failure.
I found a better perspective on Saturday afternoon as I got my hair cut. Talking it out with the stylist made me realize how lucky she was that didn't break a hip or a leg. We were lucky that she didn't fall after she got home, in the driveway, where she would have been laying until I got home. We were lucky that I stood at the front door watching so that we could help her right away.
Unfortunately, my mom falls. She fell in June while volunteering at one of our local schools. After the paramedics checked her out and cleared her to go home, I picked her up and brought her home. She had facial bruising but was alert and oriented. She took it easy the rest of the afternoon but was back out and about a few days later. My mom hates to spend a day at home. She organizes her schedule with activities and events to keep her busy every day. Her acceptance of a slower life these past few weeks -- she doesn't complain about staying home -- speaks volumes. She was crabby but she wasn't itching to go out.
Last night, my mom and I talked about what happened on Friday. She talked about how dumb it was that she refused the ride home or my help. I can appreciate her refusals, though. She wants to do for herself for as long as she can. I expressed guilt that I just didn't walk her out to the car. Then, we shared gratitude for the lack of broken bones, that she fell where I saw her.
In the emergency room, after returning from the x-ray and CT scan, she said to my sister and my dad, "I just worry that this is the beginning of my end."
We're definitely starting something that will be different for all of us.
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