Last Friday morning I walked into the kitchen for my usual coffee before my brother and I were headed out for an appointment with a lawyer to go over Miss Cathy’s estate. Tony had come over the night before after work to surprise mom with the visit. I knew she was very happy to have “her boys” all to herself and would be in the kitchen whipping up a fattening, artery clogging breakfast as only a mother could.
So, I wasn’t surprised when I saw Miss Cathy standing over the sink but something wasn’t quite right. It only took me a second to know by her less than usual “peppy” response to my salutation and the way she was slumped over that something was wrong. I went over to her, looked at her face and saw that she looked confused and disoriented.
Perspiring heavily, it looked like she was gripping the counter for dear life so I told her I was going to put the folding chair behind her so that she could sit down. I didn’t know what was going on with her but I knew that it was imperative to sit her down before she fell down. She wasn’t very communicative and her movements were very slow, as if she were trying to show me that she understood what I was saying but her body just wasn’t responding the way she wanted.
She didn’t seem able to move much at all; she just seemed to hang on. Seeing that she wasn’t making much progress on her own I held under her armpits and helped guide her down to the chair as gently as possible, talking to her the entire time, telling her what I was doing and how far she had to go before she was seated, reminding her not to “plop” down in the chair which is her habit.
Once she was seated I was able to look at her more closely and ask her a few questions to determine whether she might have been having a heart attack or stroke. It didn't appear that she was so I got her a glass of water and wiped her brow and neck. Once I got her to sit down she couldn’t seem to calm down, she squirmed with what little strength she had until finally I was able to quiet her. She then told me that she thought she as going to throw up.
I reached for the nearest thing I could (which was an empty planter) and gave that to her while I went to her bedroom where she told me she had a supply of bags for vomiting. When I got back she had not thrown up yet but she’d dropped the planter, unable to control her fingers. She retched more than she threw up but there was some fluid and it seemed to help her to expel it.
I was able to keep her calm enough to sit for a few more minutes before walking her to her bedroom so that she could lie down. In her bedroom I got her to sit quietly as I debated with myself whether or not to call her doctor but in the space of those moments I took deciding she seemed to get better, I could actually see that the confusion was leaving her face and her movements became more fluid.
We took her blood count and it elevated (222 and her blood sugar is usually in the 140 –to 150 range). By the time we made the first “stick” she was talking in her normal voice and insisting that she wanted to go back in the kitchen to make breakfast. We got her cleaned up and I made the decision not to call the doctor but to tell him abut this episode when we see him next (which will be soon). I watched her as she walked (she insisted that she could walk un-aided) back in the kitchen and I sat with her as she prepared breakfast for my brother and me.
I reminded her that if she had been alone this was one of those occasions when she should have pressed her “medical alert” button and she agreed. But watching her “in the moment” it concerns me now that I don’t know that she would have had the presence of mind to do that. I know for a fact that if I hadn’t come into the kitchen she wouldn’t have had the wherewithal to pull over the chair that was less that a foot away for her to sit herself down.
She may have been able to hold onto the counter until whatever it was, low blood sugar, excitement about my brother being here or just a wave of nausea passed, and then do whatever was necessary to keep herself safe but I don’t think that would have been the case. She very well could have fallen and we would (potentially) have a repeat of the episode that started this entire journey in January of last year when she fell on the bathroom floor and wasn’t discovered for three days.
I know that the slightest interruption (good or bad) in her routine can cause a change in how she acts or responds, from something as very subtle as her demeanor changing to something like what happened on Friday. I don’t know if that was the case or not, that's something I’ll talk to the doctor about.
After all the bickering, boredom and cost to my personal life its moments like last Friday that remind me why I’m here and I’m grateful that I can be. Like my friend William says, who takes care of (not only) his mother but his father as well, “It’s an honor to be able to spend the time with them and to do whatever I can to make there lives more comfortable after all they’ve done for me.”