Between my son's particular medical condition which gives us periodic trips to the hospital and my mom's occasional adventures in health care, I rack up a lot of frequent flyer miles in doctor's offices, hospitals and waiting rooms.
It started Thursday with a trip to the emergency room. My mom called me early in the morning. She said she was on her way to a town that is about 2.5-3 hours from where we live. She had a kidney stone but she was nearly to the place she was going and as soon as she met with the contractor she needed to see she would turn around and head back. She said she wasn't sure she would make it. I made arrangements in case I needed to drop everything and head down to meet her and bring an extra driver to get her car back.
She eventually made it to my office. (She's one tough cookie.) I had the car waiting as she pulled in and I drove her the rest of the way to the hospital. For a change we got in really fast and the doctor came into the room before the nurse was finished getting her history. I was feeling really optimistic about this particular visit. Quick, pleasant (as pleasant as it could be anyway) and the doctor seemed concerned and conscientious.
And then my mother started talking.
This is basically where it pretty much all goes wrong. And as it generally always happens, she manages to drive a seemingly pleasant doctor to the brink of rage and madness. I stand there with my hands shoved deep in my pockets and look up to the ceiling, inspecting it carefully for any small flaw that might occupy me so I can pretend I don't see the train wreck happening in front of me.
The very nice nurse started an IV while the doctor was outside breathing into a paper bag. And when I say "started an IV" I really just mean "stabbed my mom in the arm" which resulted in blood pouring out of her vein, down her arm, onto the bed, onto her clothes, onto the floor, up to the nurse's wrists and, in fact, so much blood the tape wouldn't stick. So much blood she told me to go get another nurse to help her.
We traversed the many issues we must traverse to get my mother treated. There are so many medications she can't take because they either have no effect or a bad effect. Finally after a long negotiation period the doctor ordered a CT scan, but wouldn't let her have anything for pain until the scan was over. So I sat there with her, this woman who LOOKS like a sweet older lady but is actually a lot like a cat that someone is trying to dunk into a bucket of water.
This sometimes necessitates me yelling out the door to the nurses station, "HEY, can't you get her something for her pain??" I try to be the bad guy so they'll be nice to her. I think that might make me an enabler.
After about three hours of this kind of fun and the doctor confirming that she does have a kidney stone, she gets a hypodermic cocktail of darvocet, toradol and morphine. Within moments she's slurring her words and pointing weakly around the room as she talks. I can't help myself but I start giggling which gets her giggling.
"What are you laughing at?"
This makes me laugh harder, which makes her laugh harder. "You. You're slurring your words."
She seems amazed by this. "I am??"
I nodded. She continues telling me some story about a mouse in her car that I'm not sure is completely true. She pauses for a moment to ask me what that is that's crawling on the ceiling. I stand up and walk over to what I think she's referring to. I tell her that it's a little piece of fuzz that looks like blown-insulation that got trapped between the ceiling tiles and the wall.
"No it's not. It's moving, Wendy."
"Mom, it's not. It's insulation."
I roll my eyes. My mom is totally trippin'. So, I talk to her like she's hard of hearing, as if that will somehow help. "MOM. IT'S INSULATION. IT'S. NOT. MOOOOVIINNNNG." I wave my hands around for added effect as if it will give my words more credence.
She stares at me, weighing my words with serious concern. Her eyes go back up to the insulation. "I really think it's moving."
"I know you do, but I promise... it's really not moving."
I sat back down and there was silence for a moment. She turned her head toward me and said cheerily, "I can see why people do drugs like this."
Another 45 minutes of bizarre conversation went by during which the nurse checked on her twice and Mom once accused me of not letting her finish the crazy mouse story. The doctor finally said we could go, that the scan showed her stone was borderline and he thought she'd pass it on her own. I took her home.
The following day I had no babysitter. I had to run to a neighboring town to take some pictures of a house. I did this quickly and decisively, packed a snack for Tristan and headed out assuming my life would proceed in an orderly fashion. (This proves that I am an eternal optimist because I still assume the best despite several decades that prove my life is just one surreal moment after another.)
On the way I called to see how mom had made it through the night. She said she had a fever. It was 80 degrees in her house and she had two blankets on because she was freezing. She didn't want to go to the hospital. Her arm was itchy where the nurse had stabbed her. I put a call into the doctor and drove on figuring I'd go get my pictures and be back by the time the doctor got around to calling us back.
While in this town I stopped by the park to let Tristan play for a moment in exchange for being a good sport and putting up with the ride. He mentioned that he had to pee and I said, "okay, let's go pee." Then he denied having to go because he didn't want to leave the playground. By the time he mentioned it again it was too late.
We took off running to the bathroom and he kept grabbing the front of his shorts saying, "go pee fast, mommy!" The bathrooms were all the way on the other side of the park and I knew there was no possible way to make it. I grabbed his arm and hauled him off the sidewalk and over next to a big shrub. It crossed my mind that me yanking my kids pants off in the middle of a public park was a really bad idea, but the other half of me realized that I hadn't packed a change of clothes for him and was ill-prepared for the consequences of an accident. Which then happened.
As I was pulling his shorts off he started peeing. A lot. All over his shorts, his shoes, his underwear, his mom. My foot, my hand. I watched toddler urine pour over my wedding ring that we bought in Vegas from a nice man who gave us marital advice and had bars on the windows of his store. I wondered if a policeman was about to arrest me for my naked toddler peeing on a public shrub. To my right, a skateboarding kid flew off his ride and crashed to the ground and I wondered if it was my fault. Or more accurately, Tristan's bare ass's fault.
Tristan summed it up succinctly. "Wet, Mommy."
"You sure are, buddy."
I have to say there are occasional advantages for being slack about cleaning out one's car. In this case I found a ziploc bag with diapers and underwear in it and a big t-shirt belonging to Julius. No shorts. I wiped Tristan down and dried him off, dressed him. He looked like a buddhist monk in robes and sandals.
Just a couple hours later I'm back at the hospital with Mom. This time they admitted her to stay over. She has an infection. The stone isn't moving. The doctor wants her to stay for a while to give her IV antibiotics. She's obstructed. I have one person in my life with too much pee and one person with not enough pee.
The nurse who drew her blood at the doctor's office might possibly be psychic. She drew an extra tube "just in case" which is why I was carring a biohazard baggie with me into the admissions office. I had just dropped mom off at the nursing home side of the hospital which enters at the second floor of the building. She would walk to the nurse's station from there because she can't ride the elevator. Claustrophobic.
Meanwhile, my biohazard baggie and I were at admissions with a girl named Jasmine who just kept staring at the doctor's admission orders as if she had blanked out from a seizure.
Finally I said, "Everything okay?"
She looked up at me slowly and said, "Everything would be okay if I could just read this one word." I had this horrible feeling that somehow my mother's future depended on this girl being able to read the doctor's writing and translate his orders correctly. My blood chilled.
"Let me have a look. He read them to me when I was at his office."
She handed me the paper and pointed to the word she couldn't read. I squinted at it and said, "It looks like 'nephrolithiasis'. You know, like nephro as in nephrology, the study of the kidney and lithos like the greek word for stone and then some vowels and consonants on the end to make people want to pay doctors a lot of money. She has a kidney stone."
Jasmine said, "Yeah, that's what I thought."
And so we wait it out, all these adults standing by while a tiny little 4mm rock rolls its slow and painful way down through my mother's body while she's forced to endure endless meals of tiny cups of jello and bologna sandwiches.
Maybe tomorrow I'll sneak in some Taco Bell.
[photo credit: geoftheref]