June 12, 2009

Urinary Tract Adventures (UTAs)

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]


  1. I hope your mom getting well soon. I also had a kidney stone that make me bring pain killer whenever I go. Tell her to drink a lot

  2. Kidney stone plus difficult disposition. Bad combo. My kids pee all over the park, by the way, like cats. Bathrooms are for prudes. I tagged you, by the way, although it sounds like your mom is providing you with lots of material.

  3. I remember days like that, no not really like that, just parts of yours and not all at once. Jeez.

    The image is wonderful, and so is the story.

  4. I hope your mother feels better soon, and that your life is a little less eventful in the upcoming days :)

  5. Concerning matters of medicine and health care, my mother believes that rules and regulations are things that happen to other people.

    When my sister recently gave birth to her third child and was given a semi-private room to share with a nice young lady with questionable hygiene and the cast of Deliverance for a family, my mother moved into swift and decisive action.

    Where my sister, her husband, and my father had failed to secure a private room, the strange and terrible Mom-Beast succeeded. Not only did her unfathomable persistence gain my sister a private room, but she was somehow upgraded to a deluxe suite sort of affair, of the sort that celebrities must stay in when they give birth to Unnecessarily Important People.

    Not only was the room huge, it was also filled with all manner of impressive medical machinery that made it seem more like a spaceship than a hospital cell. There were machines that bleeped and blooped so impressively, one was put in mind that, if pressed, NASA could use the room to launch the space shuttle. There were robot cameras mounted on gimbals in the ceiling to record the bloody festivities from painful angles, and there were little angelic lighting rigs to accompany them that had all of the warmth and fury of the sun itself.

    As far as I could tell, the only skill my mother employed in her negotiation with the hospital staff was the simple tenacious ferocity of being persistently annoying to enough people, until one of them breaks from the pressure and will give you anything you want, if you'll just promise to go away and never come back.

    Try it; it works! I'd use it myself, but I'm just too damned adorable to ever come across as annoying, so I just use my wit and charm to bend reality to my will. And, when that doesn't work - and if the situation is dire enough - I can always call my mommy. The problem with that, however, is that once summoned, I may not be able to banish her back to the demon realm after she's done my bidding. I don't think there's a counter spell to negate motherhood...

    Coquetting Tarradiddles

  6. "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."

    LOL! You do have a way with words! I could have picked out other quotes, too, but that is just so funny!

    Poor you. But Tristan is lucky to have such an unflappable Mommy, and your own Mom is lucky to have a daughter who combines such a wonderful sense of humour with being so capable and strong.

    I hope she feels better soon. I was on Tramadol and strong codeine at the end of last year and well remember those hallucinations. ;)

  7. Nothing more fun than drugged up parents, and little boys who pee all over themselves in public. Sounds like the story of my life!!

  8. Someday Tristan is going to read this and blush. I don;t even know where to begin with this post. It's funny, moving (literally), touching and provokes several sighs of relief all in one.

    Glad your mother is better. At least she gets to eat Jello - which I believe is a good thing.

  9. This is m favorite post yet because it is so relatable and because it reads like a short story. It also sounds too impossibly hectic to be true, but somehow I believe every word anyway.

  10. I hope your mother is feeling well again soon but I do believe in this story that you are in fact the one in need of a hug!

  11. Oh the joys of Motherhood! LOL

    Hope your mom gets to feeling better soon!

  12. Just consider this all fodder for your blog, right? Both my parents are gone now, but I can remember some wild doctor and hospital visits.

    As far as your son peeing in the bushes; my daughter was about 5 and playing soccer. She had to pee so bad at the game. We happened to be at a park with no bathroom so I dragged her into the bushes and made her pee there. She refused to play soccer ever again, and will never let me live this down. She is now 27! But I don't think Tristan will be that way; boys seem to enjoy whipping their privates out and watering the plants!

  13. That was absolutely HILARIOUS. I hope your mom gets better soon. You are an incredible mom and daughter.

  14. Thank you for posting this story. I appreciate every word. I started my blog just to keep the fam updated but I am finding myself writing lengthier pieces about random things like my cluttered pantry. Thank you for being inspiring and I hope you have a peaceful week.

  15. LOL Wendy~ What a great sense of humor you have in crisis. Hope your mom starts feeling better soon. Tristan looked so cute in his buddhist monk outfit. Good thing you had a few things handy for cleaning him up. Have a great night.

  16. Oh Wendy, I'll pray for ur Mom's recovery..and yes, hats off to ur sense of humor. yu brighten up my day:D tc

  17. I enjoyed reading every single solitary word of this post.
    Do I have to leave now??? :)

  18. It sounds like you've had one hell of a week. I am including you and your mom in my prayers. xoxoxo

    Also, lmao @ Tristan being dressed as a Buddhist monk.

  19. Hard to believe days like this-
    Been there-done that with 2 parents, now with my one remaining...
    Never a dull moment. A sense of humor helps (as you seem to have) and a reminder that "all things must pass." (george harrison??)
    Breathe in, breathe out...

  20. So far my mum and dad are holding together. I hope we'll be out of the pee-the-pants stage with our kids by the time I am rushing Mum or Dad to the doctor. Good work on the nephrolithiasis, and also welcome to the world of actual whipped cream. Lovely post.

  21. I don't know how you can turn such a bad mess into such a good story!

    (Hey! We both get to drive around, kids in the back seat, taking photos of houses for work. I'll never forget the banana vomit from one such trip....)

  22. for crying out loud, you poor thing. At least you have some great blog material! I loved: "I can see why people do drugs like this..."


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