**WARNING: Look away if you can't handle gross body functions,
disgusting hospital procedures or my mother.**
Humor is my coping mechanism. If I suffer a mild trauma I can usually see the humorous side of it almost immediately but more severe traumatic experiences could take years.
I recently suffered a trauma at the hands of my mother (Who hasn't, right?) and I'm just now able to talk about it. I have shared it with some family and a few close friends who asked that I never speak of it again. I reminded them of my life's motto: If I have to live it, you have to hear about it.
Around the first of October my mother (let's call her...."Mom") went into the hospital to have an endoscopic procedure done on her esophagus to help with some swallowing issues. During that procedure the surgeon, who has been out of medical school for all of 10 minutes, accidentally cut a 1/4" hole in her esophagus with the laser. The esophagus is only 1" in diameter so 1/4" is comparatively huge. However, he felt sure that if she stayed NPO for 7 more days the hole would just seal up on its own and save her from having to endure another more invasive surgery.
My sister and I knew this probably wasn't going to happen but we couldn't exactly force him to do surgery on her when he felt it wasn't necessary so I drove home to stay with Mom for what I thought would be a couple of days. Since my sister lives in the same town with Mom she bears the burden of all the caregiving so I was glad to be able to give her a break. For a couple of days. That was my plan.
|My home for 10 days.|
I didn't mind getting up every 2 hours to help Mom to the bathroom since she couldn't very well lower the bed railing, unplug her IV machines, and haul herself to the potty after just having surgery. Not to mention the fact that she had an NG tube down her nose which is not only unpleasant but ended up wreaking all kinds of havoc on us both.
When I first got there I discovered that during the night she would call a nurse to help her instead of waking me up. I thought the whole reason I was there was to help her with things like this so when I woke up one night and found a nurse helping her to the bathroom I asked Mom about it:
ME: Why didn't you wake me up?
MOM: Cuz it's not your job to take me to the bathroom.
ME: But that's why I'm here.
MOM: No, I need you here just to be here now go back to sleep.
So I went back to sleep. It wasn't long before I got into her rhythm and started automatically waking up around 2 a.m. then again at 4 a.m. cuz I knew she would need to go. One night my internal alarm failed to go off and the night nurse failed to respond to Mom's call button. I woke up just in time to see Mom bolting out of bed, yanking the IV machine plugs out of the wall and sprinting to the bathroom like Florence Griffith Joyner with her hair on fire. After that I didn't worry so much about helping her to the bathroom even though she continued to lean on me and wobble as if she could barely take a step on her own. I knew better.
I learned a lot during my stay with Mom. She doesn't have a low pain tolerance, she has no pain tolerance at all. She cried and carried on as if she was having an amputation without anesthetic when the nurse had to move her IV. I discovered that I have no tolerance for people with no pain tolerance. Mom can't help it, I understand that, but...okay no I don't understand it. Pain is one of those abstract subjective things that I just can't wrap my brain around so I did my best to roll my eyes as quietly as I could while I patted and soothed her.
As expected, the hole in Mom's esophagus didn't heal on its own so Doogie Howser had to cut through her neck to fix it. When the anesthesiologist came in to talk to Mom before the surgery I realized he had gone to school with me and my sister:
ME: Oh hey, I haven't seen you since we played quarters in your dorm room freshman year.
SISTER: YOU played quarters, I would never have done such a thing. (I didn't say it out loud but we both knew that while I was drinking illegally she was getting into a lot worse trouble!)
MOM: What's quarters? You didn't take anything off did you??!!
I think Mom had her surgery after that but I can't be sure since mortification caused me to project myself into another plane of existence that I like to call my happy place.
|Mom made me take a picture of her PICC line and send to my sister because Mom wanted confirmation that it was in the right place.|
I spent the next couple of days changing Mom's bandage every few hours because her incision had a drain tube and she couldn't tolerate it when there was neck juice on the bandage.
I would frequently ask Mom if there was anything she needed and she would frequently reply with, "My ice melted, I need some more. I need a bigger cup. My feet are cold. Can you scratch my back? Why is it so cold in here? Do my stitches look okay? Why does it still hurt? Is it time for my Dilaudid? I'm nauseous. Raise my head. No, that's too much. Now back the other way. Do I have to wear the bubbles on my legs? Do they have softer pillows? I'm freezing I need more blankets. That's too many, fold that one at my feet. Why do I need oxygen? I have to go to the bathroom. Can you brush my hair? I'm still nauseous. I need more Kleenex. I need a fresh swab. Where's the Chapstick? Will you put lotion on my legs? Why is it so hot in here? My ice melted again..." Rinse and repeat daily.
The nutrition stuff they had been giving Mom through her NG tube gave her tummy issues and when they switched to the intravenous stuff those issues just got worse. She stayed constantly nauseated and had really bad diarrhea, which at my house we call "The D" because my daughter thinks the word 'diarrhea' is more disgusting than the act itself.
So Mom had The D. And she had it bad.We've all had The D at one time or another and we all know it's unpleasant, right? And we've all experienced the uhhh....very unpleasant burning sensation which often accompanies severe cases of The D. It's not fun, it's painful, and it usually doesn't go away until The D goes away.
Mom swore that her hiney hole was on fire worse than anyone else's in history. She cried crocodile tears as she described it with words like 'scalding', 'raw', 'ruined', 'flaming', etc. I went to the nurse's station to get some barrier cream and was horrified to see that the nurse on duty was the one who moved Mom's IV which hurt so badly that she refused to let the nurse come near her again and called her "That Red Headed Devil Woman". I knew that for the nurse's own safety I would have to be the one to apply the barrier cream to my mother's scalded nether region.
I cursed my sister (who is a nurse) for having bronchitis, snapped on 2 pairs of rubber gloves (because boxing gloves wouldn't have been thick enough), then hauled my whining mother to the bathroom for the event that would scar me for life.
I told myself that my mother was in pain and she needed me to do this for her. I thought Mom might be more comfortable having me do it instead of a nurse since it's a rather personal thing. Then I thought that maybe because it's a rather personal thing she might prefer to have a nurse do it so I asked her. She informed me that she didn't care who did it. Then she dropped trou, grabbed the edge of the bathroom sink and bent over.
I put some of the barrier cream on my heavily gloved finger tip then gently patted Mom's hip and said, "Okay, I'm going in."
"Going in" wasn't as easy as I thought it was going to be. My mom is a big girl. I mean this with all the love and respect in the world when I say there was so much butt flesh to wade through that I'm really not sure I ever hit pay dirt. I really could have used at least 2 more sets of hands just to help corral the extra cheekage. When I moved one cheek out of the way, the other one filled the space. I couldn't separate the butt cheeks with one hand cuz all the extra flesh just closed up around it and my hand disappeared. I did my best to apply the cream to the "affected area" and it did make her feel better so I guess I got close enough.
It's bad enough to have to go through a life changing trauma like that once....but I had to do it after every single episode of The D, which lasted for several days. I tried to tell myself that nurses do this kind of thing all the time, it's no big deal. But it was a big deal for me. A big, fleshy, traumatizing deal. I actually longed to be back on neck juice maintenance if it meant not having to doctor my mom's backside anymore. When I was telling a friend about this horrific trauma that I had to endure, he suggested that next time I should use Gold Bond Powder. All you have to do is step back, aim it in the general direction, then give the bottle a firm squeeze and the stuff will shoot out towards its destination. Like fireplace bellows. Now I know.
Eventually Mom's tummy settled down but after being on IV antibiotics for almost 2 weeks she got the inevitable yeast infection. One evening I requested Diflucan for her but when the nurse came in she said that it doesn't come IV form and since Mom was still NPO her only option was a Monistat vaginal suppository, which she held up like it was Excalibur.
I told her that would be fine then I kissed Mom's forehead, told her goodnight, put in my earplugs, curled up on my cot and went to my happy place.