There is a voice inside of you
That whispers all day long,
"I feel this is right for me,
I know that this is wrong."
No teacher, preacher, parent, friend
Or wise man can decide
What's right for you--just listen to
The voice that speaks inside.”
Do you ever have one of those days when it feels like a whole chain of events unfold so unbelievably, its as though you are in a dream? A nightmarish dream- that innocently begins with that quiet little inner voice.
Its nagging started almost right away.
I was packing bags for our weekend get away.
That voice inside me kept up a steady stream... "call your mom."
I kept putting it off. Finding more to pack and being doggone sure I had everything ready to go early Thursday. We were going. We'd planned for so long, nothing was stopping me.
"Call your mom."
As I went to put my phone on the charger before bed, finally, I called her.
Her voice answers, unusually hollow and thin.
"I have had such bad stomach cramping."
"No, I didn't go out to dinner."
"No, I didn't feel up for the community room ice cream."
Oh, no ice cream? This is not good.
Its late and she is sleepy. She wishes me well on our trip and says she'll call her doctor in the morning.
I don't sleep well, worried about the sound of her voice and the nagging of my own inner voice.
Thursday morning she has called her doctor and he has asked for a stool sample. But my inner voice of reason knows I need to check on her.
As I open the door to her apartment and lay eyes on her, I suddenly understand that nagging voice I've been trying to ignore.
Our plans change on a dime.
I tell her we're going to the ER and she doesn't even fight me on it.
The ER is quiet for aThursday morning.
We get a young RN who proclaims this is her second week working in the ER!
But there is something about her confidence, her enthusiasm. She laughs easily with my mom and notices her spunky attitude, despite her obvious weakness.
The doctor sees clearly, she needs fluids.
He also orders a bunch of other tests.
I feel unusually alert. Keying into everything around us.
And suddenly the dream-like state of events starts to unfold.
Her first iv infiltrates and causes the biggest bump and blackest, biggest, bruise I have ever seen.
Mom is a trooper. Clearly in pain, she smiles and reassures the young nurse that she tried her best.
The second line goes in no easier- it also stings, burns and bruises. She grimaces and rubs it.
But the nurse sees a good blood return, so she adds in an antibiotic for the infection they have found, and leaves. Moments later, her arm turns bright red and starts to itch. I watch as the redness mounts and hear my inner voice tell me to act.
We press our nurse call button.
And then in a freakishly, horror-movie-tinged, twist of events- the power shuts off. And the kid next door in the middle of sedation screams bloody murder.
The doors bolt close. Its pitch black.
Then eerily quiet.
All I can hear is my mother clawing at her itching arm.
Within a few minutes the lights flutter and everything comes back on. But everything is on back-up generator. Rumors of a fire emerge and people in the hallway swear they smell smoke. Yet, nothing ever gets confirmed.
I now go seek out a nurse, grabbing one who isn't my mother's. He sees instantly she is having an allergic reaction to her antibiotic, and goes to get meds. I tell my mom he will most likely return with benadryl. Her eyes widen when he does, and quickly shoots it into her iv line. Then he hangs a new antibiotic. I start to warn her how quickly she will feel the benadryl, but her eyes are drooping already as she fights off sleep.
He asks if I am in the medical field. "No, at least not in the way you'd expect," I say with a smile.
Her doctor comes back in to check on her. Her tests show depleted levels of lots of things in her blood, infection, and maybe she has a virus. But after some fluids, he thinks she'll be able to go home later in the afternoon. He is warm and compassionate and we liked him instantly.
I'm breathing easier, thinking we may salvage our weekend plans.
In the meantimes mother asks to use the restroom. As she returns to her bed with help, I notice how short of breath she is- her breathing sounding odd. I make mental notes, as our nurse rushes off again.
Then, as mom lays her head back, I see her heartrate monitor start to flash. When it registers 130 it sounds an alarm and turns bright red. I watch as it steadily climbs, 140, 150, 160- and tops out at 170! Holy heart rate!
I'm shocked nobody has come in. My inner voice is loud and persistent. "Get going Vicky... get help." I run to the desk and hurriedly tell them to come quick. The male nurse from earlier sees on his desk, that its her heart monitor and exclaims- she's in tachycardia! He rushes in and grabs her wrist. Her heart is clearly racing. As he stands watching the next few minutes, her heart rate slows and goes back down to a normal range. He brings in leads and places a heart monitor on her chest. Then he tells me to watch her carefully and come get him if it does it again.
Maybe I really am in the medical field?
I set my eyes on her monitor and watch closely.
When mom starts shivering I go and inquire about a warm blanket.
"Sure, the warmers over there, help yourself," the woman at the desk responds.
I suddenly miss all the "spiffs" I seem to get at Roger Maris. Warm blankets doled out like clock work- snacks and drinks offered continually, nurses in constant watch and communication with you.
I say a quick prayer, "Thank you God, for showing me how lucky I have truly been in my cancer care."
I look at the clock, as my energy wanes. We've been here since 10 am and its 3pm.
The doctor comes back in. Considering mom's unstable nature, he'd now like to admit her and watch her for awhile.
The young nurse comes back in and announces- the hospital room should be ready in 15 minutes. She has called and was told they have all kinds of empty beds. As soon as mom is assigned, they'll transport her.
Who in their right mind would think it'd be nearly FIVE MORE HOURS and 6 apologies before she is settled into her room? Clearly not any of us.
By now Rick and the boys had come and were in the mix of it. Clearly our plans for going out of town have changed.
And mom just remained a trooper through it all.
She didn't complain about the wait. She didn't complain about the bruises now running up and down her arms. She didn't complain that they had said she could eat or drink something, but nobody brought her anything but a sprite when I went in search of it again.
And I was out of energy, completely.
I finally left by 9 pm, seeing how played out mom was, hoping she'd be able to sleep well.
Over the past couple of days she has rested and received fluids, completed a battery of tests. She has gotten rid of the horrible stomach cramps.
I've watched her win over staff person after, nurse, after dr. They each hug her, pat her hand, or tell her what a great patient she is.
Yet, I can only shake my head and wonder at how an environment can also harbor so much human error.
Like the intern who brought in a script for her "pneumonia." WHAT? I said "how did we determine pneumonia when her lung scans were clear?"
"OH... SORRY... wrong patient. So sorry. Too little sleep, lots of new patients."
He is young, and juggling a lot, and I forgive him. But it makes me feel hyper vigilant. I am convinced if you have a loved one in the hospital, make sure someone stays with them to check and double check everything.
Its with relief mom passes all of her tests with flying colors when they are ready to discharge her. As I type this, she is resting comfortably in her chair at home.
I feel like I've traveled light years over the past few days.
In a lot of ways I gained more empathy for what Superman goes through in taking care of me. I tossed myself aside for a few days and poured into mom.
I felt useful and like all that treatment I have received, taught me, how to help my mom.
And my inside voice has quieted once again.
"In the narrow halls of the inner ear, echoed is the song of Light."
Marie Alana Stiles