Friday, February 19, 2010

Home Alone

I am sitting at my  mother's house tonight, alone.  It seems too quiet here, without her relaxing across from me in her recliner, dozing, while I type.  In the eighteen years I have been visiting her at this Columbus, Georgia apartment, I have never spent a night in it without her present.  Even the past two days, when she hasn't been aware who I am, I could look across at her and remember times past.  Now I just feel so bereft.

Today, she slept until I woke her at 11AM.  She has stopped reading the morning paper or having coffee, two habits that have been part of her life as long as I have.  It took me an entire two hours to get her up and moving to make her appointment at Dr. Fussell's office, her board certified gerontologist.  She was so short of breath, even the slightest movement exhausted her and required that she stop and rest.  Getting her out the door and into my friend's truck left us both gasping and the situation repeated itself once we got to the doctor's office.  The nurse then attempted to do a geriatric assessment, asking numerous questions.  My mother did not know who she was, where she was, what state she was in, the year, and, of course, she still had no idea who had been harrassing her for the last couple of hours.  The nurse mercifully gave up on the rest of the questions.

Once the medical assessment got under way, we began to get some answers.  Her pulse was 173 and the two nurses were unable to get a blood pressure reading.  Her oxygen was extremely low and she was short of breath and very dehydrated.  After she was seen by Dr. Fussell, he said she had to be admitted to the hospital for atrial fibrillation and congestive heart failure.  He felt she had probaby had a stroke, secondary to the atrial fibrillation.  According to the American Heart Association, "Atrial fibrillation is a disorder found in about 2.2 million Americans. During atrial fibrillation, the heart's two small upper chambers (the atria) quiver instead of beating effectively. Blood isn't pumped completely out of them, so it may pool and clot. If a piece of a blood clot in the atria leaves the heart and becomes lodged in an artery in the brain, a stroke results. About 15 percent of strokes occur in people with atrial fibrillation.  The likelihood of developing atrial fibrillation increases with age. Three to five percent of people over 65 have atrial fibrillation.  Several approaches are used to treat and prevent abnormal beating:  Medications are used to slow down rapid heart rate associated with AF. These treatments may include drugs such as digoxin, beta blockers (atenolol, metoprolol, propranolol), amiodarone, disopyramide, calcium antagonists (verapamil, diltiazam), sotalol, flecainide, procainamide, quinidine, propafenone, etc. Drugs are also used to help reduce stroke risk in people with AF. Anticoagulant and antiplatelet medications thin the blood and make it less prone to clotting. Warfarin is the anticoagulant now used for this purpose, and aspirin is the antiplatelet drug most often used. Long-term use of warfarin in patients with AF and other stroke risk factors can reduce stroke by 68 percent."

My mom is now at St. Francis Hospital in Columbus, Georgia, the same place where I worked as a candy striper fifty years ago.  I also spent three months there as a young medical-surgical R. N. when my infant son and I stayed at my mom's while my husband was at the Air Force's Squadron Officer's School in Montgomery, Alabama eighty miles from Columbus.  Of course, nothing is the same as it was then, other than their stellar reputation which has only grown.  Today, it is also Columbus' first and only Primary Stroke Care Center, accredited by the Joint Commission ( which really means something to us nurse types who always sweated through those inspections at our hospitals! ).  As soon as my mother got into bed, she seemed to relax and barely moved when her excellent nurse started her I.V.  I feel certain that, right now, my mother could not be in better hands.  I hope she is having a good night's sleep and that her heart, with the help of pharmaceuticals, will return to a normal sinus rhythm, and do the job it is supposed to do.  Perhaps, then, at least, she will be more aware of her surroundings and will be able to recognize the people who love her.


  1. I am so glad you are there for you Mom, I agree that your Mom is in the best place. Thank you for all the information.My prayers are with your Mom and you and hopefully this will help and memories and faces come back. All the best to your Mom and you.

  2. Wishing for your mom to get or at least feel better. You're a wonderful daughter to be there and taking care of her. Prayer is sending your way, Carmen!

  3. Dear Carmen,

    sending much care and love and understanding to you. Thank goodness you planned this visit to your dear Mom.

    Many huggles coming your way via the moon, Michelle xxx

  4. Dear Carmen,
    I'm glad that your mother is in good hands and that you are near her. As a nurse you know so much more about what everything means in a situation like this than what I would. But I recognise a lot of what you are describing from when my father had conjestive heart failure.

    I pray for you and your mother, for strength and love to you both. What a lucky woman your mother is to have you as her daughter.


  5. i can't imagine how tough it can be one someone you love so much is in so much of pain.....i have family and we also have faced medical issues.....but being the youngest in the family is the worst thing.....which i knew during these medical crisis......i was always the last one to know.....wat happened in the mom had an operation cause one of heart valve wasn't working properly.....on the day of operation ...i was told abt that.....
    my dad had a stroke......but i wasn't even mom called me 2 days after it happened to tell that dad had stroke but everything is fine...nothing to worry now......though i was happy but i cried....why wasn't i told first.....on the same day.....OK i live in a different city.....i couldn't have come to home on the same day......but i would have done felt as if they didn't want me to come.......though i didn't questioned my mom abt that.....i feel they still think i'm not responsible enough to handle these situtations.....or watever be the reason.....
    even i want to prove that i'm good enough to support them and take some serious responsibilities.....and old enough to get to know everything as it happens in my family........

    like you are doing the best as a daughter....

    hope you Mom.....we call Grandma's here....recovers...soon.....

    wishing the best of the world......\,,/

  6. Carmen, With a stroke she is definitely in the best place she can be right now. Congestive heart failure as you know can be treated. My Mom had that for years. It's a good thing you went out there when you did. I know how tough this is for you and I am praying and thinking of you and your family everyday. She is getting good care now and that's what is important. xoxo Jo

  7. Oh Carmen- I've been where you are. What a trial, and so sad! The whole "circle of life" thing only works so far when it is your own circle that is revolving. Will say a prayer for you and mom.

  8. Keeping you and your mother in my heart and prayers.......:-) Hugs

  9. glad you were able to be there for her. thoughts and prayers. glad she is in good hands...

  10. cinner -
    Thank you so much for the prayers and the warm wishes. I need them so much right now!

    Icy BC -
    You are appreciated so much! I know I can count on your support.

    Mickle in NZ -
    You and Zebby Cat are such friends in far away New Zealand. Thanks for the good wishes!

    Anna -
    Sometimes being a nurse in these situations is a bit of a detriment, I think. I know the situation is serious but the nurses are truly wonderful. I can accept whatever comes. I just hate to see my mother like this.

    Hitesh Rawat -
    I feel for you! If you were here, I'd give you an enormous hug. I am sure your family feels they are just trying to protect you but, in my opinion, it isn't really fair to you as a son, not to include you in the issues around your parent's health. You would be totally devastated if, God forbid, something happened to one of your parents and all were present but you. I reallize, being far away, as I was, getting home might present a problem but you should at, the very least, be informed so that you can make that decision. Or you might want to talk to your parents. Sometimes, I think it is hard for older siblings to realize that their younger ones are adults! I guess, next time you're all together you'll just have to tell them how you feel!

    I truly appreciate all your good wishes for both me and my mom, Indian friend!

    Poetic Shutterbug -
    It is truly a good thing I arrived in Columbus when I did. I think my mom would not have survived a day longer! She could recover from this episode, although she will need nursing home care, I think, from here on out...not just assisted living. She'll never take her medications on her own and they are critical!

    I appreciate your prayers and support always, Jo. I'm just sorry we couldn't get together before I left..and that you were so sick for your birthday! I had strawberry gummies for you and never got them sent out. I wish I had them right now with me at the hospital because I am starving!

    Sharkbytes -
    It is a sad time that all of us will have to go through eventually so I know many of my friends can relate. I appreciate your support.

    Don't let up on the prayers..thanks, my friend and a hug back at you!!

    Brian Miller -
    I am so happy, at least, to discover wi-fi somewhere at the hospital that I can tap into...while mom sleeps I can catch up a little bit. Thanks for your good thought and prayers.

  11. Carmen, I know this is a difficult time and my thoughts and heart are with you.

  12. oh sorry to hear about your mom....

    i hope all is well..when you said you were off for catfish and hush puppies i wondered where in the bay i know....

    thinking of you my friend and sending love,

  13. I'm very sorry you're going through this; I can't imagine. My own mom is 80 years old, and I'm sure it would break our hearts to see her leave us while still here on this earth. I will pray for you and your mom. I'm glad she's getting good care.

  14. It doesn't matter how many people you take care of, how many IV's you start, how many times you have read a pulse ox, when it is someone you love, it is all scary. I am glad she is in good hands. You are not really home alone, we are here.

  15. i hope the situation gets better Carmen, your presence will surely bring a lot of comfort and healing to her.

  16. As a Geriatric Therapist, I've talked to many, many families who are in your situation. My heart goes out to you & I wish the best for both of you. You're in my thoughts daily.

  17. Oh, how sad. I can't imagine how hard this must be for you. I'll be thinking of you and praying all goes well.

  18. I am very touched, and my heart is very warmed, after having read about what you soul is experiencing right now.

    I feel I just might cry...

    And i have nothing left to say...please feel my heart next to yours.....

  19. I understand what you are living there my dear friend... Do what your heart tells you!And never feel bad, please

  20. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your Mom.

  21. your mom is so lucky to have you

  22. I'm sorry to come to this post so late but I really do feel for you and your mother. I undersdtand what you are going through and send all my love to you and to her. Pat