Waiting is painful. Forgetting is painful. But not knowing what to do is the worst kind of suffering.
I leave tomorrow morning for Ypsilanti, Michigan to help out with my mom who is in a Rehab Center there after having fractured her hip about 10 days ago. This morning I went out to brunch with one of my best friends to see her before I go, especially since I'm not sure when I'll be back. We had a great time, despite the fact that I am be worried about my mom who doesn't sound good and is in a lot of pain from her hip fracture. It was good to get out and breath some fresh air and get away from the phone and the computer. I don't know about you, but when I'm worried I have a tendency to do Google searches that are rarely reassuring.
When I got home there was a message to call my sister who is, much of the time, the main caregiver. "Hi, Angela," my sister said, when she answered the phone in that tone of voice that you know doesn't bode well. Sure enough, Mom had taken a turn for the worse while I was out. Her blood pressure had dropped to 72/45 and her oxygen level was only 90 or 91 percent - exactly the same scenario as last January when she ended up in the hospital with pneumonia.
This time, things are complicated by the fact that Mom is on even more pain meds than last January (I think) because of the pain from her hip fracture. She is on morphine and percocet, both of which are pain medications associated with depressed breathing rates and immune system suppression: a formula for pneumonia in anyone, but especially for my mother who has had pneumonia three times in the past two years. Morphine is the worst offender and up until earlier today, Mom was on a lot of morphine because she is someone who is in chronic pain and, to be honest, is addicted to pain medicines. She did not go out and addict herself, but over the years her severe arthritis has been treated by so many doctors and she has been on so many different pain meds, that she has arrived at the same end point. None of which is good news when it comes to balancing pain management with not getting pneumonia.
Meanwhile, both my sister and I spoke with my mother's nurse, who seemed to be doing everything she could. Yes, she told us, they were concerned about my mom's status and the doctor had taken her off of morphine and her blood pressure medications until she was stabilized. Meanwhile, I tried to talk to my mom but she said she didn't feel like talking and Dad couldn't talk to me because, "he's doing things for me." And then my sister phoned back and said that Mom's blood pressure was up and, hopefully, her breathing was a bit better. An x-ray is scheduled for later tonight and, for now, there's not much I can do except hang tight and wait for more news. And that can be hell, as anyone who has waited for medical news knows. Meanwhile, I have to pack and take care of loose ends before leaving. And all the time in the back of my mind is the fact that, for the elderly, pneumonia is a killer. Seniors may have a heart condition or cancer or any of a range of conditions but it's pneumonia that gets them in the end.
As for me and my waiting, the best thing I can do is to trust that the nurses and doctor are doing the best they can. Mom is in one of the best facilities in Washtenaw County, which is saying something because it is a county with more nurses and doctors per capita than most. And, besides, worrying isn't going to help change any outcome. Pema Chodron knows that. I have packed her bestselling book, When Things Fall Apart, in my carry-on and I am hopeful that reading it on the plane will help me put things in perspective. Besides, when I'm up in the air there really won't be anything I can do. I won't even be able to talk to anyone because I'm waiting to buy a cell phone until I get to Michigan.
But that's all in the future. Right now, today, this moment, I can hope. I can hope that the nurses and the doctor at the nursing home will stabilize my mom's condition. I can hope that when I land in Detroit tomorrow, things will be better. If they're not, then nothing will have been harmed by hope. As Buddhist Monk Thich Nhat Hanh said, "Hope is important because it can make the present moment less difficult to bear." Good advice. Now, I need to follow it. Wish me luck.