Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Shingles Again!

Here we go again with shingles... this time it is my grandmother. A little over a week ago, I suddenly got sick on a Sunday. I think it was the flu, but I didn't go to the doctor for a test. Since the CDC recommends that those who think they have the flu stay home and follow standard treatments for symptoms of the flu unless you are high risk, I stayed home and in bed. Honestly, I didn't feel like doing anything else for a few days. So by the end of the week when it was time for my grandmother's beauty shop appointment, I had prevailed upon my mother to drive her there. Thankfully Mom was home and not away on a trip.

Meanwhile, there was a "big limb" on the roof of my grandmother's porch that was driving her nuts, and on Wednesday, my husband took his ladder and went to retrieve what turned out to be a very small limb. Mam-ma said, "Well, that's not as big as I thought it was!" While my husband was there, Mam-ma told him all about how sick she had been for three days with diarrhea... and then she offered him peanut brittle she had made that morning! He politely declined. He told her I was sick and in bed, and that my mom would be handling the weekly errands.

Later that day, Mam-ma called, "to see how you are feeling." When I told her I was still sick, she quickly moved on to how bad she had felt... she had just been so sick. I told her that I heard she was getting better, and she said, "Well, maybe." She complained of a pain in her side... "up kinda high under her shoulder blade, near her chest and down her shoulder a little." She told Mom the pain was "in my side."

Thursday, she called and asked if I was better. I told her yes, a little, and she immediately moved on to her ailments and how bad she had felt. Again she complained of this pain in her side. This time it had moved... down her side. It moved every time she told one of us about it. We suggested she pulled something - she insisted she didn't.

Saturday, Mam-ma called and asked, "Are you better?" I told her yes, I was slowly getting better. She said, "Well...." then after a short pause, she said, "Well...." and, knowing what she wanted, I asked, "Are you better?" She said, "Well, no I'm not." She began to tell me again about the pain in her side and all around... shoulder blade, chest, neck, shoulder. I suggested she had pulled something and didn't realize it... she insisted she had not. She said, "I tried to go to the doctor yesterday, but they couldn't see me." I asked if the doctor was in clinic on Friday, and she said, "Well I guess... they told me he was so busy I would have to come and just sit." I suggested maybe she would be better by Monday and reminded her that with so much flu, she really didn't need to sit in a clinic... that I personally knew people in town who had been told by clinic staff, "DO NOT COME to the clinic... we have too many people here with flu and you shouldn't be exposed." I suggested she rest over the weekend and maybe stay home from church, telling her I planned to stay home on Sunday.

On Sunday, my mother told me that Mam-ma was at church. I assumed she was better. Sunday evening, she called me and again asked, was I better. I told her yes. She said, "Well, I am suffering so. Something has got to be done." She said she was still hurting, and again, I suggested she might have pulled something, and she said no, and she added, "I think it's my colon and my bowels." I told her that IF she went to the doctor for that, he would put her through GI tests. She said, "Oh, I don't want that." I didn't think so. She kept saying, "You just don't know how I'm suffering." I told her I was sure that was true, but I didn't know what to do for her... especially on a Sunday afternoon. I suggested she try to call a nurse on Monday, even though it was Labor Day. Mom and I hoped someone might be "on call." I told her that I could not risk sitting in a clinic and being exposed to the flu... and she shouldn't be either. She did not like that, I'm sure.

Sunday evening, Mom called... "I think I know what's wrong with Mam-ma. She has just called, and she has a rash under her breast and around her back. I think it's shingles." We both agreed that was probably the culprit, and Mom told her to put some Kenalog cream she had in her medicine chest on it and call her nurse the next morning.

Labor Day - no nurses! Mam-ma was beside herself. She called me and said at least 3 times, "You just have no idea how I am suffering!" I told her I was sorry. I asked her, didn't she have shingles once before? She said, "Well, I thought it was shingles, and the doctor said it wasn't." I said, "Maybe this isn't either," and she yelled, "Are you KIDDING?!" I can tell you, this is shingles! We finished our conversation, and later I had to call her back to ask her something, and she answered the phone very strongly, as if nothing at all were wrong. As soon as she heard my voice, HER voice dropped, and she began to whine and almost cry. It's always like this.

Mom and I both told her repeatedly to call her nurses first thing Tuesday morning and see if the nurse could diagnose the shingles and call the doctor for her. Thankfully, that's what happened, and Valtrex was ordered. My mom went and got it for her. Mom said she suggested Mam-ma eat when she took the medicine. She reached in the refrigerator and got out a bowl of some kind of chicken -she said dumplings. Mom suggested that she eat a peanut butter sandwich. She said that was a good idea, and then began mumbling about she hoped she had crackers. And she reached on top of the refrigerator and sat down a box. Mom asked her if she wasn’t going to make a sandwich with bread. “Well, I could,” she said. And she did. Mom suggested that she always take the pill with half a peanut butter sandwich. Besides, that’s some extra protein for her. We will have no clue whether she follows through with that or not.

Tuesday night, Mam-ma called my mom and asked if she could take a whole Ativan - said she was hurting and the Ibuprofen was not doing the trick. Mom called me to consult, and I double-checked the medication list... yes, she could take a whole pill and go to bed.

So this morning, Mom phoned to check on Mam-ma, and the Home Health aide answered and indicated Mam-ma was not feeling well. Then I got a phone call - Mam-ma - and she sounded horrible (and also like she doesn't have her teeth in!), and she asked what I was doing today. I told her lots of things, and I asked what she needed. She said, "Well, I was wondering if you want to come get some okra and tomatoes." I told her no. She indicated she has had this food for a few days and couldn't remember who brought it to her. I told her I could get it Friday when I take her to the beauty shop. She said she would not be going to the beauty shop this week. I told her I would still come and shop for her groceries, and she said, "Okay, I will see you tomorrow." I pointed out that tomorrow is Thursday... not Friday. She said goodbye, but then I noticed it took her nearly a minute to hang up her phone. I'm thinking she may be overmedicated on Ativan - or hung over from taking that extra half tablet.

Meanwhile, we are keeping Timothy on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons while his mother attends her algebra class. He is adorable, and it's the best 2 hours of our day! He sleeps so peacefully, and when he is awake, he talks and laughs and smiles and KICKS! He is pure and unblemished and just plain fun! He is also even more dependent on us than a 97-year-old woman, which puts things in perspective. We are truly "sandwiched" these days... and it's an experience!

1 comment:

Mark said...

How cool that the little one provides some balance. Caregiving (unless you do it for a living) is its own reward.