Tuesday, December 11, 2012

They's a Lot Worse Things Than Dyin'...

All of my adult life, I've heard my Mam-ma Polly say this... "They's a lot worse things than dyin'..."  Now, it's her turn.  I had made plans to accomplish two things today... get the laundry done, and visit Mam-ma.  I started laundry, worked at my desk, then did a workout, showered and dressed.  Somewhere around 2:30 p.m., I headed for the Assisted Living Facility.  My mother had visited Mam-ma yesterday and thought she was pretty good... so well, in fact, that she planned to take Timothy and Zola to see her tomorrow.

Today was totally different.  The Hospice aide - and a dear friend of our family - was there bathing Mam-ma.  And the oxygen machine was running... hose strung across the room and into the bathroom.  Shelly (the aide) hollered to me, "She's really wheezing!" I told her she has been wheezing for a couple of weeks.  But Shelly said, "I could hear it when I got here." And I could hear it.  Shelly said, "I am wondering if I should have showered her... she's not doing good."  Mam-ma was shaking... and she had an ashy color.

Shelly got Mam-ma dressed in some sweats and insisted she get into bed.  Mam-ma started to protest... and even had Shelly put her in the wheelchair... but then she thought better of it and agreed she should be in bed.  Shelly stayed while I checked with the facility nurse.  When the Hospice nurse had visited around 1:30 p.m., Mam-ma's pulse ox was 80.  Normal for most of us is somewhere around 95 to 100.  They start to worry at 89-90.  So this was a low reading, hence the oxygen.

Mam-ma was clearly in distress.  She and I had a long talk, as she tried and tried to tell me something, but could get out no more than an "Oh, I want... or "Oh, I'm going..."  I asked her... "are you ready to go home?"  She raised up in bed, looked me squarely in the eye, and adamantly said, "YES!"  I told her it was okay to go... that we were all okay.  Then I began to tell her how my mom had said just this morning that some of her friends had announced to their children that they were no longer to prepare a big Christmas dinner... and that "honor" would have to transfer to the children.  At least one of those children said, "Fine!  We'll eat out!"

I reminded my grandmother of my cousin Carla, who died suddenly about a year and a half ago of a brain aneurysm at age 46.  Her parents went to a franchise restaurant one year for Thanksgiving, and she had a FIT!  I told Mom, I could see Carla's eyes rolling at the very thought that we would not have a home-cooked Christmas dinner.  Then our conversation turned to Christmas dinners... and who all would be sitting at our family's table in Heaven vs. the table here.  I told Mam-ma, "There will be a whole lot more of us there than here... and you should be with them."  She began to cry.  I soothed her and said, "Now, we're not going to cry about this... this is a glorious, wonderful thing, and you deserve to be with... (and I named everyone from her sisters and best friend to my grandfather, dad, brother, cousins and aunts and uncles who have shared our table's bounty - and our lives). 

Mam-ma settled fairly quickly... at least she stopped crying.  My sister and my niece arrived to check on her... and then my mom came.  As each person came, Mam-ma tried desperately to tell them things, clasping their hands, grabbing for their shirt sleeve, or cupping their face in her hand.  The only words I understood beyond the "I wants" and the "I'm going tos" was "Greg" - my husband's name.  Mam-ma has been very worried about my husband and me ever since we moved my niece and her three children home a couple of months ago.  I smiled and said, "Greg is fine.  We are both fine... and we're going to be okay.  You don't worry about us... we are both okay."

A few minutes later, the door opened, and my sweet husband came through.  He walked over and kissed Mam-ma, and she gripped his hand.  He was just what she needed.  The Hospice nurse told me to ask the facility nurse for an anti-anxiety pill for Mam-ma.  One hour later, she was still agitated... the pill had not worked.  The Hospice nurse had arrived to see for herself what was happening, and she ordered a pain pill for Mam-ma.  The facility nurse gave Mam-ma the pain pill, and about a half hour later, she was calm and resting better.

We decided to grab some dinner, and then I would return to the facility.  We were probably gone 45 minutes, and when I got back, aides were changing my grandmother and putting her bedclothes on her.  She was coughing more, and one aide took her vital signs.  The pulse ox was normal, thanks to the oxygen, but she now has a low-grade fever.  The Hospice nurse suspects she has some bronchial "something" going on.  BUT... as soon as Mam-ma was dressed for bed and settled, she drifted off to sleep immediately.  The aide on duty offered to come back after she finished her rounds and sit with Mam-ma until she was sound asleep, if necessary.  I sat with Mam-ma for about an hour, and my mom returned for a few minutes, as well.  Mam-ma never roused. Her brow has been furrowed in a frown all day... a sign that she is not comfortable... but she slept nonetheless.

So I asked the aide to be sure that Mam-ma continued to sleep.  Give her another anti-anxiety pill if she wakes, and don't encourage her to eat.  She refused supper... I'm hoping she will refuse breakfast. She had trouble swallowing water for her pain pill, and I do not want her to choke. I reminded the nurse and aides NOT to insist that she eat... to offer food, and let her decide.  The Hospice nurse, who is also a dear friend, keeps telling me, "You're doing great!  You're saying the right things.  You did well in talking to her.  Let her know it's okay to go."  So we are doing all these things.

This is not easy, by any means.  Mam-ma is right... "they's a lot worse things than dyin'..." and watching her like this is one of them.  While we were eating dinner, I told Greg, "I don't know why dying has to be so hard."  He reminded me that even though Mam-ma is ready to go... she is incredibly tough!  This could take a while.

Tomorrow, the Hospice nurse will consult her doctor and see if anything further can be ordered at this point to keep Mam-ma comfortable.  I'm hopeful.  Tuesday, December 18, will mark 80 years since my grandmother and grandfather married. My Pap-pa has been gone since August of 1984.   I would love nothing more than for the two of them to celebrate this anniversary together... in heaven.  I know I don't get to tell God how to run things... but I do believe He hears requests.  I'm just hoping He honors this one.

1 comment:

Mark said...

My heart goes out to you. I now see just how relatively easy my family had it with my grandparents. All but one died suddenly -- two in their sleep without ever living outside their own home. The one whose passing was slower was so far away that we only saw her like that once.