It’s been a busy last month. No time to get to writing, I’m afraid, but that’s okay. I have a good memory for events.
After her collapse, the doctors rushed around us, and I called Rob to come in and be with me from where he was sleeping in the car. They inserted a breathing tube, but would not let us in, and as soon as the ambulance arrived, they rushed her onto it, leaving us to toddle behind. It was now 2:30 in the morning.
Driving into Boston at 2:45 am is like driving into the home of a sleepwalker. There is nobody around and the whole world looks asleep. We parked the car and walked up to the emergency room entrance. There were all of four people there, including the receptionist. We checked in and sat down, expecting a long wait until they were done doing whatever they needed to do. The television talked quietly to itself in the corner, and the people, all of whom seemed to work for the hospital and knew each other, chatted animatedly.
About ten minutes into the wait, a nurse came and told us to follow her back. We were led, not the ER, but to a small room bearing the label “Family Consultation Room” or some such thing. It was a small room with tan couches, tan walls, tan carpet, and other very neutral tones. I looked at Rob with worry in my eyes, and said, “This is not going to be good.” He nodded in agreement, and we sat down to wait. A scant few minutes later, a young doctor came in and sat down with us.
The news was fairly straightforward and horrifying. Two centimeters of blood had leaked into the area around her brain. The blood-brain barrier had been breached, and blood destroyed brain tissue. The compression on her brain combined with the blood was basically destroying everything my mother was and had ever been.They could operate. Cut her skull off, clean out the blood, patch her back together once the swelling went down. But she’d never be the same. He said she would probably not remember us, not be able to walk or talk, not be able to feed herself. She would not, in a nutshell, be my mother the way I knew her.
I remember reeling in shock from the idea, amazingly calm, but not really comprehending what he was saying. What was the alternative? Take her off the breathing tube and let her pass on her own. She might go right away, or she might live a few more days. I had my marching orders from her. She had told me, and my cousins, and Rob, and her neighbors that if it came to it, life without full mobility and function was not life. We made the decision to let her go.
Making the decision to let a parent die has to be the hardest decision ever. Making the three or four phone calls that followed was equally as hard. Calling people at 3:30 in the morning is never good news. Mary, Jen, James. Mary and Jen answered. James did not. I sent texts to him and Jilletta. Then we were led to the ER. It did not feel real.