It’s been one year since mom passed. Or almost. I should say that it has been one year since mom fell and was sent to the hospital to die. That is a lot kinder, isn’t it?
Tuesday will be the one year anniversary. Just before 1:00 in the morning on the 29th of April, I lost my mother to a fall that took her life. A combination of too much cumadin and too little attention to details brought about the end of her life. None of us could have seen this coming. Falling down the stairs, yes. Falling over on the floor on her chest and bloodying her lip leading to a hemorrhage in her brain? Not in a million years.
She tripped rushing to answer the phone. Trying to rush between the walker and the secretary desk, she caught her foot on one of my dad’s toolboxes that had been there since he died five years before. She lost her balance and fell. When I called back a second time, she answered the phone and told me she had just fallen. I asked if she were okay, and she said yes. I asked if I should call into work and come down. She said no, but wanted to go take care of her lip. I was not to worry. So I didn’t.
If you knew my mother, this was pretty typical. She and I had talked, fought, and grumbed at each other for the last few years since Dad passed away because we were who we had left. I had the kids and Rob, of course, and all of my friends, but as far as parent-child relations, we were it. I called her several times a day, had dealt with three prolonged hospital stays – one following Dad’s death and two for poor eating and a wound in her leg that would not heal – and tried to keep a close eye on her from afar while I ran my almost-endless errands and daily routines. During our conversations, she talked about the ‘vampires’ who came almost daily to check her blood levels and monitor her cumadin levels. That morning, she said that the nurse had said that her blood was ‘like water’ it was so thin. I wondered if her doctor, one ass-hat of a physician named Laddy, ever even thought about the high dosage of cumadin Mom was on or remembered that she was supposed to have been weaned off of it four months prior to the fall.
I had come to trust my mother when she said she was alright, despite the fact that she had fallen down several of the old, treacherous stairs at the old house in Melrose and not told us until weeks later. She had actually told Rob before she told me, not wanting me to worry. She when she said that she was fine, I put it out of my mind and went o with my day. I had just come from tutoring and was on my way to teach a college class at Nashua Community. After that, I had to rush to my last class at Rivier with our beloved Writer’s of Americas class teacher who was retiring and moving to China to teach English. Profe’ was meeting us all at Margarita’s to have dinner as our last class. Mom was pushed to the back of my mind until 9:00 that night, eight hours after the fall. I am still beating myself up for not calling her sooner.
It was not until I had dropped of an inebriated classmate that I thought to call Mom. When I did, she said that her chest still hurt and I told her, over protestations, that we would come down. I made it home by ten, got the dogs out to the bathroom, and Rob and I were in Melrose by 10:15. She felt a bit dizzy and we got her to the car as quickly as we could, and to the hospital by 10:30. She did say that her head hurt a little, but I dismissed that as a result of the fall. I figured that the xrays would tell us what was wrong quickly enough, and if nothing was wrong, I’d be home in bed by 2:00 AM at the latest. Rob went out to nap in the car as we waited to hear the results of the xrays and CAT scan.
The doctor finally came back in and told my mother that she had a slight bleed in her brain and that she was being transferred to Mass General ‘as a precaution.’ I called Rob to come back in and settled down with Mom to wait for the ambulance. I am pretty sure that there was more than a little and it was more serious than it appeared. Either way, being told that panicked my hospital-phobic mother, and her blood pressure spiked. That was the beginning of the end.
Over the next forty-five minutes, I watched my mother go through what I now know as the classic signs of a brain hemorrhage. She started to complain of an incredible headache, was nauseous, and became disoriented. One of the nurses chalked her reactions to being psychosomatic and I partially agreed. Until she became disoriented, that is. She was trying to put used tissues back into the tissue box. Her voice was slurred and her actions were hesitant. I took the tissues from her and threw them out. When I looked back at her, her face didn’t look quite right, sort of slumped. I asked her to smile at me, and she gave me one of her silly grins. Then the doctor came and asked me to step out while the same nurse who thought she might be over-reacting gave her something to calm her down. Less than two minutes later, she had collapsed and was unresponsive. What I discovered later when I went to wash the clothes she had worn that night was that they were soaked through with urine. Her bladder had let go when she collapsed. All voluntary functions had ceased.