My mom is one of the best people I know.
She's the kind of person that total strangers will tell their life story to. She just has a way about her that invites people to instantly feel at ease, and a way of listening that allows you to get to the root of any problem and feel the light at the end of the tunnel.
She has also had medical problems for as long as I can remember.
She explained to me once that she has weak connective tissue which caused lots of her insides to not stay where they're supposed to be. She also has Degenerative Disc Disease which started when she was much younger then it normally begins. She has had so many surgeries that we often joke they should just put a zipper in. Many of the surgeries have been to repair herniated discs. She is in constant pain, needs a cane to get around, and has had to change her lifestyle significantly to accomodate her back pain, which typically is mostly sciatic pain that shoots right down her left leg. And yet she is still that amazing person that I described above.
Monday she had yet another surgery to repair a rectal prolapse. This is actually the third such repair she has had, though this time is with a colorectal surgeon instead of a gynecological one. Hopefully this one will work. All week the moment I finished teaching I ran over to the hospital to spend time with her and then rushing home in time to meet the kids as they get off the bus. On Monday and Tuesday I also teach Hebrew, so as soon as DH came home I rushed out to teach and then came back home exhausted.
Each day seeing my mom in the hospital was incredibly hard. It's always hard to see my mom after surgery because she's weak and wearing no make up - she looks so different. This time around was worse. On Monday I arrived expecting her to be in recovery. Her surgery was scheduled for 11; I got there at 1. It was a reasonable assumption. For whatever reason, she did not go back for surgery until 3:00. That meant she had to lay on her back in that tiny pre-op room, anxious and nervous and in tremendous pain since she had not had any of her anti-inflamatory medication for a couple weeks in preparation for surgery PLUS she hadn't taken any of regular pain killers that morning since she wasn't supposed to eat or drink since midnight the night before. It was crazy and I felt that if I wasn't there advocating for her she never would have finally gotten a pain injection at 2 which helped her so much, though she was still in pain.
The next day I arrived only to find her in tremendous pain down her leg, but because she is who she is, she was downplaying it, calling it "discomfort." When I pushed her to quantify the pain on the number scale, she admitted that it was about an 8 on a scale of 1 to 10. Again, I felt the need to be her advocate, insisting that the nurse, first of all, be sure to question my mom more specifically about the amount of pain she was feeling and, second, contact her surgeon immediately to have him order more pain meds for her.
Today when I arrived she began having more embarassing issues requiring the nurse to come and help her clean up. However when she was ringing the bell for help, no one was coming. She was mortified, and uncomfortable, and didn't want my dad or me to have to clean her up, but was unable to independently take care of herself yet. I went out and tracked down the first nurse I saw, insisting they come in and help her. She did. She brought her to the bathroom, removed the soiled linens on the recliner my mom had been sitting on, and then told my mom to just buzz when she was ready. Then she left my mom in the bathroom and proceeded to take another patient somewhere on some other floor. Of course my mom was finished before she came back. She began walking back to her chair (on which I quickly grabbed sheets and chucks from her bed), in tremendous pain and breathing hard to try to control the pain, and no sooner did she sit when she soiled herself again. And the nurse still wasn't back. It was an awful situation for my mom, and while she had no control over these bodily functions, I felt that I needed to be in the room with her to help her sit, stand, walk to the bathroom (and then eventually to a portable commode instead), provide wet cloths for her to clean herself, all kinds of things that the nurses should do. Don't get me wrong - those nurses were each in charge of about sixteen other patients, I know they are overworked and underpaid, but this is my MOM I'm talking about. I don't want her to feel so embarrassed and in pain and unable to do anything about it if she doesn't have to.
I went back again tonight and her stomach seems to have settled down, allowing her to have enough control that she is able to make it to the bathroom on time now, something that relieved me beyond words. I left her tonight feeling better because SHE seemed to be feeling somewhat better. She is supposed to be discharged tomorrow at some point. The recovery from this surgery could take up to two months. And I will feel torn this whole time; divided between my kids and this house and my mom and her house.
I thought I had time before I would become part of the "sandwhich generation." I thought that was something that really referred to people much older than me. But the fact is I'm nearing forty. My mom is an unhealthy sixty-six; my dad is an extremely active seventy-six who survived non-Hodgkin's Lymphona, though the chemo destroyed his immune system and he is highly succeptible to all kinds of infections. I love that my sister and I live near them and that we are available to help them when they need it. But it's times like this that I begin looking ahead and try to envision what the future holds. I know it's impossible to predict.
Still, I wouldn't mind find that crystal ball.