Wednesday, February 19, 2014

My Mother and Our Journey This Last Year

This is my mother, Donna.  This is our journey over this last year.  A lot of people ask what happened, what led to this since she was only 67.  I know my kids will ask so I am posting this here while I still recall the details.  It's long but you are invited to read & share in our story.

She had heart issues for the last 10 years.  In the winter/spring of 2013, heart & lung problems flared up along with a broken foot, making her have to move in with us since she needed help getting around, food, on oxygen, etc.  Normally, she lived alone in her own home and was fairly independent.  During the summer, she was fine but never moved back to her home, both for comfort of not being alone and lack of motivation probably.  She was active and even on October 3rd, went with the kids & I to the Florida Aquarium.  This would be the last healthy picture we would take together.

October 7th, 2013, she had a surgery to repair 3 hernias, a gallbladder removal and to repair & separate her intestines that had become twisted & entwined together with scar tissue, possibly from a previous bout of diverticulitis and/or the surgery she had for it about 6 years ago.  In that process, there was a "leak" or fistula, meaning there was an opening somewhere in the intestines that wasn't sealed in the surgical process.  She was put on "TPN" which was food/nutrients in IV fluid form, and not allowed to eat or drink. She also had drainage bags on both sides in hopes that the leak would heal itself.  She did not leave the hospital in 3 days like they had predicted.  Instead, she was in there for 2 months and 2 days straight along with a few other week long stays because of infections and pulling out the drainage on accident.  It was over 3 months of time in the hospital within a 4 month span.
Finally, we were beginning to see a light at the end of the tunnel for her being able to eat again & "be normal".  On Monday, January 27, 2014, they removed the pic line, which meant she was officially off TPN and they had been weaning her back on normal food, starting with liquids over the previous week.  Bless her heart, she was so excited.  She had charted on the calender when she would be able to eat chicken, when she could eat beef, etc.  She & her friends were already making plans on which restaurants they were going to visit.  It had been a long 4 months without food & liquids, as you can imagine, including Thanksgiving & Christmas, so she was ready.  
Unfortunately, Tuesday, a swell came up on her side, that I can only describe as looking like a long balloon under her skin.  Her stomach starting hurting, too.  By Wednesday morning, she was not only in great pain, but the swell now looked black & bruised. We went to the ER and, of course, she was admitted. We said goodbye that night and surgery was scheduled for Thursday afternoon.  She was in so much pain Thursday, they kept her basically sedated but she did kind of respond when I kissed her goodbye.  After the surgery, the surgeon kept saying it was very serious, that she could only do part 1 of possibly 3-4 more surgeries, wasn't sure if her body could take the stress, etc.  But the problem with going in & out of the hospital so much is you kind of stop taking it seriously.  "I know this is bad but she was bad before and came out of it & pulled through".. so I wasn't fully grasping the severity of the situation. 
She was stable on Friday but on Saturday in the afternoon we got the call that you never want to hear.  My mom had coded and they were doing CPR on her, "please come quickly".  As I drove, I texted friend after friend "please pray". I thanked God for technology, to live in a time where I could reach that many people so quickly and know they would be holding me up in prayer.  I was singing "Blessed Be the Name".. this song has proven to be a life song for me through our losses and times of trials. "He gives and takes away, still I will choose to say, Lord, Blessed be Your Name".  Did I believe that? Yes.
When I arrived at the hospital, they had revived her and she was stable but they were saying the next 48 hours would be telling.  She was still intubated & sedated from the surgery so she was not responsive.  My mother in law was there and tried to get me to speak to her.  I just didn't know what to say as I looked at her in that state.  Finally as I was going to leave, I said "I love you, mommy" which isn't a term I had called her in quite a long time but it just naturally came out.
We decided to leave the kids with my mother in law in case they called again and left the hospital for the night.  All night my phone beeped with sweet messages & notifications from friends but the phone never rang. 
On Sunday, February 2nd, I decided to go to the hospital instead of church, even though they hadn't called, thinking she must have had a better night.  John went to pick up the kids. When I arrived, they frantically told me they had called & left messages, and that she had coded 2 other times.  Oddly, I didn't get the voicemails until that evening.  I quickly, and kind-of in shock, texted John that he needed to come now.  He turned around and dropped the kids back off and came up.  
Shortly after he arrived, she began to code again and we stood there while they preformed CPR on her and medically tried to bring her back again.  All I could hear in my head was "This. is. it.".  Whether that was God giving me a gentle awareness of the true reality happening here or it was just me, it was on repeat in my head.  John was praying, I was singing, and somehow saying "It's okay."  After they revived her again, both doctors came over to explain that her organs were shutting down, that her heart was dying, each time they revived her was actually getting worse for her body, they could continue to pound on her and repeat this process...or I could let her heart do what it wanted to do and let her die.  What a decision to put on someone...but I knew she didn't want to I had to sign the "Do Not Resuscitate" papers.  
Soon, the pastor who had married us and such a dear friend arrived, along with John's brother, who is also a pastor.  We surrounded her bed and prayed.  I stood next to her and whispered thank yous and I love yous.  I sang "I'll Fly Away" into her ear and told her it was okay, she could go, she would always be remembered and loved.  As I said a last goodbye and continued singing that favorite hymn, one tear fell from her... and she was gone.  Now I will never know this side of heaven if that was her response in all of this, but I will choose to think that she could hear me and that was a little gift from God to know she did.  
If there is a good way to lose someone, this was a precious way to be a part of that departure.  To leave here hearing praise and arrive in Heaven hearing praise, in one blink.  What a welcome she must have received from all the loved ones that have gone before her.  And someday, I know & fully believe, I have the blessed assurance I will see her again. 

She held my hand and whispered sweetness into my ear as I came into this world.  And I was able to hold her hand and whisper love to her as she left and entered into Heaven.  What a gift. 

"so you will not grieve like those who have no hope." 1 Thessalonians 4:13b
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted, and saves those who are crushed in spirit. — Psalm 34:18

1 comment:

Jessica Gaskin said...