Thursday, August 13, 2009

"What am I going to do without this old lady?"

Those were the words of Arabella Hicks, protagonist in "The Fiction Class," a book I was reading in the waiting room at the Yakima Heart Center. Arabella was referring to her mother she visits each week in a nursing home. Arabella has a challenging relationship with her mother, but recognizes the love between them.

I wept.

I was waiting for mom while she had an ultrasound to determine whether or not she had blood clots in her legs. The day before we were there to determine whether or not she was eligible for surgery to open up her arteries to increase blood flow to reduce swelling and pain.

Nothing life-prolonging, just comfort measures.

We discovered she does not need surgery, but should be wearing support hose, which she wore every day until a wound on her leg wouldn't heal. Her primary doctor had decided a vascular scan was important, which led to unnecessary speculation about the pros and cons of surgery for a 100-year-old woman and the advice to not wear her hose because of the vascular disease. We requested a consult with a specialist, thus the visit to the Heart Center to see a cardiologist.

The visit to the center the day before lasted two and a half hours, punctuated by brief visits, first from an intake nurse who mom couldn't hear, then a nurse who did a quick EKG, then a physician's assistant, who was in awe that mom was 100, and finally, the cardiologist who told her first about how Dick Cheney came to Yakima and the Secret Service interviewed him because he was on-call at the hospital at the time of Cheney's visit.

Mom interrupted him and said, "So, what about surgery?"

He first said, "I just want to say, 'it's an honor to meet you.'"

I sometimes feel like mom is a rock star and I'm her manager, orbiting around her little world, making sure everything goes as planned.

After he told us about the encounter with the secret service officer, who by the way, "was built like a fireplug," mom told him that a doctor once told her that she had "one of those hearts that would beat forever."

I thought, "really, I believe it."

The doc told her she didn't need surgery, but she did need to reduce the swelling in her legs and prescribed physical therapy at a lymphedema clinic (been there, done that, but here we go again). He also prescribed a medicine that he cautioned me about.

"If she gets confused, stop it immediately."

After I dropped mom off, I called my brother on my way to the store to buy a six-pack. I told him all about the visit and that the recommendation about surgery was off-course, that her problem was the lymphedema. I told him about the drug and we hung up.

A few minutes later I called back and said, "I forgot to tell you about the drug he prescribed for mom."

My brother said, "You mean the one that causes confusion."

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