A Crappy Month

August 29th

Our niece, Darcie, said the other day, “you sure have had a crappy month! “ Man, was she correct! I have hesitated to write about all of this stuff but perhaps I should put it down on paper, of sorts. So, here goes.

July started off well, with beautiful weather and lovely mornings at aqua-size. At least 2 or 3 afternoons each week would find me driving to Woodstock to visit with Mom. We would go out to lunch, on a good day, or just get some ice cream and sit in the car in a nearby park to watch the geese on days when she was feeling weaker.

On Friday, July 13th, I was awoken by the ringing phone. The nurse was calling to tell me that Mom had had a fall during the night. She had hit her head, had a cut by her eye and quite a bit of blood was found on the bathroom floor. When they found her, she was sitting in her chair in her room. They put her to bed, cleaned the cut and examined her. Previously she had opted for “no heroics” or rather “no treatment” other than antibiotics. When the nurse inquired if we wanted her to be sent to the hospital, I reminded them of mother’s wishes. The nurse then approached Mom and asked the same question. She shook her head no and responded the same way when the question was repeated.

After the fall, she didn’t speak. Did she have a stroke? We didn’t know. Did the fall result from a stroke? Again, we didn’t know.

I visited her that afternoon and she seemed to be trying to wake up. She moved her legs and arms and even rolled over in bed. But she was now unconscious and unable to eat, drink or take medication.

By Saturday morning, the staff was quite concerned as she seemed to be going deeper into unconsciousness. My sister, Karyn, her partner, Lou, and Karyn’s daughter, Kate all came down Sat afternoon/evening. We all talked to Mom, held her hands and rubbed her arms etc but got no response. That night, Karyn and Lou stayed with her, just to monitor the situation. By morning, it was obvious that the end was near. Karyn, Lou, Kate and I were with her as she passed away.

It was a shock but probably the best for her in the long run. Mom had pulmonary fibrosis and would have died a slow agonizing death, feeling suffocated. This was quicker and easier for her. But harder for the rest of us.

A funeral had already been pre-paid in Orillia, ON, so that is where the service would be. Plans were made for the memorial to be held on July 27th. I had found some of my mother’s poetry during one of the moves. I had read the poems, found them unbelievably touching and had put them aside. Now was the time to read them. But, that would mean that I needed to speak at the funeral. Could I do that? I had to.

We emptied her room at Caressant Care the next week and sorted through her belongings once again. Our tiny house overflowed! But, box by box, we tossed, kept or donated items. Some things were put aside to go to the family, some designated by Mom, some that I just knew belonged with someone else.

The memorial went well. It was very difficult to speak, even though I had practiced at home. But, with Karyn’s support, I got through it. I helped her through a poem that she wished to read and we all pulled for Jeremy as he spoke for the grandchildren. It was a difficult, emotional day but family and friends gave us much support and love.

Shortly after that, on Thursday August 9th, I went into Juravinski Hospital in Hamilton for my total knee replacement. The surgery went very well and I was discharged on Saturday. During the weekend, my temperature seemed to fluctuate, with fevers and chills occurring frequently. With the history of infection in the previous knee, I was understandably concerned. My temperature never went above 101 or 101.5 F. Also the pain in that knee was increasing.

On Monday, I tried to call the surgeon’s office – closed for vacation. My family doctor – closed for vacation. Now what? I called tele-health and spoke to a nurse there. She advised that we head to Emergency. So, Monday at 4:30, we checked into ER in Tillsonburg. It was not until 7:30 or 8 pm that we finally went back to see the doctor. He peeled off the special bandage that covered my incision. Immediately, the pain went away. A large blister, of about 1.5 inches across, had burst. There were two other blisters under that bandage as well, the largest being 1 inch in diameter. The incision looked good. But, taking no chances, the doctor ordered lots of blood work. My white count was only 10,500, indicating no infection. But Dr Cluett wanted to talk to a specialist so he called Juravinski Hospital and talked to the Orthopedic surgeon on call. After some discussion, it was suggested that we head to Hamilton.

By the time we got there, it was close to 11:30PM. The resident checked the incision and said “ there is no infection. We will keep you over night but you can go home tomorrow.” Murray headed out and then the resident came back. “I need to take a sample from the knee.” I started to shake. I had been here once before and knew that it hurt like hell! Over the next hour and a half, he poked 8 needles into my knee while I tried not to scream. When he left, he told the nurse “keep her NPO and set up an iv.” I knew that meant that I would get nothing to drink and it had been hours since any liquid had touched my parched throat. The iv never materialized as the head nurse couldn’t get one started.

Eventually the morning came and people bustled around “getting me ready for the OR”. But I hadn’t been told I was going to the OR. What are they going to do? Take out my new knee? Take a sample? What was happening? I hadn’t signed anything. No one answered my questions.

Luckily, Dr Avram’s ( my surgeon ) resident showed up, checked on me and also said that there were no signs of infection. He would get Dr Avram up to see me as soon as possible and they would send me home.

Now, an iv nurse comes in and sets up my iv. “I am going home” I say. “I don’t know about that. I have an order to set up this iv.”

Dr Avram comes in and agrees that there is no infection and that I am to be discharged. Luckily, her resident, Dr Todd, is still at the desk when they wheel up a stretcher to take me to Xray for a pre-op films. He cancels all of these orders and I get to return to bed. Yeah!

Murray arrives and takes me home eventually. I was never so glad to see my own bed!

Turns out that the fever and chills were caused by one of two other problems – a urinary tract infection ( really helped by not allowing me any liquids for over 18 hours ) or an attack of gout. Both problems reared their ugly heads later that week.

So, that is the account of my crappy month. But, the sun is still shining, I have graduated to a cane and my knee is improving daily. Physio is hard work but necessary if I want to be on the boat this winter. And, I do.

Life is still good!

Heather & Murray
hanging in!