After a few hours of sitting at my mother’s bedside, she began to wake up. Doctors and nurses had been in and out of the room the whole afternoon poking and prodding at her, taking her blood pressure and temperature, but she didn’t stir much at all, just slept. When she began to perk up, I quickly realized that she did not have any hearing aids in her ears. Everything anyone would say to her would nearly be shouted at her for her to understand or to gain some kind of response. Nonetheless, she was awake, albeit high on the drugs that were administered to her. At one point she hit on her doctor because she thought he had the same last name as us. I later teased her about this, she blushed and then laughed it off.
She was awake, but not out of the dark. Mom was hooked up to a heart monitor and every time her heart rate would drop or make sudden changes, nurses were quickly entering the room to check on her and ensure that she was okay. There was a crash cart sitting next to her bed just in case she had another episode of cardiac arrest and needed to be shocked back. There was an instance where her numbers were all over the place which prompted a team of nurses to gather in the hallway outside of her room, gowned up and ready to enter and save the day. Mom was supposed to be getting her ICD implanted at some point, but we were unsure of when.
Visiting hours were finished at 7:00pm. The nurse that came on to shift that evening wasn’t exactly the nicest. She did not allow me to stay beyond 7:20pm and kicked me out of the room and told me to return during visiting hours the next day which started at 3:00pm. I wasn’t comfortable with that because Mom was by herself and she needed a support person, especially being that she was in a more delicate position with Dad being in palliative care in another hospital. Mom needed to have someone with her. The nurse disagreed and sent me on my way.
I made the decision to stay in town just in case something were to happen and I needed to be there quickly. I didn’t sleep much that night, even though I was very tired. I remember laying in bed thinking about everything that had happened the last few days and just felt completely defeated. I knew my Dad wasn’t going to make it much longer and all I could hope and pray for was for my mother to be able to see him before he passed. This played on my mind for what seemed like an eternity before I finally fell asleep. The next thing I knew, it was 9:00am. I got up and got a shower and headed to the hospital to be with my mother.
When I arrived at the Cardiac Care Unit, I did exactly what I did the day before… I opened the door without buzzing the nurse and quickly made my way into my mother’s room. Mom looked to be in better shape today. She had most of her color back, but was still feeling weak from the ordeal and could barely move due to the tenderness from CPR on her chest. The first words to be muttered from her mouth, “how is your father?” At this point, Dad was not speaking anymore. He was declining. “Does he know I’m in here? He needs to know! He is wondering why I am not there to be with him.” Her concern was valid and I had thought about this before we had this chat. My brother and I were talking about it and were trying to figure out if it would be a good idea to tell Dad. This was confirmation that it was. Mom wanted him to know and she had a good reason for him to know.
I wasn’t in the room more than two minutes until a nurse entered and said, “who are you and what are you doing here?” I told her that I was the son and that I was here because my mother needed to have a support person with her. I described what was happening to her husband, you know, the verbatim explanation of what was happening because I must have said it at least a hundred times by now. The nurse was non-sympathetic and asked me to leave. I refused. She got angry and told me that Mom was leaving shortly to have her ICD implantation and that I would have to wait until 3:00pm to return. I told her that I was agreeable with this and then headed out to the waiting area while my mother was transported off to have her procedure.
I found myself waiting, once again, in a room full of people who were there for the same reason as me. It was now New Year’s Eve, but I could not see any evidence of joy around me. All these people were just like me, waiting for time to pass, for answers to questions that were beyond their comprehension, waiting for their loved ones to pull through their own personal struggles. Even though I felt like I was living a real-life movie, I began to sympathize for these people. Instead of being home, spending time with family and preparing to ring in the new year with joy and cheer, here we all were sitting in a room together just waiting for the road to be paved before us. Everything was out of our hands and placed in the hands of those who spent their entire lives dedicated to their training to be more than exceptional at their profession. The only thing that we could do was sit and wait. Whatever was to happen, would happen, and there was nothing we could do to change that.
I spent the last few years trying to make sense of the fact that I cannot always have control over every situation in life. Sometimes I have to just accept what is and try to grow and expand from it. I spent many hours trying to fix Dad, when in actual fact, Dad could not be fixed. I beat myself up over that every single day of his illness, and even sometimes now. Now that it was happening in another area of my life, my mother, I couldn’t quite handle the stress that was placed upon me. Whenever I had a quiet moment, I felt like I had the world on my shoulders and would instantly break down and cry. There was nothing else I could do but cry and just allow my body to handle the stress as it needed to. I sat, slumped over in a chair in the waiting room, and began to sob. Not one single person looked up. The energy in the room was more than heavy, it was unbearable.
It was nearing noon and I had waited for some time. The procedure wasn’t supposed to be much more than an hour and the nurse had reassured me before pushing my mother away that she would come find me and update me on how she was doing before I left the hospital. The nurse did not find me… I found her. Mom’s procedure was successful and she was resting well in her room. I took assurance in this and then made my way out of the hospital and into my mother’s car.
It was cold. I was hungry. I didn’t move. I started the car and turned on the heat, reclined the seat and sat there, crying. I watched the clock anxiously. 3:00pm couldn’t come quick enough.