I watched a shadow dance across the wall of mom’s intensive care unit. It was soothing – much nicer than looking at my mother’s terribly swollen hands, the IV’s that angrily poked into areas surrounded by bright blue and purple bruises, or the tubes that snaked in through her mouth to help her breathe. Yes, the shadow dancing on the wall was much more enjoyable to watch. I craned my neck to look beyond the machinery that was keeping mom alive to see what was making happy movements across the sterile, white wall. It was a balloon. One single, soliltary balloon brilliantly colored with a floral motif and emblazoned with the statement (or was it a demand?) of “Get Well Soon.”
Looking at mom’s body lying helplessly in the hospital bed, it was hard for me to imagine that she would ever get better, let alone have anything to do with getting well soon. Will we ever get to speak with each other again? Laugh at something completely inappropriate (one of our favorite pasttimes)? Watch “Gone With the Wind” together? I’m not sure.
So, as I often allow it to do, my mind took off on its own to a funnier time, when the sentiment of “Get Well Soon” actually threw me into a fit of hysterical laughter. Several years ago, I met a woman named Joanie through the Kids ‘n Kamp Mom’s Retreat. This annual retreat was an opportunity for “cancer-kid moms” to get out of town and spend time with one another – share stories, laugh, cry, be angry – whatever we needed. I loved Mom’s retreat. It was held in Amish country each year so it was a nice, quiet environment. The years that I was able to go there was a group of us that stayed up late and giggled just like we were participating in a grade school sleepover. This is where I met Joanie. She had the best stories ever – mostly about her mother. Joanie’s mom was famous for doing odd, yet strangely interesting, things. While one of the more popular stories was the time that Joanie’s mom left home wearing two very different shoes, the one that sent me over the edge was the following:
A relative, I believe it was either Joanie’s aunt or grandmother, passed away. At the funeral Joanie’s mom went tottering up to the casket with a bouquet of flowers in a vase. She placed the vase in the casket, took her time arranging it just so, and then went to sit down before the service began. Joanie walked up to the casket to pay her final respects when she noticed the bouquet of flowers had a big card placed right in the middle of the arrangement. The card said “Get Well Soon.” Joanie was both horrified and hard pressed to contain a snort of laughter at her mother’s faux pas. I can’t remember if Joanie took the card out of the vase or left it for others to enjoy because I was hysterically crying with laughter. It was one of the funniest things I’d ever heard.
So, when I laughed out loud at my mother’s bedside after mentally reliving this story, I had some explaining to do to my dad. He was concerned that maybe I’d lost my marbles. Perhaps I had. After briefly explaining why I had burst out in a fit of inappropriate laughter, he couldn’t help but chuckle a bit himself. It was a great tension reliever.
Seeing my mother in the state she was in was terribly difficult. Her poor hands were so swollen. Her rings were on the verge of cutting off her circulation. We alerted the nurses and they were able to try some of their tricks and succeeded in removing the rings. Unfortunately, the removal left her with more bruising and scratches.
I guess I should back-track a bit and get everyone caught up on how all this came to be. Mom had been in a nursing home on Hospice care. It was estimated that mom had six months or less to live, so we prepared for what we believed would be the end of her life. While mom was in the nursing home, she started to get stronger. She was interested in walking and trying some measures of rehabilitation. It was encouraging. Within a few days she began to experience terrible pain in her extremities and back. She went to the hospital, and despite the original order of a DNR and being under the care of Hospice, she decided to change those orders. The DNR was lifted and she was taken off of Hospice care immediately. Mom seemed to recover from the pain she had been experiencing and within a couple of days she had her pacemaker battery replaced – another step in prolonging her life. It seemed that mom was on the road to recovery.
Then she started having seizures. The medication they had to give her required her to be intubated and placed in a medically induced coma. She’s had multiple EEG’s over the last few days, which indicated that she was no longer having seizures. So they weaned her off the sedation with the hopes of being able to take her off the ventilator. Unfortunately, she won’t wake up. She should have been able to come out of it by now, but she hasn’t yet. The doctors aren’t sure why this is the case.
So, just when things were looking up for mom, it took a very fast and scary u-turn.
For now, we are waiting. And praying. And hoping for her to Get Well Soon.