Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Monday Blues

The Monday after the NFL championship games should have been a great day for me. Not only had my beloved Steelers advanced for a chance to earn an unprecedented sixth Super Bowl title the day before, the next day a man I supported unequivocally would be sworn into office as the 44th President of the United States. Instead, I was depressed. Now, granted, I was nervous about the Cardinals. I thought they had some weapons in their arsenal that made them a real threat, and the very fact that they would undoubtedly be a heavy under dog would mean that if the Steelers lost to them it would be hard to live down. But, on the flip side, the very fact that they had beaten the hated Ravens to get a shot at the Lombardi trophy should have given me an adrenaline rush to carry me through at least 24 hours. But, alas, not so.

Instead of thinking about the good things this January brought to me and my fellow residents of the Steeler Nation, I was worried about my family situation, my job and, like a lot of us, money. The fact that I still had a job sort of amazed me. But, on a daily basis I was torn between whether I thought that was a good thing or a bad thing. One thing is for sure, the income was a necessary thing, so I struggled daily with what to do.

About three weeks after Mother's accident, she called my oldest daughter and asked for help. The fact that she called Kelsey, who is not close to my mother, was a prime indicator that she would still rather go to any length to avoid hearing me potentially say, "I told you so." But, Kelsey was in no position to handle anyone needing medical assistance, let alone someone with Mother's limited movement. So, Kelsey called me at work. Turns out, Mother was complaining of pain in her leg. She had mentioned before that she thought she had broken her toe either as a result of the accident or right after, but I knew from having my own broken toe adventures, there's not much one can do with a broken toe and she wasn't walking, so she wasn't putting weight on it, so I didn't fret over it too much. What I failed to take into account was her diabetes. Additionally, she was falling often, probably because the toe threw her balance off. She didn't walk independently, but she did hoist herself from the scooter to her easy chair or her bed or to the commode. She had fallen a couple of times before and called me, and I had then called an ambulance, which made her furious. So now, when she fell, she managed to keep it to herself. But, every time that happened, she would scrape or bruise herself. No one noticed because she always wore slacks. For most of us, that would be no big deal, time heals all wounds, right? With an elderly diabetic, that is wrong. I was about to find out how wrong it was.

The emergency room was a nightmare. There is a hospital right by her apartment complex, so that's where I headed, against her wishes. She had wanted me take her to the hospital near my house, about a twenty minute drive compared to five minutes. She was right, in hindsight. We waited for hours, Mother increasingly in pain the whole while. They were busy, but appeared under-staffed to boot. Mother wasn't quite forthcoming about her situation, so she had been triaged to the bottom of the list. A retired nurse, Mother hates hospitals. She will do anything to avoid them. Emergency rooms make her particularly irritable for some reason. Then, just to put icing on the cake, the television in the waiting area was set on Fox News. I hate Fox News. It was truly a nightmare, only there was no waking up from this one.

Finally, I complained a little and got them to push Mother up in the order. When the nurse pulled her slacks off to take a look at the leg she was complaining about, we both were audibly shocked. I could tell by the look on her face that this was serious. It was like something out of a horror movie where the character had been dipped in acid. Lots of blood and gore. Both legs, up to the knee were covered in puss oozing sores. Her toe was black. From that point, things moved a little more rapidly. A stream of nurses, technicians and a doctor or two came pouring into the bed space they had put her in, all of them with that same shocked look on their face when they first looked at her. One nurse in particular was very adamant that I not have direct contact with any of the clothes we were bagging up for me to take. It really was like acid, it seemed. And the smell. The smell of rotting flesh was overwhelming. How I had not noticed it before was amazing to me, but probably had something to do with her hoarding tendencies. I was forever fighting back nausea in her apartment because she bought more food than an army could eat and refused to throw anything away. I had successfully cleaned out her refrigerator the weekend after the wreck, but there was always a suspect smell around the place still. I guess I just put it down to that. But, then, confined in that small space, it was beyond bad. I have said it before, I'll say it again: whatever they pay nurses, it is not enough. I would faint or puke on a daily basis.

Needless to say, she was admitted. They tried to prepare us for losing one if not both legs and, at that moment, it looked like that was a likely outcome. Again, odd and inappropriate thoughts tend to pop into my head at times like these. That day, a little voice whispered to me, "Well, at least you don't have to worry about her driving again."

What that day in mid-October signaled was the beginning of a long saga of trying to save not just her legs, but her. She checked herself out of that hospital two days later against medical advise, and I had tried to take care of her at her apartment with a night attendant and a daytime nurse for a few days. When the nursing service fired us because her legs were too bad for them to accept the liability, her doctor convinced her to go to the emergency room near my house and they admitted her. This time she stayed and was even relatively docile about the whole experience. Two surgeries and a lot of big gun antibiotics later, the likelihood that she would lose either leg lessened, and she was released to a rehab facility for seniors right before Thanksgiving, and there she remained as the Super Bowl approached.

In the meantime, I had packed up her apartment (no small feat since she never met a piece of a paper she didn't think she needed to keep), dealt with the holidays, brought my youngest daughter home from college on a medical discharge, only to have her be arrested on a DUI not long after, watched my oldest daughter becoming increasingly rail thin as she continued to succumb to an eating disorder, all the while trying to hang onto a full-time job. Oh, and tripped across paperwork in all Mother's piles and piles from my adoption 47 years before, which I knew nothing about. I was exhausted. So, when that Monday came, I couldn't muster up much strength or enthusiasm for much of anything. And if the Steelers couldn't make me happy, I wasn't sure there was much hope for me.

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