Saturday, March 05, 2011

The Passing

On February 18, 2011, my mother passed away at the age of 63. A lifetime smoker, she was diagnosed with emphasema and subsequently COPD by the time she was in her late 40's. By the time she was 50, she was on oxygen full time. We knew our time with her would be short. We just didn't realize how short.

On February 1st, Mom went into the hospital and was diagnosed with the Flu. She hadn't been out of her apartment in months so we can only think that someone brought it to her. Doesn't matter in the long run. She was taken by ambulance to the hospital and put into a regular room. Something to note...it wasn't unususal for Mom to end up in the hospital once a winter, but the previous two winter's she remained unhospitalized.

Within a day Mom was moved to MICU (Medical Intensive Care Unit) as she required the use of a BiPap machine to help her breathe and all sorts of other meds to keep her alive. She met with my sister, who became her Health Care Proxy and Mom stated that she didn't want to be intubated or any life saving measures. At that time, my Mother's MD took us out to the computer where he showed us my mother's recent CT scan of her lungs which we basically empty caverns. He couldn't believe that she had lived as long as she had. Looking back on it now, I can tell that Mom was moving less and less and could barely take care of herself. Other than going to the bathroom and getting herself a frozen meal, she could barely get herself off the couch. At any rate, the MD said that he did not see her being able to leave the hospital alive and asked if we could have a meeting with our siblings to talk about where things were and what we wanted to tell Mom. We had a meeting that afternoon and my sister Tammy went with the MD to talk with Mom. Mom decided to stay on BiPap and meds and fight till the end. She then insisted that we all go home and not come back that night because she wanted to sleep.
Later that night, my youngest sister Laura came back up only to find that Mom had decided to go off the BiPap and discontinue all her medications. She quickly called my sister Tammy, her health care proxy, who came up to the hospital and called the rest of us siblings. We had no idea that what we thought was going to be an overnight death watch, like it was with my grandfather, would turn into a 15 day death watch.
The next morning, they moved my mother downstairs to the palliative care floor. When she got down there, we thought she wasn't going to survive the move and had a thready pulse and was barely breathing. My grandmother started to cry and rub her head. She came back.
My 2 sisters and I pretty much stayed at the hospital night after night, rotating who slept when in case mom needed something. For the first 7 days or so, she was sipping diet pepsi and eating bites of food. Someone had to stay awake to take care of her. The last 2 days she slipped into a coma and was pretty unresponsive. On Friday, February 18th at 11:30AM she took her last breath. It was very anticlimatic. She just started breathing shorter and shorter breaths and finally took one last breath and that was it. We called for the nurses and one came and declared no heartbeat. The floor nurse came and declared the same thing. The MD had just been in the room not 2 minutes before her last breath and he came back and just told us how sorry he was. My sister's husband, who had and still is, handeling all her affairs called the funeral home to let them know they could come and get her and we stayed with her a little while and left the hospital. We met with the funeral home later that day and all of us agreed with each other about what casket she should be buried in and the color of her casket. Blue was her favorite color. We agreed that 2 cards she received along with a letter that Katie wrote her would be buried with her along with a picture of every one of her grandchildren. We had a lot of work to do to get ready for the funeral and calling hours.

Wendy

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