August 13, 2007

Mama Did You Dream

Did you have dreams, too, Mama? Was there a time, long, long ago, when you dreamed the dreams of all little girls? That when you grew up, you would fall in love, and marry a handsome prince, and live happily-ever-after in a beautiful castle by the sea, or perhaps, high on a mountain...did you Mama?

It's hard to imagine that now, as I look at your wasted little body lying there in your bed with the special mattress. Now, when it's way too late, you get something special.

You always wanted to be slim. Now you are. You always wanted long hair, but said it just wouldn't grow, so you settled for a short, curly perm. Your hair is long now, Mama. It's even long enough to do in a French braid...but you don't know that. It's still the same sandy-blond shade that it's been for as long as I can remember. There are only a few strands of grey that blend in so perfectly that one can hardly notice.

Who could have guessed that you would live out what's left of your life, lying in a bed, being cared for -- bathed, and changed, and turned -- and even spoon-fed the times you don't remember how to feed yourself? You, Mama, who spent your life taking care of the needs of others and always putting everyone else's needs before your own, are now having your needs take priority.

But I didn't want it to be like this. I wanted to be able to make up for all that you were denied. I wanted to give you some years of happiness and security...all the things you never had.

I don't know if you had the dreams, Mama, but I know that if you did, they never came true -- but I'll never know for sure if you did, because you are unable to share them with me now -- and you never complained.

I so wanted your remaining years to be filled with happiness and good things. You have nice things now, Mama, and you are here with me, in my home, and I am with you nearly twenty-four hours a day, every day, every week, every month,, and now it's years. But most of the time, you don't know it.

When the diagnosis was first made that you had Alzheimer's disease, you were so full of life. Your smile really would light up any room. You still primped, and preened, in front of the mirror when we would be getting ready to go out...but sometimes, you would forget that you had already gotten dressed and put on more clothing. Once you forgot that you had undressed, and walked into the living room, wearing only your pantyhose. Remembering the look of humiliation on your face still fills me with pain -- but I guess I never thought it would come to this.

As it turned out, you didn't have Alzheimer's disease after all. The diagnosis is just as bad. It is still a wasting disease of the brain . It does all the same things. It kills your dreams, and steals all your memories -- but there are still times when your smile lights up the room. There are still times when you speak as if there is nothing wrong --only then, you call me "Mama." That's okay with me, because I want to be to you, whatever you want me to be.

All good dreams don't always come true, but one of mine has. It's knowing that your are safe and secure, and well-cared for, and that I am making you as happy as you can be made to be happy. And I know that I am so loved. I know, because sometimes when we are looking into each other's eyes, I can see all the unspoken words -- and in my mind, I can hear your soft, sweet voice, and the way it sounded when you used to say, "I love you, Janice. You're my pretty girl."

You know what, precious little Mama? You are my pretty girl.

My mother lived for several years after this was written. She died after after being confined to bed for the last eight years of her life. She died of MRSA, an acute staph infection, which she acquired while hospitalized to have a feeding tube surgically instilled into her stomach. She had had one previously, but it had been removed for two years, as she improved enough to begin eating again. A short time after the first one was removed, she was admitted to a nursing home to recover from a bungled surgery, which almost caused her to bleed to death. A catheter had been inserted into her vaginal wall, rather than into her bladder. While in the nursing home, she was dropped, and her leg was broken above and below the knee, her hip was fractured, toe broken, and her foot lacerated to the bone. We were notified when it happened, but were told that it was nothing serious, and that she had sustained no injuries, other than a bruise on her foot. I was on the phone constantly, asking many questions about neurological evaluations, ex-rays, any fever or infections and I was assured repeatedly that she was fine. We lived over one hundred miles from the nursing home, but went every day to see about her, but then our car broke down, and put in the garage to await parts ordered from out of state, and that very first day that we missed going is when it all happened. Finally, on the fifth day, we got another car so that we could go see about her. It was like a nightmare! She was burning up with a fever, and in so much pain that she was out of her head, and she had received absolutely no medication at all for anything. They said that she refused it! All they had done as far as evaluations, was the toe ex-ray. We immediately called an ambulance and took her to an orthopaedic surgeon there in the town. When he walked into the room, he stopped, shook his head, and said, "You don't even have to be a doctor to see that she has a broken leg!" The whole ordeal is much too much to relay here, but not only had she not received any medication, she was still being transported from bed to chair, left her allotted time in the chair, moved back into bed, turned several times a day, and being put on a potty to "train her", even though the medical records showed that she had a neurogenic bladder, and could not be trained. All of this with two fractures in her leg, one in her hip, and a broken toe, and lacerated foot! And all with no pain medication. She had to wear a cast from hip to ankle for the remaining two years of her life, and she just never recovered from the mental and emotional trauma inflicted on her during that ordeal. When she had the surgery for the feeding tube it was only a few days before she became critically ill, having contracted MRSA. Again, I feel it was due to the carelessness of a certain hospital worker who dropped her glove on the floor and started changing the dressing over the wound with the dirty glove, even though I tried to stop her. I was furious, and within a few days there was nothing that could stop the inevitable. My precious little mother died in the emergency room the day after she was sent home from the hospital because there was nothing left to be done for her. This after all the years that we cared for her with such diligence to preserve her life. It was a labor of love. I miss you, Mama...with all of my heart and soul, I miss you.


Cheryl said...

This post touched my heart, just wanted you to know.

Anonymous said...

Oh, Cheryl...thank you so much for telling me. You have no idea how much it means to me.

Thank you for coming by...please come back again.

Jan said...

I'm laughing at myself...anonymous was me!

k said...

I do that all the time. Just wait till you see what happens when you clean out your cookies!

Your mother was a very lucky woman to have you to take care of her.

This story moved me to tears. I'm not sure if you know yet all the reasons I say that. It's very hard for me to keep my anger at those people from overwhelming me.

Here's just one: I have MRSA too. I'm colonized now. I'm constantly reinfecting myself despite all my Hibiclens and rubbing alcohol and permanent antibiotics (both cipro and minocycline). In 2004 I almost lost my left foot to it. Last fall I almost lost my leg or my life to it. It's in my October 2006 archives. Very scary.

Our little blogging community, much of them now your new blogfamily, saved me. They got together and got up enough funds so I could buy a scooter of my own. Medicare had sent me one in July, which was defective, and they screwed around and didn't replace it. I ended up walking too much on my bad left foot, which itself is permanently colonized with CA MRSA. It's just about the worst strain you can acquire. Terribly virulent. It's the one that infects healthy people through healthy skin. Like high school football teams.

Now you can have a better idea of how really brave Livey is.

I am a health threat. And she's letting me stay in her home.

We take LOTS of precautions, of course. But it still takes both courage and patience to spend any amount of time around me.

From reading your earlier posts, I felt like I already missed your mother. I had no idea how horribly they mistreated her. I'm so very sorry they did. I'm so very sorry you had to see that happen to her, too.

Anonymous said...

k..thank you for your kind words. They mean a lot to me. The thing is, that my mother really did get all the care and treatments, and anything that she needed throughout her illness. One reason being, I'm sure, is that we never relented on anything when it came to seeing that she was well cared for. The one time that we were not there, is when she was injured so badly, and that is the only time, throughout her illness, that she had to be there at all, and even then, it was against our wishes and better judgement. It waa a beautiful facility, and her room looked like something in a four star hotel. It was just the carelessness of those workers, and then the ineptitude of the hospital worker which finally led to her demise. I was blessed to be able to care for her as long as I did. I hope that you will always have those who love you, to care for you, and to fight for your needs, too.

Jan said...

Shoot k...I guess by now, you and Cheryl know who anonymous is..on here,anyway. lol

k said...


I knew.


I'm glad it was only at the end, then. I wish it never ever happened. But at least it wasn't a long-term awful story like we hear about all too often.

I am so blessed. It overwhelms me sometimes. I'm not used to it.

My family, as I grew up, were not very nurturing people. In fact, they were kind of the opposite, thinking it was a good thing to toss you in the water to see if you'd sink or swim. That it would *build character* without harming us at all.

I believe their intentions were mostly honest. But they weren't always there if we kids started drowning.

They're better now. My Walter has taught them a lot about what family means, and how it does help the sick person if their family expresses an interest, or even helps care for them. That doing those things is NOT bad for them, and doesn't ruin their independence and self-sufficiency.

So now they've grown. And now I have my Walter. And my amazingly good blogfamily and blogcommunity. And my now NON-virtual friend Livey.

But you see, I'm still not used to it. It sort of bowls me over sometimes.

NOT that I'm complaining, mind you!

DNR said...

Yeah, tears over hear too. From the previous Mortification post I'd say your ma was a great lady and a good sport for putting up with your pa's ribbing. Wish I could have known her.

Jan said...

dnr..she was the most wonderful lady, and if you had known her, you would have loved her!

Livey said...

Jan, I'm so sorry you, and your precious mom had to go through that shit! Stuff like this pisses me off so much! you are such a wonderful woman!

Jan said...

Livey, thank you.

It was horrible, and never should have happened at all. Some of the conditions of other helpless ones, who had no one to fight for them, were pathetic. It is heartbreaking to know that there are some out there, who just do not care what happens to their loved ones, as long as it doen't cause a problem for them.

A wonderful woman? Maybe just a very blessed one, for having such a wonderful mother.