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Monday, January 26, 2009

A Sick Parent

This isn't a topic to talk about us as parents when we are sick, so don't think I am repeating a topic that was posted on here a few days ago. I am talking about when our parents are sick. When we as adults have to support, help and guide our parents when they are sick and perhaps even have to face the fact that they are getting older and face the fact that we just aren't kids anymore.

In 2006, a week after my wedding and I got back from my Disney World honeymoon, my Mom fell ill. I could tell she was trying to do the "Mom thing" with looking strong and being present for me while I opened all my wedding gifts in front of my family. She was pale, weak and could barely lift her head from the couch. A few days later, she was in the ICU getting her chest electrically shocked to put her heart back in rhythm. Two weeks before that my Mom was busily and happily getting me prepared on my wedding day. She and I did that marathon run of getting everything set and prepared for my big walk down the aisle, she had to let me go to start a new life. She did it with grace, elegance and love. Looking back in the ICU she was so sick, so helpless, and needed her family more so then ever but in a way she has never needed us before. I was in that cross roads of wanting to be that child that is just terrified and that adult that still is terrified but hiding it and keeping a brave face.

After countless tests including CAT scans, MRI, spinal taps, etc., it was found that she had Lyme's Disease. She never had that trademark bulls eye on her skin and they never found it through a blood test. It was only discovered after she had a spinal tap. After recovering for another week in the hospital, she was then released with a pic line of 30 day antibiotics attached to her. At least she was out, but she wasn't the same.

Lyme's Disease can do a number of things to a persons body. It has so many symptoms that vary from person to person from, it is a hard thing to diagnose. For my Mom, it attacked her joints and heart. She was so weak and tired all the time. She barely could stay awake most of the time during family visits where beforehand she would want to hear every word, every story and give her two cents. Her cardiologists decided that a good course of treatment would get an oblation surgery on her heart. Perhaps that would correct the arrhythmia that she was suffering from and that in turn could not make her as tired or weak. She went into the hospital with high hopes that the surgery would be a fix all. The oblation procedure was successful in that everything was by the book. However, when going up through the vein in her leg, it caused that area to need a surgery to correct that. My Mom was not happy. At this time she was starting to fear hospitals.

Happily within a few months of my Mom's sickness, she was graced with wonderful news by my sister first and then by me. We were both pregnant. Her girls were going to have babies of their own. For my Mom this was the best news yet as she has wanted to be a Grandmother for years. My Mom loves babies and children. Although both pregnancies were planned, it was even more of blessing in aways since it gave my Mom something to look forward to since more surgeries were scheduled in the near future. She wanted to be healthy for those babies.

My Mom underwent another oblation surgery due to the first one not correcting the arrhythmia problem and the second oblation surgery failed as well to correct the problem. After many more tests and doctors putting their heads together, she was going to get an open heart procedure called the maize procedure. By this time my sister and I were both very pregnant. My Mom did not want any more procedures and seemingly was giving up. Through family persistence and telling her that these unborn babies need their Grandmother, she decided that she would have the surgery AFTER the babies were born. The surgery was set for early September.

Things really changed two days before my induction date on July 5th and while I was on bed rest. I got a call from my Mom in the early hours of the morning. She was crying uncontrollably and told me to come to her house. Thankfully I lived only a mile away and was in the car in minutes. I had no idea what was going on. She just wanted me there and frankly I was freaked out. As I drove up onto the drive way, she was outside waiting for me. I get out of the car and she wraps her arms around me and thanks me for coming. I inquire into why I got the call and what is going on. I was wondering is my Dad okay? Is my sister okay? What the heck is going on?!? She just explained to me she can't stop. After calming her down a bit, it was clear that she was having a panic attack set off by absolutely nothing. There was no big event happening in days or anything that changed in her life other then this sickness that she's had for over a year. My Dad was at work, my sister had a newborn by then and I honestly did not know what to do. I under went seven more "episodes" with her, which started off by her rocking like a crazy person and then breaking into tears when I finally got the chance to call my Dad. I reach my Dad at work and tell him, "You need to make a doctors appointment today. She has a problem." I honestly thought my Mom was going to the nut house, but she needed something more then just consoling. I would do that for her until the end of time, but it was only a temporary fix until the next episode and a person can't go on like that. My Dad insisted that she was fine until I described exactly what was going on for hours and what I was going through. He then made a prompt call to the doctors office. Later that day, she was given meds for panic attacks. I call them her "chill pills". It was just bizarre that my mother that I knew who was strong, didn't cry in front her kids unless there was a death, and would never try to "bother" her kids with anything. Instead, she was this helpless, inconsolable person that I could hardly recognize.

Two months later my Mom underwent open heart surgery that landed her in the hospital for weeks to recover. Thankfully the hospital she went to had a specialized heart wing/building so that it was separate from the rest of the hospital that had people with other illnesses. This meant that I could bring my newborn to visit her every day. The first time I arrived I met the heart doctor outside of her room. I was a little unsure if he would be okay with me bringing a baby in the room with her. Perhaps he would think that would be a strain to have a baby in the room, but instead told me having my son in there was the best possible thing as my Mom was suffering with depression. It gave her something to smile at and look forward to each day. He was right. She looked forward to seeing my sweet little boy every day and therefore I would be in that room from 9:00 to 3:30 during the work week until my Dad got there and then a few hours each day during the weekend.

After she was released from the hospital, she was not strong enough to be by herself all day while my Dad was at work. Because of the numerous operations and sick issues my Mom went through during that year my Dad had virtually no leave to take to be with her. I was still on maternity leave and without hesitation volunteered to be with her. It made sense and I was close by. Each morning I would wake up with my husband around 7:30 and go to my Mom's house for the day with my son. My Dad was no cook (he once thought he could cook chicken that from the freezer and put it directly to a frying pan without defrosting it first), so I often would make dinner each night for my parents and my husband who met me at the house. It was a difficult thing to juggle. I was a new Mom with hardly any baby experience, but some how took care of my son, myself and my Mom during that month I had left of maternity leave. Thankfully she was strong enough by the time I had to return to work.

My Mom is still recovering. Its been almost three years since her diagnosis. She is much stronger and a lot better, but there has been a clear and present shift in our relationship. I now mother her. I make sure she is going to the doctors when she is not feeling well or nag my Dad to nag her. I check in on her like a Mom would do to her kids as if she was some kid in college. I honestly ask if she is eating right, is she getting enough exercise, and if she is feeling (emotionally) okay. Its tough when a parent gets sick. I honestly wished I could be the child for a bit longer and she could be the Mom. Don't get me wrong, she will always be my Mom. I just miss her mothering me the way she used to. I just miss being the kid.

For more information on Lyme's Disease:

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