mom


I’m not entirely sure how to put this out there totally for public consumption on my blog, but i figure I’ll just go with my gut and hope for the best.

Saturday evening on the 9th, after nearly a year of 3 different hospitals, 2 nursing homes, and rehab facilities, and several medical procedures my mom, Sandy, has passed on. She was truly a remarkable individual.

While I was growing up, she fought and won against breast cancer, totally making it seem easy. She never complained about the chemo, and she would later go on reach to recovery calls to share with other women that life goes on after breast cancer. For me as a kid, it seemed totally normal and almost fun to have Christmas Dinner in a hospital.

Later her heart had become enlarged from the chemo therapy, and it was decided she’d need a heart transplant. In 1994 she underwent the transplant at Evanston Hospital, and pulled through it with flying colors. She lead an active life teaching High School kids Culinary arts (long before Iron Chef was even a glint in Chairman Kaga’s ginsu knife) even taking a student to the National Vocational competitions.

In 2004 she started experiencing kidney failure (due to the anti-rejection meds for her transplant), and again like a champ, she started dialysis. First, going a couple times a week to a dialysis center, then she got equipment to be able to do it at home overnight. She never let it slow her down.

She eventually moved to Chicago so she could enjoy the city she loved, and sample all of the neighborhood cuisines she could. While living in Chicago she became very involved at the building she was living at (the Edgewater Breakers), and in no time was the head of the food and greenhouse committees. Much like she was at the Vocational school, she was mentoring the kitchen and dining room staff on the finer points of running a restaurant. She spent a lot of time making and repairing jewelry and knitting afghans for hospice patients.

All of this came to a pretty dramatic change about one year ago, when she discovered an infected cut on her foot. She had been managing diabetes ever since she had her heart transplant, and she’d never really had any issues prior to this. She needed to have tissue removed from her foot. In my experience, she’d handled these sorts of issues like a champ, so I didn’t even think twice about it. Unfortunately her circulation had become very poor, so the wound site wasn’t healing. It took another series of procedures, then run ins with MRSA and CDIFF infections before she could actually get on the road to recovery and back to walking about 5 months later. Unfortunately, she was given a pair of shoes that cut into her feet even more and she had more infections that ultimately resulting in her needing a double amputation of her legs.

Now, this all sounds heavy, and yes it was. But even while all of this was going on, the woman always had a sense of humor, she was always chit chatting with the doctors and nurses, and never complained about the setbacks. She just charged on ahead with the belief that she had so much invested in her body, that she can’t spend time feeling sorry for herself.

So, here she was 3-4 weeks ago, she had just gotten her legs amputated, and she’s excited to get back to her life at her apartment building working with the Dining room folks, catching up with her many friends, when in the middle of her rehab, she gets hit with infections again. Her spirits were still high when she celebrated her 71st birthday in the Intensive Care unit because she was still ready to go back and proverbially kick some ass.

It was in the last week and a half or so that her situation started to deteriorate. Her body has been through so much, and it had started to weaken. Her heart sustained some damage, and she experienced some blood clotting. Her blood pressure kept trending lower and lower, and it was beginning to have a negative impact on the rest of her organs, and they were slowly starting to fail.

I spent most of the day with her on Saturday, and for the most part, she was totally there. She was a little delirious because she probably hadn’t gotten much sleep during the week before, and at one point she was on some pretty hefty painkillers, but she knew everyone that came in the door, and she was still pressing on. Later that Saturday night, she had stopped breathing and her heart had stopped and she was gone.

My mom was a miracle. She lived 27 years after beating cancer, 14 years after a heart transplant. All the while she was always looking to help other people, because as she saw it there was always someone that was worse off that needed a hand and she would be the person to lend it.

Anyhow, I just felt I needed to get this out here, the last year for me has been a roller coaster of emotion, and while I’m immensely saddened to see her go, I know that the world is a much better place because of her.

The Quiet October. I really like the sound of that. Sounds like the name of some mysterious thriller laden novel. Unfortunately, in recent memory, I don’t think I’ve had a quiet October. It really is my favorite time of the year, the change in weather, the leaves, the crispness in the air, the smell of apple cider, all that sale candy for Halloween.  But in recent memory, I haven’t really been able to enjoy the month either with family illnesses or moves, or whatever craziness of the moment is happening.  Right now, I’m blogging from the hospital, where my mom has spent the last two weeks.

It started out as an infection, on her foot, which with her being diabetic is problematic. She wasn’t getting enough circulation to her feet, so when she was taking antibiotics, it wasn’t making it all the way down to the infected site. They removed a chunk of tissue, but circulation wasn’t improving, so the doctors first inserted a stent, then a couple of days later did a vein graft to improve
the flow of blood and antibiotics to her extremeties.

So far so good, right? I mean, she usually recovers pretty quickly; this is the woman who licked cancer, eased through a heart transplant, expertly manages peritoneal dialysis for her underachieving kidneys. This should be a cake walk, right? Wrong.

She’s been having muscle spasms like you wouldnt believe, in her thighs, seemingly wholly unrelated to the surgery.  She’s had these spasms in varying intesities for a little over a week now… Each day the intensity grew and grew.  I stayed home from work last friday to try and talk to some doctors to get an idea what was happening, and what actions were going to be taken, but while talking to one specialist, I missed the general practicioner (he visits at 5-6 am).  She went pretty much the whole weekend in the same boat, pain ratcheting up, and relief in the form of more pain killers being elusive.

I came into the hospital this morning at 4:30am, to catch the doctor, ask my questions, and get some relief for my mom.  I managed to have a quick 5 minute chat, they’re prescribing some valium, some MRIs, and hopefully we’ll get somewhere.  Along the way, I’ve asked about therapeutic massage, ultrasound, or e-stim, all to befuddled looks.  It seemed like the only thing the hospital knew how to do was medicate the symptom, rather than  look at the whole issue.  While it was incredibly frustrating for me, it was wholly unbearable for my mom.  It terrifies me to think of spending any length of time, feeling as awful as she did with very little to show for that time.

She is feeling a little better now that i think the valium has kicked in, and that we’ve been able to stretch her legs, but all the same, I wish there’s someway I could have kicked this all into gear 4-5 days ago.

In any case, one year, for at least one week; I’d love to experience a quiet October.