Good, Bad, Ugly, Good

Friday the 13th, late afternoon, after surgery on Wednesday.

“You’re ready to go to rehab! They’re waiting for you for you over at Southside Rehab! All you have to do is call your ride.” The arrangements were made. I called Neil. The nurse suggested it might be good to get some pain meds in my system for the ride ahead.

I don’t remember much about the trip there, except that I kept backseat driving.

I went inside in a wheelchair. Was it mine? Or theirs? Who wheeled me? I don’t know, but I was taken immediately to my room.

“Where are my things?” I asked. “I really need to go to the bathroom.”

“Look, we have a dinner tray here for you.” I lifted the lid and replaced it immediately. I remember carrots. I was nauseated.

A young woman in wrinkled grey scrubs and a greasy long ponytail introduced herself as the admitting nurse and said she would have a few questions for me in a few minutes.

“I’ll be right back,” she said.

“Can I have my nightgown?”

“Your stuff is all out front. We have to go through it all. We’re going to wash everything.”

“What? Go through it? But my laptop is there and, and, my Kindle and, and…”

It was hard to tell who was talking because there were five or six people gathered in the room. In the halls, other workers giggled and talked too loud.

“You don’t need anything right now.”

“I need to go to the bathroom. I need my phone. I haven’t seen anyone yet.”

“Seen anyone?” the admitting nurse asked. Ah, she was back. “You’ve seen all kinds of people.”

“I need to see a nurse.”

“You’ve seen ME,” she said. “I’m a nurse. I told you I’d be right back.”

“I want my laptop and stuff. And, listen, there is a little silver box inside a clear plastic makeup bag that has teabags in it. I need that right now. My wedding ring is in there.”

Grey Admitting Nurse put her hand on her hip. “Did you not read the part that says not to bring valuables?”

“It doesn’t matter what I read at this point. I want you to go right now and get me that silver box.”

She sighed, flew out of the room, and came back with the plastic makeup bag, and my laptop. All there, thank goodness. I put two rings on my hands. The toe rings and earrings left in the box could be replaced, but not my wedding ring. No way.

“Did you bring my clothes?”

“No,” someone said. “You don’t need them right now. We need to get you admitted.”

***

Everyone had left. I was alone in the room. I was cold. Was I wet? The spinal block I’d had for surgery had rendered me temporarily unable to control my bladder, well, more than usual.

I was the old woman I’d heard hollering many a time while visiting a nursing facility.

“Somebody please help me.”

***

No one came. The incontinence pad I was wearing didn’t hold. I might have been dripping.

I can’t stay here. I felt my chest for my phone. It was there, tucked in my bra.

I texted Neil. Do you think you could come get me and take me home?

How serious are you? he replied.

I’m serious. We’d have to round up my stuff but I can’t stay here.

Whatever you want.

?

I’m on the way.

I thought about calling Dave. I don’t know if I did. I remember arriving at home. I think Neil wheeled me into the bedroom. I know he sat all my bags in the floor. Dave stood by.

Before Neil left the room, I said, “Neil, you’ll have to assemble that potty chair that’s on the porch. It’s in the box. I’ll need it by the bed. I am so nauseated.”

Dave helped me undress. I did not know where my nightshirts were, or my underwear, or my pads, or anything. I knew they were in the bags but not which bag. Dave would never find them.

“At the end of my closet, there is a long pink thing, like a dress, or nightshirt. Give me that, and find me some panties. There are some pads in my bathroom.”

Dave could not find panties because I’d packed pretty much all of them. I did not know which bag they were in. I wanted to lie down.

“Just give me an old pair of your briefs and I’ll wear those tonight.”

I lay down in bed and Neil brought in the bedside commode and left.

Dave came to lie down in bed with me. I coughed, coughed until I might have broken a rib. I was nauseated. I might have thrashed.

Somewhere around 2:00 AM, I got up to transfer to the bedside toilet. It was in the lowest position. I crouched and held to the side arms. My new knees objected when my backside fell too far toward the floor.

I was wet again. The floor was wet. The bed was wet. Somewhere I got panties and a pad.

About 2:00 o’clock (I think), I told Dave, “Something’s wrong. I need to go to the hospital.”

He tried to discuss, but I couldn’t answer coherently.

“Hand me my phone,” I said. I dialed 911. I’m not sure what I told the woman on the other end of the line, but she stayed with me until some EMT’s walked in and asked me if I could get on the gurney.

I didn’t know, and I don’t know how I got on the gurney. I was cold, with no shoes and wet pants–again. The cold of the night stung and numbed. I had no blanket. Outside, the EMT’s moved me to the cot that lifts into the transport ambulance, strapped me in, and hit the lift button. A short grey-haired woman with a gravelly voice positioned herself beside me and buckled herself in.

“I’m so cold,” I said.

“Yeah, I think we’re finally getting winter,” she answered.

Wind whistled. There was no heat in the ambulance. My feet were numb.

***

I got a blanket at the hospital. When the nurse asked me why I was there, I said, “I just want to go back to the hospital.”

She prepped my arm for a needle stick and inserted the routine IV.

“Where is my phone?” I asked. “I had it. Where is it?”

Dr. Carpenter, a hospitalist, appeared. He didn’t look like the Dr. Carpenter I’d known before.

He asked me why I left the rehab facility. I think I told him something about all my personal belongings in a heap on the floor. Whatever. I wasn’t able to say much more.

“Could somebody get me another blanket?” I asked.

Dr. Carpenter said, “Let’s get her another blanket.”

He patted my leg and left the room.

Somebody said they were going to get a CT scan of my stomach.

“I don’t need that,” I said. “I just need to go upstairs and go to bed.”

***

The night shift was still on duty when I got upstairs to a room just down the hall from where I’d been after surgery. I was safe. Finally.

“I’m Heather,” she said. (Not her real name.) “I’m your nurse. We’re going to take care of you.”

“Can I have some water?”

“Of course you can.”

Drinking water never felt so good. It wasn’t the taste. It was the feel.

“Are you hungry? Want some crackers? We have peanut butter and crackers, applesauce, fruit cups…”

I knew from experience I could get a sandwich. “Sandwich?” I asked.

“You may be in luck. Let me see if I can rustle up a turkey sandwich.”

Heather smeared a whole packet of mayonnaise on each slice of bread. I ate the best turkey sandwich of my life.

Heather stayed with me for what seemed like quite a while. When I woke, she was gone. I was still wearing the long pink knit sleepshirt from home but I was dry. I felt treaded socks against the footboard. I smelled coffee.

I pressed the call button. “Can I have some coffee?”

Heather appeared with coffee, creamer, and sweetener.

“I didn’t know what you wanted in it, so I brought it all,” she said. “When the day shift gets here, we’ll get you all cleaned up, okay?”

I thanked her and drank that cup of kindness in Holy Communion with all the world’s hurting and those who take care of them: caretakers, professional and not, those who walk every hall, enter doors, and sit bedside. I drank it black. Normally, I want cream.

***

Shirley and Tessa washed and dried me and anointed me with unscented lotion. Shirley’s been at St. Thomas for fifty-two years. “

Heather said, “Shirley runs things around here.”

“Here. Do you want to brush your teeth?” Tessa asked.

I was hard on the bristles of the plastic brush. Some of them came off in my mouth.

“Here, spit in this emesis cup,” she said. “We’re gonna throw that old toothbrush away anyhow.”

“I don’t have any panties,” I said. “I’m going to need a disposable brief or something.”

“Alright, honey, we’ll get all that.”

The rest of Saturday passed in a blur of dozing, rejecting food trays, and watching helpers enter and leave the room. I slept in two-hour segments, awakened by Yolanda for vitals and the day nurse for medications.

“I really don’t need pain meds,” I said. “I need to pee.”

***

Sunday morning, I ate pancakes. Dr. Hoffman, “my” hospitalist, stopped by.

“Diana, what happened to you was a _______.” [Now I can’t remember the word. It means overdose– but not.]

“That’s why I was crazy?”

“I wouldn’t say you were crazy, but the medicine was just too strong for you. We overmedicated you. I’ve changed you to something lighter and I think you’ll get by fine on that. We’re going to watch you. PT will come in to work you out.”

“Did what I think happened at Southside not happen?”

“I feel certain it did, but it’s possible things were magnified or enhanced to you, and you were certainly confused.”

“I couldn’t stay there.”

“I know, I know,” he said. “Well, we’re going to let you stay with us another couple of days, and then you can decide what you want to do. Dr. Shell’s nurse practitioner is back now–she’s been on vacation–and she and Dr. Shell will get you all fixed up. You might want to go to another rehab or you may just want to go home. I’m not sure what your home situation is, or…”

“I’m going to Richland House if I can. I need somebody to take care of me.”

“Okay, then we’ll probably get you out of here tomorrow afternoon. I’ll look in on you later on.”

***

Dr. William Shell, one of TOA’s finest, certainly the sweetest, walked in the room with his nurse practitioner Lori on Monday morning. Lori had already stopped by to tell me that Dr. Shell was coming.

“So you didn’t fare too well over at Southside,” he said. “I’m so sorry about that. I was afraid of that when I realized where you were going. If Lori hadn’t been gone last week, we’d never have let you go there.”

I was now the facility’s defender. “It’s okay. It’s not all their fault.”

“No, well, there are other better places. Lori will get you all fixed up with that.”

“How about Richland Place?” I asked.

“That would be one of my three suggestions,” he said. “Let’s get you out of here this afternoon.”

He started toward the door and then turned around. “Unless you’d rather stay with us one more day, get some more PT done, and then go home.”

“Oh, my, I’d rather go home.”

“That’s what I prefer,” Dr. Shell said, “even if we didn’t have this epidemic upon us. But those people are so stretched, and you could do as much for yourself at home as they’d do for you.”

“One of my main concerns is Covid, too,” I said. “Southside assured me of a quarantined ward and room. I wasn’t going to even get out of the room over there.”

“Yeah, home is always best if you can do it. Okay, then, Lori will get you all fixed up for outpatient care. I think you’ll do just fine at home.”

“Will I have home health?” I asked. I was thinking about bathing mainly.

“You won’t need it. They tell me you have a couple stairs at home. Did you have any trouble with stairs in PT?”

“No.”

“Then you’ll be fine. Don’t forget to make your appointment for followup in three weeks.”

***

I left the hospital the second (and last) time on Tuesday about noon.

“Neil, we have to get tacos. I need tacos. Tacos for everyone!”

At home, Neil unloaded my bags and set a casual table.

“Isn’t this a great idea?” I asked.

Mom, Dave, and Neil all agreed!

*****

Trying hard to leave.

My daddy hovers, sometimes thrashes, naked, his mind somewhere along an invisible jagged line between his tiny spot of time and space on earth and the ultimate reality of Infinity.

His heart beats so fast sometimes that we fear stroke. Doctors get his heart rate down and his blood pressure goes up. Get the blood pressure down too low and some other wheel falls off the old bus.

He fell in his bedroom sometime very early a week ago Tuesday morning. Before we found him on the floor with a bloody gash on his head,  he’d pulled shirts, belts, and a bootjack from his closet. He told us he’d ducked into a shed for shelter from the rain and realized he’d stepped into some man’s corn crib. Then he couldn’t get out of the field and had crawled through rough straw for miles.

Dad did not get confused because he fell; he fell because he was already confused in the night and hallucinating. We’ve seen a slow slide toward dementia for about three years, but since last Christmas the disease has tracked him like a cat, consistently and with increasing speed. We’ve watched a wretched auto-immune disease rob him of the ability to enjoy food and then to swallow well. His legs grew weaker and weaker, so often he could not stand, even with his walker.

In the emergency room after the fall, he fought with three cats, two black and one black and white, that kept pouncing on the bed. Every time he kicked them off, they came back.  I shooed them away. He re-told the corn crib story with variations and repeated an earlier adventure stripping tobacco with two youngsters who would not talk to him. He was pretty sure they could talk, they just wouldn’t. The ER physician called a hospitalist to provide overnight observation.

Once in the room on the fifth floor tests began, including an ultra-sound on his legs. The technician came in Wednesday morning, made it through the scan of one leg and then Dad refused. He kicked at the machine operator. She dodged and moved the equipment. He kicked some more. When nurses arrived to rescue the tech, he doubled his fists and slapped at them.

I said, “I don’t think you’re going to get that next one.”

She smiled and said, “I’m pretty sure of that.”

Within a few hours, the a-fib grew worse and Dad grew so wild and combative I wished for restraints. They came quickly. He did not sleep–not one wink-– for four days.  One night, I bent over to pick something up just under the edge of his bed and even though his hands were tied, he grabbed my hair. It took a few minutes to pry his hand loose.

My dad’s wild mind fashioned a scary story with escalating horror. He gave me the base plot as he dressed me down. I was trying to kill him, leading a band of nurses are my followers. He kept saying that he can’t believe I would do this for money.  “Greed. Evil. You are no daughter of mine.” I stood stark still, as if at attention, stung and disoriented. The words might have attached themselves to a deep sorrow if I hadn’t heard a voice. “This is not your dad.”

For several hours, there was a huge farm machine loose on his farm. We–the nurses, Jade, John, and I–had already destroyed the farm with this wrecker/excavator. We knocked down trees and ran through the shallow creek, breaking the flat limestone into small pieces. We were going to let it run over him, and then it was somehow above him and we were preparing to let it fall to crush him. One hour we were setting him afire. Another time, we were trying to poison him.

He disowned me, then started yelling again. I tried to slip a dry mouth lozenge in his mouth but I wasn’t quick enough. He can’t bite since he has no teeth but he clamped his jaws shut, turtle tight. Then he said to the air on his left, “Jameson, look at your mother. This is the kind of mama you have.” Jameson is my grandson, not my grandson, and he is safe at home in his own bed.

Dad got back to serious yelling. “Where is Mom [my mother]? She’s the only good person around here.”

The student nurse asked, “Does he like music?”

“Yes!” I said. “I can’t believe I haven’t thought of that. I should have brought in a player. There’s no music channel on the TV.”

Wait, I thought. I could stream from my laptop.

I grabbed my almost-dead HP from my bag and began the frustrating process of hooking up to the hospital free-for-visitors wi-fi. It’s a finicky network. I spent twenty minutes and then gave up.

Dad changed the venue. “Help! Come on, we’re down here in the bottom by the creek. They’re trying to crucify us all.”

The last time he had mentioned crucifixion, the nurses were attaching restraints. I watched him pull at the cords and thought of rodeos and roped calves. I remembered a pig bound and hung for slaughter at my grandfather’s farm, and of holding my dog Murphy for an injection.

That night, I left him praying. The words were plain and the sentences cohesive. “Lord, thank you for this life I’ve been given. And if you want me to die now, I’ll come. I ask you to forgive Diana and all these evil persons who are doing this to me. They know not what they do. Take care of their little children.” I walked out of the room, on down the long hall to the parking garage.

The next time, he was on the hill at the farm in Smith County. He called for his mother. “Mama, come on here. I’m up on the hill. They’re about to kill your last son. Don’t you see the smoke?”

He did not remember that seventy-two years ago on the same day, Halloween, he and my mother took a long taxi ride to Georgia and married. He was seventeen, she “fourteen-almost-fifteen,” they said.

My mom waits at home, not really worrying, just pondering. She is dressed in blue matching pants and top, her curly hair neatly combed back, and her ensemble accessorized with the usual rings, earrings, bracelet, and necklace.

After two days and several doses of psychiatric drugs, the restraints were removed. He was still agitated but not trying to hurt anyone. He rolled his sheet and blanket into a wad and tossed them to the floor. He pulled his arms through his gown, easing the heart monitor through a sleeve. The gown and a couple Chux pads found the floor. I heard a pop, pop, pop as he removed the leads to the heart monitor. He seemed pleased that he had wires to untwist. He repeated the process several times.

He slid down the bed and pounded the foot rail in a surprisingly steady rhythm. He called for my mother, yelling louder than he’s been able to in years.

I told him, “Dad, Mom is not here.”

Sometimes, for a minute or two, he believed me when I told him, “You’re in the hospital, Dad.”

“In the hospital? What am I doing here?”

I told him, “You have to stay for a while until you get better, and you are getting better.”

“Am I in South Carthage?”

“No, Dad, you’re in Nashville. At St. Thomas.”

At times, it connected and he said,  “Oh-h-h-h-h-h.” Another time he added, nodding his head, “So that’s the problem!”

One afternoon, he asked, “Did you know the cats are back?”

“No,” I said. “What are they doing?”

“Oh, they’re just lying around down there at the foot of the bed.”

I said, “But you’re not trying to kick them off.”

“No, I got used to them.”

From time to time, the psychiatrist Dr. Le Coguic stuck her head in the room to ask a few questions with telling answers.

She: What year is it, Mr. Blair? He: 2017. She: When were you born? He: Five, twenty-nine, no. Five, nine, no. Twenty-five. She: That’s good enough! Now who’s the President? He: Truman. She: Hmmmmm.

I snuck in a word there. “He really knows. I asked him myself yesterday and he said Truman and I said, ‘No, it’s Trump, Dad,’ and he said, ‘Yes, that’s who I mean so just pretend I’m saying Trump when I say Truman.'”

Dr. Le Coguic laughs out loud. “Good enough!” she said.

The next time she asked him, he said, “Oh, that damn Trump. Truman.”

The morning of November 7, I walked into the room where a soft-spoken chaplain introduced herself to me as Gail. She was asking Dad if he was a spiritual person. She didn’t understand him, but he answered her, “I suppose so. I’ve got a Master’s of Divinity from seminary.” I translated a few sentences to her until Dr. Chris MacMurdro from the Palliative Care Department stepped in. Because Dad was still talking with Gail, Dr. Mac asked if we might step down the hall to talk.

“Call me Dr. Mac or Chris,” she said and explained her specialty.  After several minutes of discussion about what I might expect or anticipate or decide, Dr. Mac told me with his refusal to eat or drink, Dad would likely be gone in two weeks. It’s too early for hospice, she said, but you will need them. If Dad goes to a skilled nursing facility, he might get a few days.

Just as Dr. Mac and I were ending our conversation, Gail approaches us from the doorway of the family waiting room. “Your dad,” she said, and placed her hand over her heart. “Oh my. And thank you for helping me understand what he was saying. I could understand him after that.”

“Good,” I said.

“This is the first time a patient has prayed over me,” she said.

“He did?” I asked.

She teared up. “I asked him if he would like me to pray with him, and he took my hands and said, ‘I’ll pray for you.'”

“And he did?” I said.

“Yes, and now I have to go sit down somewhere and cry.”

***

1105181807a
Still a small smile.

Later that day, when I told Dr. Mac the evening Zyprexa seemed to make Dad more agitated instead of less as it was supposed to do, she wanted to revisit his history of hallucinations and his increasingly weak legs. “Let me go back and look at his chart again,” she said. “I’ll call you back.”

“Dad,” I said, “would you drink one of your protein shakes? I have a cooler over here with three drinks in it. Which one–chocolate or vanilla?”

His eyes lit up a little. “Chocolate!”

I rolled the bed up and offered him the straw in the bottle. He tried to take the bottle.

“I want to drink it. Myself.”

“Well, okay.” I grabbed some Chux pads and tucked one around the top half of his body. I helped him hold the drink, with him struggling to wrest it from me, until I knew he’d had enough that he wouldn’t immediately pour the stuff all over himself.

He drank almost all of the eight ounces. He drank almost ALL of the EIGHT OUNCES, the most food of any kind he’d had since more than a week ago. 

Dr. Mac called.  “Diana, this is not Alzheimer’s. I’m thinking more like Parkinson’s with Lewy bodies. That would explain the reaction to the Zyprexa. Do you know much about Parkinson’s?”

“Enough. A lot,” I said.

She said he wanted to confer with the hospitalist, Dr. Meadors, about switching him over to something like Valium, which would be much more effective if we were treating Parkinson’s.

Sure enough, the Valium (or whatever it was) helped calm him. Dr. Mac called to say that Dad appeared now to qualify for in-patient hospice, and she had arranged a meeting with Rosie from Alive Hospice downtown. She explained her wish for inpatient hospice.

“The Parkinson’s thought changes everything. His medications seem to be headed in the right direction. He could use the meds management at inpatient to get them all tweaked to the point that you could manage him at home with the help of home hospice.” She fears for my ability to physically manage him at home right now and for my mother’s emotional health as she watches Dad decline.

I made her promise that she will always work toward our goal of getting him home. She repeats to me all the information I’ve given her, including the DNR and comfort care directives.

End of day, Wednesday, November 7.  Dad slept peacefully almost all night.

Yesterday morning, he knew me when I arrived. He smiled and said, “Hello, honey.” Dr. Mac called to discuss the latest strategy since he has improved enough that he probably does not qualify for inpatient hospice. “We’re thinking we can send him over to the rehab facility.”

Dad and I sat in quiet most of the day yesterday. He was tired. He thought he might want sausage and eggs. I tried. He drank a bit of milk shake. I tried again. I massaged his aching hands with cream, swabbed his gums and washed out his mouth.

“You’re going to make me bald,” he said when I rubbed his head. That’s a little joke we have. Not long after that, we both dozed at the same time.

When I told him I was leaving for the day, he said, “Be careful driving home. Is it still raining?”

I said, “No.” It did not rain all day yesterday.

Just as I started to exit the room, he called softly but firmly, “You are going to call Red Blair to help you get that big machine off the hill, aren’t you?”

“I sure will,” I promised.

*****

 

 

 

 

 

Ins and Outs, Part 1

I have two mental lists of “Things that indicate that I’m old”—even though I’m not. Old.

List #1-Visible Signs:

  1. Chin hairs. Need I say more?
  2. Wrinkles. I don’t have many, though—because I am plump.
  3. The way I get up out of a chair after sitting for a while. I tend to walk like Fred Sanford for the first few steps.

I’m sure there are more items that might be added to that list, but I don’t pay much attention to those external things. Oh, wait… I have to admit I’m death on chin hairs. Chin hairs are out with just about everybody I know.

It’s this item on List #2-The Way People Treat Me that widens my path to so much indignation:

  1. “Sweetie”.

Now, all us good Southern girls call each other—and people we don’t know—Honey. Honey is a versatile salutation. Rarely do I hear the word used in any offensively condescending way, but when I do, I can usually overlook the idiocy of the sexist sales clerk or forgive the sweet Yankee girl who just wants to fit in.

But, now, there’s that “Sweetie” thing. I just never hear that word used in a nice way—ever. It makes my eyes squint and my short neckline itch. It’s, at the least, patronizing, and, at the worst, condescending.

So, everybody listen up: “Honey” is in, “Sweetie” is out.

Mom and I got a few lessons on Ins and Outs in the last couple of days.

Several weeks ago, after a routine ultra-sound, Mom’s cardiologist, Dr. Scoville, ordered an angiogram on her carotid arteries. An angiogram is an X-ray of dye injected into the blood vessels. We presented for this outpatient test twice and, each time, Mom was sent home because her creatinine levels were high, an indication of poor kidney function.

Upon each rejection, we received apologies and the explanation that “we have to make sure her kidneys can get rid of the dye”. We understood, after that second rejection, when Dr. Scoville said she needed to see a nephrologist. Scoville has been in for a long time; in fact, he’s the most in of any of Mom and Dad’s doctors. Scoville is the reason they choose St. Thomas Hospital over several others in Nashville.

One day, we traipsed into Nephrology Associates to see what Dr. Vito Rocco might suggest. Dr. Rocco never once called Mom “Sweetie”. I think the phlebotomist might have, but whatever she said was overpowered by Dr. Rocco. He talked to Mom as if he were talking to a non-physician peer. It doesn’t hurt that he sat down and crossed his legs as if he had all the time in the world, and that, according to my 81-year-old mother, “man-oh-man, is he ever easy to look at”.

After careful investigation and deliberation, Dr. Rocco’s recommendation was to admit her to the hospital one day about 10 o’clock, hydrate her intravenously for the rest of the day and night, and do the angiogram the next morning. Dr. Scoville’s office ordered the admission and his nurse gave us instructions. “All you have to do is walk in on Monday and get admitted. They’ll start a drip, they’ll do the test Tuesday morning, and then you can go home.”

We left for the hospital at 9:15. Mom was waiting in the driveway, dressed in a navy blue pants suit with pink embroidery trim, her hair arranged and her makeup applied well. Her jewelry was subdued–for Mom. She wore pink rhinestone earrings and a silver-tone watch. She carried a few items in a zippered tan nylon tote.

Getting in was not quite as simple as Dr. Scoville’s nurse had projected. Mom got a number immediately, and she was called to speak with the admissions clerk right away, but then we waited for someone to come with a wheelchair to take her to her room. And we waited…

I went to the desk once to ask if things were progressing and a second time to ask if there was a chance of falling through cracks.

“No,” the handsome guy at the desk said (both times), “They’re cleaning a room for her.”

Mom went to see the handsome guy, too, and he told her of this intensive cleaning project.

“That room must be some kind of mess,” she told him and sat back down.

We were getting tired—and hungry, and somebody (we didn’t know who) was on their way to being out with my mother. After she sat down that time, she joked, “Go up there and tell him we’ll go up there and clean that room for them if they’ll buy us some lunch.”

“You know, I do think I’ll ask him if we can go downstairs to lunch,” I said. “It would at least pass some time. This is ridiculous.”

“No,” he said, “I’m just afraid they might come to get her and you wouldn’t be here. But you could get lunch right around the corner at one of the sandwich bars and bring it back here to eat.”

“I don’t want Subway,” Mom said.

“I don’t, either, but let me go over there and see if I can find a little snack to tide us over.”

I brought her Captains’ Wafers with Honey-Peanut Butter and a bottle of apple juice.

“Oh, this is good,” she said. “I think these are the best crackers I’ve ever had. I’ll have to remember this. The honey is just the right touch on that peanut butter.”

More talking and snack finished, Mom raised up from Dolly the Rollator’s seat and just as the handsome guy hurried around us, back to his desk. Now he was wearing the jacket to his suit-pants.

“Where are you going?” I asked.

“Going to talk to him,” she said, nodding toward desk. I knew better than to try to stop her.

“Hello,” she said just as he approached his chair. She was not too quiet but she had such sweetness in her voice. “I’m not going to wait any longer. It’s time…”

He never really got sat down. He jumped up from his almost-made-it position.

“Oh, no,” he said. “They haven’t come after you yet…Oh no. I am so sorry. I thought you were gone. Okay, I’m going to take you myself, that’s what I’m going to do. Wait right here. I’ll get a wheelchair.”

Mom turned her head and smiled at me, triumph in her eyes. I grabbed our bags.

“Here, you’ll have to take Dolly,” she said, assuming her queenly reign in the throne of  a wheel chair.

“I’m just so sorry,” he said as he opened the footrests. “We went to lunch, and we’ve got contract people doing this job now and …”

“You mean the transporting?” I asked.

“Yes. We just never know.” He paused. “Y’all, wait right here. I have to get you a gift.”

He trotted in and out of his office and handed me four little cards. “These are meal tickets for the food court,” he said. “They pay for everything. Y’all please enjoy.”

He wheeled Mom through the large room of benches, chairs, and short couches. The name on the sign now says Reception Area. The old name seems more appropriate—Waiting Area.

“We did you wrong, Sweet Pea,” he said to Mom.

“Sweet Pea,” she said. “I know you didn’t know that my nickname when I was a kid was Sweet Pea.”

“Really? Like a sweet-smelling flower,” he said with a big grin.

“Well, actually, I wasn’t named after the flower. This little neighbor boy said I frowned just like Sweet Pea in the comics.”

“Nooooooo,” he answered. “I can’t believe that. You’ve been pretty patient with us.”

The handsome guy handed us off to an arriving transport person at the elevator. She needed him to help solve a problem back at the admissions desk.

“Bless you, Sweet Pea,” he said just before he hurried back across the Reception Area.

We both called after him, “Thank you so much”—and we meant it.

We were IN. Mom sat on the side of the bed. “Well, I would change my clothes,” she said, “but I don’t see a gown. I’m ready to eat.”

“Okay. Maybe I’ll just go on down to the food court and get us some lunch with our freebie tickets. I’m not sure what it’s going to be. That hot lunch line is different every day.”

“I don’t care what it is. I’m hungry,” she said. “And I need to take that Flagyl. I brought it with me.” She had about four days left of two antibiotics for last week’s case of diverticulitis.

“I wondered what they would do about that,” I said. “I know they’ll give you all your regular meds, but it seems silly for Medicare to pay for more Flagyl and Cipro here when you have just enough. We need to ask them about that.”

“There’s a wet spot on this bed,” she said.

“Now where did that come from?” I asked.

Two nurses appeared with a gown; the first introduced herself and her shadow. Number 1 was the nurse and Number 2 was in training. We got acquainted. They were both the same age, 25. Nurse graduated from Tennessee Tech in Cookeville; Trainee got her nursing degree from Belmont and a Master’s in Public Health Administration from Vanderbilt. We liked both of them.

“We’re glad to see you,” Mom said. “It took us two-and-a-half hours to get in.”

“What in the world?” Nurse said. “Were they just backed up? This room has been ready since 11:30.”

“There’s a wet spot on the bed,” I said.

“Now, where did that come from? Would you get a change?” Nurse asked Trainee.

“We’re going to start your IV, Sweetie,” she said, “and then Somebody will be in to do your admissions paperwork.”

The two changed the draw sheet and pad on the bed and then discussed veins.  Mom told them they usually had to do the left arm. She has bad veins. They considered the hand but decided that Trainee would work the IV into a tiny little vein in the crook of Mom’s left arm. Nurse told her she did not need to squat on the floor, and that she needed a better angle. Trainee said she could do it better in the lower position, but she rose a bit and corrected her angle. Mom winced and I worried while she wiggled the needle. After a few minutes, and several unsuccessful tries at re-positioning the needle so that it moved blood into the line, Nurse took over. I held Mom’s hand and tried to distract her.

“Oh, Sweetie, I am so sorry,” she told Mom as she probed. “Did you bring your medication list?”

I answered. “No, I didn’t realize you’d need it. I was thinking that this was just an observation admission. Dr. Scoville’s nurse sort of said just walk in.”

“Well, actually, it’s an admission to hydrate her so that she can have the dye tomorrow. We want to make sure her kidneys can handle it. That’s why they have her here. The dye is hard on the kidneys.”

“Yes, we know why she’s here,” I said.

Mom added, “I’ve had this test done several times. I know all about it.”

“I can do a medication list for you,” I said.

“Yeah, we need that,” Nurse answered.

She stood up and claimed a victory. “It’s in,” she said, and then added, “But it’s not in the way we’d like to see it. I’m not sure it’s going to stay in. I think you’re going to have to hold this arm pretty still, Sweetie.”

“I can do that,” Mom said.
“Can you eat with one hand?” I asked.

“Oh, yeah. Just watch me. I need some water,” she said to Nurse. It was the second time she asked for water.

“Can I also beg you out of something to drink?” I asked. “Anything diet would be fine.”

“Okay,” I said to Mom as they left the room vowing to bring water and two Sprite Zeroes, “I’ll go get lunch.”

“Oh, boy,” she answered.

Just as I returned with baked chicken, sweet potatoes, squash with broccoli and peppers, and apricot cake with citrus glaze, the admissions nurse arrived, pushing her laptop on a rolling stand that also afforded a seat. We liked her. Somehow, we all got started on her show dog, a Rhodesian Ridge-back. I wrote the name in my notebook. She showed us a picture on her phone. We re-constructed the medication list from what was in Mom’s record. I asked if she should take the Flagyl and Cipro she brought in.

“I can’t answer that,” she said. “That’s their job. I don’t step on their job. They’ll let you know.”

“I didn’t get you anything to drink,” I said, and as I was opening and arranging the food boxes, Nurse and Trainee arrived with the drinks. They breezed right out.

“Here, Mom. Take this Flagyl. I forgot to talk to them about it.”

We loved our lunch. Mom ate the whole thing with her one free hand (fortunately, the right); she didn’t spill a morsel.

“Let’s take a nap,” she said after I cleaned up. “I think I could nap.”

“So could I,” I said. “And I put your Flagyl and Cipro in the pocket of your bag.”

“Okay.”

I packed my bag to leave for home around 4:00. I promised her I’d stop by Ross to see if they still had a pair of sandals she tried on but didn’t buy on Saturday. I called Dave just before I pulled out of the parking lot to tell him I was on my way with one stop.

Mom called about 7:00. “Bring my medicine tomorrow. They told me I need to take my own or they’ll have to order it and I’ll have to pay for it myself and you know how outlandish that would be.”

“Really. That’s interesting. Then this really must be what they call an ‘observation’ admission.”

“Who knows,” she said. “And they also told me it’s not a sure thing I’ll even have the test. They said they’ll do blood work first to see if the IV’s work.”

“So you don’t know when they’ll do the angiogram.”

“Nope. I guess I’ll know tomorrow. If they do it. Did you see your father tonight?”

“Yep.  He’s fine. Tired. He was down in the ravine today, clearing vines and chopping brush. He got my chair.”

“The one the wind blew down in the ravine?”

“Yeah. I don’t know how he got it but he brought it up and tied it down.”

She laughed. I told her I hoped she could sleep okay. She said she’d call as soon as she knew something about the test.

“Goodnight, Sweetie,” she said.

I didn’t mind. She’s still in with me.

Tune in for Part 2.

***