Sunday, 31 October 2010
The phone rang a little after midnight. It was from the Care Home. Mum was on her way to Hospital. They told me that she had been throwing up, had suddenly gone very pale and clammy to the touch. They would call again if there was more news.
I arrived at the Hospital in the afternoon. It was alarming to walk in and see Mum looking so altered. She was canted over to one side in bed and looked dishevelled and shrunken. Her left hand was shaking as she pawed distractedly at the cannula fitted to the back of her right. "Hello Mum", I said and she gaped blankly before peering out of the door past me, looking down the corridor to the activity around the administration desk on the unit. After a few more attempts to get her attention I asked her outright if she knew who I was. "You...are...Greg", she said, eventually. She couldn't have looked less interested.
I went to find a chair so I could sit beside her bed. On my return, I noticed that Mum's arm was still shaking and I wondered if she was nervous, so I reached out to hold her hand. As her hand rested in mine, I felt the coldness below and realised that the bedclothes were soaking wet and soiled. The window was open and Mum was sitting in a draught in her own filth - she wasn't shaking, she was shivering!
I closed the window and called a Nurse into the room. As he went to get someone else to replace the bedlinen, I noticed that Mum's IV drip was empty and that her oxygen mask had slipped. How long had she been like this? How long would she have been left like this until someone had noticed? I began to panic about the future and how I would cope when Mum was more seriously ill.
The Nurse came back in to check on Mum's vital signs. They were low, and he fiddled with the oxygen supply before replacing the mask on Mum's face. I was ushered out of the room while they changed Mum's sheets and gave her a couple of blankets.
The Staff Nurse gave me a rapid summary of Mum's condition and their treatment plan, but his accent was strong and he peppered his talk with so much jargon that I ended up deciding to ask someone else. The other Nurse, who'd brought the clean sheets, was much better - warm and chatty - and both Mum and I warmed up chatting to her whilst she brushed Mum's hair.
She told me that Mum's illness stemmed from an infection in her bowels, brought about by impacted waste which was, in turn, due to constipation. The reason for the constipation was dehydration. She said that anyone brought in from a Care Home was always dehydrated - they just don't push sufficient liquids in these places. She told me that the Hospital had given Mum a couple of enemas to stimulate a bowel movement and had performed an endoscopy to inspect her inflamed innards. She thought Mum would be here a few days yet.
By the time I had to leave, Mum was doing much better and I didn't feel quite so conflicted about leaving her as I had before. I believe my visit helped the staff see that Mum wasn't some unwanted husk. Someone cared how she was doing.
A close friend just told me: "it's a good thing you were there for her today". And for once I feel able to accept that I have done something good for Mum.