The Mundling Zone

Thoughts, rants, and raves from the desk of Michelle Mundling

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Rest in Peace, Mom

I know it's been a long time since my last post. Psychologically and emotionally, I have not been myself.

On January 3, 2006, my mother passed away. Her online memorial can be viewed by clicking here. Even now, I watch the video tribute and still have to wipe away tears. I don't know if it's the music or the pictures or both ... I think both.

Now that she's passed on, I can reveal that the people I've referred to as Fred and Drusilla in my blog entry here were really my mom and dad. No, that wasn't their real names. My dad's name is Linder and my mother's name was Lynette. I felt the compulsion to express my feelings about the situation I was in, but I tried to respect her privacy at the same time.

Mom was so sick. I could only guess how bad she felt, but to see her go through her physical ailments deeply saddened me. There's something about pain that does something to the sufferer's psychological thinking. I guess Mom hurt bad enough that she felt she didn't deserve to be loved and cared for. Many times, she lashed out at dad, my sister, and me for whatever we did or didn't do. Later, she'd thank us profusely for doing something that gave her relief from an acutely painful position or condition.

Since my entry back in August 2004, she did go to a nursing home for about three months so she could learn to walk again. She came home December 2004, walking on her own with the aid of a walker and vowing never to go back to a nursing home again. Don't get me wrong; she was treated very well at Baptist Village. She just didn't like being hospitalized. As time went by, there were times that her blood sugar would drop too low or she'd become so sick that she risked the danger of dehydration. When she realized we were calling an ambulance for those times, she'd do her darndest to pretend she was lucid. She might have been able to fool us, but the medical technicians weren't so easily fooled.

Thank God we were able to have a good Christmas. I cooked dinner, and everyone seemed able to enjoy their meal, including Mom. She was alert and in a fairly good mood, considering her condition. It was the last day that she was able to eat a meal.

It's so hard to see a loved one suffer. It's harder to have to make any decisions against the wishes of a parent. On December 28, Mom's health deteriorated to the point that we felt she needed medical intervention. She was severely dehydrated and exhausted from throwing up. Her blood sugar level had dropped to the 30s (not good). My dad, my sister and I discussed and agreed that we needed to call 911. We went back into the bedroom to inform Mom of our decision. She protested. I stood there at the foot of her bed, looking at Dad and my sister alternately. We tried to convince her that we wanted to her to feel better and avoid further complications. She kept saying she was tired and didn't want to go to the hospital. After several seconds of silence, I said, "Okay, I'm making the decision, and I'm going to call 911.

As I walked out of the bedroom, I could still hear her begging me to wait and not call for an ambulance. If I didn't call for an ambulance and she died at the house, I would have wondered if I killed her by not acting soon enough. It was so hard dialing 911 when she begged in the background, "Please, don't call them. Let's wait." Calling the ambulance that day, as much as Mom protested, was the right thing to do. However, it still felt like the lesser of the two evils. It still felt like damned if you do, and damned if you don't.

The ambulance arrived and the technicians checked her over. They both agreed that she needed to go to the emergency room. We had done this so often with Mom that I figured she'd be back home in a couple of days. Instead, it was the last time I got to hear Mom's voice.

At the emergency room, the nurses realized just how sick she was and worked to get Mom rehydrated. Many residents of Waycross became ill with the flu and filled the hospital to capacity. Mom was admitted, but she had to spend the night in one of the ER rooms. The staff managed to bring a hospital air bed to her room so she'd be more comfortable.

The next day, she was moved to CCU. She still couldn't eat, but she could sip on water and eat ice chips. The doctors and nurses monitored her vital signs. Dad and my sister were taking turns sitting with Mom. I was still had to go to work with 10-hour shifts and 1 hour commute each way. I figured I could see Mom Saturday at the hospital, then she'd be home in a few days. I was so wrong.

Friday evening, I was on the road heading home when my cell phone rang. It was my sister, suggesting that I come by the hospital to see Mom. I told her that would be no problem and started asking some questions about Mom. My sister was evasive ... I knew something wasn't right. I asked her to tell me flat out what was wrong, and she would not give me a straight answer. I really hate it when people do that to me.

I arrived in CCU and saw my dad and sister standing at the foot of Mom's bed. Mom had been placed into an induced coma so they could put her on a respirator. My family turned and saw me, and asked me to go with them into another room ... out of earshot of Mom. In the other room, my sister told me that Mom was suffering from septic shock. I asked if that meant blood poisoning. She clarified that it is a type of blood infection in which the infection starts to attack the organs in the body. She told me that the doctors were going to try a last-ditch effort to save Mom by putting her on a respirator and giving her antibiotics to fight the infection. She quickly added that Mom's chances were pretty slim. I asked if that meant she was terminal. I looked at both my dad and sister as they nodded their heads.

Walking back into Mom's room, I quickly noticed how her complexion and overall skin color had pinked up. Her face was so relaxed. Between the oxygen and the medication, Mom wasn't suffering. She looked so peaceful. Dad showed me her legs. The month before at the doctor's office, I insisted that Mom show the doctor her feet. Reluctantly, Mom took off her shoes, and what I saw shocked me. Mom's legs and feet were purple! It looked as if her blood was pooling up in her lower limbs. With that scene in my mind, her legs looked much better in the CCU. After an hour, I went home to feed the dog. Dad and my sister said they'd be home in a little bit.

Saturday, I agreed to stay home and do some housework while Dad and my sister went back to the CCU. Mom seemed to be stabilizing. Sunday morning, however, was a different story. The medical staff at the CCU called us and told us her vital signs were becoming very unstable and strongly believed we needed to get over there. Dad and my sister let me sleep while they got dressed and went to see about Mom. Thirty minutes after they got there, they called me and suggested I get there as soon as I could. I was there within 45 minutes. I met Aunt Mavis there, too. It was New Year's Day, and we were expecting the worst. We had some touch-and-go moments, but Mom still hung on. After ten hours of waiting and anticipating, we decided to go home for the night. We all went to bed shortly afterward; we were drained.

Monday was a holiday, so I didn't have to go to work. However, I had several things I had to do to get ready for work, so I stayed home while Dad and my sister took turns sitting with Mom. By this time, we had all signed the updated Do Not Resusitate order which included the removal of the respirator and almost all of her IV fluids. Dad and Pamela both asked the doctor if Mom had any chance at all, and he said no. With this information, we agreed to let her go.

I was at work Tuesday when Pamela called me at work. She asked to speak to my supervisor first to give him a heads up on the news. He was standing at the doorway when she told me on the phone that Mom passed away at 2:15 PM. She stopped breathing, then her heart stopped beating a few minutes after. When I got off the phone, my exact words were, "It's over."

My supervisor stared at me. He told me it was okay to cry. I told him I was fine. He said that it was okay to slam my fist on the desk, throw something, scream out loud ... I told him I really was okay. He said I didn't have to put on a brave front, that it was okay to be emotional. I told him that all I felt at that moment was overwhelming relief. Mom wasn't suffering any more. She wasn't in any more pain; no more anguish. She was finally free. I was finally free. It was hell watching someone you love suffer and be miserable. It's bad when you'd be willing to do just about anything ... compromise your principles, lie, cheat, steal, maybe even kill ... to give your loved one relief. No, I couldn't feel anything at that moment except the ecstacy of relief. I think I scared him. I actually scared myself.

Since then, the grief has hit, and it hits without warning. Someone will ask me how I'm doing, and the tears will start rolling down my cheeks. I actually started crying in the middle of a staff meeting at work! Do you know how humiliating that is? I don't know how to describe how I feel. It's like I'm just going through the motions, like I'm lost. Since Mom's health severely declined last November, I've neglected the OHS site, Swamp Country Lolita's site, the GSIDIOT site ... it's been over a month since the funeral, and I haven't started on the thank you cards yet. I am so grateful for everyone's love and support during this time. The sympathy cards, the hugs, the words of encouragement, the phone calls, the e-mails, the food that was prepared and brought to the house, the flowers, the plants ... I hope these people know how humbled I was by their responses to Mom's passing. I think about their graciousness, their thoughtfulness, their friendships, and the tears overwhelm me.

I've been working on this entry for five hours, and now I'm going to bed. I don't want to go to work in the morning. All I want to do anymore is sleep or piddle around the house. Things will get better, won't they?