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December 28, 2005

Mom's Gone - Part Two

Tom McLaughlin

The lady came out from Hospice to take down all the information. She was a personable individual and we all interacted well. She told us we would be assigned a nurse and we would become very close.

I wondered what the nurse looked like. We signed a million forms and then she and Mom discussed Christmas cooking. I had to visit Mom's doctor and asked him about the Hospice representative, or some such thing.

What Hospice does is add another layer of bureaucracy in the dying process. The doctor told me to call him about anything at anytime. Remember though, this is a small town. I went to get more prescriptions filled.

The next day a nurse's assistant arrived and gave Mom a hair washing and provided information for her personal needs as well as tips for bed-ridden care. So far she has been the most useful and positive of the Hospice experience. Hospice also pays for all prescriptions, which for many is great financial relief.

That night, Mom was up and about. Since the strong pain killers kicked in a few days ago, Mom has been back to her normal self and actually used the walker to get to the living room and then the dining table for a wonderful dinner.

Just as she sat down, vomit laced with blood began spurt out of her mouth. We then got her back to bed and held her while she emptied her stomach. We took her blood pressure and it was 82/42. Then five minutes later it was 59/28 with pulse holding strong at 58.

The Hospice administrator had given us the emergency after-hours number and I called them. She promised a human would always answer. Ring (twice) recording, then music. Quickly after that a lady answered and told us someone would call us back.

A few minutes later Olive (not her real name) called and wanted to know what I wanted. I informed her about my mother and read off the blood pressure readings and pulse rate. She then demanded to know why I was taking the blood pressure.

This ludicrous question was not to my liking and I not so calmly explained we had been taking it twice a day since September when she was home from her many trips to the hospital - as instructed.

I then asked her again about the blood pressure and asked if we should do something. She said we should do nothing. She also said she had not read Mom 's file as she had only been signed up for two days.

Let's see here, I thought. She did not know why someone would take a dying woman's blood pressure and had not read the file. Two strikes at once. I thanked her and hung up.

One hour later.

Things went down hill fast as Mom got into extreme pain and started vomiting more blood. I placed another call to Hospice and this time they put me straight through to Olive.

I rushed over to CVS to get the liquid pain killer so she could hold it in cheek and be absorbed, but they did not have the liquid medicine. I had forgotten it would not be in until Wednesday and today was Tuesday. That was my fault, not theirs.

I instructed my girlfriend to crush a pill and place it between Mom's cheek and gum. Olive came in and spent most of the time on her computer. Mom continued vomiting as I wiped away the stuff and helped her out.

Olive called a doctor and he prescribed something called a "break through," but she had to drive 30 miles to an open drug store to get it. The administrator should have told me to get the "break through" when I got the other prescriptions.

Olive will be back in about an hour and a half. Meanwhile, I held Mom while she moaned in pain from the cancer. Mom finally went to sleep.

Olive, the on-call nurse for Hospice, has to be at work at 8 a.m., someplace, or so I had understood.

To be continued...tomorrow!

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