Thursday, December 07, 2006

Calling All Guides and Allies

Once more, today, I will travel to see Mom. I will attempt, again, to be a voice that will be heard...a voice that will make the medical system take heed.

I went to the hospital two days ago, fully prepared to do battle, as I mentioned in my previous post. But it was not to be.

When I arrived, I had only a couple of minutes with my Mom, long enough to see the red sign that said Nothing by Mouth. And then, I was told to wait outside her room, as Nurse after Nurse filed in. I waited outside, becoming more frightened by the minute. What was going on?

I heard a Nurse shouting at my Mom. My mom asked... Why are you screaming at me? And the Nurse, who had blanketed all old people as deaf, said...oh, I didn't know you could hear. My blood was rising.

My mother is having difficulty breathing...she is on oxygen. I heard the Nurse ask her...Why are you having trouble breathing? My Mom, getting more confused and upset by the minute, said...I don't know. And we don't know; it's one of the reasons she's in the hospital.

I pushed myself into her room, unbelievably angry, and yet feeling totally sure of myself, something that is not common for me in an angry state. I saw them make my mother walk to the wheelchair. It was an accident waiting to happen, especially in her very weakened state.

I said...My mother rarely is able to walk without help. The Nurse totally ignored me, looking anywhere but at me, standing right beside her...a member of Mom's family. And she asked another she able to walk? The other Nurse didn't know.

Mom, who had a catheter draining urine, got tangled in the tubes as she tried, so hard, to do what the Nurses wanted. Her face screwed up in pain, her breathing becoming extremely unstable, she managed to seat herself. She looked up at me, her confusion and anxiety so clear in her eyes. I could not help...once more I was pushed out of the way.

I walked out of her room, into the hallway. Another Nurse took pity and told me Mom was being taken for an Endoscopy, as she was bleeding somewhere, even though her stool showed no blood. They had to rule out stomach problems. My question, knowing how invasive this procedure is, was...Is there nothing else you could do?... thinking Ct Scans or MRI's, in my ignorance of medical procedures.

Kindly, the Nurse explained that there were certain procedures that had to be done, before a CT Scan or MRI could be used. Those were the rules, set down by the government.

I was told to come along with my mother to the Surgical they needed a member of the family there. What would they have done, had I not been there? Perhaps, eventually, they would have called my sister, who has her name down as the contact person...and perhaps not.

The Surgeon spoke to my mother and I. I was frightened and angry, hating to see my mother so confused. She was convinced she had to go to the bathroom, not understanding about the catheter. The Surgeon told me, in very medical terms, most of which went completely over my head...that Mom was bleeding internally. She did not expect to find anything, she said, as Mom's stool showed no blood, but the test had to be done.

I was to wait in the Entrance area of the hospital, and she would see me after she was done. Mom asked, Can't Marion come in with me? No, she was told gently, she could see me after the procedure was complete. I left, feeling the Surgeon's compassion and being so thankful for it.

That's all it takes, you know, just a kind, understanding word, when the world turns upside down.

I sat in the Entrance waiting area, in shock and beyond feeling upset. I was numb and trying to think of any way that I could have helped her more, but none of us knew this procedure was going to be done, none of us were able to prepare her for it. It was the way it was.

The Surgeon found me, after a time, and told me that indeed, she hadn't found anything, other than a yeast infection in Mom's throat. I forgot to tell her Mom has been battling Thrush for a long time. This was not news.

The Surgeon told me Mom would be back in her bed shortly, and would receive a blood transfusion. Then I looked into her dark eyes, and she looked back at me, and shook her head, just as I shook mine. She rubbed my arm...that piece of compassion almost made lose it...almost, but not quite. My work was not yet done.

I waited and waited, walking the halls. I notified my sister; she came and waited, too. Hours passed, no Mom. The Nurses did not know what was happening, only that she was to receive a transfusion upon her return; that she would more than likely be very tired from the procedure and medication when she did return. If we wanted to see her, we should come back after the dinner hour.

Another day has passed. I went home, finally, without seeing was dark and I had to drive over the mountain pass. Other than the Surgeon, so far no other Doctor has spoken to any of us. We have no idea what is being done or not done. We are in limbo, a terrible place to be.

I tried calling her yesterday morning. There was no answer. After various tries, I called my sister, who tried, too. She could not contact her, either. When she called the Nurse's station, she was told my mother was sitting in her wheelchair, and probably didn't hear the phone.

I don't know how much to believe from my mother, who is confused and certainly may not have her facts straight. But what my mother is experiencing is quite different from what the Nurses tell us...they say she is doing great...she is just fine.

When I was finally able to contact Mom, she told me she had been sitting strapped in her wheelchair for a few hours, becoming so cold that she finally attempted to undo her straps and climb into bed. She had heard the phone and was sorry she couldn't answer...she had been unable to reach it or her call button.

She was chastised for attempting to climb into her bed.

She told me about seeing such awful things. She asked me...they were nightmares, weren't they? These frightening spiders and things I see are not really there...are they? She says she would like to talk about these things...but nobody has time...they rush away. Her doctor is new...he has only seen her once, when he had to lift her into her wheelchair from his handicapped parking space. He does not know her words are not garbled, as they are now.

He does not know that her face is not usually misshapen from swelling. He does not know that she does not have trouble breathing, to this extent. He does not know that Mom was rarely confused, before. He does not know that Mom used to be able to balance her checkbook, something she was doing as a matter of course just last week.

And he hasn't attempted to ask any one of us, either.

The province's papers and radio stations and television news are full of stories just like mine. The CBC aired a programme last week where a caller said that it was one of the most humiliating experiences of her life when she took a member of her family to the hospital. The family is treated as inconsequential. And care is long and drawn-out, with tests being used that are antiquated.

My mother will not live with me, even if I lived in a bigger home and had the ability to house her. She refuses to live with any of us. I would take her out of hospital in a minute, if I knew where to take her. Care homes are full, with year-long waiting lists. I have to find it within myself to try and get along with the system, as it is the only one we have...the only one where Mom might find help, as awful as the experience may be.

But Graham just called. He is taking the afternoon off work, he said. He will go with me to the hospital.

Graham is a Karuna Reiki Master...he uses his skills in defusing his job and elsewhere. He is a Scottish terrier when it comes to unfair and unkind practices. His mother is a Nurse...retired, to be sure, but she has worked in many of the province's hospitals and she still remembers very well a different time, when our medical system cared for the patient...and not the dollar. She has prepared him well.

I dreamt last night about Cat and Eagle...and I know Spirit is lending me all the strength I will require to get my mother through this. And if she does not, if this is to be her final illness, I will make sure that she is warm and that she knows that we care.

I promise you that, Mom.


  1. It continues to sound like a miserable situation, and I'm so sorry your family is having to go through all this. It's a shame your mother has to be in such a confusing uncaring place, but I'm sure if you had an alternative, you would take it. I wish everyone in the USA who has even considered being for socialized medicine could read your last two posts!

    Does this hospital not allow family members to stay with the patient 24 hours a day? I know you have really bad arthritis, so I can see that you would not be able to do that, but perhaps your sister? I've always been able to stay with our family members when they were hospitalized, but even then it takes getting tough to get things done properly.

    I continue to pray for you and your mother.

  2. Anonymous4:48 p.m.

    Marion, I don't know what to say. It angers me. I feel great anger toward situations like these. It is just insane how the system is right now.

    I thank you for sharing that with us.
    It speaks to me this way : I'm very much always looking for everybody's approbation and I'm always nice and polite with people. But I see that if that happens to my mom, I will need to be a mommy bear. A mommy bear that will look out for her. I will need to be her voice.
    I have done it with my son who was prematured and when the doctors kept us in the dark. I needed to affirm myself and look out for my son and our rights as parentes. I didn't care then about being liked and so I have to work on that. I can be polite but assertive and do what I have to do without worrying about what people think about me.

    I send you and your mom good thoughts. I hope that you will meet more compassionate people in that hospital and that you will never have to wait to see your mom and talk to her like you did.
    I wish your mom perfect health, right now and I wish you health and courage.

    You are a good person.

  3. DB, unless patients are in Intensive Care, to my knowledge patients must leave the hospital after visiting hours at 8 pm. Thank you for understanding the extreme frustration I feel at how terribly families are treated by the medical system.

    At one time, our system was much admired; it was warranted then. But corporate agendas and dollars take over depending on which government is in power. There are far too many hospital closures, staff shortages and just plain bad management in our province right now for me to sit back quietly and accept. Suddenly, it becomes important for me to do what I can.

  4. Gaia, my mother is elderly and one of those people who will rarely speak up for herself, even when she was younger and in good health. She will accept what is given, even when the situation she finds herself in is bad, especially when authority of any kind is involved.

    And this system is not just uncaring towards the elderly; waiting lists of all kinds are long and tests being used to diagnose rarely do the job. It is hard to believe we are in the 21st century at times.

    Unfair and just bad pracices towards children and the elderly, people who cannot defend themselves make me angry. There is a saying around here...don't get sick and go to hospital. I totally agree with that, especially after this experience.

    I am glad you will be a Momma Bear for your Mom, if the time arrives. More voices need to be heard.

    Thank you so much for your good wishes!

  5. Ces deux photos sont magnifiques !
    J'adore cette lumière !