Monday morning I woke up early because the phone — the bells! THE BELLS! — wouldn’t stop ringing. I’m at my mom’s house, in my old room, and falling right back into my old habits — barricading the door and pretending to be asleep so that everyone will LEAVE me ALONE, God! It’s like I’m seventeen all over again, and it’s not pretty.
Eventually I can’t take it anymore, though, and I get up and go to the kitchen. My brother Chris is sitting at the table with his head in his hands.
“Sorry about all the phone calls,” he says. “We had an emergency.”
It turns out my mom, who has congestive heart failure and is now a permanent resident of her own bed, had complained of some pain in her arm first thing that morning, and Chris, who’d already had the surprise of having my dad die of a heart attack on the couch six months ago, well, Chris sort of panicked.
There are two pieces of paper stuck with magnets to the refrigerator door here: one is a DNR order signed by my mom’s doctor, and the other is a notice from the hospice that says if there’s a medical emergency Do Not Call 911.
Basically, if my mom has a heart attack, we’re supposed to let her die.
But that doesn’t mean we want to.
So Chris, understandably upset at hearing that my mom was having what can be a classic symptom of a heart attack, called hospice, and they told him to get out the Comfort Kit. This is a box in the fridge that holds several doses of Roxanol (morphine sulfate) as well as an anti-psychotic, both in liquid and suppository forms. The woman on the phone explained how to give my mom an oral dose of the liquid morphine. Chris did it. My mom felt better, ate her breakfast, and happily endured a checkup from a visiting nurse who arrived wearing the longest rat-tail I’ve ever seen, as well as lots of rattly Native American fringy stuff and a thick blanket coat, reminding me once and for all that I was well and truly back in Colorado.
It could have been a deep twinge of arthritis is all. We may never know. But for now I’m spending a lot of time just hanging out in a chair next to my mom’s bed, working on my computer or knitting Jack’s hat, which I hold up periodically for my mom to see. “That looks very nice!” she says, and goes back to her own somewhat erratic knitting. Arthritis makes it hard for her to knit for more than a few minutes at a time, but she still likes doing it. It’s either that or library books. She has no use for TV.
And so it goes.