Saturday, June 2, 2012
In a Beat of the Heart
The closest she got to the silver screen was a seat in a movie theater.
She could draw, especially birds. But that was another talent left behind by the demands of living.
I guess we all learn sooner or later that life isn't a rose garden.
Mom proved tougher than she looked, strong willed and strong bodied. You have to be to survive to 92, which she will reach this month. It appeared a few short weeks ago she would reach that milestone birthday standing, but that will not happen.
It came like a beat of her heart, a flicker of an eyelid, a flick of your Bik, the breakdown of a small artery in the Pons area of the brain stem. Perhaps she was lucky -- perhaps. This is a risky area to have an episode. That part of the brain controls all the central nervous system activities, breathing, blood pressure and every motor control of the body. There is a condition known as Locked-In that can result from a brain stem stroke, a condition where the only thing the victim can move is the eyes.
This little tiny artery's failure took away her left leg, left arm and ability to swallow (this being something we will come to question later). She was rushed to a hospital ten miles away and I wasn't informed until the fourth day after.
Dad gave me the hospital phone number and her room, 412 he said. I called the hospital, but it was not there. So I clicked into the Internet and searched it out and sure enough, Dad had given me the wrong number. I now called the hospital and connected and asked for 412. A stranger's voice answered and they did not have my mother there. I apologized, hung up and called the hospital again, this time asking for her by name. Ah, she was in 410, my dad had the room wrong. She answered the phone and although slightly slurred and weary could speak. I told her we were coming.
And so we went, my wife and I, through the heavy traffic that the road construction made seem even heavier to my dad's home, the place I spent my teenage years. From there we drove to the hospital. I left my wife and dad at the entrance, he leaning on his walker, while I drove what seemed like into the next township for a parking spot.
Once I rejoined my crew we went to the elevator and I pushed the fourth floor.
"No, no," growled my dad, "she's on the sixth floor"
"She's in 410," I said.
"She's in 610," he insisted.
Nonetheless, we exited on the fourth floor and started the trek to room 410, my dad protesting that she was in 610 all the way, until his breath was too depleted by the walk to say anything. 410 was nearly to the end of the long hall we entered at the end of the first long hall we had traveled. I walked into this room and it was empty.
I came out and went to the nurses' station, which was as empty as the room. In a moment a nurse came from a side door, glanced briefly my way then sat down and made a phone call, apparently a personal one. I stood waiting. Another person appeared, but briefly, and flitted away back through that same side door. Finally I caught the phone-caller's attention and asked about my mom.
"They moved her," she said. "She is in 261."
Back down the long halls to the elevators we went, slowly because of my dad prodding along on his walker, still insisting we go to the sixth floor.
We reached the second floor and guess what? Room 261 was the furtherest away room upon that floor, I think it had a different zip code. My father was exhausted. We had to commandeer a seat from some office for him to sit a bit before we ventured on to find my mother.
When we walked into Room 261 she looked like a little lump in the middle of many tubes and cords. She looked frightfully close to how a person appears when they slip over into death, but she opened her eyes and was alive.
None of us yet knew what lay ahead.