TALK TO A
Established April 15, 1995
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23 April 2007
I don't really know how to begin this painful story. I guess I'll start with when my mom found out about her cerebral aneurysm. October 2005 Mom and a friend were out. Mom was driving when all of a sudden she couldn't see anything. Startled, she pulled over and told her friend. Mom was taken to the ER. Mom has suffered from migraines all of her adult life; she thought this vision loss must be from a migraine, even though this particular symptom had never happened before. A CAT scan was performed and to our shock "something" was found. More tests proved it to be a large aneurysm in the center back of her brain.
We couldn't believe it! How can this be? Mom remembered her 1st cousin, JoJo, who died suddenly from a brain aneurysm. JoJo didn't know she had it. So, now what do we do w/ this new information? PRAY! So we prayed and prayed and prayed.
Mom had an angiogram. She had an extremely bad reaction to the dye that was used. This scared her. If she couldn't endure the angiogram, how could she possibly endure brain surgery? Still she went to speak to a neurosurgeon. He recommended surgery. Unfortunately the size and location of the aneurysm made it impossible to use the coil procedure. Also, he could give her no guarantee that the surgery itself would not cause the aneurysm to rupture which could lead to many physical and mental problems for the rest of her life, or yes, it could even cause death! With or without the surgery, this thing could rupture at any time. Mom didn't know what to do. We prayed more and more.
She went ahead and scheduled the surgery for a day in December of 2005. She had no peace about this decision, so she canceled. Once she canceled the surgery, she said that she finally had peace about her decision. We all supported her. Afterall, it's her brain.
Mom went on to live, only she lived better than she ever had before! She saw life as it is - precious and fleeting. Mom and I grew closer than I ever thought we could (we were already very close). Mom began going to church with me, something I had prayed about for years and years! Mom told me that she finally realized just how much God loves her. She said she had never been able to fully grasp how much He loves her until now. She was so happy!
I guess you know what's coming next. April 6, 2007 I get a call from my dad. It's after 9:30 at night, it must be bad news. "They're taking Mom to the ER in Athens", he said, "she just collapsed". "I'm on my way", I replied and hung up the phone. Thankfully my husband was home with the kids. He's a firefighter and it seems like we always have our own emergencies when he is at the station. "I'll call you when I know more", I told him. I kissed the kids and told them to pray for grandmommy.
When I arrived at the hospital, the nurse told me that mom was having a CT scan. She was unresponsive when the ambulance arrived at her house, and she has remained unresponsive. I find my dad and ask him for the details. They had been watching movies, mom decided to go to bed. She came back out of the bedroom holding the back of her head and said, "My head is pounding like it never has before", then she collapses. My dad is all shaken up. Mom has always done everything and he doesn't know what to do. I take charge.
I find the nurses and ask to see my mom. I have to wait until she's out of the x-ray room. I don't like waiting! They bring mom out. The scan showed bleeding on the brain; they have called MedFlight. This hospital can do nothing for her so she needs to be flown to Huntsville. Great! Why didn't they just take her there to begin with? I go in to see my mom. Oh my word! I can't believe what I am seeing. My precious mother is unresponsive, tubes coming out of her mouth. She is having seizure after seizure and vomits uncontrollably. The nurse suctions the vomit, "This is normal", she says. NORMAL? I don't think so! "Mom, I'm here. Mike is here. You're going to be OK. We love you so very much. You're in good hands". I wish I believed that.
We are encouraged to begin driving to the other hospital before she has boarded the helicopter. My dad and I leave. That was the longest 25 minute drive I've ever taken. Somehow, we arrive only a couple of minutes after the helicopter!! Why did it take them so long to fly her here? It should have taken only 10-15 minutes at the most! Anyway, now we had to wait again. We call family members. We call friends. "Mom's aneurysm has ruptured", we tell them. They all flock to the ER waiting room. The girl working at the ER desk tries to keep us informed, but she has limited information. Since there are so many of us there, she offers to take us back to a family waiting area. Thank God for family! How would we get through this without family?
The waiting is torture. Finally the surgeon on call comes in to give us the news. Are all surgeons like robots? He seemed so cold and mechanical to me, like he was programmed to give this information out over and over again with no emotion. Do surgeons HAVE to be like that? Well, the news is that the aneurysm ruptured. HELLO! We figured that! Well, the bleeding is profuse. There is blood ALL OVER her brain. She is in a comatose state. On a scale of 3-10, 10 being the best and 3 the worst ("what happened to 1 and 2?" I wonder), my mom is at a 4. Not good. The only thing he can recommend doing is measuring the amount of pressure that is on her brain. He will have to shave off some of her hair, cut open her scalp and place some sort of measuring device in there. "OK", I say. I don't know what else to do. Mom has made a Living Will and doesn't want any life saving measures, but this procedure will tell us just how bad things are. So he does the procedure. More waiting.
Now friends are arriving. How could we get through this without friends? We are so blessed to have such wonderful family and friends. My husband is still home w/ the kids. I really want him with me. Our children's minister offers to go stay w/ the kids so my husband can come to the hospital. Thank you!
In comes the robot, I mean surgeon. They've measured the amount of pressure on her brain. The normal amount of pressure is anywhere up to 11%, Mom's is 85%! Again - not good! The surgeon says that if she has a living will, then all they can do is observe her, maybe she will improve, but it's not likely. If she survives she will most likely be in a vegetative state. That's exactly what Mom didn't want to happen. We ask to see her. Only three at a time are allowed, but we get around that "rule". My dad, two brothers and I go back. That is not my mom! She looks horrible! Her eyes have been pushed out from the pressure on her brain. She still has the tubes in her mouth, respirator pumping, and she is still seizing in spite of the antiseizure meds being pumped into her. My brothers are heartbroken.
I go to talk to my mom. The nurses said that she could probably hear us. I touch mom on her arm and tell her again that I love her and that everything is OK. The nurse says that mom shed a tear! She must have heard me! Then my brother, Matt, talks to her. This time I see the tears! Oh my goodness she DOES hear us! Is that good, or bad? I don't want her to suffer. I don't want her to know what state she is in. But I DO want her to know how much she is loved. I tell her who all is there to support her. I kiss her hands, I kiss her cheek. I tell her that she is not alone and that we will stay with her.
Two days in a coma. We give the orders to remove the respirator. Watching her struggle for a breath was the hardest thing I have ever done. But this is what she wanted. She specifically told me, my dad, my brothers, her sisters, and most importantly she put in writing. Still, what a horrible decision to have to make. She told me long ago that she was depending on me to make sure her wishes were carried out. "I will", I assured her. "This really SUCKS!!!" That's all I keep thinking and saying in my head. "This SUCKS!" This is not my mother. My mother is beautiful. My mother is funny and smart and the rock of this family. What are we going to do without her?
More family arrives. I don't think the hospital staff was prepared for our large family, but still they accommodate us. After being in the hospital with my mom for almost 24 hours, my husband makes me go home to get some sleep. I think, "How can I possibly sleep?", but I do. I go back the next morning. No change. Her breathing is still strong, her blood pressure is good, she has a low-grade temp. Mom is such a strong woman. This could go on for days...weeks! I shouldn't have to watch my mother die like this.
My aunts and uncles decide that it's time to tell my grandmother what has happened. Granny hasn't known all this time that my mom had an aneurysm. We didn't want to worry her. When she hears about my mom she just "slumps". She tells my aunt that she has always asked God not to let her watch a child of hers die. She won't accept that my mom is dying. "I just can't wrap my brain around it", she says. Later, when someone asks her how she is, she says, "I'll never be the same".
We are going on day three now. I haven't slept since I returned to the hospital on Saturday morning. I also haven't eaten since she was taken to the hospital. If mom can't eat, I'm not going to eat. It's now Monday morning - EARLY morning. We get a phone call at around 5:00 a.m. Granny has died! She had a stroke and died before the ambulance got to her house! Well, she said she didn't want to watch a child of hers die before she did. I guess she prayed herself to heaven first. This is extremely difficult to believe. Granny is dead and Mom is dying! 12:50 p.m. Mom takes her last breath. It was so pitiful to witness her passing, but I wouldn't have wanted to be anywhere else at the time. Now she's with Jesus and Granny. I bet she's surprised to see Granny there first! I guess I can eat now.
Well, that's how I lost my mom. I think I forgot to mention earlier that the robot, I mean surgeon, recommended that my brothers and I get checked out since my mom was not the first in our family to die from an aneurysm. Great! Something to look forward to! My husband wants me to get checked out b/c I also have had migraines all of my adult life, just like Mom. But I don't want to know if I have an aneurysm! "We'll get YOU fixed!" he says.
Yes, we did have a joint funeral service and burial. We were dumbfounded at the amount of people who came to show their respects. Even the Huntsville Mayor and Fire Chief came! We have several fire fighters and city workers in our family. I met family members I never knew I had. Just how large is my family, anyway? There is strength in numbers, though, right?
Sorry about the lengthy history, but that's how it went. That's how I lost my grandmother and my mother all in the same day.
Discussion, comments, or questions: Christy Ellis
© Copyright 2006 Christy Ellis
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