Remember that old song, “What a Difference a Day Makes?” That’s rapidly becoming our theme song. On Tuesday (two days ago), my girl complained of sore ears, sore tummy, sore legs, sore everything between. When your vocabulary is limited, “symptom strafing” is often the only way to get your point across. So I took her to the doctor where I counted off all the various ailments, adding that her blood sugars had been going up and down like the needle on a politician’s polygraph, and the thrush in her mouth might have returned. The gurgling sound in the back of her throat the last few nights completely slipped my mind. Until yesterday. So Wednesday morning, cue the opening bars of said theme song.
The Girl has had a restless night, so I let her sleep late. At 8:30 a.m., I waft in and raise the blind.
The girl looks decidedly pale. Her chest is rasping like a blacksmith’s bellows and her blood sugars are horribly low. When I attempt to sit her up and feed her some honey to get her blood sugars up, she groans and her eyes flicker open. Then close.
A wave of panic hits me.
I call the doctor – no instant reply. I call the hospice support nurse, then the district nurse. There’s a decision process you go through, weighing up the options and the possible outcomes. Do I? Don’t I? What if I’m just panicking? But what if I’m not?
The Girl looks terrible, so I call the ambulance. By the time the paramedics arrive, her blood sugars haven’t moved, and her temperature has plummeted along with her blood pressure. Further readings in Accident and Emergency tell us her temp is two degrees below normal, and her heart-rate is half its normal pace. In the back of my brain, I’m thinking, Thank God I did the right thing. Then the coin flips.
While the doctors take her vitals, insert a catheter, study her notes, I’m hovering and getting in everyone’s way and asking, “How is she? What’s happening? What do you think?”
I suspect they want to say, “Give us a bloody chance, will you?” but they smile and tell me they’ll let me know as soon as they know “– which, of course, is code for “Give us a bloody chance, will you?”
the stomach pain etc. He tells me that in his opinion, the Lactulose would have been better.
Typical. You ask sixty-seven doctors a question, you get sixty-seven different answers.
An x-ray show she has shadows on her lungs. Not one lung – both. That could indicate one of two different scenarios: When her blood sugars dropped, she may have aspirated. Maybe she lost consciousness and saliva ran to the back of her throat and into her lungs, and that’s caused pneumonia.
Terrific! Why didn’t I check her blood sugars? Why didn’t I sit her up when I heard the gurgling? Dammit all! Why didn’t I mention it to the GP when I was there? How could I be so stupid?
Scenario Two is that she’s her liver has deteriorated to a point where it no longer provides a thickening agent to the blood, and that now her blood has thinned to a point where it leaks across the capillary walls and is filling her lungs.
Why didn’t I do something earlier? Why didn’t I prop her up in her bed at night? How could I have let this happen?
It’s obvious this isn’t the first time the doctor has seen the expression on my face. He places his hand on my arm and says, “Stop looking for ways to blame yourself. This was going to happen. Regardless.”
Somewhere in my brain there’s a voice saying, “He’s right. There was nothing more I could have done.” But somewhere in the dark recesses of my mind, I’m still scouring my memory to find that moment, that clue that should have told me this was coming so I could have avoided it.
By 1 p.m. the catheter has emptied her bladder and a laxative has ‘unblocked’ her a little. Against all my expectations, my Girl has rallied. Her temp is back up, heart-rate increasing, blood pressure rising. I heave out a huge sigh of relief. I’m exhausted.
She’s out of the woods, but she’s not back on the road. This is only a clearing.
My wonderful neighbour arrives. She’s acting support crew and she’s brought bread rolls and smoothies. Despite my repeated thanks, she has no idea how much her help means to me. The Girl is moved to the Observation ward until a bed on an upstairs ward becomes available.
While we wait, a nurse sweeps in and asks what The Girl wants for lunch. I tell her mashed potato. She tells me she can’t do individual items. She says there’s a set menu. I’m wondering why she asked in the first place. Again she asks what The Girl would like. I tell her we don’t mind. Miraculously, she finds a menu with mashed potato and a spare meal for me. I ask the head nurse if The Girl can eat. She says yes, but only sitting in an upright position. They’re worried about the danger of her aspirating. I’m wondering if they think I’m a complete idiot; that I lie The Girl flat and pour drinks down her throat.
So I sit her bolt upright and as I’m spooning soup into The Girl’s mouth one millilitre at a time, a second nurse whisks in and tells me she shouldn’t be eating. There’s a hushed debate out in the corridor, and a chart is affixed above The Girl’s bed. Apparently, she can eat mashed potato and now she can drink in sips.
s blood pressure has dropped. I gulp down coffee and soup and return for a second bedside vigil.
For the first hour, I fully intend staying with her. There’s a comfortable chair in the room and a nurse brings me blankets, but every time I close my eyes, the squeak of shoes heralds yet another blood pressure reading…a temperature check…her pain medication – “No, not Codeine, that blocks her up”…a change of pain medication, Aarrrgghhhh! Zombiefied, I head home again.
This morning there’s a call. The Girl is asking for crayons, a colouring book and her mummy. I don’t care if she eats all the crayons. Hell, I don’t care if she eats the book. What could possibly happen? She’ll end up in the hospital?(don’t answer that).
In a couple of days, I suspect The Girl will be home. We’ll fall back into the routine and one day The Girl’s health will deteriorate and we’ll jump back on this merry-go-round. How many times, I have no idea. But here’s the thing: I’m not an overly religious person, but I’ve come to this conclusion: We have an alloted time on this earth. With all the best intentions, we can intervene, medicate, and treat for symptoms and pain. But in the end, the body decides when to call time. There is nothing we can do to change that. This is not my Girl’s time. I cannot take responsiblity when that time does come. I must remember this.
I probably won’t Until then, I’m still blessed.