This morning the sun came out. We’ve had a lousy summer so far—rain, wind, more rain. And the girl keeps tracking in a downward direction. Last night didn’t help. This morning I called Chookie Lou. I told her about last night; told her I’m the worst mother on the planet and that I shouldn’t be left in care of myself, let alone someone else. I told her I was going to blog about it.
“I wouldn’t,” she said.
I considered her response. “Why not?” I asked. “I want to give readers a true account of what it’s like caring for a terminally ill loved one. This is a perfect example of what can happen.”
“Blog that,” she replied, “and Social Services will be at your door before you can blink. They’ll use your blog as evidence and they’ll take her away.”
“Good,” I said. “Tell them to call first. I can have her packed in less than ten minutes.”
The previous night’s trauma began with a typically mundane day. The Girl had lain in her bed, sleeping off and on throughout the afternoon while an endless stream of Smurfs played out on her TV. Meanwhile, I caught up on my blogging, surfed the internet, made dinner, wondered what other people who aren’t me were doing.
That’s okay. That’s what I signed up for. I accept it. I even blog about it.
So why on earth, you may ask, could things go disastrously awry?
Liver disease is a funny thing—okay, so not so much funny, as peculiar. The liver is one of the most amazing organs in the body. It removes toxins from the blood, distributes glucose, keeps everything ticking over. A little like your local water treatment plant. But I won’t bore you with an anatomy lesson. Just know that when it begins breaking down, it tends to do weird things. If pressure builds up on the portal vein, blood gets re-routed and turns up in interesting places like the oesophagus, where it bursts through into the digestive system and results in projectile vomiting in great, bright red spouts. We know all about that. It happened to the girl a couple of years ago. Color me surprised when the doctor told me what was happening.
When it’s out of whack, the liver sometimes throws hissy fits and decides to dump all the glucose it’s lovingly collected during the day. You wind up with blood sugars of a million in the middle of the night, and by morning you’re hypoglycaemic. Imagine how that affects the typical diabetic.
But that’s not all. When toxins rise in the blood, sufferers tend to feel disorientated, delirious, spaced out. Body clocks go haywire and next thing you know, you’re awake all night and asleep all day. Not good for the sole carer.
You can also imagine, therefore, how important it is to get rid of these toxins. The best way to do that, is … well, let’s just say via the digestive system. Perhaps, with my sketchy outline of resultant problems above, you can see why hydration is so important. It all goes hand in hand.
So when the Girl had slept for the previous three days, I became worried. And ignored my own better judgement.
At 5 p.m. she ate dinner. Slowly. I had made her scrambled eggs and chopped in some cherry tomatoes from the permaculture in the back yard. Unfortunately, she refused to drink. I came back several times with water, then juice, then a milk shake. Still she refused, and the above effects started looping through my brain. What if? What if?
Now, most people in this situation would simply think, “Easy. If it gets too hard I’ll call an ambulance.” But I can’t. If I send her to hospital, they’ll try to fix her. That’s their job. That’s why I busted her out the last time. If she goes anywhere from here, it’s the hospice. So it’s up to me to manage her illness. Which is what makes what I did next so dumb.
By 9 p.m. I was ready to go to bed. I had no one coming in to sit over so I could sleep—won’t have for the next four nights. So I must prepare. I can’t have the Girl singing and whooping half the night. So just before bed, I took her in a drink of juice. I sat her upright, put the straw to her lips.
She took one sip, then two …
… then choked. Yes, choked!
It’s called aspiration. It’s when fluid goes into the lungs. Most of us can cope. People with serious illnesses can’t. Fluid in the lungs causes pneumonia.
HOW COULD I BE SO STUPID?
This instant the juice hits home, it turns to foam. I can hear the wheezing and bubbling every time she coughs. Her lungs sound like a sponge with too much detergent soaked through it. I sit her up, push her forward, and slap her on the back. It doesn’t help. She’s still wheezing and coughing. Her face is scarlet and she’s wringing herself out. I incline the bed, roll her over, rub her back and call the hospice.
The night nurse tells me to give her more sedation. I tell her I need Buscopan. She tells me that doesn’t always work. Dear God, the things you learn. She tells me to administer a sub-cut—an extra dose of pain medication. I dig it out, inject it into her line, wait fifteen minutes. Finally, thankfully, the coughing slows, she settles. It’s now after ten. I’m exhausted.
Once she’s asleep, I say a little prayer of thanks, switch off all the lights, and go to bed.
This morning the Girl awakens. I can hear her chuckling. My relief is overwhelming. I cannot imagine how I’d feel if she died by my own stupidity. I know there’ll be a next time. But next time I’ll take my own advice. Next time, I’ll try to stand back, let things run their natural course. If that fails, then next time I won’t beat myself up. Next time, I’ll still blog about it, because this is what happens. And frankly, if it happens again, and Social Services call, I’ll tell them she’s packed and already to go.
They’d bring her back in two minutes flat.
I should also mention here than any references to Social Services were made in jest, and after the fact, and therefore, may not be held against us. Just in case you were wondering.