Monday, June 6, 2011

it slipped her mind...

 I love my mother.  She took a fall last November and hit her head, though there were no signs of a concussion, she was much more tender than she should have been for almost three months.  When she went to her doctor, he issued an order for an MRI to make sure everything was alright.  Everything was fine, except for this bit of brain tissue seeping down the back of her spinal column.  Excuse me?  

Note: I left out a lot of details in this blog, as this was a very private struggle and I want to respect my mother's privacy, as well as protect my readers from details they might not be able to handle.  

Flash forward a few weeks and there I am sitting in the neurosurgeon's office at Loma Linda University Hospital, cracking jokes with my mom while we await a doctor we had never met before.  Apparently, a Chiari 1 Malformation  is a simple thing to see on a CT Scan or MRI, as it was with my mother's case, but our case was a bit out of the ordinary.  Luckily, it was caught before any major damage was done (such as explosions within the spinal column or leaking of CSF (spinal fluid).  However, this particular medical condition is typically diagnosed when the individual is in their twenties, not their fifties.  The doctor was wonderful, approachable and professional at the same time, and he informed us that we had to make the decision as a family.  My father, sister and I informed our mom we would support whatever measure she wanted to take, but we all felt that the surgery seemed like the best possible approach, as it was both corrective and preventative.  After a week or two of deliberation, my mom scheduled her surgery and the wait began.  And then the wait ended, when the neurosurgeon's office called and moved her surgery up two weeks.  
Fears, hopes, concerns, facts, opinions, fantasies, nightmares, and history aside: We had the unknown.  We all went to bed, said our prayers, and hopped in the car before dawn to head forty minutes east to hand the person who gave me life to someone I had met one time.  In true Cartwright fashion, my mom realized she didn't have her night driving glasses and asked me to drive about halfway down the street.  We exited her car and did a Chinese Fire Drill, waving our arms and flailing about to make my sister laugh, who was following in her truck behind us.  When we checked in to pre-op, my sister and I laughed with my mom the entire time.  We blew up latex gloves and made them talk like turkeys, we chatted with the nurses, and even asked if there were any cute, single anesthesiologists around (ok, my sister didn't... Don't judge me).  We each kissed her "see you later" as opposed to "goodbye" and hollered down the hall that we were quite jealous of all the drugs she got to take, and requested she save us some.  We both made sure to smile big, as the last thing we wanted her to think about were her two daughters smiling with confidence and love. 

Jesus watches over us.
Jesus, and an Asian lady.

Sister sleeping:
Rare, but sweet. 
ICU Official Sleep Pack:
Be jealous.
 Those were without a doubt the longest 7 hours of my life.  Even with the incredible staff at Loma Linda going out of their way to keep us informed with Patient Relations personnel and text message updates (yes, you read that correctly), it was nerve-wracking, gut-wrenching, and all together draining.  When she finally came out, she had some trouble with the anesthesia and her lungs.  What was supposed to be a few days in recovery and a basic hospital room, turned into four long days in ICU.  The first two days were slow and painful.  It was so incredibly difficult to see my mom in so much pain, as well as so confused.  the doctors assured me that this was in fact not something we should be overly concerned with.  My sister and I were in the ICU every few hours and slept on the floor of the hospital waiting rooms for four cold, hard nights.  Every second was worth it when, on day 3, we went upstairs to see mom and the light was back in her eyes.  She was eating a bit, she was cracking little jokes, and (most importantly for me) she was once again flipping me off for my smart ass mouth.  There's my mommy.  I felt my heart beat again for the first time in 72 hours.  Thank God. 

I never left that hospital, not once, for four days, and my sister only to grab us food once or twice.  The night guards, nurses, receptionists, doctors, and even the families of other patients in ICU knew us and asked about our mom's progress every day.  My friends were calling and texting, facebooking, and bringing coffee to the hospital (Loma Linda is Seventh Day Adventist... No caffeine anywhere on campus!) and sending love & prayers, I know because we could feel them.  Family was bringing food and stopping by to sit with my sister and I as we watched everything from which drugs she was on to her vitals.  The abundance of support was refreshing and appreciated beyond expression.  I truly think it was all the prayers and love sent to her, in addition to her sheer will to be a badass, that helped her do a 180 in the ICU and shock everyone around her; even her doctors.  
Contrary to popular belief, hospital floors are not
conducive to sleep.  Or avoiding back injury.

She is now home and resting.  She is still dizzy, a bit sore & has a minimal appetite, but she is kicking ass in my book, and I am so proud of her.  She loves showing off the crazy scar she has on the back of her head and neck, and gets her stitches out tomorrow.  Thank you to all of you who went out of your way to be there for her and for our family.  We couldn't have done it without you.  Please know, if you ever need anything, I am forever in your debt.  Unless you need help moving this Saturday, I am actually really busy.  xx.a
Love for Lala (my mom) from the best people in the world. 

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