21 days in ICU: a journey on sacred ground – Welcome to ICU

November 4th, 2017

It wasn’t all that long ago that I was on the verge of being un-stuck – on the verge of everything falling into place after making my commitment to shake it all up and bring out my inner Badass. The change in my life that I committed to was imminent – I was impatient and anticipatory. I saw so clearly how the “big snooze” was trying to sabotage and I wasn’t going to let it stop me.

Just to refresh your memory, at that time, I had given notice to my job without having any idea where I was going. My boyfriend of 2.5 years had moved out of our home and my mom had fainted which led to a severe break in her ankle requiring surgery. Each of these events a signal to me that this was going to be a tough journey and also affirming I needed to make this trip. I kept moving forward taking steps toward my new life – and I could feel things starting to fall into place. My mom had been through a lot but was returning home after time in the hospital and then a rehabilitation facility. I had a job interview for my dream job and my boyfriend and I were working things out. Gosh, what a rough road it had been – those 3-4 weeks of discomfort. Those 3 or 4 weeks where I fretted about my job, mom and boyfriend. Yet, I made it through. Like the too-tight lid of a pickle jar that you’ve struggled to open, using all your strength while it remained stubbornly stuck, that suddenly slips loose liberating the lid with ease. It was all coming together. It was happening.

Except that it wasn’t.

After the ankle surgery my mom was prescribed pain pills that had a side effect of constipation. On September 17th, exactly 3 weeks after she initially broke her ankle, she called 911 and went back to the ER. She was experiencing severe pain in her abdomen. She sent me a text “back in hospital.” I spoke to her that night. Her voice, shaking with pain gave a timber unfamiliar to me. I spoke to her the next day and to her nurse. I asked them each if I should come down (I live an hour away) and be with her. They both said that wasn’t necessary and that she was in good care. I spoke to her later that evening – her voice still riddled with a pain I’d never heard in her before. We stayed on the phone without much to say to each other, as we sometimes did. Those calls where you just “hang out” with the other person, even if it’s just by phone. I told her that my puppy had been experiencing constipation too. She said it was sweet that my pup was having “sympathy pains” for her. She said that if the vet had any good remedies for Cleo (my puppy) to pass them along to her because she wasn’t “too proud.” I laughed at that and noted my mom’s ongoing sense of humor and optimism through the whole ordeal – fainting, breaking her ankle, surgery, rehab and now, unbearable constipation. Constipation so severe and painful that her voice shook and required extra effort to make audible sound.

On September 20th, I got a call from the hospital. The nurse on the phone spoke clearly and with a sense of urgency. “Your mom went into a-fib and was transferred to ICU; we need to put in a central line now. Do you give us permission to put in a central line?” Without fully understanding what any of that meant, I consented and asked if I should make the hour trip South to be with my mom. The quick response,

“Your mom is very sick. You should be here.”

As I drove I processed the fact that I was called to give permission on behalf of my mom. Was she unable to communicate for herself? Was she unconscious? What is a-fib? What is a central line? Unsure of what was to come, I made arrangements for my boyfriend to stay with my kids so I could be with my mom. I called my grandparents. I called my dad and stepmom. I called my best friend, Regina, or ‘G,’ and I called two of my mom’s best friends, Gloria and Lynda.

I didn’t shower or change clothes for the next three days. The consent for the central line just the first of many medical decisions I would make on my mom’s behalf over the next 21 days.