I almost lost my mom a week ago Friday.
My aunt and I took her into the hospital early Friday morning for a Cardiac Catheterization. A relatively simple exploratory procedure. Mom was having it done because she had been having some symptoms of heart disease and they wanted to take a look inside.
Five hours in the waiting room, ticked by slowly as we waited for the results. Finally around 2:00, Mom’s doctor came out and told us her arteries were perfect. What relief we felt! He told us we could go see her in recovery, but she would need to stay horizontal for four hours, so the hole they had just created in her artery could close. Two hours later the nurse came to take us back.
We went back and she looked great. She was still a little loopy from the drugs, so we had some fun teasing her. We laughed. We acted silly. We were just so relieved.
Her four hours of not moving were finally over and we were anxious to leave. It was 6:00 pm and I was aching to see my boys. The nurse took forever to come and tell her she could get up. She said she could go to the restroom, get dressed and then they would have her discharge papers ready.
I left the room for a moment and when I returned, it was surreal. My aunt was standing in the middle of the recovery room; her face was pale and covered in fear. Nurses were running in and out of mom’s room frantically, yelling to other nurses to bring various tools and page the doctor. No one spoke to my aunt or me. We stood there like statues frozen with fear. I kept waiting for someone to tell us she was going to be okay, but no one did. I heard my mom say she was going to pass out and the nurses behind the curtain were yelling at her to stay awake. Everything was frantic. Bedside manor was out the window. They were just keeping her alive.
At some point my aunt and a nurse pushed me into a chair when they thought I was going to pass out. I wasn’t going to, my brain couldn’t accept what was going on. I couldn’t think, I couldn’t pray, I couldn’t cry. I didn’t know how to do anything in that moment. I just wanted to hold my baby. I needed Harrison and the need consumed me. I was losing my mother and I just needed to mother my son.
Finally, she was stabilized and a nurse came to explain what had happened. The hole in the artery had not closed and as she walked back from the bathroom she began to hemorrhage. She said something about dissolving a hematoma before a clot could travel through her blood stream. We could go say hi but we would have to go back to the waiting room for 2 hours… at least.
We decided to get dinner and as we walked my throat began to tighten, I couldn’t swallow and breathing became more difficult. I was beginning to deal. I got in the cafeteria line, called Tim and the floodgates opened. His sister stayed with Harrison and he headed into DC to be with me. The realizations that I came to over those two hours were horrifying. Harrison adores her, but he would’ve never remembered her. She has been so supportive of our decision to adopt from Ethiopia, more so than anyone else in our families, but her African grandchildren would’ve never known her.
And me. It was just her and me for so many years. We walked a difficult path together, just the two of us. She is the only one who really knows, because she is the only one who was there. She is my mother, my best friend, my inspiration. She is the most giving, selfless person I have ever known.
The feelings I had are hard to describe and they really took me by surprise. I felt like I was on the brink of being an orphan. Yes, I have a father, but as I look back I can’t remember a time when our relationship was parental. And so it’s really just her. I felt that if she were gone, I would be more alone than I had ever been before. The one person who has been on my side for over thirty years, the only witness to my whole life. Gone. In a moment.
I would have never understood this feeling two weeks ago. If someone else were saying these things, I would’ve thought there was a problem with their marriage. But my marriage is great. So what is this feeling?
Mom ended up spending the night in the hospital and was released the next day. She spent several days here with us recuperating. Now she has regained most of her strength and is doing great. But I am changed by the experience. I walked around the whole week in a fog… perpetually on the verge of tears… acutely aware of what a gift I have… and that one day she will be gone.