Friday, July 15, 2011

My Mom [updated]

I shared a while ago on another post about my mom’s health and how Evergreen Hospital stumbled through their communication enough to give me what would seem like a death notification to any reasonable person. I have received a large number of questions about what happened. I’ll do my best to explain it here.

My mom had been complaining about back pain for awhile. It wasn’t severe at first but each day it seemed to increase. I took her to the doctor about 5 weeks ago and he ordered x-rays and nothing seemed to be wrong. She was given a mild pain killer and sent on her way.
About 5 days later I called her on the phone and she said the pain was too great. For her to admit any pain as being too much is significant. We measured her pain as 7 on the 1 to 10 scale and we both agreed that if she got to 8 we’d go to the ER. I called her later and she said the pain was bad. I asked her, “is it an 8?” She answered, “No.” I asked “Is it worse than before when it was 7?” She answered, “Yes.” I usually have to play this game when it comes to pain.

My happy mom before kids
My mom is a polio survivor. For my entire life she has walked with a limp and her mobility or physical capability has been an issue. She is also no stranger to hospitals as she spent not days, but months in them as a kid.
The ER ordered a C scan and they discovered a compression fracture in her back. They were concerned about some of her other levels, including kidney, blood pressure, and her breathing. They were also concerned that the contrast dye from the C scan would make her sick. I asked them to admit her so that she could be under observation and they refused, citing that if they did admit her she would pay for the whole thing out of pocket.*** Just the thing someone who lived through the Great Depression wants to hear. So she went home with me.

I took that week off of work to care for her. Nobody would do much for her until she saw her primary care doctor. I finally got her an appointment with a new primary care doctor near my house for Wednesday. Each day at my house she was in more pain, breathing became worse and she was largely uncomfortable. Finally when she saw the primary care doctor, the doctor looked at her for two minutes and called 911. Pretty much all of the things they were worried about in the ER (and refused to admit her) came true and she was headed back there in an ambulance.

It wasn’t long before they discovered that her stomach was bleeding and she was put on a respirator. After a move to the critical care unit of the hospital they discovered a large bleed in the back of her stomach that was life threatening. I authorized surgery for her and she was off to get it repaired. Turns out this was the source of her back pain.

After the surgery she got a little better. She was taken off the ventilator and breathing on her own. She was “alive and kicking” as she put it. After 30 hours off of the ventilator she was breathing heavily again and not feeling well. She was also in a great deal of pain. Then more bleeding showed that the surgery didn’t work. Several scopes revealed nothing as the bleeding always stopped when they looked. Very sneaky.

Once again they called me and informed me that she was free bleeding into her stomach.  The place of the bleeding was the same as the first surgery. She needed a second surgery to repair it. The surgeon told me he wasn’t exactly sure how he was going to fix it but would try everything. He did, and so far it has worked. No bleeding since the second surgery.

My mom though has stayed on the ventilator and is very weak. Turns out an 86 year old with post polio syndrome will take time to get strong again. She is now in a hospital which specializes in helping patients regain strength in their respiratory muscles so that they can vent Carbon Dioxide off on their own without the aid of a ventilator.

What’s most discouraging at this point is seeing how weak she is. My mom is a very sociable person who loves to talk and interact with others, but is unable to talk due to the ventilator. She is obviously frustrated too. I remind her and encourage her daily that this is temporary and that getting stronger is the way out.

She has struggled this far, I hope she has the will to keep going. If she does, I’ll be with her every step of the way.

*** – I filed a grievance with the hospital about this and the other issues I’ve had there and so far their investigation has shown not only a breech in their own policies but against best practices in general. I’ll have more on the outcome of this in the future.


lynda said...

your mom is so strong! i wish her great health and to get back to the swing of things soon. which ER did you go to the first time that turned her away? you can PM me if that's not public information. ;)

philnjill said...

I am glad you filed a grievance! Here's hoping and praying she comes out of this in better shape!

lasr100 said...

I am sorry they had to move her so far away. having some health problems of my own I have not been able to visit here again. Hopefully I will get another chance. I am sure she is bored and lonely.
I hope she is able to get off the ventilator soon and back to a more normal life style....breathing, eating talking, grandkids...that sort of thing. :-)

Tracy said...

Her entire hospital experience, from ER to CCU was at Evergreen Hospital in Kirkland, WA.

Anonymous said...

Pastor Dan and Leonard have been keeping me updated, but your blog explains it more clearly. We are praying for a full and fast recovery Lee! Miss you guys Tracy, love, Kelly

Tracy said...

Thanks Kelly!
I've been using Facebook as a centralized place to give information. I've heard a number of things here and there that were inaccurate so I always just point people back to my regular updates. I wanted to post this blog post so I'd have more room to explain it. It's good to hear we're missed :) Likewise!