“Technically, guests can’t spend the night in patient rooms.
Since you’re staying, though, here’s a blanket and pillow to make you more comfortable.
And let’s bring in a better chair.”
That simple act is a perfect example of how tremendous the staff on the neurology floor has been since we arrived Friday afternoon. Every person on the floor is kind and engaged and compassionate.
As hard as today was for me, my heart breaks for my cousin. At 62 she’s buried her brother, her father and her husband… and today they let us know Aunt M isn’t going to recover from this stroke.
We sat in the waiting room, her phone pressed between our ears and listened to the doctor explain.
I wrote down:
Right side gone; extending to left
Transformation to brain bleeds
Heparin was discontinued because of presence of bleeds
Recent, ongoing DVTs
The neurologist explained it to me earlier in the day, showed me the results of the most recent CT. I knew before he came, though, because Aunt M’s speech was so garbled when I arrived this morning it made yesterday’s slur seem coherent.
I took pictures of the scan and can’t bring myself to include one here out of respect for Aunt M. The brain that housed so many memories and ideas and opinions and facts and humor and political insights… is succumbing.
Her entire right hemisphere is dead. Her brain is swelling past the center line. The bleeds are spreading. They could do surgery to remove the top of the skull, relieve pressure, but the prognosis wouldn’t change.
I asked him to tell my cousin; I didn’t know how and didn’t have the courage to be the one to deliver that news. When his rounds took him away from the hospital before she arrived I implored the nurse to prepare to explain the situation. Please don’t make me tell her what I suspected yesterday and didn’t say.
When she left yesterday, Susan believed test results would reveal a simple solution and with physical therapy and acupuncture Aunt M would return home, perhaps with in-home nurses and an aide.
“Stay positive Jenn, I’m a positive person and she needs positive energy.”
When she left today, because she has a farm and animals to feed and needed to get a few hours sleep, she wasn’t sure if she’d see her mom alive again. She left knowing the doctors had a copy of the DNR, knowing we’d discussed and agreed that no feeding tube should be placed. Because prolonging her life in this state isn’t what she’d want.
They’ve got her on morphine now to quell the pain in her head that seems to be following the line of the infarction as it moves from right to left.
I’ve had Aunt M for 2.5 years and I’m gutted because I’m not done learning from her and loving her- I can’t imagine spending my whole life without her and then realizing it was coming to an end.
That’s Sunday. I’m sleeping here tonight because I think Aunt M knows something is different; wrong. Yesterday she wasn’t aware of the diminished capacities in speech or movement. She knows now, though. I can see it on her face. I don’t want her to be alone. When she gestures for Chapstick, I’ll be here.
Since the nice lady in the other bed just walked over and handed me a box of real Kleenix and offered to go get me an Italian ice from the freezer, I’m suddenly aware my “quiet crying” is just about anything but.