I just feel dread, dread dread dread at the coming days and weeks. Mom went into the hospital last Friday with atypical pneumonia complicated by COPD. She might get out tomorrow, if her white blood cell count is lower. There's no question now that her COPD is debilitatingly severe. She will be sent home, when she goes, with a portable canister of oxygen and a nasal cannula, equipment that she will probably have to rely upon the rest of her life.
Since she was admitted on Friday each day has brought a new revelation--usually disastrous. I think that she has been at least mildly hypoxic, and often severely so, for a period of months. Her judgment hasn't been for shit. Her finances are in a ruinous state. Today a mortgage company tracked me down to inform me that she is three months late with her payments and they will foreclose unless I can cover the overdue amount. Of course I will. I paid the note on the farm from August through December. But this means she has not made a single payment since then--even though she told me she had gotten back on her feet.
She has let her driver's insurance lapse, and in turn her tags and inspection sticker have expired. When we went to visit her on Sunday, she asked Jeff if he could take a look at the van because something was wrong with the power steering. Or maybe the brakes. Or maybe both, but could he look at it?
He told me later that he couldn't turn the wheel at all and could barely get it to go ten feet. "How the hell did she drive it to Llano," he asked, "with superhuman strength?" Apparently so, because she told me today (the truth comes out in drips and drabs with her) that it had taken her three hours to get from her house to the Llano hospital, about a 40-mile drive. She had to keep pulling over, she said, because she would realize she wasn't fully conscious. My thoughts upon hearing this? "Ah...ha...ha...help me Jeebus..."
So we got a mechanic in Llano to come get the van. He called today, and the van is repaired. The damage isn't too bad--$500.00 or so. But mom has $34.00 to her name right now. I'm not even going to tell her how much the repairs were. To her it would be just another example of her inadequacy.
For years my mother has hidden. Whenever you ask, everything is fine. Whenever she was sick, it was just her allergies. Whenever you suggested she stop smoking, she'd say that her lung x-rays were as clear as a bell. Whenever you asked her how she was doing financially, she'd change the subject. Sometimes she'd outright lie. I know a lot of things that she doesn't know I know. I know she owes the IRS $60,000. I know she's on the brink of foreclosure. I know she still hasn't accepted the fact that she is now disabled, truly limited in the way she can live her life. I'm letting her in on this slowly, but soon she'll have to start dealing with it head-on.
The enormity of the financial sinkhole she is in is burrowing into my veins and making my hands shake. I can keep the farm out of foreclosure, but that's a couple of thousand dollars. I can pay for the van (with Jeff's help). That still leaves $4,000 worth of medical bills, and I'm sure she will have copayments on any number of prescriptions and -- how much does oxygen cost? Then there is the day to day expense of feeding all the cats, the goats, the donkeys, and she's too weak to lift a can of soda, much less a bale of hay.
I honestly don't believe she comprehends all of this. She was deeply hypoxic when she got to the hospital. Her blood saturation levels were so low that the doctor thought the oximeter must be broken. He got another one and got the same result, 67%. That's a big fat DEAD on the oximeter scale. "You shouldn't be conscious!" he exclaimed. "It isn't easy!" she retorted. Har. Anyway, up until yesterday she was still loopy. They did an arterial blood gas reading on her last night (a procedure every bit as gruesome as it sounds) and she has too much CO2 in her blood. She is simply not getting enough oxygen. The damage to her lungs cannot be repaired.
These are things that she is beginning to apprehend. She's trying so hard to be determined and strong, but it alternates with terror and shame, and I know she's wondering how on earth she can do this, living alone. Hell, if I'm terrified I can't imagine how she feels. Actually, I can, and that's what makes me need the Xanax. It's not the financial stress we will be dealing with, it's knowing how much pain she must be in. Were I in her place and someone told me that I could extend my life for another, oh, 10 years! with proper treatment, I'd think, "Only 10 years? But I have grandchildren. . ."
And she feels she is to blame. To be literal and hard-nosed about it, she is. Smoking causes COPD. There's a genetic component, but it's very rare. It's usually a self-inflicted disease. How do you come to terms with that?
Somehow writing all of this down isn't making me feel better. HUH! WONDER WHY!
I need to get hold of my brain. Nothing has changed, really. She is in the same place she was last week, and last month, and a year ago. It's just that now I know what we're dealing with. I think. God knows what remains to emerge slavering from the closet. I'm not alone--my sister will help, and my dad, the world's most patient ex-husband, has helped enormously already. My stepmother sent me an email stating that I would never be left alone with the burden of taking care of my mother, a gesture that just about hospitalized me with the agonizing kindness of it all. And of course Jeff. He's been a rock. He's a calming presence for my mother--she loves him and trusts him. He helps me get a grip. He tells me it will be all right, and it always is.
I wish there was some way I could keep my mother from hurting, and I can't. Maybe I should get over that--maybe she would appreciate being treated like a grownup capable of addressing her problems. Unfortunately, I've seen little evidence of that in the past 4 or 5 years. I'll try to foster that confidence in her without hovering too much. But right now it's hairy hairy hairy, and she needs the help.
Where the hell is the Xanax effext? I feel sort of tingly in my cheeks. Is that it?