I wanted to take the time to thank everyone who sent in their kind words, wishes and prayers for my family over the past few days when I made the brief announcement about my Mother on Monday morning. I was amazed by the sheer number of e-mails that came pouring in... and unfortunately I soon discovered that there were just far too many to respond to individually.
Sadly, my Mother passed away on Monday afternoon. She had been fighting breast cancer with chemotherapy treatments for a little over two months now and things seemed to be going well. On Friday morning, she reported in for her weekly treatment and they determined that she was very short of breath and transferred her to the ER to get a check up. From the phone calls I had with her on Friday, they gave her oxygen and she felt fine and was ready to go have her treatment and go home. Since this was the ER, I know cases are taken on a priority basis, and since she felt fine and they just wanted to make sure she stayed that way, she ended up staying there all day. By the early evening, I was informed by my brother that they were going to keep her into the evening (possibly all night) just for observation, but we really shouldn’t worry about it.
Overnight things had apparently took a turn for the worse. Blood clots were discovered in her arm and lung, the breathing had become much more difficult. They took steps to remove the clot in the arm, but there was no easy way to treat the one in the lung. A tube was inserted down her throat to aid her breathing. By Saturday morning the Doctors felt that she was on the verge of death and just was not responding to any other treatment and administered a “Clot Buster” called T.P.A. that melted away the clot in the lung. It’s a powerful agent, and has some possible side effects that can cause internal bleeding in different areas, including bleeding in the brain in some cases, so it is only used in the most dire circumstances. In route to the hospital we received a call that all seemed well again, she responded to the drug, and all of her levels were slowly returning to normal.
By the time we got to the hospital, things were no longer so joyous. Blood flow seemed to be a problem once again and they seemed confused. Her breathing was still okay, but not as good as it was before, but they still intended to remove the air tube some time late that evening. Unfortunately due to the air tube and medications, we were unable to communicate with her at this time and after awhile we had to return home to put our kids to bed.
Overnight, things got worse again. They had removed the oxygen tube, only to have to put it back a short time later. Vitals signs were falling, and they ordered a cat scan, which revealed that she was indeed bleeding in the brain from the Clot Buster. A neurosurgeon was called in and determined that the damage was too severe, and given her frail condition from the cancer, chemotherapy and the fact that she had suffered a stroke almost two years before, surgery would not be able to repair the damage. Talking with the various doctors, they all agreed that there was very little chance of her coming out of this and that very soon the swelling in her brain would cause her heart to stop.
They asked us to decide if we still wanted to have them resuscitate her if it were to stop, and pointed out that reviving her would only keep her in the same state she was in and put more stress on her. It was discussed amongst the family and decided that if her heart was to stop, we would let her go. At this point, the minutes stretched into hours, and hours seemed like days. Exhausted, the family members who had quickly come into town all retired for the evening.
By Monday morning, there was no change in her condition, neither better or nor worse. Somehow, I think I had hoped that I could have a normal day again on Monday, but I should have known better. Shortly before noon we received another call from the hospital who wanted the family members to come down and talk about her situation. While her heart at not yet stopped, her brain had been slowly shutting down. Soon there was no longer any indication of brain activity at all, and she was completely being kept alive by life support at this time. The doctors were recommending that life support be withdrawn.
I had feared earlier it would come to this. At that time I didn’t know what I would do.
I had never been a religious person but I prayed for some guidance just the same.
When the time came I knew my answer and I felt at peace with it.
The hospital could attempt to anchor her to this world nearly indefinitely if we demanded them to, but she would never become strong enough again to continue her chemotherapy treatments, let alone the impending surgery to remove the cancerous lumps. Holding on to her would only allow the cancer to thrive again, and after watching it eat my Father alive for over 18 months before he passed away five years ago. I had no intention of seeing that happened to my Mother as well.
It was time to let her go.
My Aunt and I stayed through to the end to say our final goodbyes and to thank her for being in our lives and for teaching us so many different things over the years from a Sister to her Sister and from a Mother to her Son.
Thanks Mom, for everything.