As I sit here at 5am, in a cold hospital room on an uncomfortable plastic-coated chair that pulls out into something that resembles a sleeping surface, I am watching my mom sleep and get a temporary respite from her bilateral pneumonia. About an hour ago, we were both asleep, until she had a coughing fit that she couldn’t get to stop. It seemed that she laid her mechanical squeaky monster of a bed down too flat and her lungs didn’t approve. The coughing caused chest pain, which caused shallow breaths, which caused quick deep breaths, which led to more coughing. “The coughing is a good thing as a result of the breathing treatments” the nurses say, but I’m sure Mom disagrees right now. Or she would if she was awake.
Anyway, the coughing was efficiently timed, so to speak, as laboratory came in the door to draw blood for yet another test. The plhebotamist was pleased that she didn’t have to wake up a patient at 4am to do what needed to be done. Before she was done, an LVN came in to take vitals: blood pressure-good, oxygen levels-acceptable, body temperature-normal. Someone from respiratory came in to give Mom her nightly breathing treatment. Moms night nurse also came in to bring her some tylenol for the chest pain and body aches. The last person to show up was the X-ray tech to get a chest X-ray. It was convenient, albeit tasking on Moms body.
This is day two of her adventures in the hospital. An adventure, I might add, that she never wanted to take. But she had a cold, then an upper respiratory infection, and seemingly overnight, pneumonia in both lungs. It’s a difficult spot to be in when you can’t breathe, and also for those of us wishing we could take the pain away. All we can do is watch, and help with menial tasks to make things easier while the nurses do the serious stuff. It’s particularly difficult when day one of your hospital stay was made with great strides in improving your health. The attending physician said that she could possibly go home on the 3rd day, but with this setback, I’m going to wager that it will be at least another day. Her oxygen levels have bounced around, because when they try to take her off of it she isn’t staying saturated enough on her own… meaning her lungs haven’t healed enough yet.
By the way, if you’re a nurse or LVN, you deserve so much recognition. You are a precious comoddity in this world. You have to be caring, and dedicated, knowledgable and efficient, as well as stern and disconnected. You have to know how to be compassionate and personable, while still maintaining professional capabilities and not letting emotions get in the way. You are appreciated, even if your patients don’t show it.
After everyone completed their tasks and left the room, Mom decided she needed to use the restroom. I helped her up, held her tubing and walked her the four feet to the bathroom and back to her bed when she was done. This simple task winded her, and took every last ounce of energy that she had. As she sat on the edge of the bed, gathering up reserved energy to lay down and get situated, her eyes closed. I moved forward and put her head on my chest, wrapped my arms around her, and rubbed her back. I wanted so badly to share with her my strength and my health so she could heal but the only thing I could offer was love. At that very moment I felt so weak. Love can heal many things, but pneumonia is mostly immune.
I waited for Mom to pull away from me, but she didn’t. My heart wanted to crawl into bed with her and hold her while she slept like she did to me when I was ill as a child. My brain told me to lay her down so she can sleep. I decided to go with my brain, because I knew Moms body was weak and needed to rest. When I pulled her head away from me, she had tears in her eyes. My heart cried with her… she was trying so hard to be so strong, to get better, and she felt like she was failing. All I could do was get her comfortable and covered up in blankets, and then gently rub her face and hair while she fell back asleep.
I looked down at this sleeping woman, this wonderful creation that created me, and I couldn’t help but realize how fleeting and short life can be. I thought of loved ones that are already passed – my Grandmother especially – and received a deeper knowledge of how my Mom felt when she looked at her Mom. I’ve always appreciated my family, and I try not to ever take them for granted.
But there’s something unnerving about watching someone sleep with tubes in their nose and an IV in their arm. It’s a cold slap of reality in an almost too warm embrace from Death himself. You realize so many things in that instant, and it either makes or breaks a person. This is why many people who go into a hospital for longer than an overnight usually have a different outlook on things when they come out. They realize that there was a chance they weren’t going to make it. Again, kudos to the nursing staff, because this is your everyday.
All in all, Mom slept for an hour from about 4:45am to 5:45am, then had to use the potty again. I unhooked her leg compression cuffs, got her IV and oxygen tubing together, unplugged the charging cable for her IV, and helped her to the bathroom. Then did it all in reverse when she was done. It wasn’t the first time, and it won’t be the last. By the time I finished writing this at 6am, she was already fast asleep and snoring gently. (Don’t tell her she’s snoring, she will deny it.) She can snore all she wants to. It’s been a helluva night, and she needs all the rest she can get. Maybe the breakfast dude will be delayed and not come bouncing in here at 7am.
Edit: The respiratory tech came in at 6:15am to do another breathing treatment. Thankfully, this was non-invasive, and Mom woke up just enough to put the band around her head. Maybe I can ger another hour of sleep before my kids get here. We’ll see.