April 21, 2005

Mom doesn't follow SOP so well

My mother called at noon, having arrived at 8:30 am at the hospital (on 12 hours notice from the cath lab scheduling people), and they still hadn't taken her in for the surgery. I walked the two blocks to the site of my brother's birth at about 1 pm, and my mom had just been taken into the OR.

Time to wait in the multilingual, dueling-TVs waiting room, where I was sure I smelled cigarettes (someone had been smoking in the bathroom, I finally figured out), and they smelled divine. I make a lousy non-smoker, at least recently.

Nowhere have I felt more like an only child, an only adult, than in that room, waiting alone for my mother. My brother wasn't even answering his cell phone.

Saw the doctor briefly after my mom was in recovery -- I had a list of questions, but he wasn't as helpful as he could have been. According to my mom's chart, the floor nurse says she's supposed to start taking a cholesterol lowering pill.

My mom and I both of us thought the point of the surgery was so that she wouldn't need more pills -- that the vein in her leg would be cleared, that that was the whole point. However, the nurse could only recite something about standard operating procedure. I presume the doctor will see my mom again in the morning, but who knows. Whether my mom listens is another question entirely.

The surgery went fine, although neither of us is clear on exactly what the procedure was: we know they put two stents in her leg, but whether she had an angiogram or not, we can't tell. The procedure took place in the cath lab, where they also do heart surgery, but the surgeon seemed flippant about the procedure.

All I know is, my family's previous experience with vascular surgery had to do with my dad's heart, and the procedure they did 20 years ago, ultimately, was not a resounding success.

The recovery room nurse was supposed to come fetch me, but didn't. I finally got up and asked, and they said, just go down the hall and make a right. It would have been nice if someone could have conveyed that info sooner.

Standard operating procedure is anathema to my family: when my father was alive, in a midtown hospital having an angiogram and angioplasty (clearing an artery in his heart), he ordered in from the deli across the street, because the hospital food was so bad. In those days, hospitals had smoking lounges, for patients and visitors.

I can't imagine heart-healthy was my dad's major interest in what the deli provided. Back then, anyone could walk into any New York hospital without identifying themselves as a delivery guy. It is only post 9/11 that anyone has ever stopped me to paste a name tag on me, and without metal detectors and X-ray machines for bags and packages, how relevant is my name?

Hospitals are filled with scalpels and other sharp instruments. They distribute them to everyone except the patients, who are forced to saw into their heart-healthy chicken with plastic knives. Seems to me if you want to decrease stress for the patient, and you're not going to cut the food for them, the least you can do is provide them with proper cutlery.

By the time my mom got to her room it was almost 4 pm, and they served dinner (!) at 4:30. She sent me out for a cheese danish and high-test coffee -- the meal was one of those tasteless low-sodium, low-cholesterol things, but it came with ice cream as the dessert, so go figure. She remembered that the turkey sandwiches 41 years ago, when my brother was born, had been considerably more tasty. Hospital food, like hospital care, isn't what it used to be.

But I have to hand it to my mom: just because the sign said cell phones weren't allowed in her room didn't stop her from answering and placing calls on mine, even after the cell phone police came after us once. "Screw 'em," mom said. "I'm paying for this room."

She sent me home around 6 pm. I'd managed to break her nightstand (one wheel fell off when I tried to move it) and spill all she didn't eat of her dinner on the tray when I tried to move that, so after her coffee and danish, she figured I should get out of there before I broke anything else. (I'm the responsible offspring, not necessarily the coordinated one.)

However, this is not to say she didn't contemplate yanking the blood pressure machine out of the wall. It beeped at us when it needed a new battery, and swift is not the adverb of choice I would use for its replacement, nor is intelligent a term I would have chosen for the designated battery changer. If the machine had been chirping about something real, I don't know what would have ensued, apart from a lawsuit.

My mother is not allowed to do her power walking for 10 days, but she can drink in 24 hours, just in time for cocktails tomorrow; she almost brought a flask to the hospital, which is about what I would have expected. I offered Xanax on my way out, in case the nurses didn't provide any sedation for the night, but she declined.

This being my mom, she's planning to walk 8 blocks home tomorrow. (My offer to take her home in a taxi was rebuffed.) That's the part I worry about. Yet this is how it goes with parents: you can try to bring them up to the best of your ability, but when the time comes, you can't control if they will decide to play in traffic or not.


Anonymous Robin said...

Thinking of you, your mom, and life itself.

4:31 PM  
Blogger the dot said...

Your mom is a pistol! Sending her lots of Get Well wishes! If I lived closer I would take you out for a drink, sounds like you need it!

6:54 PM  

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