Saturday, July 30, 2011

New camera - the Sony DSC TX-10 Underwater

Well, I finally broke down and bought a water proof camera. The Sony I got goes to 15 feet for 1 hour - I really only wanted it for the jetski and boats and don't expect to stay under water 1 hour (if I do, I'm in trouble...).

Tried it out in the pool yesterday and took some fun pics which I will upload as soon as I figure out how. The thing does 3D pics too! And, it takes a really nice panorama shot which is way fun. This is my third teeny Sony although it's not quite as teeny as my first. This one has a touchscreen which is going to take a bit of getting used to.

I think the Sony will take gorgeous pics in Key West as we're renting a boat for Bobbi's birthday and heading out to the reef with John at the wheel. We did this last year and just had a total blast, bobbing around the reef on noodles until....we saw the shark. Bobbi and I hightailed it for the boat and John laughed at us, and then he stayed in the water for a bit. But, then....he saw the barricuda and he about jumped in the boat right over the side!

Mom is doing well. She and Matee are sleeping in her chair right now - Mom's hand is cupping Matee's face. Very cute. They're best of friends.

Tweetie continues to tame a bit although I'm missing a fairly significant piece of my index finger. Guess I was pushing things too quickly for his birdy comfort.

Off to do some cooking today for a sick friend; mac and cheese and salmon croquettes. Yum! Got cookies ready to go too.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Tweetie tweets!

Well, the bird has spoken. I suppose his frequent tweets mean that his little birdie self is getting more comfortable in the house. His training is coming pretty well - I was working with him/her (won't know until he's/she's older) and he/she will now comfortably get his birdy-self "up" onto my finger without drawing blood - a big success. That's Tweetie on my finger in his cage yesterday.

I, being me, of course rushed his beginning training and brought him out of his cage where he proceeded to flop to the floor and take off running under the sofa. I haven't seen Mom laugh as much in a while - I had to crawl around trying to recapture Tweetie - I'd get close and he'd take off to another spot. Took me about 5 minutes to corral the little sucker and put him back in his cage. The funniest part, I suppose, was my issuing commands I use for the dog such as "STOP", "WAIT", "STAY!" Definitely not effective on a bird - at least, at the moment.

John's down to the boat for 3 nights. Lucky man. He's heading out tonight and will return Sunday morning when he'll meet me over on Kent Island for some jet skiing. Carina and Leandro will join us for the day - looking very forward to it.

Ron and Linda dropped by last night and brought some great soup. Linda makes the best gazpacho ever - Mom proclaimed it was better than even the gazpacho she loves at Legal Seafoods - that's quite the compliment! Linda also brought over a great tomato soup with orzo and some delicious pesto. Nice evening.

Mom's mind continues to clear - it's fascinating to me how much her personality has come back. She's more like Mom these days as she joins in conversations, cracks dirty jokes, and has the occasional cocktail. Nice to have her back, for as long as it lasts. These are great days.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

A new family member..

Yes, it's true. Somehow, John and I walked into the house with yet another pet - someone who obviously needed us even though he (or she) may not realize it...

...Enter 'Tweety' (hate the name but that's what Mom named her parakeet. I was a fan of Lemonchello....should have known the poor bird would end us with a dumb name).

Anyway, knowing how much mom loves watching the birds, we decided to surprise her with a beautiful yellow parakeet tonight. In fine Lori and John fashion, we totally tricked out the cage with a cuddle fish bone, extra seeds, a 3-way mirror (which cracked me up - it's like a fun house mirror which makes the bird look thinner or fatter, depending. I'm steering clear)....This is already one lucky bird. So, Tweety rounds our our menagerie to 6 dogs, 1 very very confused cat, and a parakeet. And, that is IT!

Here's a new Squidoo lens I just wrote about Tweetie and his habitat. Please give it a read and comment on it.
 Tricking out a parakeet cage

Carina and Liandro were here when we came in with Tweety so Liandro helped me put together the cage as John went about making an incredible dinner - spanish style. So good! Mom enjoyed calves liver, potatoes, fresh mozzarella over freshly picked tomatoes garnished with basil, a bit of Harvey's Bristol cream, and some coffee (yes, we gave her coffee...). John made the rest of us some delicious burritos with sausage, cheese, beans, etc. Steamed asparagus rounded out the meal and then some dessert shooters and appertifs occurred. Great time was had by all.

So, we had a great dinner in the dining room; Mom really enjoyed the banter and clearly has a crush on Liandro. He clearly returns the crush on Gertie. It's so sweet to see them together. There's about 70 years separating them yet they seem to have some sort of admiration relationship. I saw it when Liandro visited Mom in the hospital. There's a connection of sorts between them. And, for that, I'm eternally grateful. It's these friends who continue to support us who I believe keep Mom happier than she's been in years. Her mind is clearer, she laughs more, she has more opinions now than in the last 3 years. An amazing time is happening in our lives and I hope not to let it slip by unnoticed.

So, the 'younguns' (that would be Carina, Liandro, John and need for comments please) hopped in the pool after dinner and then the hot tub tonight after getting Gert settled in her chair. So much fun. I'm so grateful for wonderful friends.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Another outing with Gert!

Video was taken this morning when I took Mom outside to bask in the gorgeous morning.

Yesterday, Carina and I once again blasted Mom out of her chair yesterday and tottled off to the mall in Frederick for some shopping. I made a tactical error by bringing them both with me though as I looked for some new, fun clothes for upcoming trip to Key West - they were a very tough crowd and ganged up against me in my choices for clothes. "No more black!" was the cry of the day - I guess I might be in a rut. So, the shopping trip was mostly a bust except for one little crocheted vest that I'm going to get Doris (one of our fab caregivers) to use as a pattern for me. Doris is very talented in sewing, knitting and crocheting and tried to teach me, to no avail.

After the mall, I took us to lunch at Monocacy Crossing, a small restaurant on 355 outside of Urbana. We sat outside under an umbrella and had a great lunch. Mom was in fine form and joined in the whole conversation. She was doing so well, I decided to drop by La Mex so the locals could see her. They had all been asking how she's been doing after her recent hospitalization. "Fabulous" is always my reply but I don't think they believe me! Anyway, Carina and I propped her up at the bar where mom had a bourbon and coke and chips and salsa. I'm not sure where she puts all this food as she does eat a LOT and all day long.

Brought mom and Carina home and got Mom settled back in her chair in comfy nightgown and robe. John picked me up and we were off to La Mex again, this time to meet up with Bobbi. A great afternoon/evening was had over here.

Here's my latest article: The value of friends. It's mostly a tribute to the people, both near and far, who keep me and mom emotionally propped up (and sometimes physically too). Please give it a read and read through my online friend's articles which are included.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Squidoo Lens of the Day!

Well, I got an incredible honor yesterday when my Incontinence in the Elderly lens won lens of the day on Squidoo, a writing site I'm trying out. The article got over 180 views yesterday and is on its way to besting that today. Here's the writeup from the Squidoo dudes who post the Lens of the Day:

Shhhhh. It’s one of those things that no one wants to talk about, but everyone questions. It’s one of those things everyone Googles but doesn’t discuss in the coffee shop. It’s a fact of life for millions of aging adults and their caretakers. It’s Incontinence in the Elderly.
Let me say a loud “W00T!” to GottaLoveIt for tackling an often avoided topic with compassion and personal knowledge. There’s no one more qualified than a caretaker in the trenches to share their experience about health, medical, and psycho-social issues. For the rest of us also dealing with it, it’s a blessing to see a lensmaster willing to share. After all, it’s kind of an important issue.
Nominating lensmaster Hotbrain says it best. “It’s a great example of UUU! She wrote about a sensitive topic in an entertaining and informative way. Very helpful lens.”

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Fresh as an old daisy

That pic is of Mom taken today right after I showered her and washed her hair. I love her hair on shower days - it's like working with white clouds. It's so beautiful. As is she.

She continues to have ups and downs. I put her back to bed this morning after coffee but she was up after 15 minutes ringing her bells on her walker. When I went in to find out what she wanted, she was sitting up in bed and said "What am I doing here?" Oh Lord, here we go again. I sat down and explained that she'd had breakfast #1 and it was time for a nap and then I'd get her up in an hour (it was, btw, 6 am...). I was tired!

I remember when I was young and she'd put me down for a nap when I wasn't tired, I'd ask why I had to lie down. "Because Mother is tired" was always her reply. I never got it until now.

Anyway, she did lay down and 15  minutes later, as I was drifting off to sleep, the jingle bells chimed again. Sigh. I gave up and put her  downstairs in her chair where she proceeded to fall sound asleep until I woke her at 9 for breakfast #2.

The chaplain from hospice is coming to visit today. She's non-denominational which is good and just will be another visitor for Mom, periodically. Carina is due back today, thank God. She missed her flight back from San Paulo on Sunday and was delayed a day but, meanwhile, I'm holding down the fort alone during the days. Exhausting. Luckily, I have John here most nights to help keep me sane. Well, as sane as I get these days.

So, everything is status quo. Mike will be back up here on his way back to Arizona sometime in August so we'll do a brunch on a weekend to get everyone together. And, not sure if I mentioned it or not but Sharyn is moving in with us for the month of August while Carina does training for United Airlines. At least I'll be able to get out a bit with Sharyn here. Mom does pretty well with her. I'm still planning on Key West for Bobbi's 50th with John, Bobbi, her sister Debbie and Debbie's significant other, Tom. Should be a great time. We're renting a boat and Captain John will skipper us away for the day. Can't wait.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

It's all about visits from friends...

Not a bad looking lady after 7 days in the hospital!
Spent the last few days having visitors come over, which is very nice - breaks up the routine. And, since Carina is in Brazil, the routine is getting b-o-r-i-n-g!

Kim and her two sons, Alex and Mitchell, came over the other day to visit, eat a few hotdogs, and get in the pool. I took advantage of her two sons being here and gave them some cash to weed the area around the pool. They did a great job, and we all got the whole area weeded. Kim and I are going to work out there later this week to put down weed block and mulch and put some big pots of bamboo in. The pool area is looking much better than it ever has so a pool party will be happening in August!

Niece Monya came down yesterday to visit Bubbie and me and sit for a spell. We had a great visit and a few good laughs. She caught us up on all the goings on in the Kline house which is a lot as she has 4 children - yes, that little teeny girl has 4 children. Say it with me, say it proud - we hate her....

Monya came bearing a beautiful sunflower bouquet which Mom can't stop staring at today. She was very touched that Monya came down - very sweet indeed. Monya is my sister's middle child and was only 15 when my sister died in a car accident. But, I have absolutely no doubt that my sister would be as proud of the woman and mother she's become as Bubbie and I are.

While Monya was here, I was working with a new caregiver, Raquel, to incorporate her into the care we do for Mom. It takes a while to work everyone into the routine but Gertie appears to be taking it a bit easier on these new caregivers. Thank you Lord.

John came home tonight and made a great dinner of low sodium veal scallopini and fresh green beans. We decided to top off the evening with a ride up to Jimmy Cone and put Mom in the front seat, nightgown, robe and all. The way I figure it, when one is 94, you can do whatever the hell you want - and, if that means going out in public in one's robe, well, that's what one should do.

Barley's hot spot is much improved although he was pretty uncomfortable the last few days. Benadryl to the rescue!

Lastly, I wrote this article on Squidoo today. I felt it was important to become schooled in what to expect when death looms. Now, I'm not saying that Mom is a goner anytime soon (in fact, she's better these days than she's been in the last few years) but I figured it was better to understand the process than to have to figure it out on the fly later. Here 'tis. Please leave me comments on the bottom (this boosts the lens rating and gets it, possibly, seen by more people). Also, please share these articles with others as you see fit:

When death looms - signs and symptoms of the last moments on earth

Saturday, July 16, 2011

My growing morning routine

I suppose it's inevitable when one is owned by 6 dogs and a very elderly mother that the morning routine, which used to include a cup of coffee, is complicated and growing.

Poor Barley has a big hot spot so off to the vet we went yesterday. I had to leave Mom alone 30 minutes and was jittery about that but I needn't be - she was fine. Anyway, the morning routine for Barley now:
1) release him from the collar of shame
2) clean the hot spot with antiseptic
3) gently dry the hot stop
4) spray with an antibiotic.
5) Give him his oral antibiotic, benadryl, glucosamine pill,  and thyroid pill.
6) Put e-collar back on so I can go about treating the rest of the animals (if my eyes aren't on him, the e-collar is!). Can't risk further damage by him scratching or chewing the hot spot.

Rita gets eye drops in each eye and will for the rest of her life, twice a day.

Give Hops his 4 pills - 2 muscle relaxants, a mild pain pill, and a glucosamine supplement. Sadly, he's figured out that there's a lot of pills in his food bowl (I used to just toss them in) so now I have to coax him with cheese or peanut butter - another extra step.

By the time I'd done the above, and fed and watered everyone including the confused cat, I hear my Mom's rolling thunder upstairs. I came up with the bright (?) idea to put jingle bells on her walker with the thought that I could hear her move but the jingle bells only sway and don't make noise on their own. Mom's figured out that, if she jingles the bells herownself, I come running. Pretty funny how she got that on her own. So, off I run to get her down the steps (she has stair chairs so it's not that big an issue), get her morning coffee and a bowl of oatmeal, get her her pills, rub gel on her knee, and finally (!) make myself a cup of coffee.

Now, those readers who are astute are probably thinking I should take care of my own needs first (coffee), similar to putting on that airplane oxygen mask first. But, I've tried to make my coffee early and, inevitably, a sip down the old gullet, and the sound of jingle bells tinkles down the stairway. My coffee is always cold! No one should have to suffer a cup of cold coffee first thing in the morning.

No wonder I'm tired! I feel like I never get anything done around the house, and I don't. But, I think it's mostly because I'm running around caregiving to a thousand different needs. I've also been busy writing a bunch of Squidoo articles about my recent experiences. I'm doubtful that they'll ever make any money from sales, but I felt I had important information to share with other caregivers of the elderly. Please give them a view and pass them over to anyone you think they might help. There's a comment section on each article so, if you'd leave me a comment on the article (and you can, even if you're not a Squidoo member), I'd appreciate it. Here's the most recent articles:

Helping a hospitalized senior citizen
Pneumonia symptoms in the elderly
Causes of dementia in the elderly
Senior citizen dental care
Choosing hospice - is it the right choice?

Friday, July 15, 2011

All is well at the Mansion

Sorry I haven't written to update the readers of the blog but I've been pretty busy with keeping Mom pink. So far, so good. We've had two visits from Montgomery Hospice nurses - the organization really has it going on. All of the personnel talk and discuss each and every case so everyone knows what's going on. The couple of times I had to call the 24 hour hotline, the nurse called me back within 10 minutes. So glad we're in the program as they do a lot to help the caregiver also. For instance, I can get a hospice volunteer to visit and spell me so that I can do errands or even just go upstairs and sleep for a few hours.

So, Mike and I brought Mom home from the hospital on Monday. He stayed around until Wednesday which was actually a huge help - being the only caregiver is daunting, especially when bringing one home from the hospital and taking over all tasks. So, I had Mike cooking and doing various chores around the house that needed doing while I tended to Mom. Luckily, I had Carina here too but, let me tell ya, it took three of us at times to keep her going. But, Mom was very good by the time we brought her home - I'm thinking that her pneumonia might have been around a while as her mind is much clearer now and her personality back on target. I did take her to her doctor when her sudden-onset confusion occurred but they didn't do an xray. I'm thinking she did have pneumonia.

Kim and her boys came over yesterday to help me with some yard work and visit with mom. Had a great afternoon and then Bobbi brought over dinner! How the heck lucky am I to have these friends around? Amazingly lucky. I wouldn't be able to do this without their support.

So, at any rate, Mom is doing well. I expect the hospice services to be a great addition to our household. In fact, I've learned so much about hospice that I actually wrote an article which I will post in the future.

John did recover for a bit from what might have been bronchitis - there was no pneumonia. He's taken a slight turn for the worst this morning, coughing and wheezing again. We were going to try and go out tomorrow but I think that's a dream. But, that's ok - I have one of the nursing assistants from the hospital coming over tomorrow to start her as a caregiver. So, from 12-4, John and I will either go out or go upstairs to sleep for a bit.

So, dear readers, for now, we're back on track. For how long? Only God knows...

Monday, July 11, 2011

Homeward Bound!

Well, the doctor just came in to check Mom and said that she'd cleared all infections and we're ready for take off - and, not a moment too soon. She was up six times last night for the bathroom - ugh. At least at home, the trip to the commode is much closer and quicker.

I was lying on the sofa around 9:30 last night, dozing, when I was awoken by a vision in white - my darling boyfriend had come by with a small martini shaker to share a moment with me. What an amazing man. He's feeling just a bit better this morning which is good as we were all worried about him too. But, for him to come out late at night just to be with me for a moment - these things mean the most to me. I'm so lucky in a lot of ways.

I asked the doctor this morning about Mom's mental decline. He said that it's a normal course of things - she'll continue to have both good days and bad days so it's back to that status quo. But, that's ok. We'll take it. As long as we get out of here.

Mike's bringing over the truck to help me pack up - I've surrounded us with as many home furnishings and comforts as I could think of and it shows. The private room made all the difference in the world - I'm not sure either Mom nor I would have survived the first double room we were in.

More later. Off to do some packing but must get coffee - that's the first order of business....

To those who usually call; I'll probably have my cell phone off today as hope to be dozing in my own bed. Emails might be the easiest way to reach us today. Thanks again for your continued support.

Sunday, July 10, 2011


Anyone who has ever seen Robin William's film "Awakenings" might understand of what I'm about to type....

Today found me split 50/50 between the ER with John and a horrible breathing problem and Gert, still trying to clear pneumonia and a blood infection. I ran back and forth, back and forth between the two until brother Mike showed up and stayed with Mom while I concentrated on John. Poor guy was so sick; I figured it was pneumonia but it ended up being something like a bronchitis illness. He couldn't lie flat - he'd cough, hack, and eventually gag himself awake. After 3 breathing treatments, an RX for a steroid, an inhaler, and an antibiotic, he was on his way home to bed but still not feeling very good. A pulmonologist is in his near future.

Mom has not faired quite as well today. She's back to being a bit foggy mentally, having forgotten my friend Jeff's name most of the afternoon. I see her falling back mentally today into the most recent pattern of searching for words, being more confused, etc. In fact, I'm seeing a fall back to previous times when she's not nearly as coherent as she's been of late. Sad, but true.

Those of us who visited her in the hospital the last few days might have seen Gert in her finest last moments. I think it's a decline coming again...shoot. I will ask the doctor about it tomorrow, but I doubt there's an easy explanation. It is what it is. As Mom said when Dad died "These things happen." I think they're happening again.

I'm ready to go home from this hospital. I've been sleeping/tossing in this pull out sofa for 6 nights now. I'm about done. I'm exhausted, mentally and physically. It's only with the moral support of my friends and those family who have surrounded and supported me that I've been able to get this far - again. I want to lie in my own bed, I want to see my dogs, i want to watch my tv, I want to swim in my pool, I want to take a vacation (if I can). I'm exhausted. I'm about as emotionally done as I've ever been or hope to be again.

I got a bit complacent and excited about Mom's recent recovery mentally while in the hospital. Being an eternal optimist is not always a good thing. It frequently leads me to a state of complacency and ultimate disappointment. And, as with a lot of things, I got ahead of myself. I thought it was back to the old "normal" for Mom now. It's not. It was simply an awakening - a brief moment of my Mom being more of her old self. I should have known. I could have saved myself a lot of heartache if I hadn't believed it would be different.

But, now, as she slips back to a shadow of her former self, at least I have the memory of being in the hospital with her, late at night, and talking in lucid moments of days gone past. At least I know that, for a few brief moments, she was again my old Mom and I saw her rally. But, I'm afraid she's tired again. So, I shall let her sleep. At least for the evening.

I'm hoping to take Mom home tomorrow - back to our house, back to our friends, back to her own bed, surrounded by a bunch of love. I'm hoping to make her as comfortable as I can as we enter what I think might be the last phase.

Big brother Mike was here this morning when I took off to be with John in the ER. Carina stopped by today on her way to her United job around 10, offered wonderful moral support, spelled me for a bit and then had to leave. John was still in the ER so, I called Jeff for help around noon, and Sophia came in 1-3 until friend Marianne took over - it does, indeed, sometimes take a village. And, thankfully, I'm supported by the best village around. All of my friends have called to offer their support - all I have to do is ask. They all act so selflessly. Anything I need - someone is there to offer the help. Does it really get any better than that?

And, for that, my dearest of dearest friends, I am so grateful. Where would I be without you? I only hope that I can repay the favor one day. I hope that I can be there when a friend needs me the most - not only to sit and talk to their failing loved one, but to offer them moral support. So many forget that it's frequently the caregiver who takes the brunt of the emotional work. I hope I never forget this lesson. It's an important one. I've hope that I've learned it well and that I'm selfless enough to put aside my own wants and needs to be there to help those others who are in a more difficult position. I pray I remember. I know I'll remember. That's how my Mom and Dad raised me.

Continuing to mend

Mom is continuing to do well. She had a visit with a physical therapist yesterday who worked with her on moving around a bit. She didn't care for the activity too much but it's necessary. He had her up and walking down the hall with her walker. She was moving at pretty good speed and had gone maybe 400 feet or so when he said that she could turn around whenever she wanted to. She whipped the walker around, peered up at him and said "You said the magic words." The woman beelined back to her comfy chair.

Looks like her blood infection is clearing as is the pneumonia but she won't be released from the hospital until both are totally cleared - probably on Tuesday. That's ok though - I've gotten into the rhythm of the hospital so it's not quite as bad as the first few nights. The nurses are excellent and I've even gotten a few names and numbers for home care so I might have some more relief when we get there. I'm pooped!

Mike is in town until Tuesday which is a relief as I might be able to get out a bit more. John is sick though and is coming to the ER this morning. I fear he might have pneumonia too - I mean really....what are the chances? Poor thing can't sleep, is hacking his head off. So, we'll see what today brings.

Spent a nice time in the garden outside last night with Carina, Mike, Ronnie and Linda and Mom. Mom enjoys going out and it's a beautiful garden. Quite the respite in the middle of a hospital.

More saga later as it unfolds.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

How deep is your love?

I was reminded of this song today as I drove Carina's car over to my house for a quick shower, restocking of some stuff for mom (Oreo cookies were a must...), baby powder to freshen her up, a clean nightgown and robe. The BeeGees were warbling this song somewhere around the 1/2 point on my way home and I started thinking - How deep is my love?

My love for my mother rivals only my love for John - I'm frequently torn between the two but, then again, I needn't be. John understands that my taking care of my mom was a promise I made to my dad and to my mom and he never makes me feel like that promise is a burden. Whatever I need or wherever I need to be, John supports me.

John and I were on the way to Ocean City this weekend for a much needed getaway. I had Carina and Liandro lined up for the weekend but, well, it just didn't work out that way. My plans were cancelled when Mom ended up in the hospital. How deep is my love? It didn't bother me a bit that I'm in a hospital room for 7 days with my Mom. It didn't bother me a bit that I scurried to find support (thank you Carina) to give me a few hours to run home, love my dogs, sleep in my bed, take a shower, and run back. How deep is my love? As deep as I promised my father while he was still living - I told him that mom would be with me forever. And she will be.

How deep is my love? As deep as it needs to be and for as long as it needs to be.

All good news!

So, Gertie is astounding about everyone here at Shady Grove hospital. She had her throat test yesterday - the day before, she couldn't swallow properly. Liquid was seeping into her lungs with each swallow, hence the pneumonia. So, we had to add thickening powder to all liquids - even water. And, she had to be spoon fed (I gave Carina a raise on the spot...).

Anyway, when they took her down for the barium throat swallow test, I got to watch. What an amazing thing to observe. There on the screen ahead of me was my mom's skeleton in all its bony glory! And it was moving! Never seen anything like it - was fully fascinated. So, they started her on swallowing the thickest barium of the test - all went down perfectly. They moved over to nectar thick - all went down perfectly. They tried her on a saltine cracker - you got it. All went down perfectly. The hardest of the test was pills (we had to crush all her pills the day before and mix them with applesauce for her to swallow). Anyway, the barium pill went down without a hitch. We were released from any thickeners! Yep, back to regular food (no pureed in our future, thank you Lord), water, coffee. Everything back to normal. What a huge relief.

Although it's hard to imagine this next statement, it's true: This hospitalization has been a blessing in disguise. Evidently, mom's had some sort of infection for a while but it was undetected. The doctor I usually take her to just told us that it was normal aging. I remember thinking that "normal aging" doesn't happen overnight and that's about how quickly her mind dimmed. Literally within a week, she was grasping for words, her personality shifted, she was agitated easily, etc. That's not who my mom is. She's the most easy going, funny woman in the world and she's baaaaaaack right now! The IV drips of antibiotics are kicking whatever it was she had. She's fully alert, curious, interested in her surroundings and, in fact, last night, she held court with a bunch of friends in the family center right outside her room.

Liandro looks like he's in love. Note Gizmo between them
Carina's husband, Liandro, brought mom a flower and she couldn't have been cuter with him. They clearly have a mutual admiration society. Bobbi came up, Jeff stopped by. John's boss, Al and his girlfriend, Michelle, came over for a visit. John brought Gizmo to the front of the hospital where I stashed her in a carry on and surprised mom with a doggie visit. Mom was so cute! Everytime the door to the family center opened, she or someone would cover Gizzie with a blanket. At one point, we were all back in the hospital room (sharing a box of wine, no less) and the nurse was coming in the room so I stashed Gizmo in the bathroom. All was well until she let out a very small whine. The nurse looked up and I said I was sorry, I had a bit of gas and ducked into the bathroom. Bobbi recalls that she almost peed her pants.

Everyone has been so helpful - friends and family and nurses, oh my. Big brother Mike is coming into town today, and I'm sure mom will be excited to see him. He's here until Wednesday so at least we'll get to see him one night at the house if we get discharged Tuesday. John couldn't be a more supportive "spouse" (no, we're not married but "significant other" doesn't cut it for what he means to me). He ran out last night and brought me a delicious shiskabob dinner from across the street. He's holding down the home front and taking care of the house and dogs while we're here in the hospital.

Anyway, all is very well here. They took out mom's catheter yesterday, but I was sure sad to see it go as that meant bathroom duty last night - a few times. Eh, it had to go though as infections loom from catheters. All in all, it's a very good day at Shady Grove hospital today. More updates as events happen. Wish us luck - I'd sure like to bust her out of here before Tuesday!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Gertie update

Well, I haven't posted for a few days as we were in crisis mode over here. Gertie is fine but...

Wednesday morning, Mom was not responsive when I went to wake her up. She was sleeping later than normal and, although she wasn't comatose, she couldn't respond to any of my questions or do anything I asked, like stand up. So after assessing the situation (and panicking a bit - who wouldn't?), Carina corralled the dogs outside while I called the ambulance. 5 beautiful men appeared like magic and Mom did respond to them - harumph...

So, off we went to the hospital where John, Ron and Linda joined us in the ER while the doctor tried to figure out what was going on. After a chest scan, turns out that she had a pretty advanced case of pneumonia in her right lung! Now, to those of us familiar with medical stuff, pneumonia patients are generally hacking their lungs out, feverish, etc. Not necessarily with the elderly (who knew?). Instead, the elderly can show no symptoms at all - which is exactly what we had on our hands.

The doctor took us aside and told us that he had seen a lot of these cases and she had about a 40% chance of making it. Now, I'm a gambler, as are most of my family members, but 40% is nothing to gamble on. So, they started her on antibiotics and admitted her. We prepared for the worst - as much as one can emotionally prepare.

The only chair in the room for me to sleep in was a regular hard chair. Oh NO! I knew I had a long night ahead of me but that chair would have crippled me! So, off to the nurses station I tottled. I had to cry to even get the "step up" chair - the dreaded nalgahyde green recliner chair that is my arch nemesis. I HATE that frikkin chair, having tried to sleep in one a few times before when Mom was in the hospital. We fought all night, that chair and I. In the morning, it won when I rolled it over my toe and it tore my flesh through my sock. Dreaded chair.

The night didn't actually go too badly except I got 3 hours of sleep as I was watching Mom. She was a bit delirious and wanted to keep getting out of bed so I had to gently restrain her. Her ramblings through the night were interesting through - most of her somnotic (it should be a word) verbalizations were "shit", and "I can walk out of here if I want."

So, the next morning found Mom much more alert and much better. She was able to talk to me and was coherent, well, for Mom. The same doctor from the ER came to do rounds, saw her, she shook his hand and said "thank you." His jaw dropped open! He could not believe this was the same woman. It was fun to see him just totally be amazed at her progress. He put her up to a 60% chance of making it but he doesn't know my mom - I do; she's at 100% of making it through this crisis.

John came up to the hospital in the morning as did Bobbi who spelled us both. What a relief it was to go home and take a shower and climb into my own bed for 2 hours of blissful sleep with the dogs. Carina and Sophia spelled Bobbi at the hospital so she met us at La Mex to fill us in before I returned to the hospital for the night. Since so much had gone on during the few hours I wasn't at the hospital, I asked Bobbi to write down an update which follows:

And a well deserved sleep it was... It was an honor and a pleasure to spend time with Gertie and allow you to rest... She loves me, but clearly I"m not the preferred 'sister' and I'm ok with that. She was missing you, but anxious for Carina to arrive... Sweet :-)

Siting there with her as the various techs came in and did their thing, I can only imagine how scary it is for those who are alone. I don't know all the ins and outs about Gertie - the nuances that happen now in a given day, but I'm close enough to know her and hope she knows just how much I love her and will always protect her...

So today... We had many staff visitors and it went something like this...

First items of note - 2 nurses did not pay attention to new order posted behind Gertie's bed when dealing with her
- Meds nurse offered pills w/ applesauce; I confirmed w Gertie she uses water
- I read the order over bed which said CRUSH pills in food
- Nurse was unaware until I told her... thanked me for calling it to her attention
- 2nd nurse offered her water and again , pointed out her order and she said 'Oh, I didn't see that!'
- Dinner plate - not sure that it was 'low sodium' although mush fit the bill... I did no samples - just sayin

Occupational Therapist and Physical Therapist
- Good visits with both - Gertie was alert and physically responsive - got her sitting on bed and responding and smiling
- Helped her 'brush' teeth and validated self care, She combed hair OWN, etc

The most important thing you need to know, which you may already get by now is to keep her hydrated, but it will be difficult since she can't - at least for now - have regular water. Hopefully, after the barium tests, you will have a more clear path. Maybe it's a matter of a few 'talking' exercises and she'll swallow better. 

I will leave it at that darling... I love you and my heart is always with you so never shield me...  ;-) You know I'm urs 24/7.

Do I have the best friends ever or what? So, here's the rest of the story:

A really nice throat/speech specialist came in to assess Mom yesterday. I didn't understand why but she made it very clear when she explained that she had a hunch that Mom's pneumonia was self-inflicted. WHAT? Yep, her swallowing reflex has been compromised through a series of small TIAs (very small strokes that you can't do anything about). So, when she swallowed the water I was pressing on her, a bit of each swallow went into her lung. AHA! There we have it. Always nice to know what's going on. The Dr. was terrific and will do a further assessment today when Mom has a barium swallow reflex test to give us further information.

I've had an entire education while sitting here in the hospital. The way to treat patients with swallow issues is to thicken their food. There's  actually stuff on the market to do exactly that (another 'who knew' moment), Even her water has to be thickened, her pills crushed and mixed with applesauce, all food prepared differently - I'm not exactly sure what we're doing yet but I'll figure it out.

So, two days later, we moved into a private room which made all the difference in the world (to me!). I had a pull out sofa where I was able to sleep most of the night and still keep an eye on her. Ronnie and Linda came by last night with a beach towel for me for the private shower (!), to offer moral support, and to share a bottle of wine. Sweet!

Today, Gert's doing much much better. The nurses and I cleaned her up a bit, gave her a new gown, and she's sitting in a recliner chair right now (NOT the hated green nalgahyde - this one is blue...). We're awaiting breakfast which I will spoon for her. Glad she's with us!

The doctor just came in (8:45 am July 8) - first thing mom said is "Where have you been??" Cute. He laughed. He said that she has a blood infection, which we suspected anyway but it's clearing as is the pneumonia. He did say though that we're here probably until Tuesday - ugh but, then again, it is what it is.

More updates will be posted on the blog. Please feel free to email me at but I might not be answering the phone if Mom's sleeping. Thanks and much love to my faithful readers!