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!


  1. Lori, what a pillar of strength you are...and it is obvious that the nut doesn't fall far from the tree.
    I am so glad that all is well and am saying prayers on your behalf.
    Big hugs to you and Gert! JoVinMD

  2. Ah, I was wondering where you got all your info on recent web page:

    You are a multi-tasker, caring for your mom and creating helpful pages for others in the same situation.

  3. Hey Girl...Nobody knows what it's like until they go through it. It's very hard to be a caregiver. When Mom was in the hospital, I made her sing songs and tell stories. And jokes. Lots of jokes. It kept OUR minds off of the reality.
    That generation is tough. And your Mom is a good woman. She deserves the BEST, Looks like she's got one in a caregiver. Just enjoy her. Have no regrets. You're doing the BEST for her and she knows it and appreciates it.
    Give her a HUG from me and keep one for yourself. Lots of love, Toby

  4. Glad Mom 2 is doing better. So glad that you got to take care of your needs for a bit too. You are truly amazing my dear friend. When Mom gets better, bring her and yourself down to Ponte Vedra Beach for a visit. Meanwhile, give her a big hug from me and on for yourself too.

  5. Thanks for the sweet comments everyone. Mom continues to improve but I'm pooped!


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