Too Much Pain

Excruciating chest pain woke me around 4:35 this morning. I lay there for a good five minutes, wondering if I was in the throes of a heart attack or if one was about to start. A myriad of thoughts sped through my mind: do I wake hubby to go to the ER, do I sneak into the kitchen for an aspirin, do I remain still and hope it’ll pass?

Will it pass? Is it a heart attack?

The pain wasn’t localized to the left side; instead, it lay across my entire chest like a swath of mowed grass, deep behind my breasts. (I’m describing the length and breadth of the pain, not the pain itself. Mowed grass doesn’t hurt…or does it?)

While I pressed my hands against my body, willing the pain to subside, silly thoughts raced through my mind. I pictured myself prone on the hospital bed: legs unshaved, hair unwashed, void of makeup. I even pondered getting up, if nothing else to shave my legs. Hey, it’s winter! Who reveals legs in this cold?

And then my dear, sweet mother, who just last month turned 89, flashed before me. She had been taken to the hospital close to midnight the previous evening after suffering a fall and hitting her head. Luckily she had no broken bones, but after being examined, the doctor said she had pneumonia. For an elderly person, pneumonia is just as bad as a broken bone.

My mother.

I waited for the inevitable phone call. A minute or so—maybe less—and brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrinnnnnnnnnngggggggggg.

Hubby jumped out of bed. But even though the phone is on his nightstand, I had raced around the bed and reached it first.

I could barely hear my sister’s muffled voice. “It’s Mom.”

“I know,” I said. Stupid me spouted the episode I’d experienced, as if in that dire moment she–or anyone—would want to hear such an unbelievable story—or any story.

“She’s not gone yet,” Heather said.

And I perked up.

But Mom’s condition had worsened through the night, and the family (at least the ones in in Ontario), were called. The doctor wanted to sedate her so a breathing tube could be inserted, and he wasn’t sure she’d wake up. Two siblings of three siblings in proximity got to the hospital while she was lucid.

At noon, it hit me. My mother. She might not wake up. I may never see her again. And the tears flowed.

She’s improved slightly. She’s still sedated, still asleep, and has had her second dose of antibiotics to fight the pneumonia. Her oxygen levels are good. She’s stable. Apparently, she can breath on her own; the ventilator had been inserted to relieve the stress on her heart, and it will be removed in a day or two.

The next 48 hours are critical. The pneumonia has taken over, but if she can kick that, she might pull through.

Mom needs to have a fairly simple procedure—an unclogging of a heart valve. She’s been suffering the past year or so because of it, and it’s taken all that time for doctors to diagnose her problem. After numerous appointments, she was just last week approved for the procedure. All that remained was the appointment for the surgery. And then this happened!

The horrible thing is: If she’d had this procedure done when the problem surfaced, she wouldn’t be in the dire straits she is now. She could have kicked the pneumonia to the curb. Now, of course, her heart’s weaker, and it’s harder to fend off attacks.

I’m prepared for the worse, but I’m hoping for the best.

I love my mother so much. I don’t want to lose her. But I know it’s inevitable, as it is for all of us. Death takes everyone in the end. No one is immune.


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