Thursday, December 07, 2006
Guest Blog from Dr. ER on Mama ER
I've spent a lot of hours with Mama ER this week and ER asked that I post an update for y'all.
Two days ago, it took two people to lift her into her bed from a chair. Today, she stood on her feet with the help of her walker while the nurses held her loosely under her arms. They made Mama do the work, though, and she managed to turn herself about 90 degrees and sit on the bed. She whooshed and whewed and carried on about how tiring the small journey was -- but then the nurses and I caught her "forgetting herself" for a minute, as she began to hoist herself backwards onto the bed -- making herself more comfortable without even thinking about it. We three smiled at each other, watching Mama do this stuff without thinking :-)
I've found myself having to "con" Mama into doing a few things, sort of slipping ideas into her head...she ordered a turkey sandwich last night and kept wanting me to eat her other half. After a thorough discussion about the hospital's delivery of Miracle Whip instead of our preferred Hellman's, ["you know, Miracle Whip's a lot sweeter than Hellmans" ... "Yep, it sure is." and "Did you know that Hellman's has changed its name? I spent about an hour in the Wal Mart trying to find Hellman's only to find it is now called "Best Foods." and "I like mayonnaise a lot better than mustard"..."Yeah, me too."].
I agreed to eat half of the sandwich if she'd eat half. She ate all but the crusts. She had earlier polished off some strawberry yougurt and probably 10 ounces of cranberry juice. She's eating well today, chicken, some tomato soup...each day, she eats more.
Three nights ago, I picked up the heart patient manual that all of them are supposed to read while recuperating. Instead of waiting for her to read it, I pulled it out and started reading it to myself -- I showed her the picture in the book of the atrium in the heart and told her that hers was too big, that the heart's the only muscle in the body you really don't want getting big. I told her why it was too big and why the doc replaced two valves instead of only one.
I showed her the picture of the mechanical valve and explained why she had to have a mechanical one instead of one made of tissue (because she was already on coumadin). I told her that ER was real sad when he found out that a part of a cow wan't going to go into his Mama (tissue valves normally come from pigs or cows; Mama was supposed to have a cow, man...my own mom got a pig valve). Y'all know how ER loves cows; I was also secretly hoping that she'd get a cow's valve, because I'd planned to whisper to her that, one day when ER walked into her room, she should start mooing instead of talking to him. Ah, that woulda been fun...
I then went into the back of the book and read aloud to her the do's and don'ts for when she goes home. I busted laughing and told her that one of the things she WILL be able to do, according to the heart manual, is shoot pool! Oh, we laughed. I may have to get her one of those desk-sized pool tables so she can play pool shark when she gets home. So, we managed to get through the entire book before she ever left CCU. Now, we'll probably have to go through it again at some point, but it made for some fun.
[It was after the pool-shooting hoo-ha that Mama allowed as to how some man she knew when she was young kept calling her earlier this year, wanting to know if she'd go out with him. Oh, this was great, I thought, Mama's a hot number! Mama ER said she told him no so many times, he finally quit calling. How cool is that? Then, Mama ER opined, "you know, after about 60, you don't need no man." LOL!]
Tonight was makeup night. I'd brought some for her earlier in the week, and I'd done her face up once, but soon realized I needed to go buy some makeup that was easier to handle, something she could use herself when no one was around to freshen herself up. So, after I left the hospital last night, I tested every compact of powder from every cosmetic manufacturer and finally settled on the green compact Cover Girl has out. I got her three more powder puffs in case she dropped one. Tonight, we did eyebrows, powder, lipstick, and did her hair. She she looked quite pretty when she was dozing.
Last night, she wondered about the weather and what was coming up, weatherwise. I said, "Well, we'd better find The Weather Channel and find out, because I haven't been paying any attention to the weather." Mama had previously declared that she didn't want the TV on, but The Weather Channel was sufficient enough motivation to do so. [Mama and I have spent many hours in her living room, watching TWC, only speaking to comment on some low pressure system or something; companionable silence in the presence of The Weather Channel is something of a regular event for us].
We couldn't find The Weather Channel, so I talked her into stopping the channel on TBS where I knew it was "Everybody Loves Raymond" night (one of her favorite shows). She contended that the TV was on for my benefit, but she watched three episodes of Raymond, commented on them, laughed at them...shoot, she watched them all! Tonight, we watched "Law & Order, Criminal Intent," which, okay, probably WAS for my benefit, but since it wasn't something she was trying to watch closely, she felt free to doze.
When my own mom was recovering after heart surgery, I remember her saying that she couldn't get any sleep because someone was always coming in to do something to her. That's kind of where Mama is -- she just dozes off and someone comes in to poke her, prod her, stick her to take blood sugar, give her a breathing treatment, take vitals, you name it. So she catnaps a bit in between and sometimes wakes up and it takes her a minute to remember what all the heck is going on around her. But when she gets fully awake, she remembers.
The nurses all love her and make over her. It's not many patients in their mid eighties who decide that they still have places to go, things to see, and stuff to do, and pony up and get major heart surgery. Mama's the exception. She has plans. She thinks about and talks about things in the future -- with my background in working with patients, I know that someone who's planning for the future plans to do well and get well. That, my friends, is half the battle when it comes to recovery.
I brought her a bright green Christmassy, soft throw blanket and today brought her a jolly Santa pillow to have in her room. She has a nice photo of Bird and YankeeBeau in front of her at all times. She has a snow globe -- the great, kitchy, plastic kind -- and a tiny Christmas tree with gold ornaments and flowers on it. Her room is festive.
I will say this -- she's one heck of a trooper when it comes to the heinous nature of respiratory therapy. She also takes the "drilling for oil" the nurses have to do when searching for a vein for an IV and declares that their poking and searching doesn't hurt.
I feel good because one of the doctors who works with her is someone I know and respect a great deal. He is awfully sweet to Mama ER, and will continue, I know, to keep us all informed and to make sure Mama ER gets just the right levels of care as time goes by. He's the sort of Doctor who I so believe in, I'd never question anything, and I do mean anything, that he said. I get a lot of comfort just from his being involved in her care.
But Mama still needs prayers because they will, indeed, begin pushing her to do more every day and it can get frustrating for patients. It's easy to get cranky when someone wants you to practice walking when all you want to do is sleep. I am sure the process will take a lot of patience on her part, and strong lady that she is, I have no doubt that if anyone can conquer this process, she can. Because she's one of the few -- one of the few who step up and brave this kind of surgery in their 80's.
Mama has stepped up. Because Mama has things yet to do in life.