Sunday Confessions: Exhaustion
Monitors recording heart rate, pulse, and blood pressure were not a convincing calming cacophony in the middle of the night with their beeps and shrills.
The fluorescent lights were sending out their humming in an attempt to set an tranquil atmosphere. But their harsh, unforgiving glare spoke more of reality than their hypnotizing hum.
Yet, for the first time in months my mothers eyes were closed and she was sleeping soundly.
I knew the nurse had to come in shortly to do her well being check but it was highly stressful day and I just wanted my mom to sleep.
The unmistakable rolling wheels on linoleum announced the portable computer and nurse were coming to do their job.
My mind wandered back to the unfolding of my day and the events that brought me here and I sighed deeply trying to pull any energetic air in around me to prepare myself for the medical questions and history that was about to be asked.
That day when I got home from work my I went to say hello to my mom in her room and she was laying in her underwear, ash gray, sweaty and complaining of her "toothache".
I immediately got her dressed and got her to the hospital in maybe three minutes.
If you are ever in that situation, call 911, I was very very lucky my mom didn't die in the car. So I'm telling you right now, just call 911 in that situation.
I knew my mom was having a heart attack. With her cardiovascular history and her symptoms I knew it.
You are never supposed to diagnose in these situations but I knew she was having a heart attack.
I wheeled her into the ER and told the registration girl that she needed to be triaged immediately and gave her my moms pulse from three minutes ago and a nurse, a lovely angel of a nurse, came running out of nowhere and grabbed my moms wheelchair and started running her calling a code blue.
My mom had coded right there.
I ran with the nurse and even though she was calling it out no one was responding. I don't mean it in the way like it seemed like forever for someone to get there but literally no one was coming with the crash cart.
There was a maintenance man fixing a light outside of my moms ER bay and the nurse grabbed him off his ladder and told him we needed help transferring her to the gurney.
He was thrown for a loop for only a second and we got her on the gurney. The nurse pulled out her scissors and cut away my moms bra and shirt. She asked me to sound the alarm on the wall when a male nurse ran in with the crash cart swearing and apologizing he went to the wrong room.
The nurse who was trying to beat life back into my moms chest with her skilled hands stopped so they could shock her.
Four times they shocked her and they finally got a response. A weak rhythm was better than no rhythm.
The nurse asked me her name and as I dug in my moms purse it dawned on her I wasn't a worker in the ER, I was the patients daughter.
I was still wearing my scrubs from work and had my badge on and worked for that hospital.
She apologized and sent me to the "consult room" where I would wait to hear from a doctor. I called my bosses both at the hospital and my third shift job and said I wouldn't make it in tonight and tomorrow. I called my husband and told him to come up.
The cardiologist came in briefly to let me know they were taking her to surgery to place another stent. I let him know, out of habit, where she had two placed already.
After he left I waited for my husband and after every minute I felt increasingly uneasy.
I felt drained.
Empty and pissed off that my mom
might die and not properly be able to
process that l was her daughter telling her l loved her.
For a year and a half leading up to this heart attack my mom had been in and out of doctors offices and hospital visits. Primary care check ups and neurologist follow ups. MRIs, CTs, xrays, EEGs were my life, my language.
She could not be left alone, she was
nervous, and easily confused.
Confused about everything. Where she was, she wanted to call her sister (who had passed away years before). She would go for walks ill-dressed in cold weather and get lost easily.
It was the most surrealistic thing l ever dealt with in my life.
Oh and she was moody and sullen.
Her neurologist put her on Aricept (an
Alzheimer medication) believing she was showing signs of early onset Alzheimers. However, it that had no effect on her, well except the side effect of insomnia.
So now, I had a tired, confused, day
dreamy, and moody mother on my hands and l did not know how to feel or what to do or say.
At the time I worked third shift five days a week and had school from 8 a.m to 1 p.m. Monday through Thursday. I thought about quitting so many times and putting things on the back burner. But I kept going.
When l got back home after school or work, l dove back in headfirst dealing with confusion and heartbreak every waking moment.
It is one thing to watch someone pass away. It is an entirely different thing to watch someone living trapped inside their body. lf you have never dealt with it, trust me that you do not want to.
After no change was seen, her
neurologist also put her on Dilantin (seizure medication) believing she was having "atypical abscence seizures" even though she had never had a history of epilepsy.
Angry hives and trouble breathing and a trip to the ER informed us she was allergic to Dilantin. So she was switched to another medication.
In serious, chaotic situations l stay calm. My emotions never really come out until a month later when l spill a glass a milk and cry noiselessly for twenty minutes.
That is why I took on everything for my mother. Her finances, power of attorney, medical decisions, appointment scheduling and coordination of appointments.
At any age it's exhausting but at 25 it felt soul sucking. I felt like I had no business doing what I was doing. Like I had no life experience to help me make these decisions. That I was probably screwing it all up and dealing with it wrong but I was the only one to do it.
I quickly realized that no one ever is prepared to deal with stuff like that. They learn, they adjust but they were never prepared.
The nurse had arrived.
She was looking at the computer sceen and asked why my mother had not been taking her thyroid medicine.
Blankly, I stared and answered she was not on thyroid medication and
reached into my purse to pull out her
Without even acknowledging the list in my outstretched arm, she told me that my mom needed to be on it then and it 'will get her back to her normal self'.
I just stared at her.
She did not know her history. Or what my moms primary doctor has her taking. Or her neurologist or what she is allergic to or what l had dealt with in the last couple years trying to balance school, work and my mom and my jobless hubby and my household.
I wanted to scream and yell at her for
suggesting normalcy, a thought l gave up on a year ago.
But my exhausted mind could not even muster a logical articulate sentence let alone an argument so I cleverly responded with "What?".
The nurse then asked if my mother was confused and restless. If she was out of it and moody.
I simply nodded.
She looked in my tired eyes and promised that if I agreed I would have my mother back in a few days.
I had not heard a promise in a long time. We went over contraindications, side effects, why she thought it would help.
She started her medicine and true to the nurses word she was back to her old self in days.
She will always have to take thyroid medication but that's okay with me.
You would think after being given the gift of having my mother back I would have appreciated life more.
Enjoyed it more.
But I traded in my mental exhaustion for only physical exhaustion.
Before I decided to take control of my life I worked third shift then went to school as mentioned above.
After I finished school I worked thirds
and did my externship during the day.
Somehow I managed to keep my eyes open and made a good impression at my externship and was offered a job.
I accepted it. Being that it was only a
"relief" (as needed) position, I kept my
third shift job. Relief guaranteed no
benefits and no hours. It was, however, a way to get my foot in the door.
Those days I was working 80 hour weeks because there was hours to pick up at the hospital and I refused to say no.
There was a feeling of wonder when I
had a day off from both jobs. I would
either try to catch up with everybody or more than likely sleep.
At the end of the day, my eyes were
heavy. It was hard to concentrate on
anything people were saying.
Relationships became strained because they took a backseat. I was feisty and whiny like a three year old in need of a nap every night and a bear to wake up.
Between my moms issues, work, school, externship, second job I was perpetually exhausted for four years or so.
I was killing myself. I had no me time, no relaxation time, no time to unwind. I was stressed and upset and when I had a rare night out I overdid it and spent the next day regretting going out in the first place.
I couldn't really control my moms issues and cannot change the past but after I was lucky enough to "get her back" my first instinct should have been to spend time with her and let myself recuperate and let life soak in.
Rather, I set out to prove to myself that I could do anything.
And I was right. But so wrong.
Eventually I quit my third shift job with the security of hours and benefits and invested in me.
And it was the best thing I could have done for myself.
Life can be overwhelming, exhausting, and tiring due so many factors.
The only thing we can do to counter that is to relax, to do what we're here to do, enjoy life even if it's only for a few moments to give our brains some much needed clarity and rejuvenation.
If you notice a friend who seems utterly exhausted please ask what you can do.
You have no clue the kindness you have offered to them.