On June 28th I got up early and wished my SO a good day at work after we had a cup of coffee, and walked the dogs. My youngest would be celebrating his 11th birthday later, and I had a lot to prepare for. My mother’s diesel hadn’t pulled up outside as was our usual weekend routine so I texted her around mid morning asking if she’d fallen asleep at her check in station. Sometimes she’s crawled straight into the bunk at her destination because it was a trying trip. This wasn’t unheard of.
However, when I finally got into contact with my mother, she wasn’t even back into Tennessee yet. This went way past unusual to absurd. What is going on? My alarm bells were sounding. My mom sounded unwell.
After multiple check ins, and several short trips and rest breaks later, Blue made it into ‘his’ usual resting place on the street after lunch, and my mother made it home. She looked so tired, and dried up. It was rough. She begged that I get her into the bath before I take her anywhere. The smell that roiled the air from her truck almost made me gag, and she knew. She apologized over and over for things that were far beyond her control we would come to find out.
We made it upstairs into her tub, and she felt better, falling asleep at the table as I tried to make food to get into her as her hair dried. She confessed that she hadn’t been able to eat since two days before.
Mom, why didn’t you tell me? You could have parked the truck and I would’ve come and gotten you. You didn’t have to go back out Wednesday, either. “ I didn’t know I was this sick.”
I had called our usual doctor but he wouldn’t have an opening until Monday. His nurse suggested I take her to a clinic if it was an immediate need. When we arrived at the Fast Pace clinic in town, Mom was very slow moving, and tired. She fell asleep against the back of the hard seating at intake, and asked to lie down as soon as they got her into an examination room.
Mom, talk to me. While we wait on the doctor, what happened this week? This gave me the opportunity to keep her awake. She was looking pale and I needed to know what was going on. Between answering intake questions…
“You know I had that boil come up Thursday after I fell when my landing gear knocked me down last Tuesday?” Yeah. You said it was healing well Sunday. “Right. It had drained as can happen, and felt relief, drying up. Monday night after I stopped driving for the night, there was heat in it, and it was blowing back up. I tried draining it, and it was way different, but I thought I had gotten it all for sure. Cleaned it, alcohol and a bandage. By Wednesday evening, I had a fever and I’ve been trying to make it home ever since I got unloaded Thursday morning.”
She would’ve been home by 3AM Friday on any other week. It took over 10 extra hours for her to get home. I was shocked. She was obviously fighting for her health in the trenches, and her concerns were asking about her grandchildren, and had I taken care of her mother, as we were on the way to the clinic.
Fifteen minutes after the nurses did intake, sent mom for urine sample and took vitals, the doctor came in and introduced herself. After a quick look, Doctor instructed me to take Mom to her choice of hospital,but she would like to know which one so she could call ahead and send Mom’s file up for speedy intake.
We made a very quick detour by her house for an overnight bag for Mom, and putting an adult in charge of the youngest monkey/available for the elder monkeys. Then off to Columbia I sped, trying to avoid any pothole, or bump as she was much discomfited through the entire process.
Upon arrival, she requested a wheelchair as she was afraid she was too weak to walk in on her own. Internally, I was in a nightmare and shocked to find myself moving as if I was in control. My mother never takes anything sitting down. Almost prone even in a wheelchair, she was exhausted and in very inflamed tissue pain.
After rapid admittance to the ER, she was quickly hooked up to double IVs and put on push fluids, and several necessary supplements, plus antibiotics because blood tests showed her system was basically running on fumes. My mom was septic, and tachycardic. With blood pressure on the brink of bottoming out and blood glucose levels through the roof, it dawned that my mom was fighting for her life quite suddenly.
The ER team worked on stabilizing my mother enough for surgery for almost 5 hours. I sat with her and communicated when she couldn’t. Asked questions so she could see answers. Helped her try to get comfortable. My mother was tired, but thankfully not entrenched in pain induced delirium as some might have been. She was lucid, but could only spare so much strength. This is the way of my mother. Solid even in the face of death, again. A pain tolerance that most could only hope for. I can’t express the sheer awe she has inspired.
Doctors and nurses came and went, poking and paining, conversing in hallway, asking questions, until they finally came to take her to the OR. Four days from when some of her doctors hypothesize she contracted the flesh eating bacteria [necrotizing fasciitis] that has ravaged the tissues of her posterior.
Thankfully, an excellent, intuitive surgeon successfully removed all of the affected tissue, and saved my mother from quite a few future reparative surgeries. He also managed to retain all salvageable aspects of the area, minimizing damage even while creating such a large wound. His surgery was complimented many times during our stay at Vanderbilt.
He called me personally after midnight at the completion of surgery to inform me of Mom’s success, and the road ahead of her. He also discussed with me his recommendation to move her to a larger, more suited wound care hospital, and we decided his referral to Vanderbilt would be best for her. We are all very grateful to him for his excellent performance in the OR, and his bedside manner.
Upon arriving at Vanderbilt early Saturday morning, Mom was sent up to the 9th floor in the Critical Care Towers. Surgical ICU for the ones not familiar with this particular hospital. My family is, unwillingly, very familiar with this hospital. My aunt underwent most of her upper palate reconstruction at Vanderbilt when she was growing up. The Monroe Carroll Children’s Hospital at Vandy saved my son’s life. Now they’ve helped save my mom’s in the University Hospital. We are forever grateful to the ones who took amazing care of ours, and wary of the ones who didn’t. Awesomely for such a large teaching institution, there are far more of the former than the latter.
Much to the amazement (and inspiration, some said) of her surgical team, and nursing staff, Mom left Vanderbilt on only day 12 after surgery. She is now in a wound care trained nursing facility a mere 20 minutes from home. She is managing her own pain, and recovering sugar levels with support from her team as her body tries to regrow the area she lost. She began physical therapy this past week, and she’s becoming comfortable with showing off pictures of her surgery. Oi! She’s happy and proud to be alive. A few more weeks and she’ll be back home and planning her return to work.
I know I’m not alone in being exceedingly happy to still have her around. So, if you’d like to send well wishes, drop into the contact page, and she’ll receive them! And stay tuned for her insights into this experience as well!
Last but definitely not least, Huge Thanks and Shout-outs to the people who really came through for Mom and our family while I stayed with her in Vanderbilt. Every person who checked in with her, or dropped off animal/people groceries, or babysat for our animals, or was on call for my kiddos, or handed me gas money, or the use of a car while mine decided to try to die in the middle of going between. You are remembered, and we are ever so grateful! Please keep her in your positive thoughts as she continues to maneuver through this trying time.