My Mom was dying.
My oldest sister was crying, saying goodbye and “I love you” over and over again, as she cradled Mom’s head in her arms. A breathing apparatus covered Mom’s face. I held Mom’s hand, also crying openly, as I echoed my sister’s words.
Around us, the nurses and other hospital medical staff were in critical-emergency mode - Steven, the respiratory therapist who, I later learned, was being tested in this manner for the first time in his profession; the nurses and Mom’s primary doctor, deep concern etched on their worried faces - grandkids sobbing all over, consoling hands holding the shoulders and arms of their stoically quiet grandpa.
Then my third RN sister showed up. She had been keeping a vigil next to Mom at the hospital until 2 a.m., when I took over so she could go home to sleep. She had called in sick from Kaiser where she is an ICU/CCU nurse, to be with mom. (Children and grandkids all volunteer for this on a rotating basis.) As she was leaving, she left me with specific instructions, especially keeping an eye on Mom’s dangerously low cath output. So all morning, from 2 a.m. on, I focused on that.
But just after the morning-shift change, I sensed a new and even more critical development in Mom’s status. I overheard the nurse on the phone with someone and reacting, “Wow, I’ll call the doctor right away.” That call, I found out from her, was about Mom’s blood count plummeting from 8 point-something the day before to 6 point-something that morning.
I texted that update right away to my oldest sister, with a note to disseminate that to the others. I didn’t realize then how critical until that scene with my Mom dying.
My sister, whom I relieved during the pre-dawn hours, was all of a sudden there. She arrived like a tornado - it seemed to me. Instead of joining the weeping, she immediately took charge. Her experience in ICU-CCU kicked in, and knew right away the critical nature of the 6 point blood count. In hindsight, I think her fright and desire to weep were quickly transformed into action - and action NOW. After the doctor ordered Mom be transferred to ICU/CCU STAT, my sister didn’t waste even a fraction of a second. Before the transport staff even got there, she grabbed the bed with Mom in it, tubes and gadgets all over, and got the bed rolling out the door with the rest of the hospital staff. Only later did I learn that the reverberating Code Blue sound throughout the hospital referred to Mom.
“I saved a lot of people but I couldn’t save yours. Forgive me, Mama,” my oldest sister cradling my Mom in her arms sobbed. She was also an RN before she retired.
But my Kaiser RN sister wanted none of that.
“This is not a cardiac arrest. It’s a respiratory problem,” in those words, said as she sprang in action.
Later, I understood what she was trying to say then. Mom didn’t have to die that way because the treatment was “easy.” Mom needed blood to get oxygen into her body. That’s why Steven, the respiratory therapist, was concerned that Mom’s oxygen level that he was monitoring all morning was steadily dropping, and why Mom couldn’t breathe.
I later learned that the staff in ICU/CCU marveled about Mom “coming back” after a 6 point blood count.
And to think, just days before, we were being critical of my ICU/CCU RN sister’s “clinical” stance over Mom’s care, to the point my younger brother reminded her, “For once, quit being the professional nurse and just be a daughter.”
I, for one, won’t ever think of saying that again - to my sister or anybody. My sister “played” God - at least, that’s how I viewed her stoic take-charge action - but in this particular case, she helped “save” Mom even if only to “buy” more time from God to enjoy Mom’s wit, memories, and wise and funny banters however short or long God will let that happen.
Realistically speaking, it’s one day at a time henceforth, I am told by my more knowledgeable medical-professional siblings.
For me, I’ll forever thank God on my knees this miraculous gift - the gift that I witnessed with my own eyes, and held in my hand when I held Mom’s hand - a miracle.
A few days before Mom was allowed to come home from her rehab stint, and while I was helping her eat breakfast, she taught me a song. She said she learned it from the old LPs she played on the gramophone her father brought home from Hawaii when she was a little girl. That folk song, loosely translated by me in English, goes:
“My dear wife, let us put behind us
The many disagreements we’ve had,
Enough, let us put a stop
To all the fights and quarrels.
I want to make it clear to you
Now that there’s just the two of us,
That you are the only one I love
Especially when evening is night.
(The final quatrain, which is somewhat comedic, is just a nonsensical addition to the song.)
I am “piritipit” (skin and bones)
Wearing tight underwear
With a face like that of a bat
And a neck that’s long and thin.
I look forward to learning more wise sayings and funny songs from my Mom, the lifelong teacher - God willing.
My Mom was dying.