Heart trouble

My mom’s in the hospital.

She had a heart attack on Saturday night, and today she took a turn for the worse. Looks like a stroke. Might not be; might be an adverse reaction to some medication. But it ain’t pretty.

I always assumed she would die in her sleep. I always assumed I’d get a call and someone would tell me that she passed away some time during the night. I never thought I would see her like this.

I don’t know if she will die because of this incident, but she will never be the same, and she won’t be returning to her usual independent lifestyle.

But right now, where all signs point toward a stroke, to see her lying in bed, pale, comotose and unresponsive, babbling, muttering and moaning, is difficult indeed. Worse yet, when she was admitted on Saturday night she was lucid, and her clear orders were to start her heart again if it stopped, and put her on a ventilator if she quit breathing. That order stands, despite the fact that I have power of attorney for health care.

We’ll know in the morning if this is a stroke, and then we, with the doctor’s assent, will modify that order to a Do Not Resucitate. And then maybe she’ll just go to sleep and silently pass away.

Meantime, the thing that frightens me the most is that her heart will stop, and they will shock her with paddles and beat on her frail little chest and put breathing tubes down her throat, when at 86, they ought to just let her slip away. This is the scenario that hurts my heart the most.

She’s in such a pickle because she has not been to a doctor in years. She is suffering from untreated diabetes, untreated hyperthyroidism, untreated kidney disease, and untreated heart disease. She hates doctors and despite recurrent chest pain, would not see a doctor. And then on Saturday night, when the chips were down, she faced up the finality of her actions, got scared and said: “Save me.”

Well, she’s 86 and has had a good life. She has been a good mom, a good wife, a good grandma, and a good great-grandma. 

She deserves a good death, and I hope she gets one. 

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2 Comments

Filed under Aging, family

2 responses to “Heart trouble

  1. I’m so sorry to hear this, Liz. It’s scary to me that given our health care system, we can’t always count on a good death…Big hug.

  2. Cap'n Crusty

    I sympathize, Liz. My own mother (about the only member of my “genetic family” worth a hoot) is going under the knife next month–Merry Christmas–to remove a blockage from one of her carotid arteries. She had a similar operation last year to the companion vessel, after which she suffered a minor stroke. Not untypical for this kind of procedure, I’m told, especially for someone in their mid-eighties. But still.

    She does have a living will, with the usual “heroic methods” stipulation, which is good. The bad part is that your’s truly is the executor, the guy that makes the ultimate decision to pull the plug. I understand her reasoning; I wouldn’t trust my ex-sister (long story) to wash my dishes, let alone trust her with life-and-death judgments. That doesn’t mean I have to like it.

    Which I don’t.

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