These words were added to my vocabulary this past weekend after my mom suffered from a brain aneurysm late Saturday afternoon.
We don’t know what caused it. All we know is that Mom came in from working outside, became very ill, and had a seizure. Her husband was home, fortunately, and called 911. Mom wound up being helicoptered to Shands, one of Florida’s best hospitals. It was a 20-minute ride, which she still has no memory of.
A CT scan determined that she had suffered from a brain aneurysm, and she was scheduled for surgery Sunday morning.
The doctor was able to do a less invasive procedure…the cerebral angioplasty. The doctor went into her veins through her groin, followed the dye up to her brain, and inserted five coils to block the rupture.
She was sent to ICU with a drain protruding from her brain.
I got up early Sunday morning and picked up Super Sis on the way (she lives a couple of hours away from me). We weren’t sure how long we were going to stay but packed an overnight bag. Shands is about four hours from my home, so I didn’t think I could do a day trip.
The sunrise when I left was gorgeous, and as I listened to my Christian radio station, I praised God for His glory, displayed in nature.
When we arrived at the hospital, Mom was in the neuro ICU.
I’ve gotta tell you that my heart broke when I saw her. Her head had been shaved, and she looked very frail. She’s 4’10 and weighs about 85 pounds.
She had been strapped down across her torso and hips. Her arms were tied down to the bed, and her legs were velcroed together. In other words, she wasn’t supposed to move. For two hours.
She was awake and not happy. She kept trying to get out of bed and made her wishes known. She also kept telling us she needed to use the restroom, despite being catheterized. She couldn’t fathom the idea of “letting go,” saying that she’d been taught better.
She still had her sense of humor.
Oh folks. You know that I have been estranged from my mom for over two years.
Seeing her like this made our past issues disappear.
My heart was broken for her.
She didn’t understand why she was there…had no clue she’d been flown in (“I missed out on the fun,” she said.).
She couldn’t believe she’d had brain surgery.
She’d soon learn her head had been shaved.
Super Sis and I stayed at Shands Sunday and Monday. Props to the staff. Mom’s nurses have been amazing! They patiently explained the procedure she’d undergone, spelled out the medical terms for the risks she’s still in danger of, and drew pictures to help us visualize concepts.
The night nurse quietly did the hourly neuro checks minimizing the disturbances to our sleep.
Super Sis and I had crawled onto a reclining chair and snuggled together to keep warm. It was a blast from the past.
Each patient room has a window with a nurse’s desk in front. Patients are watched constantly. What a relief! It’s as if guardian angels are on duty 24/7. Neurological problems are nothing to shake a stick at!
Mom’s second day (Monday) was interesting. Her catheter was removed, and she was a happy lady. Her nurses got her out of bed to eat breakfast, and she played a bit of Candy Crush on my iPad, bemoaning the fact that I was only on level 1.
Unfortunately, Mom tried to take advantage of her freedom and kept trying to get out of her chair or, later, out of bed on her own. Her short-term memory is pretty bad right now, a side effect from her aneurysm, so she can’t remember that she has to call for assistance. She’s also fiercely independent and hates relying on people to get her to the bathroom.
She also happens to be connected to five or six tubes as well as a couple of blood pressure monitoring devices. Her risk for a secondary stroke is high right now because of something called vapospasms, which happen when the brain tries to deal with the blood that’s on it…blood that is not supposed to be there (the reason for her drain tube).
Mom has to stay in the hospital at least two weeks. She’s probably going to go stir crazy before that time!
People keep asking me how I’m feeling.
One overriding word comes to mind…
Mom’s post-surgery nurse…the first one I met…gave Super Sis and me some startling statistics.
Only 5% of people who suffer from a brain aneurysm make it to the hospital alive. The rest die.
Of the 5% who make it to the hospital, 1/3 will still pass away either during surgery or during the post-surgery phase. Another third go home after spending time rehabilitating. The final third go home without any extra rehabilitation.
My mom is already a miracle, simply because she survived that first phase.
Each day puts her closer to the 66.6% of ultimate survivors.
Grateful is a word I’m using a lot these days.
I’m grateful for a small group that began praying as soon as I sent everyone a text. They message me several times a day to check in.
I’m grateful for thoughtful friends who gave me these cards to help with travel expenses…
I’m grateful for compassionate, empathetic students who nearly cried as I explained why I had been out on Monday and why I might be out later in the week. A few went home and told their parents or looked up more information about brain aneurysms.
I am especially grateful that God spared Mom’s life so we could reconnect. Many tears were shared on Sunday and Monday. We’ve both made mistakes. We’re starting over.
Super Sis and I are driving down tomorrow to spend Thursday, Friday, and part of Saturday with her.
My Spring Break started a couple of days earlier than originally planned when I left school today…
I am packed and ready to travel…ready to help my mom as she continues her journey toward restored health and, fingers crossed, a life of retirement and relaxation.