Monday, October 18, 2010

Illness and Chaos and Drink-Your-Water Awareness Week

The last couple of weeks have been busy, fun, hectic, and exhausting—Clint and I have both had the sore throat/cold thing that's been going around. No sympathy for us though, we admittedly ignored common remedies, trading in cold meds and bedrest for full-speed-ahead fun, camping one weekend, and heading to St. Louis for Oktoberfest the next.

Unfortch, this thing that's going around isn't giving up until you do, and I have never been terribly good at paying attention to my own symptoms. This contradicts my tendency to frequently announce "I think I'm getting sick." Since I rarely actually get sick, I worry, instead, that I'm a hypochondriac. I am then paranoid about being a hypochondriac, which brings me full circle back to ignoring my symptoms.

I digress. I spent last week coughing and hacking. Muscle aches began to set in, and I was complaining of a back ache by Tuesday. Late Wednesday I was visited by abdominal pain and fever, and vomiting began in the middle of the night. My God, I thought, this is the worst cold I've ever had.

I finally took a freakin' ride on the Clue Bus on Thursday, when—I'm sorry, I know this is entirely too much information, but it is what it is—when I began peeing blood. UTI. Never having had one before, I didn't recognize the symptoms, and just thought I felt lousy all over from the cold. If I hadn't felt so sick, I'd have felt silly. I came home with a bundle of Rx, went to bed, and called in sick on Friday morning. Recuperation was cardinal.

Around 11:00 Friday morning, Mom's caregiver called me, and told me that I needed to come right away. "You're mom's not acting right, and I've already called and ambulance."

We raced over to find that Mom had lost, or nearly lost consciousness. She was dazed and looking ghostly. Lisa's description of the events took me back a couple years ago when Mom ended up ER and was released with a diagnosis of vasovagal syncope, which means, "she fainted."

I'll cut to the chase and tell you that Mom is fine, but this time around the trip to the hospital was a lot tougher. Her blood pressure was the culprit, plummeting every time she went from a sitting position to standing. Although all tests looked good, they decided to admit her for the night, to keep her under observation.

I've mentioned before that Mom has a very low pain tolerance. Alzheimer's plays a huge part in this; she simply can't anticipate pain, doesn't understand it, and, if it lingers, doesn't remember what caused it in the first place. Every half-hour or so, it is sudden and brand new.

You can imagine, then, how much fun it was to have an IV needle stuck in the crook of her arm for 24 hours. "What IS this? Why is it here? I want it OUT!" She finds the blood pressure cuff agonizing, and sobs every time the machine turns on. I talked her through 2 shots in her stomach. Poor thing tried to grab the nurse's hand the first time, knocked the needle out, and had to get second stick in the gut.

I can't even imagine how terrifying it would have been for her to be there alone for 24 hours, so it was slumber party at the hospital night for us. Tim and Brandi stayed with Mom while Clint and I ran home, and I returned with my own meds and a pillow, to settle into the recliner next to Mom's bed.

The recliner from hell. There it is, look at it, someone needs to exorcise that thing.


Anytime anyone sat in this chair, it reclined. If you wanted to recline, however, say, to get a little sleep, you had to physically hold the chair in the reclining position. I managed to get positioned just so a few times by locking my feet and stretching out to the top, and hoping my weight would the hold the chair open. Victory was short-lived; the second I relaxed into sleep, the chair would snap shut, sending my pillow flying and leaving me misaligned and flailing for balance.

Between the chair, the nurses stopping in every 45 minutes, and keeping a constant ear on Mom so that I could keep her from pulling out her IV, I think we were lucky to each have logged 60 minutes of sleep Friday night. It was a tough, tough night, and we were both more than relieved when we were given the all-clear along with the final diagnosis: Dehydration.

Dehydration!! Dehydration, the culprit! Though she's drinking water every day, and every one of us pushes it, apparently she's not glugging down enough of it. Dehydration, we learned, zaps you of strength, and blood pressure, apparently, especially when you stand up too fast.

We all know drinking lots of water is important, but I got a first hand picture, this weekend of what a lack of it will do—and also what rehydration will do. After being plumped up with a quart of IV juice, I was amazed at the change in Mom's demeanor.

A-MAZED, people. She was funny and energetic, and lucid. Well, lucid for Mom. She was downright jocular when she found out we got to leave. While I was helping her get dressed, I found 3 of those little EKG thingys still stuck to her. I was as careful as I could be, while she cringed and sucked in her breath, and yelled "ouch, ouch, ouch." When the last one was finally off, I was still unsnapping her hospital gown when I teased her, "Lord, Mom, you act like I'm killing you." She didn't miss a beat, but suddenly snapped "WELL, IT HURTS, GOOFY!"

Did she just call me Goofy? We paused for about 3 seconds before we both just fell apart laughing until we cried. Funnier yet, while we were busy giggling, she had lost track of the fact that I was undressing her. She was still laughing when she looked down and realized her hospital gown had fallen away, and she screamed "oh my God, I don't have any clothes on!" and she began howling with laughter all over again. I was by then bent over the hospital bed laughing and crossing my legs to keep from peeing my pants, which, under my  personal circumstances, meant my own meds were kicking in, and I was getting better too!

We were burning rubber out of the hospital lot by 2:30, and although we should have both gone home for naps, we were too busy still laughing, and so happy to be out of there that we went shoe shopping.

Mom, rehydrated, is something to behold; she is energetic and happy, and way more on top of her game. She's still Mom, and she still has Alzheimer's, but she's more confident and exercises a tad more logic. For her, these attributes are monumental, and my own eyes have been opened:

Water, water everywhere, if its that good for her, I'll have a glass too.

I will drink my water and count my blessings. We were there for a visit, for one night. It sucked, but I sat listening to nurses giving morning reports of other patients that had been there for weeks, with still no end in sight. I can't imagine, and I thank God that sleeping in a hospital is foreign to us. It was a 24-hour annoyance, with a merry, "let's go shopping" finale.

We are, I was reminded this weekend, incredibly blessed.


  1. Your mom is adorable.

  2. I think so too. Follow-up nurses called today, and in the conversation, I learned that her medical records indicate that she is "pleasantly demented."

  3. thinking of you both, drinking my water. Pleasantly demented. Sounds like Pink Floyd or something. I mean Pink Flody.

  4. I'm glad your mom was okay.
    That weird recliner looks exactly like the ones that have been in my FIL's rooms. Those must have worked better though or we would surely have heard about them from my MIL. Pleasantly demented? really? That's interesting.
    Oh and I hope you are well now, too.

  5. Water! I learnt the importance the hard way too...when my mom fainted in the middle of the night and hit her head on the glass pane thingy. Gosh, it was scary, to say the least!!

    A coupla glasses of water and she was all fine in the morning. phew!

    Am glad your mom is all good now :)

    May you two have lots and lots of laughing fits like these together :D

  6. She is the cutest! (We know where you get it from!) :D

  7. I lerve your armchair graffiti. I have a recurring nightmare about hospital recliners...


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