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Wed
28
Apr '10

Discovering My Mother’s Heart

Saturday morning, 13 March 2010, my Mother had a massive heart attack. Eleven days later I am drunk on the back porch with the Dearborn showing all the colors of her propane glory. Remy is standing guard, ready to go to bed, and I am trying to ignore her. I am drunk tonight because instead of a fruit pop Beloved Red chose fermented mashed fruit instead, code for open the  wine you picked up in Pampa Monday afternoon. Check.

Saturday, March 13th was the culmination of 6 weeks of work with the Swimsuit Contest, I was co-producing. I received a text message from Big Brother urging me to contact him when I received the text. It was  . . . mmmmm . . .  9:30ish . . . BB never texts’ me. I call immediately. He laughs at the quick response then gets down to business. Our Mother is being LifeStar’d to Northwest Heart Hospital Emergency in Amarillo. I am thirteen hours away driving seventy miles per hour. I am told there is nothing I can do until RD (Mother’s husband of twenty years) calls from the hospital. My heart aches at the thought of him being left behind. He is eighty-five years old. Fortunately, I learn later, a concerned neighbor drove him to Amarillo. He is the VFD Chief and heard the call on his scanner. Before I leave for the event, I post “I’ve just learned my Mother was lifeflighted to Northwest Hospital in Amarillo. Please say a prayer,” on Facebook.

While the Harley-Davidson event is swirling around me, I keep checking my phone. I realize it is possible the next time my phone rings I could be told my Mother has died. I cannot concentrate, but duty calls. At 12:51 p.m. I receive a text from Big Brother saying, “Just talked to Mom. She is fine and no pain at all. Will be in hospital a few days for observation.” My brother’s way of getting me through the day. It is not until 8:00 p.m. Saturday night when I finally talk to RD that I find Mother has had a massive heart attack and she is in ICU. I am fortunate my son and his posse are in Corpus Christi for the contest and he props me up. The two of us stay up until 6:00 a.m. Sunday morning drinking beer and talking.

He wakes me Sunday morning and his crew needs to get on the road. I have one of the worst hangovers I have experienced in recent years. I start packing and making plans to head north. It takes me most of the day. I have no idea how long I will be gone and make plans for a friend to get the keys to The Flat. Thank goodness for this foresight. I arrive in Amarillo, having hit snow flurries in Spur, Texas with two pair of flip flops and my rain boots for foot apparel with only a light jacket.

I arrive in Amarillo Monday evening and check-in to the Amarillo Inn/Best Western, get Remy settled in our new digs and head to the hospital. Mom is receiving the first of three pints of blood. She looks fragile and has dark red circles around her eyes. She looks tired, but she is smiling. Bob looks exhausted. I have not slept in three days. I am running on pure adrenaline. I practically crawl into the bed with her. There are tubes running everywhere and I am afraid019 I will hurt her. She has a horrible hematoma on the top of her right hand running up to the elbow. It is ghastly looking.  

Then she shows me the cath site where they entered her body to place the stent in her left ventricle. This feels like a bad horror film.  The cath site bruise extends from her right hip bone across her pubic bone down her right thigh to the knee. This is where the blood is pooling, and why she needed three pints of blood. I think of lividity in a dead person. Tears well in my eyes. How can this be happening.

Tell Me About It . . .

Mom looks terrible. She has round, red circles around her eyes, she has tubes everywhere . . . and bruises. Horrible bruises. In this moment, I am so happy to see her, I cannot register what all of this means. She is in ICU, yet I walked right into her room. Through tears and laughter, I ask, “Mom, what happened?” She tells me, “We got up to pee around 8:00 o’clock and I decided to go back to bed for awhile.” She stumbles on the way back to bed and RD helps her. She considers taking a baby aspirin and goes back to the bathroom on her own. When she gets back into bed RD asks, “Can I do anything? Do you need to go to the hospital?” Mom responds, “I think you better call the ambulance.” She is experiencing a feeling of a million tiny needles in a circular area below her left shoulder blade and both shoulders ache. She feels as if she cannot move, yet she can. She is coherent. She is processing.

Les Leach, veteran Paramedic from Miami (pronounced My-am-ah) Texas, and twenty-four year-old Matt, 024are the First Responders. By the time they have her in the ambulance, performing the fourth EKG, Les makes the call to LifeStar, the emergency helicopter for the High Plains. Mom will not make it to Amarillo via I40. I learn three weeks later, LifeStar is already in flight to Shamrock for a burn victim and he is deemed less critical. LifeStar is diverted to the Mobeetie Road Side Park/Texas Historical Marker for Fort Elliott.  Welcome to the Panhandle . . .  0_1

Mom is conscience the entire flight. She remembers being confused and having a difficult time remembering answers to basic questions. I am crying again. She is alive. I touch her again, kiss her forehead. I finally acknowledge RD. I give him a long hug. He seems frail. Fraught. I tell him everything will be okay. We talk about my trip, the price of gas . . . I cannot take my eyes off of Mom. I walk back to the bed. “Why are you so bruised?” I ask. Her right arm from her wrist to the elbow is purple. I wish my huge veins into her tiny body. She tells me her hip is bruised. I lift her gown and try not to gasp. From her right buttock across her pubic bone down through her labia and further still towards her right knee cap all I can see is bruising; purple, blue, green, yellow, dark, ugly bruising. There is a lump the size of two fingers running along her pubic/hip bone. This is the Angio-Seal site and it is larger than it should be. You can barely see the catheter site incision. I want pictures but now is not the time.

What do I think . . . ?

Les’s call to LifeStar sets in motion events which lead to Belgium born Dr. Marc Moreau waiting in an operating room at Northwest Heart Hospital in Amarillo. His team immediately inserts the cath, injects dye, discovers full blockage in her left ventricle and insert a stent. Mom cannot say the word “stent”; she says, “ . . . flint. No, that’s not right.” I tell her, “stent.” “Yes, yes,” she says; flustered. Mom is diagnosed with a Non-ST Elevation MI with 70% damage to her anterior wall. She has been in ICU for three full days. Orders are issued to remove her oxygen tubes. Her upper lip looks raw at the tube sites and she wishes for softer Kleenex rather than the cardboard-like product Georgia-Pacific sells in large quantities to hospitals everywhere. The nurse comes in to check the last pint of blood. I ask Mom if she had seen the doctor today. She tells me, “no.” Dr. Cardio shows up around 7:30 p.m. He says hello to each of us, shaking our hands in turn. Mother tells him who I am and where I have driven from. He asks me what I think. I am taken aback. He is asking me what I think. I want to tell him I have an English Degree, he is the Cardio Doctor. I quickly realize he is asking how she appears to me. I tell him she is floundering for words, something she has done for the past two years, perhaps longer, but it is worse. Other than this, I tell him, “to look at her, I would not know she had a massive heart attack three days ago. Dr. Cardio orders a Brain Scan in the morning to rule out the possibility of a stroke. He thinks the cognitive issues revolve around the blood pooling at the cath site and hopes to see improvement as the three pints of blood re-oxygenate her brain. He decides to consult with an Electro physiologist, Dr. Desai. Dr. Cardio appears to not be concerned, he wishes us a good evening, shaking each of our hands, telling us goodbye. I think of a thousand questions after he leaves.

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