Since I will be blogging about my experience as a caregiver for someone with cancer, I thought I should write a post about the medical journey for reference.

This nightmare began the day after Thanksgiving. Mom had not been feeling well, but we chalked it up to her usual complaints – her leg/knee hurt (had she been walking too much?), she was tired (had she been overexerting herself?), she had a sharp pain just beneath her right shoulder-blade. Wait. That was something new, but we thought she had just pulled a muscle. She felt like crap the day before Thanksgiving and on Thanksgiving Day, but we were going to Aunt Susie and Uncle Gary’s house to have Thanksgiving with them and Susie’s other niece, Kelly, and Kelly’s kids, and Mom didn’t want to back out of that. So she soldiered on.

After dinner, we played a game I bought for my classroom but hadn’t really used. Mom declined to go with us to see the fireworks/Uptown tree lighting, but I didn’t really think anything of it. That wasn’t really her thing anyway. I spent the night with her Thanksgiving night, and then, after getting her up/coffee/breakfast, I went home to do some things at my house. Our housekeeper, Margie, was at Mom’s. I knew Mom wasn’t feeling well, but she took a pain pill and was going to rest in her bed, and I thought that would help. As I drove home, though, I had a sense that Margie would call me to come back.

She did. I got a message that said to call, and when I did, Margie said, “Mrs. G needs you to come home right now.” I tried to gather up some things I might need (meds, laptop, clean undies) and then raced home. When I got there, I learned that she had been in bed, got up to use the bathroom, then fainted. When she tried to get up, she fainted again. This time, Margie heard her, thank God. She was resting in her bed when I arrived.

We debated a little about what we should do – should we go to the 24 hour clinic or straight to St. Luke’s? Should I drive her or should we call an ambulance? In the middle of this, I had to go pick up Coco (it was beauty parlor day), so I fetched the dog and returned home. Mom looked a little less pale and clammy, but not by much. We finally decided to go to the hospital but couldn’t decide about calling EMS. I thought I would be able to help her down the stairs (foolish girl!) but when I got her out of bed, she felt woozy again and sat down in her rocking chair, and I dialed 911. I think it was when she was willing just to put on her bathrobe and go to the hospital that I realized she felt seriously ill.

The EMS team arrived promptly, assessed her vital signs (low blood pressure, rapid pulse), surmised that the sharp pain was probably related to her gallbladder, and carried her down the stairs. I am so glad we decided to call the ambulance, because I realize now that she received care faster than she would have if I had driven her there and we had gone through the waiting room.

Within 4 hours, she was diagnosed with a “huge” pulmonary embolism and treated with blood thinner. I think just receiving a diagnosis and starting treatment was a boost – she seemed to get her color back and perked up a bit. I called my sister, but I couldn’t get her. I didn’t want to leave a message about what was going on, but I should have asked her to call me instead of just trying to reach her myself. It took longer than it should have for me to give her the news. Of course, we didn’t have a clue about the full nature of the health problems Mom had, but we did the best we could with the information we had at the time.

They got Mom a room on the 7th floor. I stayed at St. Luke’s until she was settled in (I guess I must have called Aunt Susie and Uncle Gary to feed Coco and take her out), went down to McDonald’s to get something to eat (what a healthy choice, knowing my mother was suffering from blood clots) and went home some time after midnight.

It seemed the worst was behind us.

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