Some days are good and others are bad. Yesterday was bad. Really bad.
After spending four uncomfortable, frustrating days in the hospital, mom was more than ready to go home. Her surgery had been set for today, but she was ready to go. She remembered back to her heart surgery, when she came into the hospital the morning of the surgery and she thought this should be the same way.
My dad already had to convince her to stay Monday night. So we knew she would be a little antsy by the following morning. Dad had a job to finish up so we lined up family to be there with mom all morning and afternoon until he could return. My Aunt was scheduled to stay with her until noon and I was to arrive shortly thereafter once I had finished up some errands. I received a phone call from my Aunt at 11:30 to let me know that she had had enough and was leaving.
“I’m not feeling good and I’m not in the mood for this,” she reported.
Apparently, mom was insisting that she was going home and when this Aunt told her she wasn’t going to take her, mom told her she could just leave. So she did.
I was in the middle of dropping my step-daughter off at the airport when I received the call, so it wasn’t a situation where I could get over there quickly. I called my mother-in-law, who was volunteering at the hospital that day, and she went over to check on mom and to ask a nurse to sit with her until I arrived.
I got to the hospital about an hour later and found mom peacefully resting in her bed, eyes closed. As soon as she heard me, her eyes popped wide open and she sat up, pulling her covers down and revealing her normal clothes on her body.
“Oh good, they said I could go home now too and I can just come back in the morning before the surgery too and I can go home tonight and rest which is so good too because I need to have a shower and do my hair and my make up and other things too…”
I looked over at the nurse aid who sat silently by while shaking her head “no”.
I told mom that I didn’t think she could go home and she protested,
“Yes, they told me I could.”
I called in her nurse who affirmed to me that she was not able to go home. Mom became irate.
“I can too go home, they told me I could!”
We went back and forth for several minutes as I tried to ask her who told her she could go (which she couldn’t tell me) and explain to her that she wasn’t able to go home. Of course she understood nothing I said and became very angry with me for “not supporting” her and taking her home. She began yelling at me, and the nurse, and I shut the door to prevent everyone in the wing from hearing her.
“I want to go home, you can’t keep me here!…If you won’t take me then I’ll go down and pay someone to take me!…you can’t tell me what to do!…if nobody is gonna support me then I’ll just kill myself!…I wanna go home dammit!!…”
I felt totally lost on how to handle this. I fought back the tears and all I could think of was to tell her,
“Let’s just wait here for dad, okay? You can’t leave without dad anyway, so let’s just wait. Will you please sit on the bed?”
After much coaxing, mom sat down on the bed. The nurse told me he had ordered a psych evaluation. I told him to cancel the test. That comment set me over the edge…my mom didn’t need a psych evaluation, she needed her surgery and to get the heck out of that place! I was angry at the mere suggestion and was afraid they wanted to lock my mom away, figuring they must have ordered the test because of her “kill myself” comment.
Mom sat down on the bed, her overnight bag on top of her lap, and waited for dad to pick her up and take her home. I breathed a sigh of relief that for the moment; she had settled down. I texted my dad to let him know the situation and as soon as I glanced back up, I noticed that mom had silently pulled out her IV.
“Mom, you can’t take that out,” I said, but I was too late.
“Yes I have to take this out. I’m going home. Your dad is going to take me home and I hope he’ll take me to a really good dinner too.”
And so my very long afternoon continued. Every once in a while, mom would stand up and start insisting I take her home. I tried and tried to convince her to sit down and wait for dad but as the day wore on, the waiting became more difficult.
They moved her to another room, which was closer to the nurses station and in a quieter location (and much farther away from her room that sat right next to the elevator). It was a chore to get her to move. I had to convince her that it was much quieter down there (she continually complains about how noisy it is there) and I told her that they were bringing someone else in the room; it would be much better to go wait in a room by herself without a roommate. It worked and she finally followed to the next room.
As the hours wore on, mom became more and more restless. When she realized she couldn’t convince me to take her home, she tried manipulation.
“They told me I could exercise so I need to go for a walk too.”
“If you’re going for a walk, you need to leave your overnight bag here,” I replied, knowing full well of her intentions to escape downstairs.
By 3:00, I had to physically get up and stand at the door to prevent her from leaving. By this point, a social worker had arrived and I vented all of my frustrations of the hospital and our situation with her. She was very compassionate and helped me in whatever way was possible, but of course the surgery was completely dependent on the doctor and his schedule. The social worker stood at the door with me as mom tried to move me aside and shouted,
“I’m the mom, you’re the daughter, you can’t tell me what to do!!”
It took every ounce of self control to hold back my tears and not have a break down right there in her hospital room. I asked the social worker if there was some medication to calm her down.
“That’s what the psych evaluation is for,” she answered.
Why the heck didn’t the nurse tell me that?? Here I was thinking they wanted to evaluate her and lock her away when the test was simply for evaluating if she needed something to calm her down. She apologized for the miscommunication (or lack of) and reassured me that the test was in no way designed to send her away to a mental hospital; we decided to ask for the doctor to come evaluate her.
My other Aunt (mom’s other sister) showed up and tried to help me calm mom down. I was so thankful to have some extra help; it was very difficult to manage on my own. By late afternoon I had both the social worker and my Aunt to help keep me sane.
My dad finally arrived to the hospital around 5:00 and I was never so thankful to see him!! I knew (and warned him) that all hell would break loose once again as soon as he got there. And it did. Mom was angry that dad wouldn’t take her home.
“No, I can go, they told me I could go! I need to go home and shower and use my really good soap stuff and wash my hair real good and do my hair too and my make-up and other things too. And I need my clean clothes too, these are too dirty.”
“Dear, look. I brought all your good stuff, see?”
Dad took out her favorite body washes and laid out each piece of make-up and article of clothing to show that he hadn’t missed a thing. She refused. She held on tight to her bag (it had been on her lap or on her shoulder the entire time I was there). The tantrum went on. She paced the room, she tried to push through my dad, she tried manipulating and bribing my dad to take her home, she yelled, she cursed, she flipped my dad off several times. Through it all, my dad remained calm, patient and even tried to make light of the situation and tried to joke around with her a bit. He reassured her that he would stay with her the entire night. He did a great job and after another hour or so of her tantrums, she finally sat on the bed. I think dad might have finally found his leverage with her-he started talking about the trip she wants to take to Utah this summer and he told her that she had to get better and have the surgery if she wanted to go (of course it took a lot of repeating and explaining over and over before she caught on…he was talking about all the people they would visit and the places they would go). At this point, her sedative finally arrived (nearly 2 hours after I asked for it). They gave her a shot in her shoulder; she whined about them hurting her and then sat silent for several minutes.
And then, out nowhere, she sat up and began fumbling through her things.
“What are you looking for dear?” dad asked.
She ignored him. She ignored my Aunt. She ignored me. She collected her clean clothes and her body wash and marched over the bathroom.
“There’s no shower in there,” I reminded her, as she silently closed the door and locked it behind her.
We listened to her behind the closed door as she scrubbed herself with wet paper towels for the next 5 minutes. Then, she came out in her pajamas and plopped down on her hospital bed. She put her legs up and got out her favorite smelling bubble bath…and began applying it as lotion.
“Mom-that’s not lotion. See here? It says bubble bath,” I told her.
She ignored me and continued rubbing in her bubble bath. I chuckled and let her go about her business. What could it hurt? When she was finished, she looked up and said,
“Do you think I should put on my make-up now or in the morning?”
For the first time in the 7 hours I had been there, I was able to sit back and relax. It appeared that mom had accepted her fate of staying in the hospital for one more night.
I’m wondering how it’s going to blow over after her surgery today if they tell her she has to stay just one more night.