Sunday, October 18, 2009

Family Ties

The Rorschach test to the left is an MRI showing acute pancreatitis. I thought we'd try something new, graphics-wise!

Good morning, good Sunday morning. I hope to take care of some housekeeping today, both in terms of the schtuff accumulated within the living quarters here in Marlinspike Hall, deep, deep in the Tête de Hergé, as well as here on elle est belle la seine la seine elle est belle.

It's been not so much a somber time lately as nerve-wracked. The Mother-Unit is in the Intensive Care Unit, but -- gladly! -- she is much improved. That's what can happen when doctors actually support their diagnoses with test results -- those wacky medicos!

She lives in a small town. Her late husband, a darling of a man, was a prominent physician there for over 30 years. Last year, she did what people her age tend to do, and fell, breaking her hip. She had a THR that went well, although she came out of it depressed and resistant to things like physical therapy and... effort.

Her family began to hear all her complaints through that filter, as did her doctors. She was Dr. X's wife, a depressive hypochondriacal woman with a few cardiac issues...

About 4 months ago, she began to consistently complain of pain that seemed to be centered in the small of her back, though it also took day trips, popping up as a pain under her ribs, occasionally also hanging out in her side.

The doctors in her town never drew blood, never applied any differential diagnoses, those wacky old white men! (That's a mere statement of fact; I positively adore most wacky old white men.) She was Dr. X's wife, post THR, a depressive hypochondriacal woman...

I do believe they thought she was drug-seeking, as she began coming home from appointments loaded down with prescription muscle relaxants, pain killers, and such. Like any good doctor's widow, post THR, and depressively hypochondriacal, she began playing that well known game of taking one's medication precisely as described and then passing out, which lead to incidents of falling down -- *that* kind of manipulative trickery common to doctor's wives, post-THR and so on and so forth.

She was ordered to resume physical therapy, but the witch just continued to complain and complain about pain, resisting all the allied-health personnel and their demands that she swim, walk, and train for an upcoming mini-marathon. How rude!

Her daughter, my sister, an awesome woman, serves as her dominated caretaker. Truth be told? My Mother-Unit treats my sister like crap, always has, and sadly, always will. For her part, my sister has developed a superbly wicked sense of humor. She is also a very kind person, and she listens, she observes. Much in the way one would hope the physicians would.

She played the role of Worried Adult Child and dragged Mommy Dear back to each doctor, with the result that more physical therapy was prescribed, as well as hints that a chiropractor might prove useful. Prescription pads were waved, more pills purchased, though this go-round, my sister served as drug distributer -- i.e., there were to be no more trips to the hard floor due to overmedication.

They saw the chiropractor. He did whatever it is they do, and suggested... physical therapy.

It was about then that My Helpful Self entered the picture, all foul-mouthed and presumptive.

My main suggestion was to get the heck out of Small Town Dodge, since those doctors still saw her late husband and the obéissance they owed him instead of an elderly woman with a constellation of symptoms -- pain, fatigue, fevers, nausea, and increasing unsteadiness. Of course, she also remained consistently depressed, neurotic, and (a real feat when *actually* ill) hypochondriacal! There are, after all, Family Standards to uphold.

The only Big City referral she was able to get from her Small Town doctors was one to an orthopedist, formerly of That Same Small Town, and a Great Friend of her Dead Husband.

I began to have the proverbial cow, even though this latest physician did take a daring step outside the box and diagnosed her with a kidney infection (again, without testing), and wrote for antibiotics.

That seemed reasonable enough, and we all crossed our arms in satisfaction and stared at The Patient, waiting for the announcement that she felt Better.

[Don't ask me about These Bizarre Capitalizations. I dunno, it's mildly amusing, mebbe? Yes, I *am* easily amused! However did you know?]

Another month went by... and The Patient did indeed change. She complained less, but did not "do" any more in terms of activity, staying mostly in bed. She began to resemble one of those old women who... fade away.

It happens so subtly, so ineluctably.

Then, blessed be, something *happened*, intersecting this long line of mushy non-events with particularity.

She spiked a terrible fever, the pain worstened, and she grabbed the phone to call SuperSis with the complaint that she was cold, damn it! Oh, yeah, it was 3 am.

What an attention seeker, My Mother-Unit!

So SuperSis rushed over there, calling for assistance from her Brother-Unit, and they descended upon the Old Woman.

As an emergency patient, Good Ol' Mom was unknown to the physician on call in Hicksville. So he ordered labs, the crazy guy! It was the middle of the night, he could have cared less who she was, who her Dead Husband was, he only saw her. Hooray! Hooray! Hooray for The Physician On Call! (Now if only we could have arranged for Nurse K to be on duty...)

When the results began to trickle in, the ED doc decided she needed more help than they were able to provide in Podunk Village, and off she went, by ambulance, to The Big City Hospital, where she was promptly admitted to the ICU.

She had a pretty awful case of pancreatitis, also considerable liver dysfunction, a UTI, a messed up gall bladder, and was septic.

It's been three days now, and Super Sis and her Drop-the-Hammer Brother report that the Mother-Unit feels much better, has even walked some, and feels hardly any pain. Of course, appropriately titered pain meds probably account for some of that, also the i.v. antibiotics.

What is that called? Hmm. It escapes me. Wait! I remember! T.R.E.A.T.M.E.N.T.

Surgery is being contemplated, which involves her biggest complaint, at the moment: she wants to eat, but is being kept NPO. We're thrilled that she can think of nothing else about which to kvetch.

So that's her story, in this up-to-the-moment installment.

For me, it calls up My Issues. At least, it did. I no longer give a Royal Hoot. So I end up on the phone with people who swear (on the Bible!) that they used to babysit me when I was but a knee-highed grasshopper... who want to know if I remember them taking me to the beach when I was 3 years old... who ask after my Brother-Units as if they really cared. The swiftest way to cross me is to FAIL one of my Brother-Units.

One swears she is my aunt, another swears to be an uncle. A good many claim to know me and my Brother-Units, intimately, and any protestation of the fact (as in, "but I don't know you from Adam, from Eve!") only engenders an odd puffing of the cheeks and mumblymumbliness.

I become perilously close to asking where they were when Tumbleweed was a child alone, homeless, Lost in Amerika? I risk demanding how they could have allowed Grader Boob to lose faith in everything except The Literary Canon? I almost wonder how they managed to forget about me, too, but almost, as has been noted, does not count.

If I need advice about anything, it is about my Brother-Units and whether or not I should inform them that she's not doing well. Tumbleweed would take it as received information, much as a large democratic congress accepts the findings of its many committees. I cannot know his procedural mind, his memory, his hopes, his regrets. Grader Boob, lui, has admonished me many times, already, in this short life: do not speak of x, of y, of z, do not speak of him, of her. He is so badly hurt, forever injured.

I think I will -- in a short declarative sentence that also reassures each one that his privacy has not been imperiled. Of course, this notification must be done with its own sort of Fire Wall in place, as one of Grader Boob's many prohibitions is that he wants nothing to do with Brother Tumbleweed.

It's enough to drive a sister batty.

Later today, I am going to be a Brave Daughter and actually attempt to speak with the Mother-Unit on the phone.

Maybe. Maybe not. I really don't feel very brave, nor very daughter-ish. All the old feelings of abandonment are bubbling with new life.

The inmates of Marlinspike Hall all wish her well and are proud of my Half-Siblings for such expert handling of an emergency -- and for getting her the hell out of Small Town Dodge. [No offense to small towns.]

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