Part 2: The final February with my mom

“There will come a day when you’ll have to make some really hard decisions. Remember to be strong.” ~ Mom.

I was 5 years old when my Tío Manuel was in a car accident. I told my mom once that I remembered the night of the accident, vividly, but that I couldn’t remember anything else. She filled in the blanks…

The injuries from the car accident had left my uncle in a coma. There was no brain activity, according to the doctors. There was nothing left to do except to say goodbye and take him off of life support. My grandmother couldn’t do it. 

It was my mom who made the decision to remove her brother from life support, to let go, to let him rest in peace. It was the hardest decision she’d ever made.

“You have to be strong. Do you hear me? Mírame,” she ordered. Look at me. She locked eyes with me. It was her way of letting me know she was serious. She went on to remind me that hard decisions awaited me in life and that I had to be prepared to take them on.

I had no idea what my mom was preparing me for. Until she got sick….

The following is Part 2 of The Final February with My Mom. You can read Part One here.

Sunday, Feb. 21, 2021

I’m finally able to reach a nurse around 7 p.m.  I record our conversation and take notes. I use a 6×9 Mead notebook that I find in my mom’s office, the kind where the pages flip at the top.

The nurse hints at cancer but can’t tell me why because she’s not a doctor. She says she doesn’t want to lead us astray, but she wants us to be prepared for the worst. I ask if the liver biopsy is still scheduled for the next day. She has no idea.

My head is spinning.

I ask to speak to a doctor; she says she’ll have one call me back. We never received a call from a doctor.

The conversation with this nurse sends me into a tailspin. It’s the first time the “C” word is mentioned. I can’t breathe, I’m light-headed. When I finally catch my breath, I start screaming, “No, no, no! This can’t be happening!”

My mom has now been in the hospital for three days – alone. We’ve had no communication with her today and the hospital won’t allow even one visitor. We’ve checked other hospitals; they’re allowing at least one visitor per day. 

We drop off a small box at the front desk with family photos and her cell phone charger. I check my cell phone. The last text message from my mom was from the previous day. It just said, “I.”

I can feel my mom slipping away.

Monday, Feb. 22, 2021

I send whatever recordings I have at this point to my cousin, she’s a nurse at a different hospital. She translates for me because I don’t speak this language. She gives me suggestions on follow up questions, I make a list. She advises me on nurse shift changes and the best times to call. All of this proves to be extremely helpful. 

Finally, around noon a doctor calls, he’s a gastroenterologist. He says things looked pretty normal during my mom’s colonoscopy. This comes as a surprise. We were unaware that she was having this procedure.  Not one nurse in the past four days mentioned a colonoscopy. She was under anesthesia, and we didn’t even know.  He said another doctor would be calling soon. This other doctor never calls.

When I reach the day nurse, she tells me that in addition to the colonoscopy, they did the liver biopsy, but it would take several days for results to come back to the hospital. My mom has already been in this hospital for four days and now we have to wait another 4-5 days for the biopsy results.    

I’ve been calling the hospital every day, advocating on behalf of my mom, but it’s not enough. Aside from the gastroenterologist, no other doctor has called us.   

I need to get my mom out of that hospital.

Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021

They’ve put my mom in restraints. This breaks me. The image of my mom being tied to a hospital bed just breaks me. 

The notes from the night nurse say that my mom had been acting confused, that she didn’t know her name, and that she tried to pull out her IV. The nurse I’m talking to says she’s surprised because my mom is sharp as a tack.

I beg the nurse to remove the restraints.

She then tells me that they’ve ordered a second biopsy. I ask why. Why would you do another biopsy without having results from the first one? This conversion goes in circles. 

I’m done with this hospital.  

After spending the day talking to Medicare and Mayo Hospital and getting advice from my cousin, I now know how to get my mom out of that hospital, but I need Abrazo to initiate the transfer. The first step is to make the request.

I call the nurse on shift to notify her: I want my mom transferred to Mayo Hospital. I tell her to stop the second liver biopsy and all other tests. 

She says she has to notify my mom’s primary doctor at the hospital. Wait, what? This is the first I’m hearing of a primary doctor, but this is the doctor who’s been overseeing my mom’s care. Allegedly. 

I finally get the doctor’s name: Dr. Mirela Ponduchi.  

My mom has now been in the hospital for five days. We’re nowhere close to a diagnosis and we have yet to hear from my mom’s doctor, Dr. Ponduchi.

This is where the fight begins.

To be continued

Soy hija de Gloria. Hija de guerrera. Esta es la historia de mi mamá. Y también mi terapia.

I’m Gloria’s daughter. Daughter of a warrior. This is my mom’s story. And my therapy.

This is the 6×9 Mead notebook I used to write down notes, names and questions. I keep the notebook on my office desk.
My mom and her brothers. My uncle Manuel is sitting next to my mom.
My mom and her husband, Jose, the love of her life.

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