Part 3: The final February with my mom

“You just keep going, mija. Breathe, just breathe, and keep going.” ~ My Mom.

WEDNESDAY, FEB. 24, 2021

I wake up exhausted with swollen eyes and half a plan. It’s not really a plan, it’s a goal: Get my mom out of Abrazo Hospital.

I spend the day calling the hospital. Case Managers. Supervisors of Case Management. Patient Advocacy. Hospital Administration. And, yes, my mom’s hospital primary doctor, Dr. Ponduchi.

Here’s how that went… Case Management told me to call Patient Advocacy who told me to call Administration who told me to call Case Management. “Oh hey, have you tried calling the doctor?”

Are you kidding me!!!

The doctor is definitely dodging me. A nurse finally confirms this.

Now what? Where do we go from here?

My stepfather is livid, but has no idea what to do next. My brother feels helpless. I’m all of the above and I feel like we’re running out of options.

I’m bent over silently, scream-crying in the doorway of my mom’s bathroom, when my daughters (32 and 20 at the time) walk in and do their best to console their mom.

Then, my oldest daughter reminds us of something. We come from my mom, Gloria Galindo. Nana Gloria to them. We don’t fucking give up!

“We’re all in agreement, right?” my oldest daughter asks. “We do whatever it takes to get Nana out of that hospital.”

We’ve made a pact, come hell or high water, we’re getting her out of there.

Just breathe, mija, just keep going.

I’ve got the 5th floor nurses’ station on speed dial and start calling. And calling. And calling. And calling.

I don’t reach Dr. Ponduchi until the early afternoon. I’m convinced the nurses were sick of my phone calls and cornered her.

She immediately denies my request for a transfer to Mayo Hospital. She insists that the next liver biopsy will give them more information.

ADVOCATE (verb): to support or argue for (a cause, policy, etc.), to plead in favor of

I start thinking of other potential advocates. So, I call Medicare. They tell me we have the right to have her transferred by the hospital and we also have the right to take my mom to another hospital ourselves.

Medicare also tells me to call back to file a complaint against Abrazo Hospital and Dr. Ponduchi after we get my mom to Mayo and get things under control.

I call Dr. Ponduchi and relay the message from Medicare. She denies our transfer request again. I tell her we’re on our way to my mom’s primary care doctor to get her help in advocating for my mom’s transfer.

We’re in the lobby of my mom’s primary doctor’s office when Dr. Ponduchi calls me. She says, “I’ll discharge your mom tomorrow. You can pick her up and do whatever you want. Take her to Mayo Hospital or wherever, but I’m not approving a transfer from this hospital.”

It’s 6 p.m. I spend the rest of the night calling medical transport services, checking on availability with less than 24 hours notice and getting quotes. I finally find one I can afford around midnight.

The medical transport is confirmed. They’ll meet us at the hospital at noon, but we have a one-hour window to get whatever paperwork signed and get my mom out or the medical transport will leave.

I’m now dependent on Dr. Ponduchi discharging my mom in time. I can’t sleep.

THURSDAY, FEB. 25, 2021

I arrive at the hospital an hour early and sit in my car with my stepfather and youngest daughter. I call my mom’s nurse three times to ask if the doctor has discharged her. She has not.

The medical transport driver has arrived and we now have an hour to get my mom out of this damn hospital. The clock is ticking.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, we’re not allowed to enter the hospital without being added to “the list.”

I call my mom’s nurse one more time and, in so many words, I tell her: The medical transport is here. I have less than an hour to get my mom out of this hospital. If I have to make a scene in the lobby, you will see this on the evening news and I’m naming names. Do I need to start calling TV stations?

She says, “Give me 15 minutes.”

My stepfather and I are finally allowed to enter the hospital along with the medical transport driver and the gurney.

As we’re in the elevator, it dawns on me that my stepfather hasn’t seen his wife in almost seven days. I haven’t seen my mom in a year and a half. She was admitted on February 19 and it’s now February 25.

WE FINALLY SEE MY MOM

When we finally get to the 5th floor and step into my mom’s room, the three of us gasp in horror. We’re in shock at the conditions. It’s dirty, dingy and cold. There’s something sticky on the floors.

And then we see my mom.

We weren’t ready. Nothing could have prepared us for this.

It was dark except for this ONE light right above my mom’s bed that was obviously torturing her. She was covering her face with the back of her right arm.

And then we see the bruises. On her arms. On her chest. On her neck.

There were bruises from fingers to her shoulder. We have the right to advocate on behalf of our loved ones. If we don’t, who will? Please fight for them!

We call out to her and my stepfather runs to her side in tears. I run to other side and tell her we’re taking her out of this fucking place.

She begins to cry uncontrollably and grabs my arm, pulling me closer to her. What she says next still haunts me.

“Oh my god, thank you for saving me, mija. Oh my god, I thought I was going to die here.”

We look for her cell phone. We finally find it in a box out of her reach along with the family photos we dropped off. We check the hospital phone – the one we called dozens of times – and it’s turned off.

As I step aside to handle the paperwork with my mom’s nurse, another nurse walks in. She appears to be someone with authority.

I JUST CALL “THEM” MARIA

This nurse tells my mom that she’s leaving and to stop crying. She adds, “OK, Maria, you can stop crying now.”

When my stepfather tells the nurse that my mom’s name is Gloria and not Maria, the nurse dismisses him with the back of her hand and says, “I know, I just call them Maria.”

Them???

My stepfather explodes, “Her name is not Maria, you piece of…”

I cut him off and shove him into the bathroom. I remind him that we’re this close to getting my mom the hell out of here so calm the fuck down.

The medical transport driver finally gets my mom onto the gurney. I check the time. Our one-hour window is closing.

As we head for the elevator, I can’s shake this feeling. It’s fear. I’m afraid that at any moment someone could try to stop us. Like, physically stop us. I’m afraid someone will go to jail today because we are not backing down.

Just breathe, mija, just keep going.

The slowest elevator in the world finally takes us to the first floor and we can now see the automatic doors. We’re almost there.

Every single person we pass seems to know what’s going on. The admittance clerk. The COVID mask/sanitizer clerk. Both security guards. They all whisper the same thing to us, “You’re taking her to Mayo Hospital, right? Good, good.”

THE CLOCK IS TICKING

We finally pass through the automatic doors. My mom has finally been freed from this fucking place. But there’s no time to celebrate, the clock is still ticking.

My daughter rushes to her grandmother’s side. “Hey Nana, it’s me.”

My mom can’t believe it. “Is it really you? Am I dreaming?” She looks at me for confirmation. I tell her it’s true, it’s her youngest granddaughter. Yes, all the way from Florida, she’s here to see you.

My mom is crying uncontrollably again, tightly holding on to her granddaughter when the medical transport reminds us that we’re running out of time. “We gotta get going, folks.”

My stepdad is at my mom’s side in the medical transport. My daughter and I are right behind them.

We’re finally taking my mom to a good hospital. We’re finally taking her to see some good doctors. We’re finally going to get a diagnosis. She’ll finally get the care she deserves. And she’ll finally better.

Only four of those things turn out to be true.

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.

Abrazo Hospital left my mom’s beautiful hands bruised, her fingernails dirty.

2 thoughts on “Part 3: The final February with my mom

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