August 20, 2005

Mom In Hospice

Many of my readers know that my mother was diagnosed with terminal lymphoma a couple of months ago (see here and here and here). Her decline has proceeded more quickly than anyone expected. Mercifully, it’s been painless for her. Her mind and body have been gradually shutting down over the past weeks. First forgetting words, she got to the point where she couldn’t speak at all, only make syllable-like sounds, and now she makes no sounds. Increasingly feeble and immobile, she became paralyzed on her right side a few days ago – either a stroke or the pressure of the lymphoma on certain areas of her brain.

She’s been moved to a private room in the hospice wing of her nursing home. My brother who lives in the same town as her says that the care she’s receiving is first-rate and solely directed toward her comfort. She’s receiving anti-anxiety medication, but so far there’s no need for morphine.

No heroic measure will be taken – no IV fluids, no feeding tube. According to her doctors and nurses, those interventions can cause significant problems such as fluid backup or reflux.

My 22-year-old son is on the scene with her; my 24-year-old plans to visit tomorrow. The report is that she sleeps most of the time, and when she’s awake it’s not clear how aware she is. Her vision may be too weak by this point for her to see more than a blur, but my son says that she visibly lit up when he arrived at her room. Sometimes she seems to have those moments of happiness. At other times she seems confused, and waves weakly with her left hand as if asking a question. At other times she seems agitated by her inability to communicate, or irritated by the physical discomfort of an immobile position in bed, or by some shortness of breath.

I’ll be flying out there soon, I don’t know exactly when. My schedule is hampered by the fact that I’m chained to a major freelance assignment with an inflexible deadline. Beginning this past Tuesday, the day I returned from Costa Rica, I must write a 224-page book, an educational manual, in four weeks. I would have had six or eight weeks except for the fact that it’s sandwiched between two vacations that I’d previously booked: Costa Rica with the family on one end, and on the other end a long-planned two weeks motoring through Spain with a couple of friends.

I hope to send some reports from the road in Spain – not every day, but now and then. Then I’ll come back to the States and collapse.

In the meantime, I hope you’ll all understand if I don’t have as much time as usual for blogging.