Thursday, Dec. 07, 2006
Dear Diary:

The 911 operator was calm and efficient. As I detailed my mom-in-law's symptoms she asked me questions about her medical history. The decision was instant.

"We're sending an ambulance," she said. Then the timbre of her voice changed from efficiency to compassion. "Don't worry, we'll get there quickly." I choked out a thanks, hung up the phone and briefly gave in to the tears I'd walled off. I unceremoniously wiped them off on my sleeve. I couldn't scare my mom-in-law. She needed to see calmness.

The woman at 911 wasn't kidding. It normally takes me 40 minutes to drive to the hospital on good roads. The roads yesterday were slushy, but the ambulance was at our door in 25 minutes.

As the ambulance technicians were wheeling my mom-in-law out the door on the bright yellow gurney, her cat Abigail did the oddest thing. Abby rose up on her hind feet, stood upright and stretched out a paw towards my departing mom-in-law as if she was waving good-bye. We were all taken aback by the oddness of it.

I am so weary of hospitals. As we waited to be triaged in emergency, a baby in the next cubicle wailed inconsolably. To the right of us a man moaned and cursed softly from his pain. My mom-in-law panted softly, each breath ending with a terrifying little wet sound.

X-rays and blood tests revealed that my mom-in-law's kidneys had stopped working and that fluid was building up in her lungs. They rushed her into the intensive care section of the emergency wing, got her hooked up to various mysterious bags o' liquids and beeping monitors.

The doctor said later that if she hadn't come in when she did, her kidneys would have shut down permanently and she would have died in three days. Now they're fighting to restore as much kidney function as they can.

Tick tock. Tick tock.

When my mom-in-law was diagnosed with her cancer this past spring, everyone spoke confidently of years left. But the thing is, she's not having small illnesses. Each time she's sick she rushes right to the brink. They pull her back, but each time they do, she's � she's diminished.

Her tiny physical reserves are further depleted. Her spirit is wearied by never feeling well. Her mental acuity is taking a hit. She's being slowly eroded.

As I passed the nurse's station on my way to visit her this morning, the bright red of the poinsettia sitting there reminded me that Christmas isn't far off. Just last week I finished shopping on her behalf for my mom-in-law's great-grandchildren. We've been discussing just what to do about Christmas dinner. I even sacked up and volunteered to do another turkey.

When I rounded the corner into the Emergency Monitoring section, even though I was looking directly at her, it didn't register at first that I was looking at my mom-in-law. How could this person be her? Cheeks deeply sunken, skin gray, her mouth open as she slept, tubes everywhere.

They don't allow make-up in emergency because doctors can get important clues from how a patient looks. After I finished brushing her hair I did anoint her lips with clear chapstick, though. She was too tired to keep her eyes open or to talk, but she smiled.

Standards. The woman may be in the proverbial one foot on a banana peel situation, but she refuses to let go of her standards. That you have to admire.


Mileage on the Marnometer: 732.93 miles. 10 per cent rubber duck10 per cent rubber duck10 per cent rubber duck10 per cent rubber duck10 per cent rubber duck
Oh, man, but I am having a hard time building back stamina. Ouch.

Goal for 2006: 1,250 miles - 2000 kilometers

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