Nov 21, 2014
Not great news that could have been much, much worse.
Last Saturday night or Sunday morning (we're not even sure of the time) my mother fell off her bed trying to get up to go to the bathroom and landed on her right hip. (This is the same hip she'd had replaced three years ago.) She was unable to move.
My mother lives alone. She was not wearing any sort of medical alert bracelet, though she owns one. I got a call from a friend of hers in the building where she has lived for more than 45 years (and is the president of the co-op board at 84) saying that my mother hadn't picked up her newspaper for the last two days, wasn't answering her phone, and her machine was no longer accepting messages. Her friend was worried.
I immediately called my brother, who's an emergency room doctor. He and his wife grabbed a car and drove up to my Mom's. They got the key from the super (my brother had my mother's key somewhere but wasn't sure where) and entered the apartment. Miraculously, my mother was awake and alert and lying beside her bed. This was roughly 8 pm. My mother had been on the bedroom floor for at least ten hours. Also miraculously, she hadn't panicked. She'd heard people ring her doorbell (her bedroom is far from the front door, so they couldn't hear her call out to them) and had heard the phone messages. It sounds like she knew it was just a matter of time before someone found her. The fall was caused by grogginess and an urgency to get to the bathroom ASAP -- no heart attack, stroke, etc.
Long story short: my brother called an ambulance and she was admitted to the hospital where he works. She'd fractured her femur. She is incredibly lucky -- there were no other complications apart from a few pressure sores (apparently these start forming within hours if a person is truly immobile). She had surgery Wednesday night and is expected by the surgeon to make a full recovery, though it's going to be a much longer recovery process than the original replacement. It may be six weeks before she can put her full weight on her right leg. Yesterday afternoon, not 24 hours after the surgery, the physical therapy staff had her up on a walker and taking a few tentative steps. It was great to see her upright again but I think it exhausted her.
Today was a tougher day for her. I think the adrenaline rush from all the drama has begun to wear off and she's starting to realize how difficult the road ahead is likely to be. At least temporarily, she's not going to be very independent. She's afraid that this is it: she won't be able to take care of herself moving forward. The doctors, physical therapists, and social workers all assure her otherwise: the bone will heal, the pain will subside. But she has to believe it. Due to her age and the severity of the injury, they're going to keep her in the hospital a little longer before she goes to an intensive rehab facility (she's been to two of these in the past so she knows the routine). Today she didn't even want to do her exercises in bed (it hasn't been 48 hours since the surgery, but they want her to keep her moving). She also claimed she had no appetite, which is worrying.
Naturally, I want to motivate and encourage her but I also want to honor her feelings and not make her feel wrong for feeling down. Not only did she suffer a debilitating injury, she had to endure a long, long wait, alone, and I imagine that, consciously or not, it impacted her. This is her third hospitalization related to her right hip, and every single time, she wants no cards, no flowers, and no visits from anyone other than immediate family. She also doesn't want phone calls (she doesn't want to have to go through the whole story again and again, she claims) so I have to call her friends (and she has many) to update them on her situation. (I'd be yacking on the phone to my friends all day if it were me.) My mother can be very private. She's also an only child and stoic.
If you've ever gone through a family health crisis, you know that it can really bring people together and help cut through the nonsense that can fill our normal conversations; it all becomes very real. My mother has been very lucid and direct these last few days. I am very fortunate that my family is close and we're all supporting her and each other. But she has to find it within herself to make the healing happen and return to a normal life or something close to it -- initially she's going to need a lot of help. The hospital staff couldn't be more upbeat and I think she feels she's letting them down if she's not cheerful and that's a burden for her. I think she has some grieving to do no matter how rosy the prognosis. Luckily there are social workers and other support staff on hand to help. I'm hoping her dark mood will pass; we'll see. One day at a time.
So that's what's going on with me. I'm not sure I'll be sewing much for the rest of the month but I'll certainly be checking in.
Thanks for reading.
PS - If you have an elderly parent who lives alone, make sure they have some sort of medical alert system. Falls do happen and it could save a life. It's also good to have your parent's friends' phone numbers and vice versa, just in case.