Tuesday, February 19, 2008


Comin’ in from “The Edge…”
Mama Mia!
My new nickname for my mom is "Grannie Whine-house"...

"My daughters tried to send me to rehab, but I said..." (3 hand claps)
"No, No-no, No!!"

In fact I'm thinking of doing a geriatric spoof of Amy Winehouse's "Rehab" video and putting it up on YouTube :-) Just kidding…but if any of you want to take that idea and run with it, feel free!

After my 91 year-old mom’s recent recovery from pneumonia, her doctors sent her to a rehabilitation facility after her release from the hospital so that she could regain enough strength in her legs to allow her to safely be able to use her walker, again. But Mom hated rehab and said she either wanted to go home or she wanted to die and refused to eat the whole time she was there.

My sister and I were at the rehab facility every day. From Monday through Friday I was usually there from lunchtime to dinner-time, spoon-feeding Mom what little bit of food I could get her to eat, but mostly just watching her sleep since she was too weak for rehab. My sister would come after work and stay till visiting hours were over. On the weekend, we’d switch, and my sister would take the day-shift and I would come in the evenings. After a week, though, Mom had to be readmitted to the hospital…malnourished and dehydrated.

The laws may vary from state to state, but in New York, a person who is “of sound mind” cannot be forced to eat against his or her will, and to try to make them do so is considered an assault and is against the law.

In the emergency room, however, Mom allowed the attending physicians to attach an intravenous line pumping (and plumping) her up with fluids, glucose and potassium. She even agreed to an oxygen mask. When one of the doctors asked her whether or not she wanted to live, she responded with “Yes” -- giving them the okay to sustain her life by any means necessary.

After a week of being back in the hospital, Mom has now sufficiently recovered enough to yank out her catheter, insisting that “I’d rather piss on myself,” and refusing any more oxygen because “I’m tired of having that damn thing stuck up my nose.”

She’s baaaaaaaaaaaaack!

She also still refuses to eat the hospital food, but her gerontologist has okayed our bringing in contraband meals from her three favorite fast-food establishment -- the ones with the golden arches, the three initials and the Chihuahua as a former mascot.

Because of her stroke a few years ago, which caused a problem with her swallowing mechanism, Mom will probably have to have a feeding tube for the rest of her life in order to get enough nourishment, and she will always be at risk for pneumonia because of her tendency to aspirate (food particles and even her own saliva getting into her lungs), and she may never be ambulatory again, even with a walker. But she will be able to feed herself and eat regular food…enough to at least be able to enjoy the taste of it.

She’s already back to sitting up and enjoying Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune, and when she’s finally released from the hospital and able to come home (No more rehab!) she’ll be able to go on outings in a wheelchair and wear pretty clothes and enjoy getting manicures and having her hair done (Now you know where I get my vanity from! Ha-ha!) She's lucid, has no major illnesses…except that the body "machine" is winding down and wearing out.

This whole situation reminds me of a movie by one of the Ephron sisters starring Walter Mauthau, Diane Keaton and Meg Ryan.....can't remember the name of it, but it was all about what the daughters went through taking care of their cantankerous, aging Dad.

One of the residents who was on call the night my mom was brought into the ER and who has been following up on her case is amazed at how Mom has rebounded. She also let it slip that my sister and I have won over the entire nursing staff with our “patience and devotion” (her words) to our mom.

I told her that we didn’t think we were doing anything that extraordinary. A lot of families are in the same predicament and we’re all just doing what we have to do, and that as an actor, I just looked at hanging out with Mom at the hospital as my “day job” which allowed me to catch up on my reading and work on my stand-up comedy material. The young resident thought doing stand-up was pretty cool and asked me to let her know when I’d be performing again so she could organize some of the staff working on Mom’s floor to come see me!

Isn’t that sweet?! I tell you, when it comes to having patience and devotion, doctors, nurses and their assistants are the real heroes and heroines. I’m not sure I’d have the same patience and devotion that they seem to have for someone who wasn’t a member of my family.

A lot of you have experienced what I'm going through and understand what this time has been like for my sister and me...and for those of you who haven't...but for whom the time may someday come, perhaps you will be able to draw strength from my sharing of this experience with you.

In closing... Life is precious...enjoy every minute of it and don't sweat the small stuff (and in the grand scheme of things, it's ALL small stuff). Keep your sense of humor....and remember that "uhhh…’excrement’ happens"...but it doesn't have to stick...and while it might stink some, the odor doesn't have to linger if you flush real fast and quickly open a window and take a real deep breath.

Keep the faith!


Mariann also blogs at : Lee Bailey’s Electronic Urban Report

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