Tuesday, August 18, 2009

how I spent my night

Mom went to bed with a nasty headache. It may have been caused by the tumor's continued aggressive growth, or it may have been the result of something more pedestrian. Mom hadn't complained of pain until around 11PM last night, when she woke up after having fallen asleep in the living room while watching TV with me next to her. Dad had prodded her awake and onto her feet to get her into a proper bed; the sudden combination of waking and rising may have caused a nasty head rush as the rapid change in position played havoc with Mom's blood pressure (you've probably experienced something like this yourself if you've ever been nudged awake and coaxed upright).

Dad prepped Mom for bed; I came into the bathroom as Mom was standing there in her pajamas. Dad had given Mom a Percocet tablet a few minutes earlier; even though it was too soon for the medicine to have taken any effect, I asked Mom in Korean if she was still in pain, and whether the pain had arisen suddenly. Mom nodded, signaling that it had. I cupped Mom's face in my hands and massaged her temples with my thumbs, doing what little I could for her.

Not long after that, Dad put Mom into bed, and she rolled onto her right side, as is her wont (I do the same when I sleep). Dad's back has been hurting him lately, so he adjourned to a different bedroom to lie on a heating pad, and I crawled onto Mom's bed, lying next to her and holding her hand. Mom's breathing came and went in shallow puffs, too rapidly to be thought of as a tranquil tide. I was reminded of her times in the ICU-- heart rate normal, blood pressure OK, but breathing at about 22 breaths per minute.

Neither Mom nor I really slept that much. The rapidity and shallowness of Mom's breathing wasn't indicative of deep sleep, and for my part, I saw my time next to Mom as a sort of vigil. In truth, I hadn't intended to stay there at all, but when Dad popped in to say he would be sleeping elsewhere, I decided to remain with Mom through the night. Someone needed to be by her side.

I got out of bed around 6:45AM. Mom seemed quieter, more at rest. Perhaps sometime during the night, she had sunk below her pain and managed to fall asleep. For much of the night, Mom had been little more than a shapeless mound in the dark next to me. In the morning light, though, I saw a tiny, vulnerable woman, sleeping on her side through the slow, horrible explosion happening inside her head.


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