Thursday, December 24, 2009

how Mom's doing

David and I went over to see Mom around 1PM, and stayed until about 3:30PM, which is when the cleaning lady came by to usher us out: she had to take care of the floor. I'm impressed with the overall efficiency of this hospital's ICU; like Fairfax Hospital's ICU, staffers seem to be very attentive and communicative, both with us and with each other. Mom is constantly monitored, and as was true in Virginia, her berth sits right across from some of the desk workers. Should an emergency arise, help will be seconds away.

Mom's condition continues to progress in "baby steps," as Dad calls it. She's nowhere near ready for transport down to Virginia, but some of her stats show discernible signs of improvement. We're all hoping this upward trend will continue, but we have no idea how long it will take before Mom is ready to move-- or whether her continued confinement to bed might make her susceptible to nosocomial (i.e., in-hospital) infection, or to other problems associated with lying in one place for a long time.

Dr. Berlin saw us when David and I arrived; Dad was already there. He said that, although all the cultures aren't back yet, initial results from Mom's sputum seem to indicate the return of MRSA, which can cause, among other things, pneumonia. Dr. Berlin was at pains to point out, however, that because no one has taken any deep samples from Mom's lungs, it's currently impossible to know whether the fundamental problem is MRSA or some other pathogen. Once the docs have a better idea of what's happening, they'll focus their antibiotic efforts more tightly: wide-spectrum treatment can catch a variety of microorganisms, but the cumulative effect of such a bombardment can lead to nasty side effects. No yang without yin.

Mom herself seemed as calm and out of it as she had been last night. Her eyelids were once again cracked slightly open; David tried closing them, but they refused to stay shut.

I mentioned to Dr. Berlin that Mom had had a white node in the middle of a red patch on the top of her head; he removed Mom's helmet to check the spot, and saw that it had turned dark and crusty: it had become a scab, suggesting that it had popped and run. He didn't seem definite as to whether that scab was evidence of more MRSA from the old surgical site. But what's interesting was that, when Dr. Berlin started removing Mom's helmet, she reflexively opened her eyes despite the sedative coursing through her body. Once her helmet was back in place, her eyes closed again.

I have no reason to suspect that what I was seeing was an example of sudden awareness of the environment; more likely, Mom's eyes opened because it was her head that was being moved. Later on, she remained perfectly still when a nurse came in and gave her an injection in her upper arm. Had Mom been truly conscious, she would definitely have reacted. Even though she was a seamstress for many years, Mom and medical needles have never gotten along.

So there's not much more I can report about Mom's progress, if "progress" is le mot juste. In effect, she's still being stabilized. Were she unplugged from even a single aspect of the care she's currently receiving, she would utterly crash. Luckily, every measure is in place, so things remain tenuous but stable, and there are tantalizing glimmers of improvement. Whether those glimmers point to more substantial improvement is hard to say.

The guys are all napping right now. I'm about to head out and shop for some needed household items. I then plan to go back out for a bit of Wi-Fi-powered "me" time since I have a few emails that need to be written. Dinner for the family can probably take care of itself; I've cooked plenty of food at this point-- almost none of which poor Sean can eat, since it isn't Atkins-friendly-- but David and Dad can dine on leftover spaghetti or choucroute alsacienne or any of a number of Korean soups that had originally been meant for Mom.



Teacher Leo said...

Dear Kevin, this is the first time I'm reading your blog, and I was directed to it by Hirace Jeffries.
My mother-in-law died nearly thirty years ago of cancer of the throat which metastized into the brain, so I can really say I do know what you and your family are experiencing.
In this time, when life is not only continuing all around you, but actively celebrating and trying to 'spread goodwill and cheer', I know it must be hard to think of those future Christmas times when your mom will no longer be there, and moreover, when the memory of her illness will be a present part of any feast.
At least she is being surrounded by love and care, and you and your family are there to support each other.
I cannot wish you the best, but I wish you strength and care and love for each other, and that the memories of a mother who was young and strong and caring will eventually replace the memories of her illness, as indeed, has happened to my memories of my mother-in-law. She was the one who taught me how to make a perfect ginger tart, cook chicken breasts to tender perfection, and showed me how courage is facing life and accepting what it brings.

Kevin Kim said...

One of the best comments I've ever received. Thank you. I'm touched.