Friday, January 1, 2010

onward to the next phase

Many thanks to my buddy Mike for coming up to New York to spend a few hours with our family. Mike's a busy father of three; it was good of him to take time out of his schedule to be here.

Mom's ambulance, which will take her from New York Presbyterian Medical Center down to Walter Reed Army Medical Center (WRAMC) in DC, will arrive for Mom at 9:30AM. Dad thinks that departure might not be until 10:30 or 11AM. He'll be waking up at 7AM and plans to be over by Mom's side by 8:30AM at the latest. I, meanwhile, will wake up at the same time, get myself ready, pack up the van with everything except whatever paperwork Dad needs, and check out along with Sean. We might depart as early as 9AM; Sean will drive separately. If we run way behind, we'll depart by noon at the latest.

Dad will ride with Mom down to DC; I'll drive alone to northern Virginia. It's likely that I'll arrive at my destination first; Dad thinks the ambulance will be legally constrained to drive more or less at the speed limit, whereas I'll probably be hitting 80 along with the rest of the traffic, barring traffic jams. Once I get home, I'll unload the van and prep it to pick Dad up from Walter Reed.

Mom will be placed in Ward 40, which is billed as the coronary care unit of the WRAMC. I'm not sure why she'll be there instead of the pulmonary care unit, but I imagine this has something to do with the availability of beds. She probably won't be there long: we need to decide whether she'll be moved to a homebound hospice situation, or to an institutional hospice. Right now, it's hard for us to see beyond Saturday.

I'd like to thank my buddy Dave for his private support and repeated offers of help. Thanks, as well, to Pastor Jeri for her support and to Pastor Kim for coming north to visit (even though I personally didn't see him). I've learned from Pastor Jeri that Mrs. Burns and the Morrisons will be preparing dinner for Dad and me. We appreciate their kind gesture. Unfortunately, we still don't know when we'll be home for the evening; Dad will likely have to work with WRAMC staffers on Mom's paperwork, and he might also want to linger with Mom in her new setting (as will I). 8PM is my best estimate for when Dad and I will finally be home. That might change.

The weekend will be mostly about settling Mom in and settling ourselves down, using the quiet time to plan our next moves. There isn't much left to plan; we're at the endgame now. Here on in, our only real goal is to keep Mom comfortable during her final decline, and to settle final arrangements.

Mom herself seems beyond caring at this point. She's only slightly reactive to stimuli, at least according to what we can see and feel and read on the various monitors. I have no notion of what her inner life is like, or whether she might even properly be called "conscious." As always, I can only hope that she floats in a comfortable fog, suffering nothing at all, closing her poor, swollen eyes as much as possible. Does she take any comfort from our presence, from the sound of our voices? Does it warm her heart, the way it warms mine, when I place her hand atop my hand? Or is Mom's entire existence now focused on the ruthless, mechanical rhythm of her ventilator, and the painful intrusion of the other tubes leading down her throat? Her face still registers pain when she gets suctioned. I feel that pain-- perhaps only bluntly and vaguely, but I feel it.

Mom doesn't deserve to suffer. If I could take her place, I would, but I can't. All I can offer instead is this simple wish: may her mind retreat from all the world's noise, and from the ugliness of the medical process. May she know some form of peace before the final, permanent stillness.



Maven said...

One thing to consider once she's settled is getting a small cd player and have classical and other soothing types of music playing on a loop for her, to help relax her and help drown out the din of the machines and usual goings on in the hospital.

As always, thinking and hoping for the best for you and your family.

Kevin Kim said...

Thanks, Maven. We'll be doing that along with a whole host of other things to make Mom's ICU and hospice environments as home-like as possible. In the latter case (i.e., hospice), she may actually end up at home, surrounded by familiar sounds and smells and sensations.

A Wandering Heart said...

We will be praying for the drive back to VA and that this final time with your mom is sweet.

It was exactly this time 13 years ago that my dad was in a similar stage and I've been imagining what is going through your heart and mind.

May this time be without regrets.
Blessings, Nancy

Elisson said...

As you may know, I continue to include your Mom in my daily prayers.

It was 22 years ago that we were dealing with my own mother's illness; while different from the specific condition that affects your Mom, it eventually caused encephalopathy... which put Mom in a fog of semiconsciousness for several weeks. As she would drift into and out of that fog, I found myself wondering what it was like for her. I strongly suspect that it was her body's way of making things more comfortable for her.

Whatever else your Mom has done, she has for a legacy an articulate, thoughtful son. Years from now, you'll look at this Online Journal - it won't be easy - and you will be glad you spent the time and emotional energy to document these past several months.

May God be with you and your family.