|Posted||April 6, 2007|
This story isn't actually about me, it's about my mom.
One morning in March, in the year 2000, my younger brother called me in a panic. "I just asked Mum how to get somewhere, and couldn't understand what she was saying. Her words are all slurred together."
Alarmed, I called my then 57-year-old mother and talked to her. Her answers to my questions made sense -- but I had to ask her to repeat her answers several times in order to understand her. Now I was panicking; my first thought was "stroke." I called her brothers -- my uncles -- for support and advice, but no one was home. I threw on some clothes and made the usual 40 minute trip to her house in about 25.
When I arrived, she was sitting placidly on the couch, doing counted cross stitch, as if there wasn't a thing wrong -- indeed, she tried to convince me that I hadn't been able to understand her because she'd been eating her breakfast. (Can you tell I come from a family of staunch New England Yankees?) No one could talk sense into her, not me, not my brother, not her aunt.
Mum realized I was serious when I called the minister from her church, who was also her boss - my mom's a church organist and a piano teacher. At that point, she agreed to go with me to the emergency room. Good thing, as my next call was going to be an ambulance.
The hospital is a mile from her house. When we arrived, and I described her symptoms, we were whisked right in. Her blood pressure was a shocking 220/124. Her blood sugar? Funny you should ask; it was over 600. The doctor couldn't believe she wasn't in a diabetic coma.
While we were waiting for her to be admitted, I casually asked her when she'd last seen a doctor. She'd long bragged about her blood pressure -- how it had always been low, et cetera, et cetera.
"1985," replied my wily mother.
Don't get hung up on that date just yet, despite it being 15 years prior to this incident. "No, that's when you got a tetanus shot at the ER," I reminded her. "When did you last have a checkup?"
Ready for this? "1978!" she said proudly.
In 1978, I was EIGHT. She hadn't seen a doctor, save the aforementioned tetanus shot, for TWENTY-TWO YEARS. Mind you, she'd been a single mother since 1984, when my dad died of cancer.
After I picked up my jaw off the floor, I proceeded to lecture her until the doctor showed up, who took over.
Since then, she's been very, very lucky. She's insulin-dependent, but is still fairly good about watching what she eats, something she had to re-learn when she returned home from the hospital; she's always had a sweet tooth. I spent a couple of months working on that with her.
The stroke wasn't as bad as it could have been, which is fortunate, given her line of work. She was also lucky that it affected her right side -- she's a lefty! Though it's affected the quality of her speech, particularly when she's tired, it hasn't affected her ability to correctly process speech. She's been able to go back to playing at church; her playing isn't what it once was, but she gets by. She still teaches piano, as well, though she has far fewer students. She'll always walk with a limp -- she still refuses to use a cane, don't get me started!
Sadly, she's done very little to rehabilatate herself since returning home, save practicing the piano.
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