Those of you who are my friend on Facebook or in real life will already know that it's been a rough couple of weeks where my mom in concerned. I thought I'd take a moment to fill you in on the details, since status updates can be a bit hazy and my mind has been reeling a bit this week. I hope no one else ever has to go through what my family went through last Saturday.
On Tuesday, April 20, Mom woke up with chest pains. They were deep and they scared her. My dad took her to the ER where they admitted her to the hospital in Oxford (where she lives). If you don't already know this, my mom had a kidney transplant 17 days before Dean was born (December 19, 2007 to be exact). Any time there are medical issues, we watch her kidney to make sure it stays healthy. When she got to the hospital, they ran an EKG and echocardiogram, both of which were normal, but they wanted to do a heart cath to check for blockages. The doctor said he was almost sure she had a full blockage and would at least require stents. Her heart cath had to be delayed until her creatnine was 1.4 and they couldn't do the test until it was 1.0. So they waited. She had a couple more episodes of chest pain, for which they gave her aspirin and nitroglycerine.
On Saturday morning of last week, she got up to go to the restroom and took a bad fall due to dizziness. She hit her shins on the bottom of her IV pole. By the time my dad got to the hospital several hours later (no one called to tell him she had fallen), she had developed compartment syndrome. Her shins swelled to three times their normal size and she developed severe blisters. It looked as though she had third-degree burns and extremely bad bruises. The doctors began talking about doing surgery because if they didn't , they might have to amputate her legs. They also said she needed a blood transfusion due to the amount of bruising and that a transfusion would pretty definitely kill her donor kidney. At that point, my father decided she should be airlifted to UAB Hospital in Birmingham where her transplant had taken place so the doctors there could care of her if/when she rejected the kidney. Due to weather, her flight was delayed 7 hours. She didn't leave Oxford until 11:30pm.
In the meantime, she was in horrible pain and asked to see her pastor and Bradley, her kidney donor, and his family. She said goodbye to my grandmother when she left the room. She talked with her pastor about her funeral. I called and she said goodbye to me and gave me explicit instructions on what I should say to Marcus and to Dean. We truly thought we had lost her. My dad said watching the blood transfusion go into her central line was like watching someone receive a lethal injection.
I found out about this as I started my afternoon show on Saturday. I got a call from my dad, but didn't answer it. I texted Marcus and told him to call my dad and tell him I'd call him at intermission. He texted back with this: "Call me before you call your dad." I was certain she'd died. I had to shut down and just go into hyper-overdrive to push through the first act of my show. I called the production stage manager and asked her to come in to learn to call my show so I could leave in the evening. At intermission I called and found out they were taking her to Birmingham. Once the show was over and I'd talked Tanya through how to call it as best I could (she hadn't seen the first act), I drove like the wind to get home and pick up Marcus. We waited until Dad called to say she'd taken off in the UAB jet, then made our way to Birmingham which is, thankfully, only 20 miles from home for us.
We arrived in her room before the jet had landed, so the nurse had me start giving her history. I mentioned the blood transfusion and that we wanted her here when she went into rejection. The nurse asked, "Why would she reject? We give transplant patients blood all the time." Um, HUH? The doctors in Oxford ALL more or less guaranteed us she'd lose her kidney. Needless to say, the tone of the room changed a bit after that. Once she arrived and the doctors checked her legs, it was determined that she would not need any kind of surgery. They began managing her pain and dressing her wounds and by the time my dad and grandmother arrived 2 1/2 hours later (it's normally a 4 hour trip, by the way), we were out of the woods. Amazing what can happen when doctors know how to handle a patient, eh?
It had been determined through a series of tests this week that her chest pains are due to severe reflux and a heart cath and stents are not needed. Her kidney is working like a champ and her creatnine is down to 1.0--perfectly normal. The swelling in her legs has decreased monumentally, but the wounds and bruising are still very bad. They hadn't given her any pain meds yesterday before they started changing her dressings and she was in more pain than I've ever seen. We had to make them stop until they could get her some Demerol. She's got a pain patch now that seems to be helping. She is able to walk to and from the bathroom with a walker and today we washed her hair and got her a caramel macchiatto. She is in good spirits, as she always is, and we're hoping she can go home on Monday or Tuesday.
Needless to say, the hospital in Oxford is never touching her again. If there are ever any more complications or issues, she will come to Birmingham, no doubt about it. I cannot say enough good things about the doctors here. Mostly, though, I'm so thankful that God has, once again, given our family a miracle where my mom is concerned. As bad as the results of the fall are, I think it saved her life because it got her to this hospital. She's got a bit of a long-haul ahead of her as far as rehab is concerned, but she's a tough bird. After all, in the past 28 months, she's had a kidney transplant, sinus surgery and both hips replaced and she's done it all with grace. We could all learn a lesson or two from her.