I’m getting ready for surgery…
Part 3: When the Doctor Becomes the Patient
At my last blog, I left you with scheduling the bilateral breast MRI. Well that novel experience took place on Friday, Feb. 9.
Mind you – this was my second MRI in my lifetime – the first in 1998 for a torn left ACL. Suddenly, loud banging noises like foghorns and thunderous clicks emanated from the tube. They gave me earplugs, but it didn’t seem to do much good. All I could do was to quiet my breathing and remain calm. So I fantasized about swimming with the sea turtles. Thoughts of warm Hawaiian water filled with colorful fishes and serene sea turtles filled my head. On my last trip to Hawaii, I swam with the sea turtles and marveled at how they peacefully and effortlessly swam in the water, swerving and turning ever so slightly. I was in warm, crystal clear water marveling at the schools of fish near the coral reefs. I was soon abruptly aroused from this reverie as cacophonous sounds rattled me back to reality. Yes, I was in a MRI tube with an intravenous line in my left forearm and breasts hanging down in two holes on the machine. Not the most relaxing of positions to be in, but I knew it would be over in about 30 – 40 minutes. “Keep breathing”, I said to myself and finally the noise faded and it was over.
Fortunately, all went well. Results of my bilateral breast MRI returned negative – this means no other problems in my left breast and nothing worrisome seen in my right breast. Whew! Now, that was over. I thought we would have smooth sailing from there on… But the universe poked another twist into the plot for the upcoming future.
I realize that February was a short month with only 28 days, but it seemed like just a blur, passing within a blink of an eye. Let me explain.
On February 14, my mother was admitted to Mammoth Hospital with a urinary tract infection. As you know, she is suffering from severe dementia. In patients with dementia any type of infection exacerbates the dementia, leading to more confusion and less ability to communicate. Her caretaker, Rosa, was very concerned and called the paramedics to transport her to the hospital. A few days later, she developed pneumonia. On the morning of February 17, I spoke with the hospitalist taking care of my mother. She now was suffering from a serious heart arrhythmia known as atrial fibrillation. Now this, in addition to everything else, concerned me. As the doctor informed me of my mom’s status, he sounded sullen and not incredibly optimistic. I knew that I needed to see her – even if this would potentially be the last time to see her alive.
I drove up to Mammoth in 6 ½ hours and arrived at the hospital. My mother looked pained, her face ashen and eyes shut. She whispered nonsensical words to me and couldn’t open her eyes. That night was a rough one – but you all know my mother – she’s German- feisty and stubborn!
She improved over the next 3 days and was discharged. I worked with the physical therapist to get my mother to use a walker and go up a flight of small stairs. We soon realized that we wouldn’t be able to get her back home. At her home, she has 1 set of stairs to the doorway and a long set of stairs leading to her bedroom, kitchen and living area. Now, I needed to make an executive decision and take immediate action. Rather than waiting until the weekend of March 3-4 to move my mother to the memory care facility, I needed to move her now. There we no feasible way to get my mother situated in her home given her frail condition. I swiftly contacted the memory care center and they worked with me to get her bedroom ready for that night. My sister, Patty, and I packed 3 suitcases with my mother’s clothes, loaded a large carrier to transport her 2 kitties and hit the road on Tuesday afternoon, February 19. What a road trip! I really needed to breathe as I headed south from Mammoth on Highway 395 to Bishop. As you can imagine, tensions ran high and stress reached its peak. I knew if I could just get through this 6-7 hour drive it would be okay.
We arrived at Heritage Hills Memory Care Center in Oceanside that night at around 9:00 pm. They greeted us warmly and Mom was welcomed to her new room. Cats were situated, litter boxes and food set in their respective areas and my mom soon fell asleep.
Now I could finally take a breath and recover. It took a few days to decompress from the heightened stress that occurred during these critical days. I now needed to focus on me and the fact that I had an upcoming surgery in the very near future.
My out-patient surgery is scheduled for March 21 in the early morning. After speaking with Dr. Toosie about the specific details, I am ready to deal with this next challenge. That morning, I will first go to radiology department where they will use a mammogram to locate the clip in my left breast which was placed during the stereotactic biopsy. They will then thread a wire to this location, take me to the operating room, and Dr. Toosie will remove the atypical area of tissue. This is called a “wire-localized” excision. The surgery itself should last about one hour and then I’ll go to the recovery room to wake up. A dear friend of mine will pick me up and then I can rest at home.
Mom is settling in and loving her new social environment. Last weekend, I visited and she tried bowling for the first time. She made a spare! To be honest, I think she was more focused on the young, handsome activity coordinator than the bowling ball!
Your thoughts, prayers and endless support have given me strength during these challenging times. I am so grateful to each and everyone of you. I’m taking one day at a time. Baby steps, keep taking baby steps – that’s what we need to do now.
Life can be quite amusing at times as I see parallels arise. My mother is taking small forward steps with her walker and I am making courageous moves towards optimal health and healing.
In health and happiness,