this is the last photo I took of my Mom (I had no idea that was the case)
My mother donated her car last year to get a tax credit, and avoid having to smog it, so I became her chauffeur, which wasn't a burden most of time because we do so many things together anyhow. She would call if anything not preplanned came up, so I took her to Dr appointments, hair salon appointments, shopping, red hat events, trips with the AARP and their meetings, garden club meetings, to thrift shops well...basically everything.
She nursed me when I was released from the hospital when I had surgery for my ovarian cancer and survived! I might add until I got my appetite and strength back.
We have done a lot of gardening together, she worked in her garden every day and frequently so did I mainly for the harder things like trimming branches on trees (she has a small orchard of citrus) and hedging, and a lot of shoveling/turning the soil, picking persimmons (since they require a ladder), shopping at the nursery for plants and bags of amendment, fertilizer, perlite, gypsum, snail bait (she had lots of snails to get rid of), roundup, ant spray, well the list for garden paraphernalia goes on and on.
After I retired, we also became traveling buddies signing up for a lot of trips through our local AARP office. We got along pretty well (although there were times she still wanted to treat me like her little girl and pick out my clothes, do my hair and criticize my makeup), most of the time and liked seeing the same things. She was very fit for someone in their 90's and could do all the walking required for these trips. She even got a membership at the gym and a personal trainer (but we had to stop using after her health declined).
We had monthly scheduled events, first Friday and last Thursday we met two different groups of ladies for lunch, first Saturday was AARP meetings, second Tuesday was garden club meetings and in between these we scheduled in Red Hat outings, thrift shoppings, she also had Sorority meetings that a sorority sister would pick her up and return her home on Tuesday evenings. So you can see she was very active and social.
All this changed the day after Mother's Day
2 of my brothers and their dears spent M-day with her (I was spending it with MY daughter) she had a wonderful time and we talked about it on the phone that evening. The next day I was bringing some leftovers from my fabulous M-day bunch to share with her, when I opened her door she appeared to be having a stroke, she had a crooked mouth was unintelligibly speaking and couldn't raise her right arm. I took her to the ER and she was admitted for a battery of tests, but within 4 hours she was back to normal, they admitted her because they still wanted to do an MRI (no tech was available until the next day). The next day while I was visiting her (waiting for answers from the physician), she began screaming she was in the worst pain she had ever had, and this involved her left leg, I took off her booties and her toes were white, cold, with no blood flow. I got a nurse who quickly got a on call doctor. A doppler confirmed no blood flow, pain medicine didn't relieve the pain, they quickly got her to CT with contrast to map her leg then right into surgery. I was on pins and needles, the dr. had said there was a chance she would need an amputation. Happy ending was they removed a clot from her groin to her knee and restored circulation in time that she would keep her leg. During all this we also discovered she had Atrial fibrillation poorly controlled by medicine, and she had to be put on Warfarin to prevent more clots.
So during this time she is either NPO or on clear liquid low sodium no fat no flavor low carb diet (she is also diabetic), and when she did eat she would regurgitate it including her oral medicines. She was discharged to a rehab (big mistake), where this vomiting continued and she got weaker. She had trouble breathing an x-ray was taken and we were told she had a pneumonia (misdiagnosis, she had a pleural effusion) so they increased antibiotics and did physical therapy. Still basically no food because she complained it either was too sweet, too salty or didn't taste good. The staff told us to encourage her to eat and bring in anything we thought she would eat, but the vomiting continued, meanwhile they are doing all sorts of blood draws for lab tests, this was another ordeal as my mother had frail veins and was a difficult draw with her loose skin and decreased blood pressure.
Well you might have guessed it, she went back to the ER gasping for breath, they did a pleuralcentesis , inserted a needle into the pleural space and withdrew 1600 cc of fluid, readmitted her to the ICU where she vomited coffee grounds (old blood). This time she had a full body MRI scan, and it was discovered she had an ileus in the upper small intestines, now the only way to reach it would be surgery. The team of physicians told me she would not survive a surgery, because of her age 95, advanced malnutritional state, A-fib, diabetes, recurring pleural fluid (they finally put in a chest tube to keep it drained) etc. So they opted for pain medicine comfort care, oxygen and starvation til she passed.
When I told her the doctors couldn't do anything more for her health, she had me burst into tears when she said with a lilt in her voice "bye bye, I've lived a long time and you've taken good care of me". The doctors barely gave us any time to contact relatives who might want to see her while she was still alert and able to communicate with them, before they removed all tubes and IVs (let her keep a foley catheter for urine, though by now her kidneys were only working at 15%). All her grandchildren and some great grandchildren too came. She said "you are all here, you should go to the beach", which made us laugh. On another rant they said per medicare guidlines, she would have to leave the hospital because she was not actively being 'treated', I argued with them couldn't she stay one more day? no we could get in trouble if we got audited. So they sent her back to the same rehab where 5 hours later she died. All the extra expense for a transport team, ambulance, readmitting to the other facility what stupid red tape. Her last day on earth she wouldn't open her eyes she would mumble and eat ice chips because her mouth was so dry, but...the last 40 minutes I was with her she opened her eyes, I'm not sure if she was seeing me or not but I spoke to her as if she was, and I told her it was okay to let go and join my Dad and brother (gone 24, 6 years). It was torture watching her gasp for breath, while I held her hands, her grip weakening as the time progressed.
I wasn't with her when she took her last breath, beat her last heartbeat. It was late and I needed sleep, so I told the nurse on duty to call me if she passed before I came back in the morning. I got home and couldn't go right to sleep, I climbed in bed and the call came, so My hubby, son and 1 brother went back to the rehab to see her one last time and collect the meager belongings she arrived with (eyeglasses, hearing aids, and a blanket made by her great grandaughter), we each gave her a kiss goodbye then called the people who will cremate her. I have been doing a lot of crying ever since, because everything makes me think of my Mom, gifts she picked out, cards, gardens, clothes, colors, food she liked......