In January 2012, I got a call to say my that my 82-year-old mother wasn’t well and had taken to her bed. Her GP, of more than 20 years, had been called and his diagnosis was that she was both mentally and physically exhausted. Another GP from the same practice called in to see her 2 days later and backed up his colleague’s diagnosis from earlier in the week. I just didn’t get it. My mother never did anything that would result in exhaustion, her arthritis precluded her from doing so. So how on earth could she have worn herself out?
I arrived on Friday evening to play Florence Nightingale for the weekend. My mother was still in bed, not making a great deal of sense and was very drowsy. She wasn’t interested in food which, given my mother’s preoccupation with seeing food and eating it, did start alarm bells ringing.
She was delirious that night and suddenly became alarmingly incontinent. I tried to keep calm. In the absence of a bedpan, I resorted to using her best Crown Derby fruit bowl, which still has fruit in it today. She was limp and listless the following morning, so I called the Duty Doctor, who she had never seen before and made the one hour round trip to back up the diagnosis given by the two GP’s earlier in the week.
My mother had always been a bit of a drama queen, but this state of being mentally and physically exhausted was no act. She was floating in an out of deliriousness during the early hours of Sunday morning. This was more than just being exhausted.
I rung my boss on the Sunday night to say that my mother was very poorly and I should stay with her. I called the original GP out again on the Monday morning and brought him up to date, as well as demonstrating that my mother’s left arm was completely limp, but he still stuck to his exhaustion diagnosis.
I was furious. Something wasn’t right and the doctor’s cavalier attitude seriously pissed me off. I don’t erupt very often but I threw all my toys out of the pram. It wasn’t good enough. I couldn’t cope with one more night with her on my own and pleaded with him to admit her into hospital on the basis that she had a Urinary Tract Infection at least. The doctor apparently didn’t have any ‘pee strips’ in his bag to test my theory and my mother’s urine, but common sense prevailed and he admitted her anyway. I had a call after his visit to say that an ambulance would pick her up to take her into hospital that afternoon.
I had to ask my mother’s neighbour who, fortunately for me was a carer by profession, to help me dress my limp and uncoordinated mother for her journey to hospital. When the ambulance did arrive my mother still managed to bawl at me. It felt like I was 14 again. Not only was it my fault that she was having to put up with the indignity of being carted away on a stretcher by ambulance, but that she would never, ever forgive me for allowing her to be taken into hospital.
So, I followed a discreet distance behind the ambulance in the veritable calm of my mother’s Subaru Impreza, so I couldn’t hear her protestations. I needed to get home after I got her settled in her hospital bed anyway and fantasing about how relieved I would be feeling on the return journey, knowing she was being cared for properly. Somewhere with no shortage of bedpans. A lovely cottage hospital, where she would stay for few nights and be nursed back to health and I had a nice bottle of Pinot Grigio in the fridge to go home to.
When we arrived at the hospital, my mother was assessed by the Ward Sister. I could tell from the moment she saw my mother’s left arm, that she knew exactly what the problem was and the penny was finally dropping with me. As she scuttled off to find an ECG (Electrocardiogram) machine and a doctor, it took them about 2 minutes to diagnose that my poor old mum had had a stroke.
Next … Putting it Right