Sunday, June 16, 2013

How Tough Is My Mom?

     The call came in late Saturday afternoon.  I was asleep at the time, having laid down 'cos I didn't feel so hot and found sleep had been lurking in the mattress like an octopus under a flat rock.

     Its tentacles were still wrapped around me when my cellphone started ringing.  I struggled awake, but too late.  The CALL button will show a list of calls mad and received and the last one was--  My Mom's number.  Huh.

     I hit CALL again and it rang once.  Mom picked up with, "Hello."

     "Hi, Mom.  How are you?"

     "Not too good.  I fell and hit my head on a cabinet on the way down.  It's bleeding quite a lot and I don't think I should try to stand up by myself."

     "Have you called 9-1-1?"

     "Well, no.  Do you think I should?  I was hoping you could come up--"

     "I'm on my way, but I want you to call 911 as soon as I hang up, okay?  Please!"

     "Well, okay."

     It's about ten minutes to her house, driveway-to-driveway.  I dug around for my glasses, frantically moved things from the small weekend purse to the big general purpose one, grabbed a hoodie, put on shoes, headed out the back door, came back in for a garage door opener, got to my car, called both siblings and a nephew on the way and made it in five.  The crew from the local firehouse was there already, had her on a backboard and in a neck brace "just in case" and were cleaning up the blood, of which there was rather more than you might think. (One ambulance, one fire truck, what seemed to be a blue dozen physically-fit and incredibly helpful young men.  They've been there before, once when we had to break in, and they know the drill.)

     After making sure where they were taking her, I finished the clean-up (light-tan carpet -- not a whole lot I can do in the way of emergency medical treatment but I could at least prevent that from worrying Mom!) and followed.  My sister was already at the hospital and my brother showed up soon after.  Nurses, docs, clean-up, a really fine staple-job on her injury, medical history, hands-on checking for additional injury: the usual drill, including CT scans and X-rays--

     "Mrs. X?  I'm Doctor Eeeyar and Dr. Wu* is working with me today.  We've gone over your X-rays and it looks like you'll be staying with us awhile."

     "Oh?"

      "Yes, you've broken your C2 vertebra and a pretty good job of it, too." 

     "Oh, my."
*  *  *
     Let's review: My Mom fell, cut her scalp badly, broke her neck, scooted and crawled six feet to get a dishtowel to apply pressure to the wound, hauled herself another six feet to yank a telephone from the breakfast bar, called me, left a message, and answered calmly when I called back.  She's been conscious, calm and managing a lot of pain through the entire ordeal  --She's 82.  Do not cross her.
*  *  *

     Back in the ER, it was sounding grim.  They'd paged in the on-call neurosurgeon and were using terms like  "unstable fracture" and double-checking for numbness and muscle control while they were finding her a room in Neuro ICU.  C2, or the "axis," is an important part of the machinery; it's what your head pivots side-to-side on, with broad bearing surfaces and a little "pin" at the front that engages C1.  A common C2 injury is known as a "hangman's fracture;" it's what happens if you don't wear your seat belt and catch the steering wheel under your chin in a collision.  Or so Wikipedia told me at the time.

     It was therefor upsetting when the neurosurgeon bustled in, grinning, as jovial as St. Nick.  He ran a few more simple tests and explained she'd broken the dens or odontoid process -- that little "pivot pin" I mentioned earlier -- and that for breaks like hers, 99.99% of the time all it took to treat it was three to four months in a neck brace. No fun, but way better than neurosurgery, which is why he was smiling. (Neurosurgeons frequently labor against appalling odds; something that can be treated without huge risk to the patient is probably quite a relief.)

     After a few more hours of hospitaling (increasingly like the kind of rigamarole my friends who served in the military describe as "hurry up and wait"), Mom was in a better neck brace and had been moved from Neuro ICU to regular Neuro; they'd got her some better pain meds and she was finally relaxing a little.  I returned home about 2:30 this morning, having difficulty recognizing familiar intersections on the way.
______________________________________
* Not their real names.  Dr. Wu, just starting residency, was the very image of "Rannie Wu" other than slightly shorter hair and an absolutely sunny disposition.  She's also the doctor I want stapling me up if ever I have to be: patient, careful and quick.

53 comments:

Bob said...

Hope your mom has a rapid and complete recovery, Roberta.

rickn8or said...

Good thoughts your way for you and Mom X.

David aka True Blue Sam said...

You're a good kid, Roberta.

Matt G said...

Wow!
Usually, I roll my eyes at the backboard/C collar protocols, which seem just to make the patient uncomfortable and have trouble breathing. Looks like it was a damned good idea, this time.

And David's right; you are a good daughter.

Joseph said...

Tough, indeed.

Best wishes for a speedy, uncomplicated and complete recovery for Mom X!

Jess said...

Tough as nails and as fragile as fine china.

Prayers for you both.

JustSomeGuy said...

She comes from that tough generation that wouldn't even consider it tough...just normal. My grandmother is 96 this year and she spent the better part of her life being tougher than the rest of us!

Here's looking forward to a clean and clear recovery. And I hope your nerves are settling back into their accustomed places. The hurry up and wait of hospitaling can be particularly unsettling.

Thanks,
JSG

perlhaqr said...

Noted. Don't mess with the X-Women. You break their necks and it just pisses 'em off.

Joel said...

Yow! Hope all continues well, and with far less drama.

Fuzzy Curmudgeon said...

Good Lord! Bobbi, I hope your Mom heals quick and is out of the neck brace sooner rather than later.

Those little old ladies are pretty durn tough, though.

global village idiot said...

That's a lady to be reckoned with. Best wishes for a speedy recovery.

Doctors, for all we gripe about 'em, really do try their best. They don't receive a lot of recognition for this. I'm glad to hear your mom received excellent care.

gvi

Ken said...

I am glad it came out as well as it did. Best wishes for a speedy recovery. You did great.

Anonymous said...

RX, when I read at the top Sunday afternoon I thought this story was a retrospective on the toughness of yo mama. Didn't realize til the end when you said you got home in the dark a.m. this morning that you meant Saturday and this was a current event.

Sounds like it turned out as good as could be expected; my moms is 80 and insists on living on her own. She's tough as nails too, except that things like falls happen more frequently and have more potential for bad outcomes. We're working on her to move in with my sister, and it seems you might want to employ some of that hereditary toughness to encourage MomX to consider something similar.

Best wishes for you both.

Brigid said...

You both are tough as nails. I'm glad you were close by to help, tending parents from far away is not easy.

You both will be in my thoughts.

Robin said...

Tam claims that you must have gotten your toughness from your father, since your mother obviously still has all hers.

I suspect that Tam has just momentarily forgotten that that kind of toughness is shared, not hoarded.

Best wishes for your mom, Roberta.

naturegirl said...

Jeez. I too wish her a speedy and complete recovery. Amazing she didn't end up knocking herself out completely.

Peoples' bones may break easier as they get older but iron wills last forever. :)

Will said...

Roberta,

somewhat recently, doctors have come to think that the situation of elderly women falling and breaking their hip is backwards, that the hip breaks, and causes the fall. This points out the loss of bone density that is too common. Can you have your mom checked while she is there? Catching this early enough to possibly improve it might be a good thing to attempt.

The amount of blood a scalp wound can generate is amazing. BTDT. The last time I cleaned up after someone else, I used my carpet/upholstery vacuum cleaning tip with my shop vac. A spray bottle with plain warm water, and just kept sucking it up. White Berber type carpet, no stain. Blood was still wet, though.

Jeffro said...

You are a good daughter. When you get all unwound, try to get some rest yourself! Y'all will be in my thoughts and prayers.

fast richard said...

Yipes, I hope your mom is willing to take it easy while she heals. Sometimes that X family toughness needs to be kept in check. I sounds like she is in good hands.

Murphy's Law said...

Your mom's lucky. But she's even luckier to have you close by.

drjim said...

Really sorry to hear about your Mom.

Hope she heals fast, and that was quite the job you did there, young lady!

Don said...

Your mom is awesome.

The Freeholder said...

Best wishes for your Mom and your family.

And there's a reason that they weathered so much history so gracefully. They're the capital "T" in tough.

Frank W. James said...

Thoughts and prayers for her and you...

All the Best,
Frank W. James

Jim said...

It's wonderful that things went as well as they did.

And I hope it is not out of place to suggest that your report cries out for wider, dead tree, publication.

On a Wing and a Whim said...

We'll be keeping you and your mom in our prayers.

Hang in there; she's tough and will probably be up and kicking butt in no time.

Anonymous said...

You can breath now. Here is to an uncomplicated recovery.

Gerry

Matt said...

Hope your Mom gets feeling better soon !

If they haven't done it already, you may want to ask the doctors to give her a very thorough check. My grandmother had a similar fall when she was in her 80's. Long cut at the hair line, and a broken shoulder ball. I took her home and came over every night for 2 or 3 hours to give her physical therapy for the shoulder.

It was 3 weeks later before she complained about her back and hand hurting. She had fractures in 3 of the bones in her hand and a hairline fracture in one of her vertebrae. By then they were already well on their way to healing.

Hopefully your Mom doesn't have anything like that but it wouldn't hurt to have them check.

RichD said...

Hope all goes well and a complete recovery. Good thing you were close by. Take care

pdb said...

Wish I could do more than leave a supportive blog comment, but here's a supportive blog comment anyway.

Best wishes for a speedy recovery.

Anonymous said...

Prayers for you and a for a speedy recovery for your Mom. As said above by several folks her generation pretty much defines tough. I do like and will steal the toughness is shared line though.

woerm/THR

staghounds said...

Good thoughts heading for you both.

RandyGC said...

Please let me add my good wishes for a smooth and speedy recovery

Hat Trick said...

Hoping for a speedy and complete recovery.

HerrBGone said...

Tough indeed! I'm glad things went as well as the have given the circumstances.

May I make a suggestion? While the thought of having MumX move in with a sibling is an excellent one and one that I heartily recommend, installing a LifeLine system is something that can be done even before MumX gets out of the hospital. That would at the very least save the climb to get a phone.

My Mum finally consented to moving in with me. I wonder some times if she still thinks that was such a good move - but we won't go into that... ;-) But she also has a LifeAleart (or whatever brand it actually is) pendant that she wears pretty much 24/7. We have phones all over the HerrBGone Homestead V2.0 also, but that pendant is always on her person. I know that I feel better about that.

Best wishes for a speedy recovery - and a couple of panic buttons that never need to be used!

Windy Wilson said...
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Windy Wilson said...
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BGMiller said...

Not a lot I can add to the prior commentary but I have to add my wishes for a speedy recovery for your mum and a nod of respect both to such a tough old gal and to your own good self.

BGM

Windy Wilson said...

I hope your mother recovers quickly and completely. 35 years ago my grandfather fell and cut his head and the idiot rinsed the would until he needed a transfusion. My mother just happened by (my neighbor wasn't so fortunate when he fell off the ladder). YOUR mom had the sense to call someone before she began cleaning the wound, while direct pressure was still the appropriate treatment. And yes, head wounds bleed a lot, as I can personally attest to (I had a bicycle fall out of the rafters on me. . . . ).

Julie said...

I hope your mother recovers quickly - she sure does sound tough.

EgregiousCharles said...

I broke both my C1 and C2 vertebrae rather badly some years ago (falling on my head). I had to spend a few months in a Halo brace, but I'm now fine except for some minor aches and stiffness. Just reassuring you that a broken neck is very recoverable these days.

Cormac said...

WOW!!
They just don't make 'em like that anymore, do they?

Sounds like how my dad found out he'd fractured three vertebrae in his back...FOUR YEARS AFTER THE FALL!

Old people...it's like they're carved out of iron.

That said, I wish Momma X a speedy recovery.

Matthew said...

Yeah, but how much is it going to cost to repair the cabinet? :)

Glad the outcome was as good as it probably could have been.

Comrade Misfit said...

Tough ladies, both you and your mom.

Hope her recovery is uneventful and speedy.

DaddyBear said...

Sounds like your mom's harder than chicken lips. Hope she heals quickly.

Jennifer said...

A couple years ago, my dad hit a couple inches higher and spiderwebbed the back of his skull. I promise, it could be a lot worse and I am very glad this is all she did. She's in for some sarcastically fun rehab. the C's cause all sorts of fun issues in trying to settle back in, but she'll be alright. Many prayers for her quick recovery.

Anonymous said...

Having worked in a nationally recognized Spinal Cord Injury rehabilitation center in Los Angeles County, I can truthfully say that it appears that your Mother dodged a rather large bullet. I pray for her speedy recovery, without deficits.

I'm surprised she's not in a "halo"-type collar.

Ulises from CA

Tango Juliet said...

Best wishes for a speedy MomX recovery!

J.R.Shirley said...

Sorry Mom was hurt. Glad she had you~ good advice and handling.

JimB said...

I wish her a speedy and complete recovery

BobG said...

I've had cracked vertebrae; no fun. Best wishes for your mom's speedy recovery.

Cowboy Blob said...

Get well soon, Mom X!

GreyLocke said...

My prayers for her quick recovery.

And please tell her I said that she ROCKS. ;)