Tuesday, August 16, 2011

One Tough Mother

Gert Boyle of Columbia Sportswear fame.
Columbia Sportswear had a humorous ad campaign featuring former CEO Gert Boyle testing the durability of their products worn by her son (the current CEO) under bizarre circumstances. It was known as the "One Tough Mother" campaign and Boyle borrowed the title for her autobiography.

Well, Gert Boyle has nothing on my mother. One week ago today, after two falls and a broken hip and finger, one of the many physicians who saw her in the hospital told me the best case scenario was to get her home on hospice care. In fact, my mother was released from the hospital today to a nursing home for rehabilitation.

Lydia after her first tumble of the weekend.
Lydia fell on August 6 when her slipper caught on the linoleum of her bathroom floor. She did a face plant that immediately resulted in a huge knot on her forehead (the EMT said she looked like a Klingon), a broken finger, and bruised ribs. I called 911 and she was taken to the emergency room where she was scanned and x-rayed and miraculously pronounced good to go home with a splint on her finger. The running gag, of course, was "What's the other gal look like?"

Then the next day my mother took another fall in the living room and this time she broke her hip. For so many seniors this is the beginning of the end. Usually the surgical procedure goes well -- it's the pnuemonia, infection, stroke, heart attack or other complications that bring down the person. We had already been told by our doctors that my mother was not a candidate for surgery. Given her heart condition it was likely she would not survive general anesthesia.

I was terrified. As soon as she fell and said she was sure she had broken her hip, I was afraid I'd lost her. In the emergency room the break was confirmed and she was admitted into the hospital. Given her existing health issues, the options were to bring her home without surgery for hospice care to keep her comfortable; or attempt surgery with only a 20% chance of survival. One choice offered no opportunity for recovery to resume a semblance of her prior lifestyle. The other option at least provided some chance, no matter how meager.

My aunt and I opted for surgery. My mother's primary care physician concurred, knowing my mother was a fighter and that I was fully aware of the risks.

The orthopedic surgeon, of course, was all for surgery. Although he did outline the risks. The anesthesiologist met me with an astounded expression on his face. He was not at all confident that my mother would survive the surgical procedure. I acknowledged the risks but my aunt and I stuck to our guns. At least give my mother the chance.

Surgery began around 6:00 p.m. on the 8th. The more time that passed without someone emerging with bad news, the better. After a couple of hours the surgeon appeared to say all went well. No problems. It was a "boring" surgery -- in a good way. When the anesthesiologist caught up with me, he said my mother sailed through without a hitch.

However, recovery was another issue. In ICU they had to intubate my mother and place her on medications to raise her blood pressure. It was touch-and-go on the 9th.

Then gradually and steadily, my mother improved. The doctors who didn't know her visited the ICU with amazed expressions. Our two cheerleader physicians beamed with each stage of recovery. My mother wasn't out of the woods yet. The breathing tube had to be removed, and the blood pressure medications reduced. Would she be able to maintain oxygen saturation and adequate blood pressure on her own?

As one cardiologist expressed it, my mother "flew" off the blood pressure medications following removal of the breathing tube. Twice daily physical therapy sessions began immediately. She was transferred from ICU to a regular room at the hospital. My mother made her first exit from the bed with the aid of two therapists and a walker, and spent 3 hours sitting upright in a chair.

One week after I was advised that the medical chart indicated she had little hope of ever recovering -- my mother walked 30 feet using a walker under the supervision of a single physical therapist. And she was released from the hospital to begin rehabilitation.

There is still a chance of serious complications, but medical tests and examinations don't measure attitude and determination.

So -- move over Gert Boyle. I've got one tough mother!


Nuzzling Muzzles said...

That is inspiring. I'm so sorry that your mother and family had to go through that. I had a similar event years ago when my mother fell and broke her leg. The top of the tibia was gone -- turned to dust, so there was no way her leg could heal on its own, but the doc said she had a heart murmur and could not undergo surgery. We set her up for surgery anyway and got a second opinion from a cardiologist, who gave her the go ahead, and she made it through surgery just fine.

Emme said...

Good for her!! So happy when people consider the personality and the inner drive of a person (or an animal) before deciding on treatment. Wishing you both the best!

thecrazysheeplady said...

And the one thing that doesn't seem to be damaged is her beautiful smile :-). Wishing you both the best.

Just Ramblin' said...

You have a miracle and a woman meant to be here. : ) Wow!