Mum is the word

Mothers, Dogs and Teeth…

The hospital car park is full. It is not just full, cars are double parked at every turn. We crawl round the multi-storey, us and others with the same hope of finding a vacant spot.
As one, we form a shiny metal snake, slithering round the levels. Occasionally, one lucky person spots a vacant space and slides into it as another slides out. This happens perhaps three times in half an hour. The rest of us continue our slow descent to the exit.
There are no spaces in the local roads, just double yellow lines and tantalizing permit bays. Steven and I explore the surrounding area to no avail. Other cars have resorted to piling onto concrete banks, ignoring the double yellows and sitting there, defiant. For forty minutes we trawl the neighbourhood. We try the multi storey one more time and then we spot a space on one of the concrete banks outside the building. If it is good enough for others, it is good enough for us. We slide up the bank and breathe a sigh of relief as we sit there at a 45 degree angle to the road.
We have driven a 130, torturous miles, to visit my mother. Torturous, because the route must include the M25. I need say no more.

Phone calls at 3am seldom bring good news. Maybe they herald a birth, maybe. More usually, we all know the dread that fills our hearts when the shrill ring sounds at that hour. Thus, on that particular Sunday morning, when the phone rang at just such a time, I felt the clammy hand of fear on my heart as I answered.
My mother had had a fall it seemed but had managed to phone my sister who in turn, was phoning for an ambulance. (The pendant mum need only press for assistance, was apparently not used). The paramedics diagnosed imminent Sepsis as her temperature was so high and she was extremely confused and had fallen at the foot of the stairs. I should mention that she has had a very bad cold and cough (The Queen’s cough perhaps?) and at 91, was not very well at all.
Once at the hospital, her temperature was brought down a little and the crisis passed. An IV for fluids (my mother is bad at drinking) and anti-biotics (her own Doctor had only prescribed steroids) and she was on the mend.
Our visit is the following day. Steven has driven me (I will not drive on the M25) and although we are forty minutes later than planned due to difficulty parking, we are in good time for visiting. There sits my mother, frail and sleepy, propped up in a chair. My sister occupies the only other chair in the room. At this point, (Emergency short stay) Mum has her own room with an en-suite.
A nurse is taking her temperature.
“I will get you a couple of chairs,” he promises. The chairs do not materialise. Another nurse laughs when my mother mentions them.
“I’m afraid there are no spare chairs, it is very busy,” she tells us. We stand, lean against the window sill and generally act like hospital visitors the land over, reluctant to leave yet unable to find any comfort standing here while mum nods off to sleep. My son sits on the floor, his tall frame scrunched up against the wall. I lean against the bed, mustn’t sit on it for fear of a rebuke from the nurse but I manage to half sit, ever ready to slide off should a face pop itself round the door. My sister proffers her chair for a short time but she cannot stand for long periods and seeing her bend double over the bed, I vacate it again.
We stay for perhaps two and a half hours before we take our guilty leave.
Mum is discharged a few days later. The over stretched NHS needs her bed.
This week has been dedicated to organising support and care for her at home while she recovers.
(Away, you feelings of guilt, as you see her sitting there, in her dressing gown, eagerly accepting cups of tea and sandwiches which you make because she can’t be bothered, and perhaps hoping, deep down, that you might take her home with you.)
Home again now, she has had to manage this week without official support. My sister, herself not well and at risk of a heart attack following several mini strokes, has taken the brunt of the load this week. I have been in the background, organising ongoing support which will relieve my sister of the need to drive the 15 miles to mum’s each morning, and rush to get back before dark (she hates driving in the dark.)
My visit to Mum this week, courtesy again of my youngest son who took time to drive me there, found her much improved though still lonely and unable to manage some of the simplest of tasks like getting dressed or making a sandwich, (too tired and weak). Again, I am overcome with the need to take her back with me and look after her. Surely, she will recover more quickly in our house.
We meet with the senior team leader who will be caring for her in the coming weeks. A private arrangement, as Social Services are not yet on board. I can go home in the knowledge that mum will see someone, not family, granted, but someone, for a chat and a cup of tea and any help she needs, three times a day. They will heat up her dinner for her – something she is not bothered to do at the moment. They will ensure she is not worried and frightened at night. It is good, it is a start. We can relax for a brief time.
Now we are thinking of the next stage. What will we/she do if she gets worse? What about the promises I made to bring her to live with us, years ago? Clearly, I am older now and her needs may outweigh my skills but they will never outweigh the guilt or my need to look after her. It may yet happen.
Still, we have set the stage, she can carry on living where she is for the moment, with support, and next month, we will bring her down to stay for a few weeks, knowing that when she returns, she will go back to the safety net we are building around her.
I imagine that within a week or two, my mother will be charging up the street again to remonstrate with whoever has dared to park in her parking space…I sincerely hope so.

Meanwhile, Flossie has been in the wars. A lump in her tail that has caused her to sport a rather fetching bandage, is being removed as I write. The biopsy showed it to be benign, whew! I dropped her back at the vets, where we have been regular visitors for the past two weeks, this morning. I am sure her account of events would be different to mine. If you have ever tried dressing a dog’s tail, a dog skittish about personal space at the best of times, you will have some sympathy for me. We have managed, just.

Flossie's tail
Flossie’s Tail

On top of recent events, I have had toothache. A trip to the dentist this week, revealed that another root canal treatment is needed. David Attenborough and I may meet again. Oh to be an Amoeba… not forgetting: David Attenborough – Round Two I think I will request something less traumatic on the overhead screen, this time.
The temporary filling was inserted as I watched “Heir Hunters”. I became so involved with the company’s attempt to find relatives of a lady from Essex (could it be me?) that I completely missed half what the dentist was saying and had to drag myself back into the present.

Until next time…

I am an Author, wife to one, mother to five and grandmother to six. I live in the English countryside in Hampshire, UK, with my husband and two dogs and am a non exec Director for Glow


  • Andrea Carlisle

    That is a load of trouble and worry and anguish and caretaking (poor Flossie and poor you as Tender of the Wound) that you just described in your usual good-natured way. As you can imagine, I know something of what you are feeling, though from the American perspective. No M25 but jam-packed routes mysteriously numbered. I understand the guilt and worry and hope – even the sitting on the bed because no chairs are available. (What is wrong with hospital budgeters – they don’t think people are going to visit their sick friends and relatives?) It’s very good news that Flossie’s tumor was benign and she can keep that big swish of a tail. And you have David A., which makes me want to tell my dentist to arrange something similar. And your mother has a crew that cares for her and how she does and where she goes and what happens to her. All is well in an ultimate way, but I’m sorry it has been difficult and stressful for you.

    • Debbie

      How lovely to hear from you Andrea. i often wonder how you are and think about Alice a lot as my mother treads that path. Writing about it all does help doesn’t it? Do let me know when your book is available, I would love to have it and will treasure it. Flossie’s tail does not have much swish in it at the moment. The vet found a few more cysts to get rid of along it. She now has a cone around her head and stitches down one side (another fatty tutor) and a tail with a swish on the end. I am sure she will recover nicely.As for the hospital, I told my mother we should have taken collapsable chairs with us which made her laugh. Her sense of humour is still intact. The M25 runs around London to save us driving through the city. I quite miss seeing the Houses of Parliament and the Thames but it does save time, despite being horrendous. Dentists and Dave A. Yes, it is quite a good idea to take one’s mind off things! Do keep in touch, love Debbie X

  • Hilary Melton-Butcher

    Hi Debbie – I can feel for you … having experienced some of this … it all takes its toll …I do hope things work out – at least for a few more years … it just isn’t an easy time – and goes on … it is exhausting, sadly. At least your mother has her sense of humour … thank goodness for that.

    Good luck with Flossie too … and thank goodness for sons … also you learn to help yourself through this process … those chairs sound like a good idea …

    I’ll be thinking of you – all the very best to one and all – cheers Hilary

  • Teresa

    What a worrying, stressful time you’re having. I’m glad your mum is home and that Flossie’s lump was benign. I hope all goes well when you take your mum home to stay with you for a while.
    And on top of all that, a root canal! Take care xx

  • patricia60

    Aren’t you lucky to have support. My brother and sister never showed up to help ( Sister lives clear across the USA – but she often did not phone) After a fall and a broken back I did the care at my house 24/7 exhausting and then as a 1st grade teacher, at 94, her funds began to run out. I am trying to figure out something different so my children will not be so burden with the old days of me. I am sorry I am late here, but very nice sharing and reminds us to be alert and know the plans and the rules. Whew!

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