By Tracy E. Hill, Ph.D.
As we all go on this journey together (at some point in time) of taking care of our parents, I’m going to start this little blog “Mom” and let you know how it’s going for me.
This past week has been scorching hot in the Lehigh Valley and many other parts of the country. I worried about my mom in the heat because she’s recently taken to sitting in the garage hoping for passersby to stop and say hello. Who in their right mind sits in a hot, sweltering garage when the heat index is over 100? My mom. So, after work I swung by her house to check on her and say hello. I rang the bell and walked in the unlocked front door.
Mom was coming out of her bedroom. She looked a bit disheveled, unfocused. I started towards her to give her a hug and a kiss. She pitched forward and collapsed in my arms. Passed out cold. Her body slumped and her small, five-foot-six, 135-pound frame was dead weight my arms. I gently eased her down onto the floor. I held her hand with mine and held her head with my other. I talked to her and told her, “I love you mom. I’m here. I’m right here with you. It’s Tracy. It’s going to be okay.” I was scared. Terrified. Her face was immobile, her eyes open but glazed over. She didn’t see me. I wasn’t sure she heard me. Her body was still. For a second, I wondered if she had died in my arms.
I don’t know how long it took for her to “wake up.” I was too scared to think. I was too intent on making sure she was okay. It took me over thirty minutes to get her back sitting up into a chair. She hadn’t realized she’d passed out. She thought she had just fallen. I didn’t have my cell phone and couldn’t find hers. I’d left mine at home that day, which is quite unusual for me. I desperately wanted to call my brother and sister and ask them what to do.
“Mom, what happened to your arm and knee?” I asked, seeing the blood and scrapes on both.
“Oh, I fell,” she responded, but meaning just then, not before.
“No mom. I caught you. When did this happen?” I gently probed.
“Oh, I passed out in the garage earlier,” she nonchalantly told me.
Oh. Oh! Oh my goodness! About five months earlier, my mom had an episode at the local Aldi’s store. She almost fainted, collapsing onto herself and breaking three bones in her left ankle. I got to the hospital before the ambulance pulled up. After surgery, where they screwed in several small plates to help set the broken bones, and months of rehab, she was finally recovered. I always knew that she had passed out cold, but she refused to believe that. I wasn’t there. I just knew. The ambulance crew told me her foot was “dangling on.” That doesn’t happen by almost passing out. At least not in my book.
I asked mom if I could make her dinner. She refused. I asked her if I could get her into bed. She declined. I asked her three separate times if she’d like to go to the hospital and get checked out. She snubbed the idea as ridiculous. She still couldn’t stand up without feeling faint. She just seemed a bit off, but I couldn’t place my finger on it. She’s been talking a lot lately about dying. We sat together for two hours and talked about life—my kids, Silver Sage Magazine, my upcoming trip to California, her cancelled trip to Chautauqua, and on and on. I was afraid to leave her but was tired and ready to go home, too.
I finally hugged and kissed her and started for home, but not before I told her I’d call her later and if she didn’t answer the phone, I was coming back. I knew she didn’t want to be any trouble, so she’d answer. I eventually found her iPhone in the garage. She took the phone and put it around her neck with a long, looped holder so she’d have it ready for my call.
I frantically drove home, desperate to speak with my brother and sister. I pulled in the garage, and my husband met me as I got out of the car. He pulled me into his chest as I sobbed. Over a glass of wine, I told him what happened and then did a web search on her symptoms.
“Oh my gosh. I think mom had a stroke. I think she needs to get to the hospital!” I realized. I immediately decided to call her cardiologist and get a professional opinion. He returned my call within fifteen minutes. I gave him a quick rundown, and he recommended mom go to the ER and get evaluated.
I called mom and told her, “I’m coming back, and I’m going to take you to the ER to get checked out. I’ll be there in forty minutes. Be ready.” She simply said, “Okay.” I knew then it was exactly the right thing to do.
Photos by TEH.