I've become quite familiar with the emergency room. How old is mine?, you ask -- she'll be 82 this month.
Last November (it was forever ago and it was yesterday) was our first visit. I get home from work to find the house slightly amiss. I walk around cautiously calling for Nana, praying I don't walk into a room and find her on the floor. Her car is still in the garage, but her purse is gone. I assume she's at the neighbor's. What really nags at me is the sight of my work number lying on top of the microwave, like she had the intention of calling me. I call Uncle David and Aunt Leslie to make sure Nana isn't with them (leave a message for both) before going to knit/crochet group. Aunt Leslie calls me back while I'm at group. She had gone to the house after she got my message. She went to the neighbor's but the neighbor said she hadn't seen her. Leslie went across the street to another neighbor's -- they happened to see an ambulance come pick up Nana. So I go home. We discover the hospital Nana'd been taken to. The story finally comes out that she felt short of breath so she called an ambulance. By the time the ambulance had arrived, she knew she had called them, but she couldn't remember why (a recurring theme with these ER visits). It was determined she had a pulmonary embolism. This visit marked the commencement of me being charge of her medicine.
The second visit is a Saturday. I had planned a lovely day at the zoo with a friend and her son (me complaining is another common theme with these ER visits), but Nana said she woke with a pain across her chest. By the time we even leave for the ER, Nana is no longer in pain. We're at the ER -- a long, drawn out process, especially for the complaint of chest pain -- they run their tests. Nothing is wrong, but they admit her overnight for observation. During this visit, I discover that she and her one friend had chili dogs the night before. The woman probably had indigestion. This visit taught me that should Nana ever complain of chest pains in the future, I should ask more questions before jumping in the car. (Please, for your sake and mine, do NOT state anything along the lines of "Better to be safe than sorry." Really not helpful.)
The third visit I wasn't privy to until I came home from work.....thank you, Jesus. She went in, nothing wrong, sent her on her merry way.
Let me interrupt here to say, the thing about these ER visits, there's always the thought of "Is this the One?" There's the worry regarding whether or not this one's very serious, like the first; whether this will be the last one because it's the one she won't come back from. That thought is always there nagging.
And now for the fourth visit: today. I am woken up at 5am. "Stephanie. Get up. I need you to take me to the hospital." I get up; I get dressed. I prepare myself to ask questions regarding what kind of chest pains she's having, is there shortness of breath, etc. -- remember the lesson learned from Visit #2. I walk out into the kitchen. She has a bag all prepared in case they admit her. Before I can ask any questions: "Look at that." She points to her feet. She has a lovely bruise on one toe. "I was lying in bed reading, and it did that." A stubbed toe? I'm thinking. Well, she's on coumadin [blood thinner]. Fine. So we get in the car. I'm so tired, my eyes are watering. I didn't bring a warm sweater or sweatshirt because I clearly didn't learn a lesson about the ER being the same temperature as the Antarctic. So we sit there in the ER. I'm tired, I'm cold, I'm a little angry at myself for not saying, "Let's wait a bit; if it gets worse, I'll take you."
A nurse finally comes in; this is when I discover that Nana did not want to come to the hospital because of a stubbed toe. Oh no. Here in paraphrase is what she told the nurse: "I was reading in bed. My feet and legs felt tingly. I looked down and they're blue." She's showing her legs to everyone like we're all supposed to be impressed by something. By her legs being blue, she meant the veins had shown themselves. Like the veins in her ankles and on her feet -- you know, the veins all old people get for whatever medical/scientific reason old people's veins start showing off on the legs and feet -- were all new to her. Just Saturday she was mentioning how awful they looked, and she doesn't remember it looking like that. It does by the way. All the time.
So, in my words, Nana wanted to go to the hospital because she felt new veins showing. So here's "how not to kill your grandmother" in three easy steps. Actually, there aren't steps, just three words: don't do it.
I am so mad and so tired, I have to turn my head to the side so she doesn't see tears running down. I call my mom, who insists on staying informed on every hospital visit, and have Nana speak with her. Mom wants to speak with me afterwards, but I can't. I have to step out of the "room" (it's a cubby with a curtain) because I can't not full out cry. Because that's what happens when one is sick or really upset about something -- you cry to your mother (or mother figure). And when you don't want to cry, it's just disaster waiting to happen.
The doctor feels her feet and ankles -- good temperature, good arterial pulse, no unnatural discoloration, (she's fine). He has a quick blood check done -- all well there.
By the time we're ready to leave a few hours later, Nana -- even though she's told everyone there without any prompting why she came to the hospital -- asks me, "Why did I come in?" All I can do -- very little self-restraint left at this point -- is look at her and say, "Really, Nana?"
I took her home and went to hang out with a friend, which is often three times the worth of a month of professional therapy. Thank you, Jesus, for Donna.
So the lesson from this fourth visit is like that of the second, and what is that: always ask questions.
Stay tuned for another brief post regarding my grandmother's obsessions.