Two Months and Four Hospital Visits, Part 4

Respiratory Distress

When I arrived at her house to try to convince her to go to the hospital, I knew immediately that she needed to go back to the hospital.  However, it would still take some convincing to get her to go back willingly.  Remember that her veins were small and rolled, so every hospital visit was very difficult for her.

I have seen her in respiratory distress before, but this was definitely one of the worst I had seen.  It just came on so quickly.  It really took us by surprise.

She had only been home from the previous hospital visit for a few days, so the in-home care nurse had not visited yet to admit her to their care.  Pop had been on the phone with them before I arrived, hoping that someone would come by and evaluate her.

After I had been there for a few hours, trying to convince her to go to the hospital, the in-home care nurse called.  She was about 30 minutes away.  I was so relieved.  I knew it would be helpful to have an outside opinion to get her in the car.

Once the nurse arrived, she immediately said that she felt like she needed to go back to the hospital.  Then she began the evaluation.  It was confirmed.  Her heart was beating way too fast.  She also suspected that she was out of rhythm again.  She told mom that she could not admit her into her care with a clear conscience, knowing that she needed to go to the hospital.  Finally, mom agreed, and we were off to the hospital once again.

Mom was admitted to the hospital again with severe respiratory distress.  Her heart was in A-Fib, and her heart rate was really high.

The next day, they did an ultrasound of her heart.  While she was down the hall, her heart doctor talked to me about a pacemaker.  He thought it could be an option, but he told me that it would not give her new lungs.  Right now she needed new lungs.  He explained how the heart and lungs work together.  When one is not doing well, the other is trying to compensate and will most likely get worse.  I interpreted this to mean that mom’s heart had been getting worse because of the extra work that it had been doing in direct response to how bad her lungs had become.  He told me that a pacemaker would not necessarily fix anything, but it might make her more comfortable.

After mom returned from the ultrasound, her lung doctor stopped by during her rounds.  She mentioned that we should begin discussing palliative care and hospice.  She did not think that we were at the point of making the decision that day, but we needed to discuss it as a family.

Mom took this fairly hard.  She felt the weight of what was coming.  Deep down I know that she knew, but she tried very hard not to let it show.  I equate it to a roller coaster.  I don’t like roller coasters, especially the ones with drops.  However, once you are on the ride, like it or not, you cannot get off.  She and I both knew that we had stepped into a season of life that we did not like, but we also knew it was time to go through it.

Mom’s lung doctor and heart doctor talked over the procedure and decided that if they could get her to respond to medications again, they would not put her through the procedure for a pacemaker.

She spent some more time in the ICU as they changed and adjusted medications.  There were a few days that seemed like she was getting better and a few that seemed like she was getting worse.  Then after a little over a week, her heart began to respond, and she was able to go home.  They came to my house, and she seemed to begin gaining strength and an appetite.  I was so happy.  It really seemed like she might rebound from this.  Of course, short of a miracle, there would be a new normal, but a rebound all the same.

She had been home for a couple of days when we sent pop home to get some rest.  I knew that he needed some time to get things done at home.  Mom ate very well and showered.  Then at about 1am, it happened again.  She was in respiratory distress.  She and I worked through it until about six or seven in the morning.  Then she asked me to call pop and have him come back.

– Next:  The Fifth and Final Hospital Stay