Lost mom and dad within 4 days of each other
(oakland, ca, usa)
my folks in late 2007, when they were still both "healthy"
Today is 11/07/2009. my mom died on 10/22/09 and my dad on 10/26/09. they both had cancer. my mom had been a smoker and a drinker, my father had been very healthy. he played golf three times a week until april.
my dad died from esophageal cancer on 10/26/2009. he was diagnosed in april, 2008. he had the terrible surgery that only 15% survive (where they remove half of the esophagus and half of the stomach and stitch the remainder back together) and he was NOT one of the 15%. my brothers and i were so upset that my mother made my father have this surgery; she had the appointment with the surgeon moved up so that none of us could be with them. my dad had no idea the survival rate was so low. and he had no idea that he was dying, up until close to the end, even though he didn't even weigh 100 pounds. i guess i could say we expected him to die. but we never expected my mother to go first!
my mother had lung cancer and had one lung removed in 2001; it was actually 9/13/2001, just two days after 9/11. she was convinced that she would survive, and survive she did... until 10/22/2009. she didn't think she would die; she didn't think my father would die. she didn't understand why he didn't have the "i will survive" attitude that she had when diagnosed with lung cancer.
she lived with copd for a number of years. at the end, she was on 5 liters of oxygen 24/7, as well as prednisone, albuterol, ativan, and some other stuff that i can't remember the names of. i am not sure why we all didn't expect her to die as well, other than her attitude. well, i suppose my brothers did.
i'm tired of writing about the background and want to get down to what i really want to say. i feel a little bit responsible for my mom's death. i was there. it was pretty awful. a bit violent. she was so not ready to go. i wanted to call 911, but hospice told me i couldn't because she had signed a dnr.
this is what happened. i got over to their house about 11 am, and my mother was having trouble catching her breath again. i suppose i had become accustomed to it, and it didn't seem out of the ordinary to me. she'd always been able to catch it in a minute, or with some albuterol, or some ativan, or something. little did i know...
my mom was in bed. she said that she felt a little nauseous, so i put a garbage can next to her in case she needed to throw up. she didn't need it, she just threw up a little on the blanket that was covering her. i also went and got the caregiver, who was with hospice and caring for both of them. after a couple of minutes, my mother had some bubbly stuff come out of her mouth, and the hospice worker said that meant that she was dying. i couldn't believe it, so i called one brother and told him that mom was dying. then we just hung up like it was a normal phone call. very weird. we had been trying to get the hospice nurse over there, but we had to call 3 times. the third time, the nurse said that she heard my mother yelling/panting in the background "get the hell over here, i can't breathe."
i'm not sure that i correctly remember what happened next... i just remember that regina, the hospice worker, and i tried to get my mother to sit up straighter, hoping that would make it easier for her to breathe, and i just kept hearing her go "uuuughhh" every time we tried to move her. (i feel guilty about moving her. i don't remember if she was responsive at that point.)
then i remember the nurse showing up, and my mother was no longer really conscious, i guess. at that point her blood oxygen level was only 46% out of 100%, so her brain and body weren't even getting half the oxygen they needed. the nurse ordered a hospital bed, and the hospice worker wondered why aloud. that was also weird. then mom began really panting, so loudly it hurt my ears. the nurse then said "this is what we do in this situation" and she held my mother's nose closed and shot some albuterol into her. i told her that i was told that albuterol was not used in emergency situations, but the nurse said, "look, your mom is breathing regularly (or correctly) now." but she never re-opened her eyes, and she only took maybe two dozen breaths. she was dead. (i feel guilty about the nurse closing her nose and shooting the albuterol into her.)
when the nurse called it, she asked me what time it was. i told her it was about 5 minutes to 1. she said that's the time of death. i said that i couldn't believe it, what did she mean the time of death? and she just told me "look at your mother. she's dead. she'd blue all over." and i said, "she looks green to me, not blue." and the nurse replied by saying that blue looks green when they're dead. that so turned me off, i can hardly believe it. she looked like the color of the fabric on my dining room chairs. (every time i sit at the table, i think of my mom's death. i'm now sitting in the dark so i can't see them. i'm going to have them recovered.)
then the nurse went into the kitchen area and called everyone she had to. she then told me to go and take my mother's jewelry off. i had no idea what to do with it, so i just took the ring and bracelet off of my mother's dead body and put them on my live one.
i called both brothers and told them. steve knew to be expecting my call because i had called him earlier to warn him of our mom's expected death. but adam didn't know. and unfortunately all i could say to him when he answered the phone was "mom's dead." he took it quite well. as a matter of fact, both brothers had been down the week before and had decided that it would be a coin toss who would go first. both boys said they'd be down the next day.
then the nurse told me i had to tell my dad that my mom was gone. i think that was the hardest thing i had to do. so i went into the guest room, where my mother had put him and the hospice worker (she did that because she couldn't bear the idea of waking up next to a dead man). my dad was already basically unconscious. he was already really starving to death. it had already been a couple of days since he had eaten anything, and he only had spoonfuls of water since then.
so i just walked up to his hospital bed and stroked his head and said, "dad, mom went already. she died a few minutes ago. you can go and be with her whenever you want to. the boys will be here in the morning, but you don't have to wait. know that i really love both of you." something like that. i know that i covered everything that i just wrote in quotes.
i'm really too tired to go into much detail about my father's death. just let me say that he smelled really awful for days. he died on a monday evening, and he had the terrible death smell since friday night. it seemed to us, the nurse, and the hospice worker, that he would go on saturday night, so we cut off his morphine, which was a mistake. he got very rambunctious that night, so we put him back on the morphine sunday morning. the nurse increased it each day, until he was on 1 every hour. that "greased the skids," and he went monday night.
i will never forget my mother's dead body in front of me. i will never forget my father's dead body in front of me. i have day-mares about my mother's death. i feel a little guilty about parts of my mother's death, but there's nothing i can do about it. i don't remember my dreams. i also have multiple sclerosis and really hope this doesn't create an exacerbation for me. i am in psychotherapy, thank goodness.
i think i'm done now.
thank you for reading!