My Best Friend..
by Chandra Ackerman
I lost my mom February 24, 2012 at 6:30 in the morning. My mom was a chronic nursing home surfer. She was a big woman all her life, but the final straw was the day she hurt her back lifting a patient, and ultimately lost her nursing job. Starting at age 55, she started developing one health problem after another. It got to the point where my dad could no longer care for her at home, so he enlisted the help of nursing homes to help. As a former nurse, mom was always one of the hardest patients to take care of. She wanted everything done the way she remembered doing it in her working years. This led to arguments and dissension at every nursing home mom lived in. One of the last nursing homes mom was in informed us that they believed she was mentally ill. This led to a psych eval on mom which ended in a diagnosis of borderline personality disorder. Last October, we moved my mom one final time to the nursing home in the town I live in. I had just started a network admin job there, and I thought moving my mom in would give me a chance to spend so much more time with her, and give her the interaction with her grand daughter she had been missing. The first month mom lived here was insane- none of the nurses liked her, and they were calling me every half hour to come talk to her to calm her down. She refused to follow Dr orders, and always asked for more food than she was allowed. At one point, they were threatening to send her back to the nursing home she came from. In December, a major change happened. Mom started sleeping..alot. It wasn't entirely unusual for mom to sleep during the day, but she was starting to literally sleep all day. In January, mom was moved onto a more critical care unit. At this time, mom was no longer able to hold a normal conversation, and started forgetting where and who she was. By the end of January, hospice was suggested. It was very hard to accept the fact that mom was going on hospice. The staff kept insisting that this did not mean mom was going to die, but I knew otherwise. By February, mom no longer knew who we were, and would no longer eat. I would come in to work, grab some breakfast and go check on her, then bring my lunch in and sit with her at noon. Once in awhile if I tried feeding her, she would take a couple bites, but that was all she could handle. Just sitting up in bed or taking a drink of water wore her out. It hurt so bad to visit her and know that she did not know who I was.. Then one day, all of a sudden, mom announced to everyone that she wanted to go for a ride in her wheelchair, and that she was hungry. Dad and I wheeled her around the nursing home that afternoon, and she went to dinner out in the dining room (something she never did). She had a couple bites of dinner, then was worn out. We took her back to her room after dinner and as I got ready to leave, I gave her a kiss and a hug and told her I loved her. She grabbed me really tight, kissed me on the cheek and said "You are so special to me.." This was Tuesday. A couple days later, I took two days off work to spend with her. That Thursday, mom would not get out of bed. She spiked a fever, and kept yelling that she needed to go to the hospital. The nurses called hospice, and they visited mom that afternoon. The hospice nurse looked mom over and told me that mom was sick, but she didn't see anything imminent. She didn't think mom was actively dieing. I left mom's room that afternoon at the same time I would have if I was working- handed her her tv remote and water, gave her a hug and a kiss, and told her I would see her in the morning. I got up the next morning at the usual time, just after 6AM and got in the shower. My phone started ringing, and my husband answered it. It was the hospital- my mom had been admitted overnight for stressed breathing and pneumonia. The nurse informed my husband that we needed to get over to the hospital because she didn't know how long she had. I continued my shower, and prepared myself to spend the day at the hospital. Mom's doctor warned us before if she ever got pneumonia that she would be done. I got out of the shower and cried on my husband's shoulder. Not 5 minutes later, my phone rang again. This time, I answered. "This is April from the hospital. I spoke with your husband a little bit ago about your mom?" I said yes, expecting them to tell me she was getting worse. "She passed just a little while ago.." At that split second, my world froze. I couldn't breathe, I couldn't think, and I fell into a heap on my bedroom floor. I cried harder than I ever had in my life, with the phone still in my hand. I pulled myself together long enough to ask my husband to take the phone, then once again, could not control the sobs. From then, until about a week after my mom's funeral, it felt like I was walking in a nightmare. I thought for sure that someone from the hospital was going to call me back and tell me that they had made a mistake and it wasn't mom who had died. The hospital asked us if we wanted to go see her, and I did. The woman who I had just seen a few hours ago lay in a hospital bed in front of me- lifeless, cold. At this point, guilt overtook me. I was the last person to see her alive- if I had been more insistant on her going to the hospital sooner, she might have still been with us. I had to sit down for fear of passing out..she was gone. She was really gone.. My 28 years on this earth started flashing before me- recalling memories of my mom when I was a little girl. My best friend had just been taken away from me..I did not know how life would go on after that.