I received one of those calls yesterday about twenty minutes after noon. It was my dad telling me that he had taken my mom to the hospital. My nearly eighty-four-year old mother has been diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis, which means that any cold or other assault on her pulmonary system must be taken seriously. Dad had had a bad cold the week before, and Mom must have picked it up from him. When she vomited on Tuesday night, then again Wednesday morning, Daddy decided to take her in to the ER and have her evaluated. That's where I found her the minute I could leave work and get to the hospital, mercifully only seven or eight minutes from the school where I teach.
I spent most of the next five and a half hours watching her sleep in her emergency room gurney. Amid the noise and chaos of the ER, blood draws, nebulizer treatments, and even a CT scan, Mom slept. Normally when my mom sleeps, she wears her CPAP mask, but there in the ER, she didn't have it. So as she slept, I watched as her chest expanded and contracted and I listened as she snored and gurgled. Several times I saw her chest movements, but realized she was cutting off her own air supply. And though those moments passed within seconds, it frightened me to see how frail she had become.
See, my mom had a hip replacement surgery several years ago, followed by a torn hamstring, which occurred in her first rehab facility due to the negligence of the staff there. We didn't learn she'd torn her hamstring until almost two weeks afterward. What we did know was that my mother was crying out in excruciating pain, and asking Jesus to take her because she didn't believe she could endure the torment. She was returned to the hospital and spent another week there, during which time the staff did not diagnose the secondary injury, but instead tried to make us believe that she was becoming dependent upon the medications they were giving her for pain. After that week, she was sent to a different rehab facility; one where the staff actually knew what they were doing. After nearly a week there, they ran either an MRI or a CT Scan - I don't recall which - and they finally found the torn hamstring. They then realized that, because Mom had been on and remained on blood thinners, the tear continued to bleed internally, and when the blood would pool, it put direct pressure against nerves in the area of her groin and her new hip. No wonder she was wishing for death. Immediately they stopped administering blood thinners, and instantly she began the process of healing. Mean time, she was left with fear. Fear of pain. Fear of injury. And as icing on the cake, the hip surgery left one leg three-quarters of an inch shorter than the other one. This meant that for the rest of her life, each time she bought shoes, she'd have to pay in excess of a hundred dollars per pair to have a larger sole built onto the shoe corresponding with the shorter leg.
Because of the surgery and the subsequent injury, that perfect storm of horrible medical experiences took the starch out of my once active, healthy mother. The woman who always nurtured a garden when I was a girl . . . the woman who learned to play golf prior to retirement, and even shot a hole-in-one . . . that woman who moved with my dad to Florida to enjoy their retirement years in the warm sunshine . . . that woman was replaced by a woman who has become increasingly sedentary and plagued with one health problem after another. Pulmonary Fibrosis. Fibromyalgia. Bouts of pneumonia. She gained weight and moved less. As a result of the steroids she takes on a regular basis, her face is now so full and puffy. My mother was a petite woman for most of her life. She's on oxygen 24/7 now. She has dizzy spells, and often nearly falls because of them.
And as I watched her sleep and watched her body's effort to breathe, I knew I was seeing my future if I don't turn things around now. My weight has been an issue for forty-five years. And in the past fifteen years, I have ballooned to a morbidly obese weight on my five foot, three inch frame. I have noticed in the past six months or so that my mid section now looks as it did when I was about to deliver one of my babies. But at my post-menopausal age of fifty-five, there can be no other explanation than FAT. The heavier I've gotten, the less active I have become. Walking short distances which once took no effort at all, now leaves me winded and feeling the beating of my heart. I snore like a lumberjack (my husband's description), and often hear myself wheezing. I have six adult children and four grandsons, and I am way too young to feel so old that I can't enjoy their endless energy. I looked at my mother and saw what I do not want to become. I knew that I want to live.
I want adventures. I want to bike the Erie Canal trail. I want to kayak with my husband. I want to take ballroom dancing lessons. I want to sit on my husband's lap. I want to learn to play tennis. I want to breathe freely and tie my shoes. I want to shave my legs without breaking a sweat. I want to see the petite woman I know I'm meant to be, emerge from this shell of fat, and really live. I cannot start this journey from any place but the present. I saw what my future could be if I don't make changes in my life, and it is not the future I want. So today. Right now. I choose to find my way out of the life I've created, and into the life I long for. It will be a process of discovery, and I'll share as much of it as I can. Right here. By the grace of God, I will live, and live well!
Until next time . . .