March: A Frightening Ordeal


March was a month of intense emotional highs and lows, a rollercoaster ride I’ll never forget. It started with my return home from Virginia in mid-March, a bittersweet homecoming filled with anticipation and nostalgia. Little did I know that March 28th would bring the biggest scare of my life—a day that would eclipse all the other harrowing experiences I’d endured.

Over the years, I’ve faced my fair share of challenges. I survived a brutal car accident that left me emotionally scarred. I endured the terror of accidental poisoning, a silent threat that almost took me down. I weathered countless other trials that tested my resilience and strength. Yet, nothing could have prepared me for what happened on that fateful day in late March.

Scared Shitless

On the morning of March 28th, I was jolted awake by my phone ringing. I rolled over and saw it was my mother. We live in the same house she never calls me. On the other side of the line was the sound of my mother’s anguished cries. I went from groggy to wide awake in that instant. As I rushed to her side, I found her in unbearable pain, tears streaming down her face, unable to move or walk. The sight of my mother, usually so strong and composed, reduced to such a state of agony, was heart-wrenching. I felt a wave of panic and helplessness wash over me, but I knew I had to act quickly. To do what, I had no idea but I had to act. I asked her what was wrong and through the gibberish being muttered I was able to decipher that she couldn’t walk. 

This wasn’t making any sense to me. The night before she was up and about and baking. She baked 8 loaves of bread, tended to her garden and her other daily old people habits. Fast forward to now she’s like this! It didn’t make any sense. I know the hospital may have a long wait so I decide to consult a professional. I called her private doctor, my voice trembling with urgency, and he advised us to bring her in immediately. I struggled to get her dressed and gathered whatever documents I thought would be essential. Now I realised that I have a real challenge. Two really…. The first is I need to get my mother down the stairs and she is bigger than me and unable to walk. The second is I need a vehicle big enough for her to lay down comfortably.

Desperate for help, I banged on my neighbors’ doors, waking them up and pleading for assistance. Together, we carefully carried my mother down the stairs. Each step was a painful reminder of her suffering. When we arrived at the doctor’s office, the gravity of the situation became clear. Her doctor, usually calm and composed, quickly assessed her condition, gave her an injection for the pain and immediately called for an ambulance. Watching my mother cry from pain was a sight I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.

My mother is the most coward brave person you would meet. She would do something but be scared the whole time while doing it. So when the EMT’s came and placed her on the gurney and then carried her into the ambulance it was difficult. It was a long ride, her in pain and me there with a million thoughts running through my mind.

Time Crawls By

Being brought in by the ambulance seemed to make things move slightly faster. Every movement, every transfer from one bed to another, seemed to amplify her agony. She was being moved so much I tried to advocate so they could keep her on that bed without moving her. You see it was as if each procedure, each test—whether it was an x-ray, CT scan, or any other examination—was a new layer of torment for her.The hours stretched on endlessly as we moved from one test to the next. Since she said that the pain was in her legs and they assumed it was her back. The medical team administered various drugs and cocktails, yet nothing besides putting her to sleep seemed to bring her relief. The uncertainty was maddening; we didn’t know if her condition was neurological or orthopedic, and this ambiguity only added to our stress and fear.

It was a long ass day. It is about 8pm now and we have both been up since 6am. I am tired. The emotions of the day start to wear on me. The thing is I want this to get solved. So I’m trying to find this Dr for and update and that Dr for another update because it is still two different teams evaluating her. I become familiar with some of the other persons waiting. The most interesting was Peter. Peter, about ten years prior fell and damaged his arm. He was always in pain but held of coming because he was too busy. I noticed that he represented a sample of the persons I saw there. Persons who are afraid or “to busy” to come in and get care until it is too late. I watched the condition of a few patients and I wondered who was taking care of them. Feet both crusty and ashy, nails overgrown and unkempt, clothes untidy just sad. It was sad to see your fellowman reduced to that. You wonder who is responsible for them.

Then something else unexpected happens. My mother needs to use the bathroom and refused to be placed in a diaper. So in agony we place her on a wheel chair but remember its painful for her to sit. It takes me, an orderly and Peter to get her in a wheelchair and then into the bathroom. In retrospect we probably should have just lifted her.  The process was difficult but we managed to get it done and of course the movement cause her more pain so….. she had to get more sedatives. I called my cousin to pick me up and she arrived around 11pm.  I had to sneak her in to see mum since it is just one visitor at a time. I took the opportunity to find her team again and they informed me that she might be warded. Here I realised that this wasn’t a quick fix. It wasn’t just and injection and a bye bye and everything would be fixed. This was something serious. My cousin and I left to get food for all of us since all we were eating since there was hospital snacks. We got the food and mum situated and she dropped me home so I could collect the car and pack a bag for mum. I got home around 12:30am, showered and decided to take a nap. 

Mum calls and wakes me up it is now about 2:30am. Remember earlier I said she’s the bravest coward? So they told her that she is going to be warded and doesnt want to be alone and she’s frantic. I rush out the house and break all speeding and cautionary driving laws. I was making it to that hospital ex-pe-ditiously one way or the other. I get there and mum is asleep. I find a Dr and they update me to say she will be warded but not very soon. Thus begins the waiting game. I let her know that I’m here and I go to the car and sleep, well try to get some rest while she is inside. I’m remembering how frail, scared and vulnerable she was looking. Sleep was a joke it made more sense for me to pace the hospital. Eventually my body gave out and I was back in the car “resting”

Neurological 

Eventually around 7am it was determined that my mother was a neuro-surgery patient, and on March 29th around, she was finally warded at the hospital. Thus began a two-month journey fraught with emotional and physical challenges—one month spent in the hospital and another month at home.

The following weeks were a blur of hospital visits, tests, and treatments. My mother’s pain was a constant, harrowing presence. Moving her from bed to bed, undergoing tests, and dealing with the uncertainty of her diagnosis was emotionally and physically draining for both of us. Each day was a test of my endurance, patience, and emotional fortitude.

Seeing my mother in such relentless pain was a stark reminder of how fragile life can be. Her strength and resilience, even in the face of such overwhelming adversity, were awe-inspiring. I realized then how much strength is required to support a loved one through such trying times. I just realised that I did not speak about what the diagnosis was so let us get into that.

Understanding Spinal and Bone Health Conditions in Older Adults

As we age, it’s common to face various health challenges, particularly related to our bones and spine. For my mother, understanding specific medical terms like “spondylolisthesis,” “osteoporosis,” and “degenerative disc disease” can be crucial for managing health and well-being. Let’s break down these terms to understand what they mean and how they impact daily life.

Grade 1 Spondylolisthesis of L4 in relation to L5

Spondylolisthesis occurs when one of the vertebrae (the bones that make up the spine) slips forward over the one below it. In this case, the fourth lumbar vertebra (L4) has slightly slipped over the fifth lumbar vertebra (L5). Grade 1 indicates that the slippage is mild. While mild, this condition can cause significant discomfort, including lower back pain and possibly affecting nerves, leading to symptoms like pain, numbness, or weakness in the legs. Managing weight, physical therapy, and sometimes medication can help alleviate symptoms.

Grade 1 Osteoporosis of the Left Hip

Osteoporosis is a condition where bones become weak and brittle. Grade 1 osteoporosis means there’s a mild decrease in bone density. For the left hip, this reduced density increases the risk of fractures, especially since the hip is a weight-bearing joint. This is particularly concerning for those who are overweight, as the extra weight puts more stress on the hip. Ensuring adequate calcium and vitamin D intake, along with weight-bearing exercises, can help maintain bone strength.

Degenerative Disc Disease (DDD) with Alternating Levels of Foraminal Stenosis

Degenerative Disc Disease refers to the gradual wear and tear of the discs between the vertebrae in the spine. These discs act as cushions, and when they degenerate, it can lead to pain and reduced flexibility. Foraminal stenosis is the narrowing of the openings (foramina) through which the nerve roots exit the spine. When this narrowing occurs at various levels of the spine, it can compress nerves, causing chronic pain, numbness, or weakness, particularly in the extremities. Treatment can include physical therapy, pain management strategies, and sometimes surgery.

So these conditions together suggest significant wear and tear on the spine and hips, leading to chronic pain and mobility challenges. April is when the struggle really begins. 

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