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Archive for February, 2012

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Settling in for the long haul…


It didn’t happen right away, but in time my enthusiasm started to fade and I was hit with the stark realization that there is no retirement plan with this job.  The only way out of this role would be to place her in a nursing home or when she died.  It didn’t make me feel very good about myself, thinking about either option.  I admit, occasionally I would fantasize about Clara being in a nursing home, so that my two sons could become my main priority again, being able to establish my own schedule, and not revolving it around Clara’s needs.  Then images would flash in my mind’s eye, things I had seen from visiting other patients at nursing homes, and I knew I would never actually be able to follow through on that.  At times it was a nice fantasy to mentally escape to.  Then there was the other option, her death.  It’s not a good feeling when you realize that your life would be much easier by someone else’s life coming to an end.  Even thinking about it would make me feel ashamed of myself and guilty. 

Some time later, after Clara had healed from her broken arm, we were going out one evening as a family and Clara was going with us.  My youngest son, Zack went over to see if she was ready for him to escort her to the car.  He was around twelve years old at the time, and he casually walked back to our portion of the house.  So I asked him why he wasn’t helping his grandmother to the car and he said, “I don’t think she is going out with us, she is taking a nap on the floor.”  My eyes met my husband’s and we both took off running, but everything seemed like it was in slow motion.  Clara was making slight jerking movements, but was unconscious.  I thought she had a stroke.  Andy, ran back to use our phone to call 911 for an ambulance.  He never came back.  I stooped over Clara, holding her hand, talking to her gently, telling her everything was going to be alright.  I realized I did not want her to die, I hated seeing her this way, and it made me feel a little better about myself.  I had to wonder if she was going to be a vegetable like I had seen other stroke victims become.  That made me continue to reassure her, because I didn’t know if she could hear me, if she was scared or if she even knew what was going on.  It was quite a helpless feeling.  It wasn’t long before the paramedics arrived, and I handed them a typed list I kept of Clara’s conditions and medications.  I told them I thought she had a stroke but as soon as they saw on the list she was diabetic, they tested her sugar level.  It was twenty-nine; she was in a diabetic coma.  That sounded even worse to me but they said they could give her a shot they called a spike and to my disbelief, in less than one minute, she was coming around.  They asked if I had orange juice and I quickly got a glass.  Clara’s speech was slurred but she was conscious.  They helped her drink the orange juice and within three minutes her speech was normal and she was back to her old self.  I had tested her sugar about two hours prior to this and everything was fine so I was completely baffled as to how this could happen.  Then Clara revealed she didn’t really like the dinner that I made her.  She was getting tired of eating healthy, so she threw it away.  I had already given her the scheduled insulin shot when I took over her dinner, but since she didn’t eat, it brought her level down dangerously low.  My sister-in-law, Maria who lives next door had come over to see if we needed help.  After the emergency crew left, I asked Maria if she could stay with Clara for a moment.  I went over to my side of the house to give Andy an update.  Then I asked him why he never came back and he said he really thought his mother was dying and he couldn’t bear to stand there and watch her die.  I asked him if he thought that, why he left me to handle it and he said because he knew I could.  I couldn’t even be annoyed with him because I could handle it.  However, the thought of my own mother laying there, (even though she is in great health), it took on a different dimension for me.  As much as I loved Clara, I could detach myself to a point when I needed to do what had to be done, but I’m not sure I could have done that with my own mother.  So it was easy to excuse Andy’s absence during this crisis.  Although I also could not have left her side, I realize everyone has their own way of dealing with things. 

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The NIGHTMARE begins…


The medication to help manage Clara’s pain from her broken arm caused her to become constipated.  At first, that seemed like good news for me since I was the only other female in the house so had been the resident butt wiper.  Clara was starting to get up on her own and go to the bathroom by herself, and even trying to wipe herself using her good arm.  I started giving Clara a stool softener to help things along, but after more than a week without moving her bowels, Clara was quite uncomfortable.  That is when the call came, one that I jokingly named, “the call from hell.”  When I answered the phone, Clara said, “I had an accident, come over right away.”  I was at first naïve regarding what she meant, but reality quickly smacked me in the face when I opened the door leading to Clara’s apartment.  The smell was overwhelmingly nauseating and the sight was horrifying.  Accident hardly described what had happened there.  Clara was sitting in her reclining chair with a housecoat on, which confused me momentarily because I had not put it on her.  I had my hand over my mouth and nose and I noticed there was dried waste all over Clara’s legs and she said she felt weak.  Well, to be honest, I wasn’t feeling that strong myself!!!  Once the stool softener kicked in, it did so with a vengeance.  It all started while she was sitting in her reclining chair.  She was tired of getting up for all the “false alarms” of when she had unsuccessfully gone to the bathroom.  By the time she realized it was the real thing and stood up, poop was running down her pajama bottom leg onto the carpet.  There was a trail of poop on the carpet leading to the bathroom.  Clara still was having a bit of a hard time pulling her pants down with the use of only one arm, so when she reached the bathroom, she balanced herself in front of the sink while trying to pull her pants down.  As she leaned over, diarrhea actually shot out on the bathroom door.  As she tried to rotate herself to get to the toilet, the same thing happened on the wall and the shower curtain.  Now if you think reading about this is disgusting, it hardly compares to the actual experience.  Her butt was already covered in poop, so when she finally sat down on the toilet, that created another mess.  Clara was embarrassed and tried to clean herself up at the sink, but this was beyond anything a sink washing could handle.  With her poor eyesight, she did not realize how much waste was still on her body.  She left her soiled pajama bottoms and underwear on the bathroom floor and made her way back into the bedroom to get out a housecoat.  When she sat at the edge of the bed on top of the comforter to get dressed, she got poop on that as well.  She made her way back to her reclining chair and stepped in the diarrhea that was already on the carpet from her trip to the bathroom, and tracked it back out pressing it into the carpet.  This is what I walked into and had no idea where to even begin.  I told Clara that I was going to have to shower her, but I would clean up her bathroom first, and I hoped that she did not have to go any more.  When I went back to the bathroom to clean it, I swear it looked as though a sprinkler had been set up in her bathroom that sprayed poop everywhere but the ceiling.  To this day, it was the vilest thing I have ever encountered.  I started with the dry heaves, but looked at the toilet and thought, ‘there isn’t even a place to throw up.’  Desperately, I prayed, I begged for God to help me.  I knew I could handle cleaning up baby poop, so I prayed for God to help this to smell like baby poop so I could do what needed to be done.  The moment I finished my prayer and opened my eyes to this horrible sight, I started with the dry heaves again.  So I hurried and closed my eyes and said, “God, I need a rush on this prayer!!”  When I opened my eyes this time, the sight was still vile, but the dry heaves stopped.  The smell was unpleasant, but not as bad.  For the next two and a half hours I was cleaning up poop and did not have one more dry heave.  No one will ever be able to convince me that I did not receive Divine help that day.  Although the job of cleaning up Clara after she had soiled herself was something that repeated itself over the years more times than I can even remember, the first time was the worst, and I doubt I will ever forget that day.  That dreadful day, after everything was cleaned up, I took some of Clara’s Country Apple scented lotion and put it on her legs and arms.  After that, and even to this day, when I smell Country Apple scented lotion, it turns my stomach.  My idealistic bubble of wanting to do something extra nice for Clara burst.  Now it was about just trying to do everything that needed to be done.

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