Tuesday, August 26, 2008


I'm tired and sad and I came home from the hospital without ever getting to talk to a doctor. I'm so tired and it's so raining and damp and sad (yeah, rain, great, I can't complain but jesus, embarrassment of riches anyone?) that I just came home and curled up into bed and gave up. But then naturally just now the doctor actually called me. Now I know what's going on, sort of, and it isn't making me happy.

My mother's swallowing reflex is broken and so is her coughing reflex and so, apparently, is most of what goes on inside her throat. It turns out that in your throat and hers and mine is a valve - I am kind of picturing it like a small trap door - that directs stuff going down the throat as to whether it should end up in the stomach or the lungs. When the valve is working properly, air goes to the lungs and everything else goes to the stomach. In my mother's case, everything is going to the lungs. This is bad. This is not good. This is not what is supposed to happen. This is what kills rock stars when they pass out and choke on vomit and, if you are an 81 year old with MRSA pneumonia, this is what might well kill you. This is also pretty clearly a fucking design flaw and why we don't have two tubes each with a specific purpose which is kind of what I always thought we had since, you know, people talk about things going down the wrong tube when they laugh and choke on a beer or coke goes out their nose or something, I don't know. And actually, maybe we do have two, further down, and that's what the valve goes to. I don't know. I don't know shit. I didn't go to med school; I sat around and learned what the fucking red hat in all those paintings of St. Jerome means and why there's always a bug in Baroque still lives. I'm useless.

The doctor who called is the stomach doctor because we don't have another kind of doctor because if you go into the hospital for one thing you only get to have that one doctor that you went in with as your main doctor; you can't switch midstream. The lung doctors come and go and one of them is Dr. 1955 Frozen Cyborg Bad Glasses who doesn't like me much since I keep dragging him out of his doctor cave to talk to me about my mother. Tomorrow I'm going to do that again and he can lump it until he finds me another doctor, a doctor who can actually do something. The stomach doctor, who is nice, says that the next step would be to put in a feeding tube for my mother. Some kind of tube that would nourish her. He said he didn't know why her throat wasn't working anymore. He said it could be many things. He said that maybe surgery would help but that frankly my mother couldn't survive surgery again. We need another doctor here, a throat doctor, a lung doctor, a valve doctor, a doctor who can fix my mother.

He said my mother told him tonight she wants to go to hospice. He said that was an alternative. I don't think that's a fucking alternative, jesus christ, she just went into the hospital for fucking routine surgery, her throat worked fine two weeks ago, what the hell is this hospice shit?

Why can't this be simple? Why can't this be solved? Why does life suck so hard for so long and why isn't it more like fiction? If this was Lost or Gilligan's Island or something the doctor would just stab an empty ball point pen cartridge or a piece of bamboo into her throat and pull all that pneumonia glop out of there and she'd be fine by the end of the episode and goddamnit I don't see why that can't happen here.


zen said...

WTF WTF WTF? I didn't know your swallower could break. I thought like gag reflex was like the suckling instinct or something where.. well, i don't know i'm no doctor either.

I'm so sorry about this. Hospitals are so surreal and not of this world or something. When my dad went in he had all kinds of complications and they had to remove his toes because of diabetes. Later while still there they removed his leg from the knee down. I felt like they were chopping away at my dad until there'd be nothing left.

One silly note was that the usual nurse came in to take his blood pressure and weigh him and stuff and said "Oh my gosh! You've lost a huge amount of weight. Are you eating?" Dad scowled at her, pointed to where his leg was and said something like "the rest of me is in a dumpster out back." At least he had humor 'till the end.

Fliss, my phone is working now, but i don't want to call because you need your rest, but please call me if you need anything. Email me if you need my work phone (the 9-5 thing) tomorrow. OK?



Felicity you know Schuyler and I love you very much.
We are here if you need to talk.

occhiblu said...

I'm so sorry you're going through this. You and your mother are in my thoughts.

haskell said...

Once when my Dad was in the hospital with pneumonia, they said he couldn't swallow and wanted to put in a feeding tube, but then they took him off tranquilizers and repeated the test, he could swallow fine. He's had several bouts of aspiration pneumonia over the years but is hanging in there.

If she's not already taking it, co-enzyme Q-10 will help your Mom's heart. It enhances cellular respiration and is used by every cell in the body. It's available at any health food or drug store, but expensive.

Anonymous said...

Oh, I am so sorry. Please take care of yourself - my mother actually did end up admitted to the hospital when my dad was in for a bunch of stuff.

This is a crazy complication that's for sure. I'm not sure any advice is appropriate, not only because as well established, I am not a fucking doctor either - but taking down the meds/tranqs/etc. sound like it is worth asking about. What about moving her to a bigger hospital - a university hospital, Duke or some shit?

Thinking of you, dear.

Will of the Hill said...

I'm sorry I don't know you. I feel for you and your Mom. Seek out Dr. Carl Bazemore. He is a lung/throat pulmonary specialist. My Mom died of the same thing 5 years ago. Dr. Bazemore did EVERYTHING he could. He is on staff at St Joe. My prayers are with you and 2nite I'll toast you and your Mom!

jaybird said...

Words aren't much in times like this, but I offer them to you along with anything you need. You're an awesome person with a great circle of friends here to help. We lovez ya!