Wednesday, August 27, 2008

More Doctors

Well, I spoke for a long time this morning with the lung doctor, who I now like very much and therefore we will now call him Dr. Thawed Right Out Actually Kind of Cute Glasses. As the stomach surgeon told me last night, he's now sort of the guy in charge, partly because he's the ICU guy and partly because, of course, Mom's stomach is now the least of her worries. Besides, that one part of her is working. Or it would be working if her throat was working, which it is not.

Here's the deal: in 1988 my mother had throat cancer and went to Duke, where they operated on her throat and told her that she had a 9% chance of survival over the next year. They did a couple of radiation treatments that my mother did not enjoy much, so she said the hell with it and left. She didn't go back to a doctor of any kind for 17 years. Meanwhile, the surgery and the radiation destroyed her saliva glands and left it impossible for her to eat solid food, so for 20 years my mother, the gourmet chef, has lived on Ensure, very thin oatmeal and occasional cream soups. And coffee, always coffee. Now, it would appear that that radiation scar tissue has come back to haunt her.

However, Good Glasses Lung doctor says that it is too early to say hospice and that my mother can have something called a PEG, which is a feeding tube that doesn't go through her nose but directly from her side into her stomach and does not require general anesthesia to be installed. If there's one place everyone is on the same page, it's that Mom cannot ever undergo general anesthesia again. He says if she's been living on a liquid diet anyway, well, this isn't that big of a switch. That sounded good but of course, there's more. There's more like we need a cardiologist in and I should talk to the speech therapist and maybe we need a throat doctor in as well.

Enter, though, hope in the form of one of the ICU nurses who told us that what we actually need here is the Palliative Care people. We had never heard of these people but she said that what they could do for us was sort of gather all this information from all these different doctors and all into some kind of coherent whole and we could then all sit down together and figure out what, exactly, we're all looking at here. B & I nearly wept with relief to hear that these people exist and we said, YES, PLEASE, call them in, call them now. So hopefully we will be able to meet with them this afternoon or tomorrow.

My other brother N is flying in again tomorrow morning. In the meantime Mom is still weak, still in pain, still out of it and now, as the newest wonder wrinkle, she can't talk. I was at the ICU all morning; I'll be back all afternoon. Thanks, y'all for the comments and the prayers and the good wishes. It really helps me to write all this out, not just for the emotional catharsis but as a way to sort of organize what I'm hearing from which doctor or nurse and when, so I'm going to keep this all pretty updated. People keep asking what I need and honestly, aside from the usual (a winning Lotto ticket, someone to smack my son in the ass and make him care about school) I can't think of anything. But I'm very grateful y'all are here.


Gordon Smith said...

Palliative Care sounds like a great way to organize the plan and work out how to keep your Mom healthiest and most comfortable.

I'm one of those folks who wants to know how to help, so thanks for letting me know. I'll pick up a few Lotto tickets, and we'll split it right down the middle.

Will of the Hill said...

Palliative Care really helped me make decisions on how to properly manage my mother's treatment and ultimately provided me the strength to let her go when we reached the inevitable. The vascular care unit at St Joe is a little slice of heaven.
I'm praying for you and your Mom and i'll toast you within the hour.

Kathryn said...

I want to help too, though I have no idea how. If there's anything I can do, just give me a call or drop a mail. My friend Coryn is a safe sex youth educator who needs volunteers. If young M would find that motivational.

boringpostcards said...

Wow, I'm sorry to hear about your mom's ongoing complications, but I'm glad to hear you're beginning to meet some sane, organized folks in there. Continuing to keep y'all in my thoughts.

Edgy Mama said...

Sending more healing vibes.

Is young M interested in babysitting, per chance? My fourth grader has just surpassed my mathematical knowledge...and I'm wondering if tutoring younger kids might be motivational?

Jim Jenkins said...