15 minutes of hell

I’m sitting next to my mom’s hospital bed right now listening to her snore softly. I feel sad to see her bruised cheek and black eye from yesterday’s horrible incident. I have an unlikely mix of high emotions going around and around inside me: extreme gratitude and the after affects of major trauma. Logically I know she’s ok for now, but my adrenal glands are stuck on overdrive as I’ve had a year’s worth of adrenaline pumping through my system for the past 24 hours. I’m in tears every few minutes and flashbacks woke me up several times throughout the night and then came rushing in again early this morning.

Yesterday’s incident is a reminder of how dangerous and tenuous dealing with brain cancer can be. Just last week my mom and I were making plans for Christmas and we talked every day. She sounded very tired and didn’t linger on the phone with small talk, but she was happy and present. But last Thursday she became confused and unable to speak or walk, and was running a fever. So my dad rushed her to the ER and docs quickly ordered an MRI to see what was going on in her brain. They found no tumor growth (hallelujah!), but she did have an infection. They believed all of her symptoms were related to her infection so they immediately started IV antibiotics and thought she’d be in the hospital for only one night.
And she would be home right now except she had a terrible accident yesterday morning.

This is what happened…

Yesterday morning my mom told me she needed to go to the bathroom, and so I asked the nurse to help her. She didn’t come right away and I had to go back and ask her twice. She was busy working at her computer but finally relented. She was very rude while she angrily stomped down the hall and commented under her breath about not being able to get any work done. I had a million different comments rolling around in my head, but since I know the nurses are understaffed and juggling a lot of patients, I bit my tongue and let her bad attitude slide without confrontation. I told my mom I’d be right back. Sometimes the bathroom thing can take awhile, so I went to the little kitchen down the hall and washed out my mom’s soup cup. When I walked back to her room I saw her door was almost all the way closed and I heard my mom quietly apologizing to someone for taking so long. Since I knew it would probably take a little while I decided to go back down the hall and read some books and cancer pamphlets in the family library. I’d been gone maybe 12-15 minutes when all of a sudden I had a bad feeling about my mom. It was a distinct prompting to go to her, so I immediately left all my things and walked quickly to her room. I didn’t know why I felt this feeling, but thank God I acted on it.

I saw that her door was still closed but I didn’t hear any voices this time, so I opened the door and quietly called for my mom. I didn’t hear any response so I slowly opened the door all the way. What I saw shocked and horrified me.

My mom was lying on the floor unconscious. The portable toilet was tipped over and urine and feces were all over the floor around her. I ran to her and dropped to my knees. I picked up her head in my hands and could see she was struggling to breath, but she couldn’t respond to me.

“Oh my God! Mom! Mom!” I yelled. Everything slowed way down and I could feel the urine soaking into my jeans as I assessed the situation.

They left her alone on the toilet. How long has she been on the floor? She’s on blood thinner. Doctors said if she had the slightest fall she could bleed to death. Oh my God. Oh my God! They left her alone. The da&*nurse was too busy with her computer to sit with my mom and wait for her! I should never have left her alone. She needs help. She’s going to die.

It’s amazing how quickly those thoughts raced through my mind. I jumped to my feet and ran down the hall yelling to the nurses.

“She’s on the floor! She’s unconscious! Hurry up and help me! How could you leave her alone! She wasn’t strong enough to be on her own! Get over here and help her! She’s on blood thinner!”

I’ve never been so scared or angry in my life. I ran back into her room with a parade of nurses following me. I kneeled down again and cupped her head in my hands. Mom, mom, can you hear me? I’m here. You’re going to be ok. Oh, mom. I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry.

A minute later she started to seize. Her muscles tightened and I could tell she couldn’t breathe. “She’s having a seizure! Oh my God. Get a doctor. Hurry up! Don’t just stand there – call the doctor!” I growled through gritted teeth.

The room was full of people who were educated to take care of my mom, but nothing could have ripped me away from her side. A nurse got down on her knees on the other side of my mom and started to talk to my mom. “Open your mouth, honey. Open your mouth.” She struggled to get a tongue depressor into my mom’s mouth for what seemed like a lifetime. Finally she got it in, but my mom’s kept seizing.

I looked at the clock and yelled, “It’s 10:40 – write it down!” I held my mom’s head and kissed her a hundred times. Mom, you’re ok. Just relax. You’re going to be ok. I kept repeating, “Mommy, I’m so sorry. Just breathe. Just breathe. Jesus. Jesus. Jesus, help my mom. Mommy, mommy.” I don’t know why I called her mommy, but I kept repeating it over and over. I never call her that. Not even in jest. All I can think is it was primal.

After 10 minutes I yelled, “WHERE. IS. THE. DOCTOR! Get him in here NOW!” No one knew why it was taking him so long. My dad wasn’t there, and I really thought my mom was dying in my hands right there on the floor with urine and poop all over the both of us. All I could think was my dad wasn’t there to be with my mom…and what a fricken’ careless choice. My mom was going to die not because of the brain cancer but because the stupid nurses left her alone to go to the bathroom.

I was incensed.

13 minutes later the doctor arrived from the ER. He was calm as can be like nothing was happening. It took about 2 more minutes to get my mom the anti-seizure meds that finally stopped the seizure. My mom was in seizure for 15 minutes.

15 minutes of absolute hell.

While the doctors were preparing my mom for a CT scan that would show whether or not she was bleeding in her brain, the head nurse started a full-on cover up about what happened. She lied through her teeth about leaving my mom alone before this event. She swore she stayed with my mom at all times when she had to use the bathroom, and she blamed the aide who was supposed to stay with her. The aide said they’d left my mom alone when she had to use the bathroom throughout the night and twice that morning. She was instructed to give my mom the call button and tend to the other patients until my mom called for them to help her. Someone was lying and I was pretty sure I knew who it was.

The lying was gasoline to my fire.

Now, anyone who knows me knows that I’m a very forgiving person. We all make mistakes, some of us big ones, and we all need grace. Just admit what happened and move on. But if you lie to me, we’re going to have serious problems. And if you neglect my mom’s fragile health and then lie to me about leaving her, I will have your head.
I won’t go into detail about what transpired between me, the aide, and the nurse. But I can tell you the truth came out and my mom will never be left alone again.

I spent the next 45 minutes in absolute trauma reaction mode. I called my husband was crying so much I could barely recognize my voice. I couldn’t calm down and I felt like I needed to scream.

Thankfully the CT scan showed no bleeding in my mom’s brain. But my mom has had a serious set-back in her recovery and she can barely stay conscious. Docs say that this is normal post-seizure and that she’ll regain consciousness. I hope and pray she makes a full recovery and that she can continue to gain her strength and health.

Only God knows what’s going to happen, and I keep trying to surrender it to Him.

Last night before I left the hospital a nurse came into my mom’s room. She stood at the foot of my mom’s bed and looked at my mom and then at me and said, “I’m so glad you’re mom doesn’t have any bleeding in her brain.” She put her hand over her heart and looked like she was going to cry. I thought it was an unusually emotional response from a nurse so I said, “Were you on shift when she fell?”

She looked at me with tears and said, “You must not recognize me. But I was on my knees with you the whole time.” She was the nurse who got the tongue depressor in my mom’s mouth and stayed on the ground with me and my mom. We both cried and hugged, and I thanked her for helping my mom. She knew how serious it was. Her tenderness touched me.

In all the horribleness of the past 24 hours I’ll never forget my mom’s first words to me this morning. My dad told me my mom remembered everything that happened when she fell. She remembered falling and the seizure. She remembered me ‘not being happy with the nurses.’ She remembered my prayers and that I called her mommy. After giving me the news of everything she remembered he put me on speaker phone so I could talk to my mom.

With slow, slurred speech she sweetly mumbled, “Thank…you….for…. rescuing…me.”

All I could do was cry. At least she knew I was there.

This entry was posted in anxiety, blog, brain cancer, Glioblastoma Multiforme, grief work, mother daughter relationships, recovery. Bookmark the permalink.

40 Responses to 15 minutes of hell

  1. optimisticgladness says:

    Oh.my.goodness!? You saved her life! You guys have gone through so much together. You’re a hero. Praying for you.

  2. daylily2011 says:

    Wow, how incredibly emotional for all of you. You did rescue your mom and I’m so glad that she is recovering from that awful event.

    My mom had knee replacement therapy about a year ago. I visited her and saw how rabidly she began walking and improving. It was amazing how intent she was to get better. Her strength was inspiring. Then, 4 weeks into her healing, she fell at the physical therapist’s office while she was walking without support. The PT was right next to her when it happened! My mom broke 3 ribs and had so much pain she was in bed healing her ribs instead of walking on her new knee. I still feel really angry that the PT wasn’t doing his job properly. Interestingly, my mom never complained about it. She did change therapy office’s though.

    Sending you prayers,


  3. Praying for you and for your mom

  4. Lizette says:

    My dear, sweet Lori. I cried when I read this. I want to say something profound, full of simple wisdom, and the words escape me. This much I know. You WILL write a book one day…..it won’t happen for some time…..your concentration is on your precious mama for now. Let me tell you this….You are a warrior….a peaceful one, but a warrior, nonetheless. It is good for you to expose yourself to new experiences and situations. Life deals us slings and arrows, so it is best we remain “bendy”. Listen to that voice that told you to check on your mom. Turn up the volume….talk to it, cherish it….smile. A human life can be taken at a moment’s notice, but the soul is everlasting. Teach us your lessons now and those who choose to listen will make this world a better place. If you get a chance, read “Ancient Aztec Prayer”. It is buried deep somewhere in my profile…..I’d be more than happy to reprint it for you. Until then,,,,,,B-R-E-A-T-H-E, darling. Whether one is suffering from cancer, overcoming tragedy, running a country, or winning the Nobel Peace Prize, each day is a gift~

  5. I’m so sorry for what your mother and you went through. I will continue to pray for her.

  6. Kelly leone says:

    Oh Lori, I’m so sorry to hear of such a tragic event for all of you. I can only imagine how difficult that was to watch! She is so very lucky to have you and I’m praying for comfort and Gods peace for each of you. Hang in there girl!
    Kelly L.

  7. Denise Hisey says:

    What an incredible story of contradictions between nurses. One: so compassionate and loving, the other: so willing to lie and throw someone else under the bus. Wow. There is a time for righteous anger and that was one. I’m so proud of you for sticking up for your mom and for that aide, too.
    Prayers for you all as you continue down this challenging path.

  8. My heart is with you, wanting to lift you up, to lift your mother up, to lift up that special nurse, to lift up the God that helped you know what to do and how to respond. I send thanks to our ‘body-knowing’ and your responding to your intuition about something not being right with your Mom, and for the tender nurse whose light was there with yours while helping your mom recover. Can you see how both your sadness and anger served you? YOU made difference, and your anger may just be what makes a difference to the next patient on that ward. You are a gift. May you find peace.

    • Vicki, thank you. I had tears when I read your message. I appreciate you helping me see how the anger helped me. I’m a firm believer in following intuition, and this just makes my resolve that much stronger. Yes, I hope this horrible event with my mom helps protect other patients. I hope it helps shape that nurse’s perspective. Thanks again for your words. They mean a lot to me.

  9. Oh I’m just sobbing…I’m sending you huge hugs ~ so happy you recognized your prompting and went back to rescue Mom. You are blessed to have done that ~ I keep you in my prayers. xo

  10. tourmalinern says:

    OMG Lori. As a nurse, I am just ashamed. I have seen this before from nurses and I have layed into them about their obvious mixing up of priorities. there’s another part of me that feels compassion because the state regulates patient ratios and expects 1 nurse to care for ten people, and then chart novels on every one of them. It’s terrible and the stakes are high. I am so sorry for your experience. I tell all of my families that they are their loved one’s best patient advocate and that they should be completely engaged in their care. You saved your Mom’s life. She heard you. That is the blessing and perhaps the reason for all of it. Thank heavens she will be alright. I guarantee there will be retribution. You will not be present but the nurse who blew it will be seriously reprimanded. Hospitals are cracking down on patient falls, specifically blood thinner patients and this incident will not go unnoticed or unpunished. remember that self-respecting nurses are grateful for an actively engaged family member. They keep us on our toes and are our double-check. Be present and engaged as much as possible and don’t be afraid to call them out (what drug are you administering? Why?) and keep a journal at your Mom’s bedside. If you meet resistance, go straight to the doctor. thankfully, your Mom is a fighter and the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. I’m so sorry but I’m glad you realize the importance of your role in her care. Blessings dear friend.

    • Thank you for sharing so much insight and help with me. I called my dad and told him to bring a notepad, so he can track everything while she recovers. 2 things angered me – the fact that thy would leave her alone on a portable toilet, close the door, and expect her to call when she’s done. She was in and out of consciousness and I just don’t see how they could make that call. But even more disturbing was the lying. The nurse swore she never left my mom’s side all through the night and morning and she agreed my mom shouldn’t have been left. She said the aide is the one who left her. I really think she thought that was going to be the end of it. But I insisted on speaking to the aide, and when she came in she said she left my mom because that’s what the nurse instructed her to do and that they had been leaving my mom alone on the toilet throughout the night and twice that morning. I am so furious at her lying and leaving my weakened, vulnerable mom alone.

      The ER doc said they were going to do an investigation, but I haven’t heard anything. I don’t trust that the truth will be told.
      One thing is for sure – I’m not done dealing with this situation. Do you have any recommendations on what I can do to escalate this?

      I really appreciate your comment. This has been just awful.

  11. Today is the first time I have found your blog. I send you strength, and appreciate your love for your mother. You are a great example of how to love. Thanks for the inspiration

  12. I am deeply touched by your story, thank you for sharing! I probably shouldn’t have read it at work, I had to close my office door, to share my tears in peace. Thanking God with you that your mother was kept through all of that and praying that He continues to give her strength. Peace and Blessings to you and your family.

  13. Juliet says:

    I’m in tears. I’m so sorry for what happened – and I’m so glad you could be there for her when she needed you. I hope she’ll recover soon.

  14. I have no words. I am so sorry, and with you, and praying.

  15. I am also in tears. Tears that feel your pain and anguish, tears of relief that your prayers were heard and answered and especially tears for your mom. Hugs – Patty

  16. everydayissweeter says:

    Wow. No words can suffice.

  17. jonparker55 says:

    I wish I could say I was speechless. I’m not. I’m horrified, saddened, and angered. Unfortunately I am not altogether surprised based on my own personal journey through several hospital surgeries, and visits. I wish we did not have to rely so much on our own personal caregivers and loved ones as much as we really need to do at the present time in most of our hospitals, extended care facilities, nursing homes, etc.but the reality is becoming more apparent to us all. I am so sorry that you, your mother, and your family had to experience this weakness in our healthcare system in such a life threatening, traumatic way.

    You, your Mom, and your family will be in my prayers and thoughts as I follow your blog. Much, much healing and peace of mind to you at this time. -a fellow brain tumor survivor

    • Jon, thank you for your prayers and kind words. Reading your blog has been a huge source of hope for our family. I just shared your story with my mom and dad the other day. You should have seen their eyes light up when they heard you had the same diagnosis 15 years ago.

      I’m sorry you’ve had to go through such an awful disease. I’m incredibly thankful you’ve decided to share your experience with us. God bless you and your family…Thank you for your continued prayers and support. It means a lot to me.

  18. Sebastian says:

    Hello…what a gut-wrenching experience! I thank God for you, your strength, and for your mother’s recovery. Also, thank you for liking my post “Let Love Be Your Guide” on my blog at Faith1st Ministry. I hope it has encouraged you. Please continue check in on us from time to time and follow if you will. Thank you again and remember to be encouraged and have Faith1st. –Sebastian

  19. graciehill48 says:

    You are strong and the Lord is guiding you. It is no mystery that you felt prompted to go to her. You will be in my prayers. gracie

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