There are times when all the world’s asleep, the questions run too deep...Supertramp, The Logical Song from the album Breakfast in America
Mom seemed to do well enough in memory care but to me, she seemed far less “lost” than most of the residents. She was uneasy around those who were nonverbal and was alarmed at the ones who would shout obscenities and racial slurs at the staff. It alarmed me, too. Any time I was there for meals I left with my stomach in knots; mom seemed to get used to it or at least block it out. She had her friends and was settling in and finding her way.
We arranged for a physical therapist to come by a couple of times a week to help her transition from a wheelchair to a walker and to say she was unhappy about it is a vast understatement. I thought I would be there with mom and the therapist the first time he visited and after that just leave them to it - I didn’t want to get in the way or be someone she felt she could talk into not doing the work. I didn’t call that one well at all. As soon as he arrived, she would try to wave him off with any excuse she could come up with; she didn’t feel like it, it was too warm outside (really? Because all your therapy is inside so...no), or she was too tired.
We decided together that it would be best if I was there. He was very patient with her and great at deflecting her excuses but, with me there to tell her that she wasn’t sick or being picked up or having her hair done soon or whatever excuse she could come up with, we were able to get back to work a lot sooner. We tried to explain to her that everything would be so much easier if she wasn’t in the wheelchair. She didn’t care.
On the first day of therapy it was as if all of a sudden I was the mother a petulant 5 year old child whose main focus was embarrassing the hell out of me for thirty minutes straight. I know how I used to handle that kind of attitude with my kids - I’d stun them with lasers shot from my eyes, haul them out of earshot of the general public, and tell them to straighten up RIGHT NOW. I knew better than to do that with my mom, but I had to come up with something she would understand and couldn't argue with me about. I leaned in and quietly told her that she wasn’t being very nice. No threats, no long drawn out explanations, no bribery. Just the facts, ma'am.
With each session she made a little more progress and started to look forward to the therapist's visits. Around the third week, he told me he was concerned that she wasn’t making more progress and her left leg was turned out even though he had been working to correct it. She didn’t seem to be in a lot of pain and by this point she was pleasant for most of the sessions. He put in a call to her doctor to stop by and take a look at her hip.
June 20, 2014 was a Friday. Bill and I had plans to attend an event downtown and then stay overnight. I was looking forward to it - we were going to have a chance to do something for us and I had a new dress and new heels that didn’t hurt too much. Score! I was just finishing packing my things when my phone rang. It was mom’s doctor telling me that he had called an ambulance to transport my mom to Mercy Hospital for emergency hip surgery and we needed to get there now to help with getting her admitted. I told him we were on our way and then I sat down on the bed and cried.
Now who was acting like a child?
Mom’s doctor had taken an xray of her hip with the mobile xray unit where she lived. He was expecting to see arthritis or something along those lines. What he saw was a hip that had been broken around 4 months prior had and healed in place. That would explain the out-turned foot and her reluctance to try to walk. He said she must have been in a considerable amount of pain ever since it happened. But she never complained about her hip. The doctor in Illinois had said nothing about her hip. She had been moving herself from the wheelchair to the toilet and bed since she fell back in March. She had hurt her knee, not her hip.
No - that’s what I was told and I never questioned it. Why would the hospital not xray the hip of a 75 year old woman who had just fallen hard enough to chip her kneecap? Why didn’t it occur to me to ask? I’m supposed to be smart. I’m supposed to be practical and logical and, above all else, I’m supposed to be looking out for my mom and I had failed.