When You’re 82…

… you just don’t bounce back that quickly. You don’t bounce much off the curb either.

Six weeks ago today, I was blogging away about how our family was being pulled In All Different Directions. I even commented briefly and wondered aloud about my mom living alone in her Over 55 apartment complex. But as I was clicking “publish,” the trajectory for my life shifted temporarily.

My mom was walking across the street with her dog, Pepper. She looked up the street to see a friend walking in the distance. But as she did, she didn’t notice the change in the pavement where the storm drain meets the curb. And down she went.

Luckily, it was right outside the office, so there were plenty of people passing by. Those first-hand witnesses were eager to tell us all that Pepper was not to blame! Why people love that dog so much, I will never understand.  The apartment manager, the activity director, the maintenance man, and who knows how many residents came rushing to her.

My phone rang. The activity director, Michelle, said that mom had fallen but seemed ok. She hadn’t hit her head, but was in a lot of pain. Her wrist was swollen a little and maybe needed to be checked at the hospital. She made it sound fairly insignificant. I asked to talk to my mom. She only said, “Come now.”

Well, okay, then.

As I got ready, I called Ron, who was getting off the train. His train stop is near her apartment complex, so he could actually get to her before me.  He found her sitting on the curb and was able to carry her over to a bench outside the activity center. She couldn’t bear any weight at all on her legs. She just couldn’t make them work, and was sounding more confused.

As I was driving, I called Alyssa to let her know I’d be taking Grandma up to the hospital. She and Josh were only 3 minutes away from Grandma’s so they went straight there. We both arrived at the same time. My mom looked so small and weak, leaning up against Ron on the bench. Her head hung forward and I knew she was in pain. Ron carried her over to the car, and Josh leaned in from the other side to pull her into the seat. She wasn’t able to help herself at all.

Obviously, she needed to go to the hospital. Her wrist was barely swollen, but her inability to move her body was alarming. Alyssa went to her apartment and brought out her wallet.  Since we had no idea how long we’d be, I just sent everyone on, and took her up to Round Rock’s Scott & White.

After wheeling her in, they discovered that her wrist was broken in 5 places. She had fallen backward on her hand and just jammed it up into her bone. I know, awful.  So they did a little traction – which is incredibly barbaric looking. Shocking, really, that we haven’t moved on and improved this. But gravity works.

Yes, I took a picture with my phone. The contraption looked (and worked) a lot like those Chinese finger traps. Remember them? The more you struggled the tighter it got.  And, while Grandma wasn’t struggling at all, the weight of her arm had the same effecton the traction contraption.

They finished by slathering on the plaster to make a cast. It went from her hand up around and past her elbow. Everything was secure.

But the real problem, in my mind, was she was still really confused and totally unable to walk. She complained of excruciating pain. The doctor was sure that she broke her hip, but the Xrays showed everything in place. So she must have pulled a muscle when she tried to catch herself falling, or as she was slipping. The doctor then pulled up a chair to have one of “those” conversations.
“Let’s talk about where she goes from here.” He went on to describe some of the possibilities of rehab or an assisted living facility. Those words certainly got my moms attention! (She had been a social worker who inspected nursing homes in Dallas, as well as an Adult Protective Services worker.) I told him that for now, I’d just bring her home with me and we’d do what we could. He seemed okay with that decision, but said if things got bad to call him… something about having a harder time getting into a rehab from the home if you didn’t come back through the ER.  Ahhh… insurance!

So I called Ron and he went on the task of trying to find a potty chair and a wheel chair. By then it was 10 p.m. But by midnight, we had everything we needed.

For the next week, we each slept on a couch downstairs in the living room. We have no bedrooms on the first floor, and there was no way she could do the stairs. I got up in the night to help her when she got up – usually twice each night. Toward the end of the week, Katie gave me a break, and slept downstairs so I could sleep in a bed.

In the back of my head, I knew I was about to leave for California, to take Katie to school. So I was very concerned about getting Grandma to a level of health & independence, where she could take care of herself in her own apartment.  The next week, Grandma was showing some small improvements, so we decided that she and I would, together, move back into her apartment. She was insisting that she could be independent, and I was incredibly doubtful. But when we got over there, she made ENORMOUS improvement. Having carpeted floors allowed her to stand and walk with a cane. Her bed is much higher, so it wasn’t such a strain for her to “push off” the couch. She could simply swing out her legs, and she was better and moving around.

At one point, I wheeled her over to her Tuesday Coffee group in the apartment’s activity center. They applauded when she came into the room. She told me later that most of the time, when someone falls, they never come back. They’re whisked off to a nursing home to recover, and the ladies in the coffee group don’t see them anymore. SO! For her to actually RETURN!?! Impressive.

After the week together at her apartment,  between Alyssa & Josh swinging by nearly daily, Ron stopping by on his way home from the train, Katie and I were able to go off to California. Grandma was ambling along with a cane, still needs a little help managing her meds, but is much improved.

Yet, the roller coaster continues. I had started this post earlier, but this morning, Grandma called saying she was having a stroke. I called Alyssa and Josh, who could get there before me. She was already beginning to feel better. Nevertheless, we all rushed over. Josh did neuro checks and I found her nitro. It seems she had another episode of her bizaarre Prinzmetal Angina. All of her pain passed and we packed her up to come back over to my house. She took a nap on the couch, read her book, ate some food and watched the presidential debate.



One thought on “When You’re 82…

  1. Pingback: Dallas Road Trip: Chihuly Nights and the Pumpkin Village | Lifelong Learning

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