Saturday morning started with a telephone call from my son. He told me that his grandmother, my mother, was unresponsive and in the emergency room at UT Hospital. The details were few. All we knew at that point was that mom was on a ventilator. I quickly dressed and headed to the hospital.
Leaving the house, I knew that day was going to be long, different and potentially very sad. As I passed the first McDonalds on the way to the hospital the thought occurred to me that I ought to get something to eat. The drive-thru lane at the next one was way too long so I decided to park and go inside. The line inside was longer than I wanted to wait for as well. Turning to leave, my cell phone rang. It was my Uncle John in Texas. This would be the first of many conversations with him on this day. I told him what I knew oblivious to those around me. “She is in the emergency room at UT. I don’t know much, I have not talked to a doctor yet.” The call ended and I heard a man behind me speaking. He had heard my conversation and wanted me to take his place at the front of the line. That seemed strange to me. Something really bad must be happening in your life, if people in McDonalds offer to let you go in front of them. I accepted the offer still not unaware of just how different this day would be.
At the hospital, my sister and I listened to doctor tell us about mom. Mom had always told us that she did not want to be put on a ventilator. My sister was especially bothered that this had already happened. The doctor explained that she had no reason not to do it as there was nothing in mom’s paperwork to indicate her wishes. The doctor then explained that the ventilator was medically necessary as mom could not breathe without it.
Sister and I talked and decided that since mom was already on the ventilator, we ought to see how mom responds to the treatment before we made a decision about whether or not to remove the ventilator.
As the day wore on, nothing seemed to be improving. Doctors and nurses alike were kind, considerate and honest. Their words gave us very little encouragement about mom’s condition. When a person is on a ventilator sedation is required to keep the person from panicking and struggling against it. Mom needed that sedation in the morning. By lunchtime, she no longer required it. She was in effect sedating herself. This was not a good sign.
Sometime in the afternoon they moved mom from the emergency room to a critical care unit. Her condition did not seem to improve. The day was moving on and we had the lingering thought all the while that that we were not doing what mom had told us to do.
Meanwhile, sister’s friends from high school and college started to show up at the hospital. Steve and Brian had been at the hospital most of the day, but now other people from church were sitting in the critical care unit waiting room. Why are all these people here I wondered. They were there to support and love my sister and myself during a very difficult time. Seeing all those people made what was happening real.
Late Saturday evening, my sister and I told the nurse to remove the ventilator. We made it clear that we wanted all treatment to continue. We just did not want mom on a ventilator any longer. We did this not as an act of faith in God, but as act of obedience to mom. It was what she wanted.
After we made the request, I realized my time with my mother was now potentially measured in minutes. No one had given mom much chance of breathing without the ventilator. When the person from respiratory came and removed it, mom would in all likelihood no longer be breathing.
She did breathe though. She breathed through that night and every night since then. Still, she is sick and she has a long recovery in front of her.
After mom had started breathing on her own, I went back to the waiting room. I had long ago lost track of time, but it must have around midnight or later. There in the waiting room were eight or ten folks from Ball Camp Baptist Church. Church! Thank you.