By Leslie Criss/NEMS Daily Journal
“Everybody here understands the desperation that people feel when they’re sick. And I think everybody here is profoundly sympathetic and wants to make sure that we have a system that works for all Americans.”
– Barack Obama
“Wherever there is a human being, there is an opportunity for a kindness.”
My family and I have spent a good portion of the past two weeks hanging out in a hospital room in Corinth. The patient, my mother.
She went in by ambulance at 3 a.m. the day after Independence Day because she couldn’t breathe. Diagnosed with congestive heart failure a year or so ago, she’d been told recently by a physician that since everything seemed to be going well, no need to worry about the fact her ankles and feet were elephantine.
It doesn’t take medical school to know if fluid is retained long enough, it will eventually drown a human being.
Mom was admitted and spent two nights in ICU, was moved to a regular room and then released.
She’d been home a few hours when my dad called to tell me an ambulance had been called because all signs pointed to a stroke.
Hours later, around midnight, we were told it was no stroke. What, then, caused the left side of her face to droop, her speech to slur, her left arm to dangle lifelessly and her left leg to not work? Quick drop in blood pressure, we were told before taking her home.
A little more than 24 hours later on a Saturday morning, my mom lay still in her bed at home, unable to speak clearly, unable to move her left arm and with an off-kilter smile that leaned to the left.
We gathered around her for several hours, her heart rate dipping below 50. Finally, after consulting a family friend in Jackson, a physician, we once again called an ambulance.
Late Saturday afternoon, after tests and blood work and lots of prayers, another ER doc again told us, “no stroke.” Then what? This time, a different diagnosis. Dementia.
That diagnosis was nothing new to my family. But will dementia cause low heart rate, low blood pressure and clear stoke symptoms. Absolutely not, we were finally told once in a room on the strong-staffed third floor.
Many days later, dear Dr. Kirby, a neurologist who talks out his thoughts for all to hear and who does not give up if a diagnosis is not clear and quick, told my family our loved one did, indeed, suffer a stroke.
No hospital is perfect. There are weak links in every chain. Thankfully, there are also strong links. The staff on the third floor who treated my entire family with genuine compassion and concern through Mom’s myriad moods and each family member’s frustrations deserve much more than just a word or two of thanks in a rectangular chunk of newsprint.
But, right now, it’s all I’ve got and it’s important to me to say it.
To Dr. Kirby, Diane, Amanda, Perry, Courtney, Reba, Terry and others whose names I don’t recall, thank you for being patches of blue sky for my family during a dark, stormy time.
It meant more than you know.