My Sister and Thomas

As I mentioned some time ago, my sister was diagnosed with a brain tumor.  It was an unusual tumor that made itself known last year.

She finally had surgery three weeks ago.  When I first posted that information, we were all told it was a genetic, slow moving brain tumor, situated on her pituitary, causing her partial blindness and memory loss.  I was justifiably upset that the “team” of doctors kept delaying the surgery.  I could see she was getting worse. And, they were wrong. It grew way faster than they ever imagined it would.

When my step-brother and I visited in October, she was already quite forgetful, but she was managing.  She could feed herself and care for her basic needs.  To talk to her, she didn’t seem quite that bad.  We both left Florida relying on her boys to keep checking in on her and making sure she was okay, which they did, faithfully,  as did some of her neighbors, so she wasn’t entirely alone.

She and I kept in touch by phone and some of the time, when she could find her phone we would get to chat. Then, all of a sudden, I wasn’t getting through to her, at all.  I then had to rely on communications from her sons. Her sons started having to go by more frequently and then alternating days when they could. The niece in law would clean, do laundry and prep several meals for her, but one day they found the plate from the night before untouched. In fact, some had been wrapped up in paper towels and squirreled away.  She hadn’t been eating!

Her eldest son took his wife with him to pick her up and take her home with them as they had wanted to do before.  Up until then, my sis had not been compliant to go with them since she’d made it clear that she expected them to take all her furniture and “stuff” from her two floor flat and move it into the one bedroom. They explained, they could store these items, for when she was better, but she dug in her heels and did what we call, the “Brothers” thing. That’s our maiden name and our genetics are given to being notoriously obstinate.

Then there was Thomas.  The fact that there was a Thomas didn’t help and the kids knew how much he meant to her so they didn’t force her.

Thomas was her cat.  They are all allergic, so until they found him a home, taking him wasn’t going to happen.  No way, no how, that wasn’t going to happen if she had anything to say about it – period.  So, they were at a standoff.

Thomas O'Mally

He is pretty though.  As it turns out, she wasn’t paying much attention to him and Thomas was becoming quite feral in his own home.

The next day when they came to pick her up, she was lying on the floor in her own urine.  My niece in law showered her and my nephew packed up a few things to take her home.  They figured they could leave Thomas behind and check up on him daily to feed and change his litter box.

As they were headed downstairs, she collapsed.  She was taken to the ER and then admitted to ICU.  The surgery was scheduled but they had to strengthen her and get her vitals up so she could have surgery.  She was there a week before that would happen.  Her neighbor friend left me a message saying she had asked for me, so I flew out there two days later and a few days before surgery.  The evening I came in, she didn’t know who I was, but then the next day when the doc asked her if she knew me, she said, “Yes, that’s my sister Jo”.

Diana and I hosp

After a few days, she actually brightened up, as you can see.

During the few days before the surgery, I’d go and visit.  She really couldn’t carry on a conversation, but I noticed she wasn’t eating yet either, so I started to break down her food and feed her.

I really didn’t know what to do other than sit, so I started to read to her, give her a massage, wash her hair and do whatever I could to make her feel connected.  Her skin was very flaky and dry, so I made an olive and coconut oil concoction, simply because I reasoned, it could possibly give her nutrients to absorb from the outside. I figured, if she’d been half starved then she wasn’t getting the fats her body needed.  My niece in law had been using regular lotions, but they weren’t working.  I figured, if Sophia Loren swears by that stuff for her skin and she looks amazing, then it must work and it did.  In any case, it gave me something to do with her.  I wouldn’t stay long because she tired easily and after awhile I would summarily be dismissed.  Little sisters can be quite bossy.

At home I would take care of things. Clean up a bit, take care of Thomas and sight see.  In the meantime, the kids all asked if I’d seen Thomas and I say, “Not yet” or “Surprisingly, No”.  Thomas had lived with my husband and I up until 5 years ago, so it was kind of odd, he didn’t remember me.  It was almost four days later that I saw him run by.  If it hadn’t been for food disappearing and the litter box needing cleaning each day, you’d never know he was there even though I looked and called for him.

Later, one of the niece in laws make an effort, to talk me into taking him and I said, “No,  I’m not flying a cat all the way to California”, besides if I got another cat I’d want one that cuddles and Thomas doesn’t cuddle, besides Chloe’s health is failing and if he doesn’t remember me then those two won’t remember each other.

Surgery day came and her boys went in to see her first, then one came out and I went in and the delight on her face to see me made my trip all worthwhile.  Keep in mind, she wouldn’t remember day to day things we might have done. Her son admitted he thought I might have wasted my time coming, but when he saw her face light up, he was so glad I had.

My other brother from California and my sister from Alabama came as well.  After surgery it looked like everything would be fine.  Her eyes and expression were alert and welcoming, so we were relieved. By the next day, she was angry and stated quite clearly how she couldn’t breathe and was in pain and asked me to leave and to tell everyone else to stay away.  It was still promising in two ways, one she was able to articulate and express herself clearly, something we’d not seen and two, she was thinking clearly.  Since the surgery had been performed through her nasal passage, we weren’t terribly surprised she’d be upset about her breathing and she’s not a mouth breather.

The day after that, my brother went in to see her and we thought the pain would be better, but…  they were going to have to go back in.  She was having major clotting and some had blocked breathing.  We thought it had dropped into her lungs, as she was put on a respirator.  It turns out it was lodged in her throat and for two days they would remove clots the size of chicken livers.  I remained outside.  I didn’t see her for three days even though we would all meet daily in the waiting area. All hope had been dashed that I would get my sister back.

That week, she was not eating and they wouldn’t put a feeding tube in her because it could introduce bacteria into her system. So they said. I’d never heard of anything like this. I am as frustrated as hell at some of the decisions these docs have made, but then who am I?  I try to be patient, but I don’t understand.  My nephews too have been frustrated. My daughter, an RN, in SLC and my niece in law, a vet pathologist instructor, both do their best to explain things to us. Even though “S” isn’t a human pathologist, she does understand medical speak.

A few days later, she was a bit more responsive.  I told her I loved her and she said, “I love you too”  I explain to her that I will have to return home and for her to get better and she says ok. I leave.

Unfortunately, she doesn’t.  Days have passed and she’s gotten thinner.  They got her to walk one day, but she’s been off and on nourished through a nasal tube.  Finally they thought to move her into a regular wing, thinking she may have developed a type of hospital depression, so they did for like two day, if that.  They wanted to move her to rehab, so to do so, she had to be eating or on a feeding tube, so they put a direct line to her stomach.  I’m fuming because why in the hell, didn’t they do that in the first place?

They were giving her hormones to compensate for the pituitary but said, they hadn’t quite got the right combination yet.  I kept saying, feed her for Petes’ sake.  How can she respond to anything if she isn’t nourished?!!!

They were still wanting to move her,  but my nephew disapproval was apparent.  The nurse said to him, “You don’t think she should be moved?”  He looked her in the eye and said, “Do you think she looks like she’s in any shape to be moved!”  I think he’d had enough as well.  So, she told him she’d have the doctor call.  Well, they didn’t, but they immediately ordered a bunch of new tests.  Checking for the possibility of meningitis and/or a stroke.  One of the docs (they work in “teams”) finally called to say the nasal passage was clear so she didn’t get meningitis from that.  Tests came back but so far no bacteria was found and nothing fungal yet, which could still show, but probably not. The MRI did show vascular inflammation that could have stemmed from an infection or immune response.  They are giving her antibiotics and it’s still unclear what has happened since surgery, but she still has a vacant look. On Monday she will get another MRI and a full stroke study.  Again, why do they take so long to do thing?

With the COVID-19 a concern, they are limiting visitations.  My siblings and I wanted to go back there again, but until things clear up, we just wait and pray.

I wanted to share some pics of us her and us.

Diana

One of the art exhibits in Birmingham when we were still together.

Diana and Ferg

Di giving my little dog Ferguson a ride.

Diana and I night

She and I on my last visit before six months ago.Diana' news

Looking real good, a couple of years ago. She actually won a ribbon for one of her drawings that trip.

Then there’s the original four.  I’m the tall one, she’s the little one.  We would later acquire my four step siblings and a new little brother.

Us kids.

I want to thank my baby brother, who couldn’t be there,  for paying for my trip to see her and for all the support my step siblings have given me as well.  The rest of us got to be there for her for one week.  Now we wait and see.

As for Thomas, the word got out and there were several offers to take him. He ended up going home with one of the ER nurses, and yes, he’d become quite feral. So much so that when “S” and I tried to round him up, he hissed at us.  This gal and her husband would come two weeks later and corralled him to get a look at him first.  After a bit, they said yes.  The other day, we learned he was sitting on her lap while she watched T.V.  He is obviously happy, because he doesn’t do that for just anyone.

Yesterday, I got to thinking of all that has transpired in the world since she lost touch and so many monumental things no less, and a happy thought flittered by…

Wouldn’t it be great if down the road, when she gets better, we can tell her of all the stuff she “slept through?    My son, says, “Yeah,  “While You Were Sleeping...”

It made me chuckle to myself and then I laughed a little out loud. I told my nephew, I just bet she’d get a kick out of it.  He said and then she’ll have that curious look on her face…and added a laughing emoji.

I, WE can hardly wait!!

 

 

My Sister – I love You

diana at the Art at the Barn faire

My sister was found to have a mass on her brain, (yesterday). She goes back in today for an MRI with contrast.

I am so sick about it.

She’d been losing her sight and it all came on within the past few months. I suspected something wrong because she was tired a lot.  More so of late. picnic

She is my baby sister.  She was the one who left her job and came out to Alabama to help me take care of our parents.  It was hard at first and we at times fought.  If you can picture 50-60 year old’s fighting.

She is/was a massage therapist and into natural remedies which is why she only went to her acupuncturist and chiropractor, seeking a “natural”solution to whatever was ailing her.  Now, that I think back on it, she has complained for some time that she had not been feeling well. She thought it was a mold issue. (She lives in Florida) She complained and yes, there was mold in her air conditioning and her landlord took care of it.Yellow Mushrooms

Even so, she’d been complaining about an overall not feeling well and we’d make jokes about how it sucks getting old.  I still kept insisting she see a doctor.  I told her that I understood her wanting to go natural, but sometimes it’s valuable to find out what is for sure going on and if there’s a natural course of attack, then she can make that decision.  She “said” she agreed with my reasoning, but she kept putting it off.

What was interesting and I mentioned this to her, if her cats got sick she’d take them to the doctor and spend whatever necessary.  She always came second.Closet Diva (1)

For a time, I talked to her less out of sheer frustration.  I didn’t want to hear about the acupuncturist and chiropractor.  Please understand, I have nothing against them, but I just suspected more.  I wonder too, if they had not recommended the same, because many do and will, but she wouldn’t say.

She finally said she had gone to the doctor.  I discover yesterday that she went to a Lenscrafter optician. When she told me about her visit, she made a joke about, “Hey, you know the big letters on the eye chart?  Well, I can’t even see those!  My eyes are really bad.”  He did recommend she see a specialist but then she said well, I haven’t heard back from him with the referral he would recommend.  I suggest she call him.  She never did. She said, no $$. She is on Medicare, but had not gotten the supplemental insurance and she was no longer working.  If you know anything about massage therapists, they are independent contractors with no benefits whatsoever, so of course no retirement income.  She said she had put some money away, but says, she doesn’t know where it went to. She wanted me to come out.  She asked me often. I wanted to but wouldn’t go.

These are my reasons.  If I’d gone out, it might have resulted in a vacation and that would have been her reasoning. Excuses. I’m not an awful sister, but… I knew if I did, my time would be limited and I knew I’d be spinning my wheels, not knowing the area and trying to find what was available. I don’t know people, services or doctors there and at the end of the day, nothing would have been accomplished.

The Tree Tea Party

I kept insisting she call her “boys” and let them know what was going on but she wanted me to come out.  I dug in my heels.  She kept saying they had busy lives and her daughter in law had just lost her dad and a few years before, her mother.  No, she didn’t want to put that on them.  Her boys are busy, with sports and raising kids.  One, has a girl in college on a sports scholarship, I think she said,  another in high school.  The college student would come on occasion and help her with things. The other son has little ones.  Both “boys” are busy.  Well guess what?  She broke down and told them and they aren’t too busy to help their mom and they are the reason she is getting help.  They know the right doctors. They got the referrals and are taking care of business… and in short order.

Blue Pumpkins

Because she couldn’t see, she had possibly mismanaged her bank accounts and they’ve had to step in to help with that. Everyone is getting involved.

The daughter in law said they’d seen her not that long ago but she behaved “normally” so they were unaware. She is not a complainer, so she never said a word to them. Even when she spoke to me, she didn’t actually complain. So when she finally did let them know the extent of her vision loss, they immediately got her help. Their doctor, did not order the tests right away because she had been taking so many herbs and potions, he said they would cloud the tests and he wanted to wait until they were out of her system before doing blood work. Now, I wait for more.

Before the MRI, the “kids” asked for our family history.  I sent that to them. Before the MRI, they said the doctor had indicated she was depressed and they thought she had begun to be forgetful.  Depression can do that too.  Just in the last couple of weeks, I had noticed a turn.  She was sleeping more and I reasoned that perhaps that was why she was losing time. She would forget things. She kept talking about how I was going to be there in a few days after I had explained I would come in October. She forgot.  THAT IS NOT HER. She was once a bookkeeper at Disney World.  She knows computation.

The doctor gave her simple equations and she could not compute them. She got angry with him for asking her to “think”. Multi Color Pots

I am writing this because for the last few days I’ve been on an emotional roller coaster and I don’t know what to do.

I lashed out at hubby. I hugged hubby. So glad I have hubby.

I feel ANGER. I am so angry. Angry at her for not going to the doctor when I suggested and how so like dad that was.  Stubborn and rebellious. How could she do that to us?  I am the eldest and yes, I can be so bossy! I know that, but it doesn’t make me wrong.  Why didn’t you go?  I CAN’T LOSE MY BABY SISTER!!!!

Then there’s the GUILT.  Why didn’t I just go over her head and enlist her boys whether she liked it or not?  I know why.  I just never guessed it was that bad and I  am feeling guilty for not having known. I want to scream!!!

And, SAD.  I am so sad.  What if it’s not a slam dunk remedy?

PAIN.  It hurts so bad. My emotions are all over the board.

Flying Carpet

Last night, I kept remembering all the good times she and I shared in our misery taking care of our parents.  Our parents had been difficult our whole lives. We marveled at how well we had all turned out despite the abuses.  She is a beautiful person and an artist and I know she’s not dead, but with the my back log of clues, the evidence may have been there longer than we knew… I don’t know.  I know as we grow older, it is inevitable we lose people we love. It’s all part of life.

I call the family on this side of the country to let them know.  I called my son in Texas only to learn he lost one of his best friends this past week of a brain tumor.  He was 38.  I guess age doesn’t matter.

Can I be royally pissed? Certainly, but I forgive her. She is sweet and loving and probably never imagined it was that bad. I sometimes wonder if children of a hypochondriac parent put off things for fear they may be parroting them?

Spread throughout this blog are pictures my sister has drawn, using crayon.  It is Crayon Art which she has won awards for. I love them.

Stabbed 37 Times

Hello blog friends.  I’ve been MIA from the blog community and will unfortunately be a long time trying to catch up on past blogs.

I had to depart suddenly as my brother was stabbed by a “tenant” he was evicting from his home.  He is fortunately recovering well. The trauma team was amazing and repaired his heart and lung, damaged in the altercation. We have determined he comes from sturdy stock, because it was a miracle he did not die.  Although he did say he remembered a “gold” room where he saw mom and his dad, both deceased. So who knows?

I cannot say enough thanks to all those who came to render support. It was very inspiring at how so many coworkers and friends showed up for the next few days. I think it helped for him to know so many family members and friends came to his side and offer if nothing else moral support.  It was a tenuous few days but he is doing well.

It was also cool to hear stories from previous Air Force buddies who told us stories about his knack for picking up strays and rehabilitating them, making mascots of some that stayed with them during their service.  Not surprising.

My brother Michael is one who has a big heart.   He has a tendency to take in troubled youth and this one was more trouble than he ever anticipated. Having been a foster child himself, he knows how young people may sometimes need a break. Despite the fact that this young man had assaulted his own mother and grandparents,  Michael was determined to give him a chance. I am unclear as to how old he was but I’m guessing he is in his early 20’s and still at large.

All the way over there, (I drove) I kept remembering the first time, I saw Michael as he got off the plane with his older sister to live with us. He had been in a foster home in Boston and both he and his sister were just as cute as could be. He was 5 and she 7 and I was in love immediately.  I had just turned 18 that day, so I always thought of them as my birthday present. It still brings nostalgic tears to my eyes.

He was wearing a little beanie, shorts & jacket, knee high socks and a big, big smile. I wish I’d had an iPhone then, but no matter, it’s permanently engraved in my memory. Tears fell when I told him.

His buddy, “Jim” was telling us stories and the one that stuck in my mind was about a dog, they would later call “Runway”.  He said, it was near death and rescued by Michael, taken to the vet and how Michael didn’t bat an eye as he promptly plopped down several hundred dollars to have her looked at and treated. She came to live on the base in, I think he said, Minot? (Not sure.) She was there for a good many years before she died.

Michael was a mechanic for military aircraft and I remember how he was always bouncing back and forth between there and Saudi.  After retirement, he went to work for Boeing on what I suspect are aircraft requiring top secret clearances.( I only know because his family always has to be cleared as well, which they do periodically for his job. No clue what he does though.  One year, we went through it twice as my son’s MSG assignment required it as well )

In the last couple of years Michael has fought cancer, gone through chemo, had a stent put in his heart which the nurses and docs commented on as he had a possible attack while in surgery. Shortly after that he had back surgery, so he’s had a very busy year. Despite all that, my daughter and I were amazed at his ability to bounce back.  He was disappointed when the docs nixed his bike riding days for several months. Sigh!  No holding this guy down.

We hope he will get to go home soon, though maybe with his wanting to get up and get going might be harder to control.

In the meantime, his assailant has not been apprehended.  We called the police and asked about this, but he lives in a city where law enforcement is overwhelmed with stabbings and other grave crime.  I was shocked at how many more had made the news in just 24 hours!!

With my other brothers help we changed locks on his home and my daughter and I cleaned up what had not been picked up yet.

It might interest everyone to know that his nurses were mostly men and his trauma doctor was a woman.  Progress. My, how times have changed!

The trauma doc didn’t look like she’d hit 30 yet, but she was phenomenal and just as great about explaining what she did and even answered my other daughter’s questions (on the phone) and who’s in nursing school.  Living in a small town, incidents like this would be rare and she was disappointed she was not in a place where she could attend to her uncle.  I took pictures of all the data on equipment, tubes in and out of him and wounds for her to observe. With his permission, of course.

Sorry, no pictures that are releasable.

Just so you know: If I don’t “Like” or “comment” on your blogs,  do not despair. It may just be too overwhelming to catch up.

POST SCRIPT:  He is a hardy soul. What I failed to mention was that most were defensive wounds, still serious of course because of the possibility of infection, but only about a third were in vital areas. For awhile they were not sure of tendon damage, as the ones in his arms did affect movement but only for a few days, so they didn’t have to go back in for more surgery to repair them. So that was good.

Thanks for all your well wishes.