Thursday, July 1, 2010

A Bad Call

One of the worst calls you can get when you have an eighty-three year old parent is that they have fallen and broken a hip.  The hip is so important and bears so much weight that any break in it at any age is dangerous.  But for someone who is elderly, it is even morso.

I received this kind of call this week.  My mother had gotten up in the middle of the night (as she often does) and went into her living room to sit in her recliner.  She reached for the familiar chair and, still groggy from sleep, went to sit down.  Unfortunately, she missed the chair altogether and hit the floor squarely with her left hip.  Immediately she knew that she had broken it.  The pain was immense as she lay helplessly on the floor, struggling to move toward the phone.

Unable to do so, she began shouting for help in hopes that someone would be passing in the hallway and come to her aid.  About thirty minutes passed when one of the aids making her usual rounds walked past my mother's apartment and heard her calls for help.  She entered the home and found my mother on the floor in the most intense pain she had every experienced.

She was rushed to the hospital where x-rays confirmed that her hip had, indeed, been broken.  She was admitted to the hospital where her condition was stabilized and plans for surgery began forming.  However, there is one complication.  Because of a massive heart attack she suffered four years ago, my mother is on a daily regimen of the drug coumadin, a potent blood thinner designed to prevent blood clots from blocking her cardiac arteries.  If surgery were to be performed too early she would bleed uncontrollably and could very likely die.  The task at hand for the medical personnel, then, is to gradually and safely reduce the levels of coumadin to an acceptable threshold while maintain the thinning properties that guard her heart.

Doctors tells us that the levels will reach acceptable norms for surgery on Friday at which time the surgeon will repair her hip.  But that is just the start of things.  She will face a long and difficult recovery through physical therapy.

My mother is a strong woman both physically and psychologically.  She has been through much in her long and wonderful life.  She has faced enormous personal challenges and medical emergencies with a sense of courage, dignity, and determination.  This, however, is the most difficult mountain she has had to climb.

My mother is staunchly independent and it took a lot for her to move into an assisted care facility because of the loss of a great deal of that independence.  Now, because of the injury to her hip, she faces losing what is left of her independence.  Nothing is certain and I am certainly not saying that she will be permanently disabled as a result of this unfortunate accident.  We have seen her come through other difficult moments in life that have both surprised and amazed us.  But this is different.  She is much older and weaker now.  However, she has always be iron willed.

The difficult days ahead will be filled with worry, anxiety, and concern.  They will be long days.  And, yet, my mother once again stands before us as a teacher.  I am certain that, regardless of the outcome of surgery and resulting prognosis, she will teach us what it is like to face life's trials with dignity and courage.  May we remember this above all else as she enters this time of her life.