Things weren’t looking great for my mother-in-law by the time I arrived in Boston, the first week of the year. My husband Mark jumped on a plane a few days earlier, because listening to her ordeal from afar without being able to help was frustrating. When it comes to health care (and many other things), one needs to stay on top of everything, following up on procedures, discussions, plans, and promises. When the person who usually is in charge of that ends up hospitalized, someone else has to step in and be present to advocate. Full-time. We already lost a precious week over the Christmas period, because of misconceptions, wrong actions and holiday (non-)schedules. All out of the family’s control.
After being bed-ridden and connected to a plethora of machines for a month, screens being monitored and tubes being adjusted every 20 minutes, the good news arrived. My mother-in-law (who had been unable to move even her head during that time) was to be released from the intensive care unit of the hospital in Boston and moved to an urgent care rehabilitation center in the same vicinity. She still could not swallow or eat and was very weak from being in the horizontal position for this long, but at least she was on the road to recovery now, in a state-of-the-art facility, with a busy activity schedule and a professional, friendly and helpful team of therapists. The goal is to have her back home on February 5th. She will have to live and sleep on the first floor to start, and therapy will continue in-home.
For people who know my mother-in-law, the fact that she had to be ambulanced off to the ER came as a shock and a surprise. At 82, she is a very healthy, smart, strong (and strong-willed 😊), and independent woman; the care-giver in her marriage. Her condition was diagnosed as a burst brain AVM (arteriovenous malformation), which is a tangle of abnormal blood vessels connecting arteries and veins in the brain. She was most likely born with it and only a brain scan would have revealed the anomaly. The rupture of the blood vessels caused bleeding in her brain, leading to a stroke. Brain AVMs are rare and affect less than 1 percent of the population. They are in fact so rare, that a local TV station is filming her today to feature in a documentary for the TV series Chronicle, to create awareness for AVMs.
“You are an 82-year-old with the body and health of a 62-year-old,” the surgeon stated, before recommending surgery to remove the AVM and avoid a future rapture. Recovery time would be swift. Mark and I planned a two-week stay in Newburyport to help his mom get orientated back home, once released from the hospital. Well… things didn’t quite work out that way. Complications led to another surgery, worries and side-effects severely reducing her quality of life for over a month.
During our scheduled two weeks, Mark and I (and her husband) visited every day, the drive taking anywhere from 2-3 hours, depending on traffic. At home, we took care of meals, dishes, laundry, finances, shopping, plants, phone calls, follow-ups, communications with friends and family, ice removal (it was extremely cold and snowy), unexpected issues… It kept us incredibly busy, especially since we have a business (and our own lives) to run as well. But, we are very happy to help and are glad to have this flexibility. This last week, we continue the household duties and visits, and move furniture to establish a downstairs bedroom.
As new information in regards to our patient’s condition was revealed, we realized two weeks back east would not be enough. We decided Mark should extend his stay with one more week, and I would return to San Diego as planned, to finish our house sit. The day before I was to depart, serendipity arrived. The man who took over our house and pet sitting duties requested to stay a week longer. I asked him whether he would be OK taking care of the dogs during that time, so I could return with Mark. Within an hour, we had both moved our plane tickets a week out. Everybody was happy! When we learned the owner of the house would return to San Diego ten days later than anticipated, we jumped on the occasion to take care of Elvis and Friday until February 11th. 😊