Yesterday was my day off, and I spent some of it driving around, enjoying a lovely mild day and gas at $1.45.
I found myself in Georgetown, and decided to go to the Goodwill and see if they had anything I couldn't resist. They didn't, but as I was coming out of the store, I stepped over the spot where Addy fell in October of 2002, starting the downhill spiral that ended with her death the following February.
They have put in a step.
Seeing the spot filled me with a lot of guilt. I wish I could have caught her when I saw that she was starting to step off the sidewalk. I hesitated because the only appendage I could have grabbed was the elbow she had dislocated a few months before. While I way trying to get in front of her so I could get a better place to hold on, she listed the other way, and down she went. I wish I had made her stay down on the ground and called 911, but there were helpful people around, and she insisted on getting up. She was on her feet and in the car before I could lay hands on her phone. I didn't have a cell phone at that time, not having felt the need. She asked to be taken home and so I did, and tucked her into bed. She had a doctor's appointment the next day, anyway, so I figured he would look at it then.
The fact that a person could break a hip, and get up and go on as it were just a bruise never even occurred to me.
She phoned Jim in the middle of the night, saying she was hurting, and could we take her in to the ER.
Of course we did, and, sure enough, the Xray told the tale.
They did a partial hip replacement, consisting of the ball joint and a rod that went down her leg, parallel to her femur. She went into residential rehab, which was an old folks home that had physical therapists on staff. She was there for about a month, until she fell, and that steel rod broke her femur. So she was back in the hospital for more surgery, and on to a different residential rehab.
By Thanksgiving, she had run out of hospital days for that quarter (or whatever) on her medical insurance, so they sent her home to us. Visiting nurses came for a couple of weeks, and then she was left to my uncertain nursing skills. A neglected nick on her big toe festered and became gangrenous, and nobody told me. I didn't know it was an issue. She had a sore on her heel that was raw and oozing, and that I was taught how to treat. Lord knows, I did my best with the information I had.
Meanwhile, we had a baby monitor in her room, and the other end of it tucked under my pillow so that I could get up for her without waking Jim.
The night (a few days after Christmas) she woke up, screaming, and couldn't tell us what was wrong, I realized she was running a fever and we took her back to the hospital. She had pneumonia.
She never came home again. New Years Eve, Jim had to sign papers for the docs to amputate "part of her foot" because of the gangrene in her toe. While in the OR, they decided to take off her entire foot, and a few inches up her leg, to the place where she had already had surgery due to her poor circulation.
A few days after that, she was schlepped off to yet another residential rehab but the stump was not healing at all. In fact, it was getting awful. I looked at it when they were changing her dressings, and wished I hadn't. A bedsore on her tailbone was starting to look like the one she had had on her heel.
On Valentine's day we took her out to Johnny Carino's for dinner. The next day, when I arrived to take her to her doctor's appointment, she was asleep at a table in the commons area of the facility. That was so unlike her that I called ahead to the surgeon with whom we had the appointment, and he got hold of her internist, who said take her to the ER. Sure enough, her many medications had got out of balance, and she was in trouble.
Back in the hospital, Jim had to sign another paper for a further amputation, this time to just below her knee. That refused to heal just like the first one.
They wanted to do a further amputation.
By now, she had few really lucid moments. Between the pain and the morphine, she was pretty crazy most of the time.
I sort of channeled her, and took the war to the doctors, demanding to know exactly what the prognosis was. I wanted to know if (as she thought) she was going to heal enough to be rehabbed into a prosthetic and back on her feet for hours of the antique shopping she loved. The answer, as I had feared, was "No." I told Jim. He advised that they needed to pick a lucid moment and tell her. They did. She nodded and nodded, and when they left, she looked at me with a vestige of her normal spunk and said, "Now, we're going to fight this thing!" I answered, "Addy, with what? You've been fighting since October."
I still feel badly about saying that. I just didn't think that she would want to live, bedridden, in pain, without being able to do any of the things she had always loved.
She had cataracts in one eye and macular degeneration in the other and was legally blind. She had a tremor in her right hand that prevented her from doing almost everything, including steering her new $5K power wheelchair.
I hope she didn't think I said that because I didn't want to look after her. I would have looked after her forever if she was enjoying life.
I've already written somewhere about the hospice experience, such as it was. Suffice it to say that poor communication and an inexperienced volunteer soured me on the hospice organization the hospital brought in.
It was Saturday when Addy decided to let go, and Monday at dawn, in the middle of an ice storm, when she did.
Less than five months from that first fall until she died.
I've got to quit going to that Goodwill.