Forever in Our Hearts

October 13, 2015
When I woke the morning of September 16th it felt like any other day, I never imagined it would end in crisis. It began routine except that my low tire pressure gauge was lit. You see, the night before we prepped my car for Frank to begin driving for Uber. Frank noticed a staple in my tire, it immediately deflated after he removed it. He patched it (no spare in my Hyundai) and drove to the closest Tire Works. Of course, the damage was to the side wall so a new tire was needed. Frank didn't give it much thought when the tire warning light was still illuminated, he figured it would take time to reset. Fast forward to my lunch break, I notice that the bad tire still had the plug from Frank's patch job. It was practically flat. Turns out Tire Works replaced the wrong tire. They destroyed my perfectly good tire that was only a few months old. I was livid. Frank made the arrangements for me to return to Tire Works to have the correct tire replaced. He told me it wasn't worth being upset, I snarled and pouted. It took a couple hours, but they did correct their mistake.

Once I got settled at home, I started on dinner, Amy asked if I had heard from mom. I hadn't. It wasn't uncommon to not talk to my mom, she slept at odd times, and often was too short of breath to talk. We'd text or I'd keep tabs on her via Facebook. When she hadn't been on Facebook for 22 hours, it was very unusual. We were worried. I reached out to her neighbor, she went to check on her, she found my mom asleep on the couch, her breathing was shallow despite the oxygen. She called 911. Amy and I immediately left and drove to the hospital in Pahrump, where my mom was being taken by ambulance.

Hospice stopped the moment 911 was called. I knew that would be the case, but I thought they'd be more helpful. I wasn't able to locate the DNR and power of attorney copies I had at my house... recent move, panicked and all that. I told the EMT she had a DNR, but he said I'd need to bring that to the hospital. Hospice had the documents on file, I called hoping they could send to the hospital (later, I learned that all hospice patients with advanced directives should have notice kept on their fridge, paramedics are trained to look there). They weren't very helpful and were very nonchalant about the call. Thankfully, I was able to have the neighbor locate the file I started for my mom when she was diagnosed with lung cancer. It contained everything pertinent to her care, including those two magical documents. We collected it on our way to the hospital. In the meantime, we called Mike and he drove to my mom's house to care for the dogs.

When we arrived at the emergency room, they wouldn't let us back right away. Given my experiences of touring most of the ERs in Vegas, I knew this wasn't good. Finally, they said we could go back one at a time. I spoke to the doctor, he explained that she was in respiratory distress, they intubated her and she was being prepped to be airlifted to Sunrise Hospital. They thought she might have suffered a mild heart attack, but couldn't be sure. Scans revealed that the cancer likely returned, spread and was the cause of fluid building around her heart. Pahrump does not provide the level of care she needed. He felt it could be reversible. He asked if I wanted to remove the intubation since I presented the DNR, but it was already in place. So, why not give it the chance to do the heavy lifting for her. When I got back to see my mom she was sedated and paralyzed from the drugs that were given. I only took a moment to wish her well, give her my love and a kiss, I wanted to be sure Amy had a chance to see her before she was airlifted.

Meanwhile, I completed paperwork. The gravity of what was happening settled in... this can't be happening. Mom was just at my house days before. She met Winky, a German shepherd from Canada that rides in a trailer behind his dad's motorcycle. They travel all over spreading smiles and raising funds for charity. She was hospitalized last year when he came to Vegas so she was excited that he was making a special trip to see us this visit. Nick went for a ride with Sandy and Winky. It totally made my mom's day.

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Amy had taken my mom to see my ENT before taking her home. She developed a sinus infection about a month ago and couldn't seem to recuperate. A new dry hoarse cough developed and really wore her out. Hospice prescribed Antibiotics after my mom requested them a few times, but they never seemed to clear up what ailed her. The ENT thought that she may be suffering from a inflamed or paralyzed vocal chord. Treatment would be steroids which she's already on, so there wasn't much more to do, but see how they looked in a month. When I saw her after her appointment she felt hopeless. She was hoping the ENT would provide some relief, but again she was just expected to make due. Amy and I tried to encourage her, but later she did tell Amy she gave up. When Amy took her home, she knew she was down and tired, but otherwise seemed no worse than she's been. Anytime, she wasn't doing well, I would make her stay with me. I had no reason not to let her go home.

Now, here I was, preparing for the drive back to Vegas, my mom was in the helicopter and up in the air before Amy and I left the parking lot. I gave Mike the option to ride in with us, or stay with the dogs. He chose to stay until we knew more. Amy and I rushed back to Vegas, I asked Frank to go to Sunrise so mom wouldn't be alone. I didn't know if they would let him see her, but I figured it was worth a try. When we arrived, he was by her side. I discussed options with the doctor, I didn't want to send her to surgery for fear she wouldn't survive. Plus, she's been poked and prodded so much I just couldn't put her through more procedures until we knew more. Amy agreed. Unfortunately, minutes later when they ran an EKG it showed she was having a massive heart attack. The fluid collapsed the right side, which I was told has the worst outcome. That's when I had to make the worst decision anyone can be presented with... it was time to let her go. I asked they make her as comfortable as possible until my brother could come to say good-bye.

We were warned that there was no telling how long before she would pass after taking her off the ventilator. I knew in my heart it wouldn't be long, and it wasn't. There was an officer in the hall with a K-9 shepherd. He paced back and forth, just as if he was her personal guide.

I told Frank he was right, there was no reason to be upset over the tire. In the grand scheme of things, it mattered none. We gathered around mom and said our final goodbye. I wasn't prepared for how quickly arrangements needed to be made. We had to choose a funeral home on the spot, and as soon as I got home the phone began to ring. Thankfully, I was numb and adrenaline got me through it.

Even though my mom was diagnosed with Stage III Lung Cancer over a year ago, and despite her being in hospice since February I didn't expect this. There were times after chemotherapy and radiation, and especially in May while I was in Austin that I was scared, but she fought like hell every time and pulled through. I often wondered how I would know the difference from when she'd get better versus when she was dying. Truth is you really don't know or maybe you just refuse to acknowledge the inevitable.

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Patricia "Patty" Patterson, 57, passed away in the early hours of Thursday, September 17, 2015 after battling Lung Cancer & COPD. She was born in Alsip, Illinois, she was the youngest of five children. She married my dad in 1979 and had us three kids. After their divorce, she found companionship with Blaine. They relocated from Illinois and resided in Nevada for 9 years. She was a proud grandmother to Nicolas and Addison. She anticipated the arrival of her newest grandbaby in February 2016. She had a special place in her heart for her dogs Kasey, Jake and Gabby, and her cat, PITA.

My mom was a tremendous advocate for all animals; though, she had a great fondness for German shepherds and horses. She enjoyed gardening, admiring wildlife, rooting for her beloved Chicago Bears and she took great pride in home improvement. She lived up to her nickname "Mrs. Villa". She was independent and strong willed; she had a generous heart to those in need. She found tranquility near the ocean or Chicago's Lake Front. Her memory will be kept alive through all of us and all the lives she touched; forever in our hearts.

3 comments:

Andie said...

When I saw you post on Facebook, I was so sad for you because of how positive things had been going. I know this experience was heartbreaking for you and I'm so sorry you had to experience it. I have been thinking of you lots and I hope that you are finding peace as each day passes.

Many hugs, and prayers.

Andie

KathyinNY said...

My heart goes out to you!

May you cherish all the fond memories. Thank you for sharing your story. I too was in the same predicament as you with my own mother and thankful to have my sister to help me get through the difficult times. My mother had Congestive Heart Failure and also a DNR and was incubated once and it was horrific. I know all the emotions that you were going through like I lived it yesterday (it's been 11 years now).

Hugs to you

Jay said...

What a beautiful post. Thank you for sharing such a difficult, difficult time. God Bless you and your family.

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