Friday, May 2, 2008

Anyone know where I can find a stuffed pancreas?

"Ok, seriously. Today is definitely the last day I am allowing myself to eat like a deranged six year old."

My mom had just arrived home around 4 in the afternoon from spending time darting between the hospital and work and back to the hospital, much like she's been doing for the past four days. My step-father David went to work on Tuesday morning and began to, as my mom puts it, "vomit for distance and volume" for no apparent reason. His business partner Wayne took him home, and after realizing simple rest and liquids was not the answer, rushed him off to the St. Jude Medical Center's Emergency Room. He received a bed and medical attention almost immediately, mostly due to the fact that he was dangling his head over the ER waiting area's only trash bin while moaning and dry heaving loud enough to be heard by any passerby outside the sliding glass doors of the facility.

"That's one way to get someone's attention" my mom joked with me on Tuesday as she drove from work to the hospital.

After running some tests, it was determined that David had a swollen pancreas, something known as pancreatitis. Judging by the amount of pain prompted by applying pressure to his stomach, the hallmark sign of this affliction is severe abdominal pain, usually accompanied by vomiting and nausea. The nurses and doctors have certainly had their hands full, and my poor, unbelievably patient mother has been there night and day; that is, until they've had to kick her out once visiting hours have ended. David warned her in a previous casual conversation that when he's come out of general anesthetic in the past he's gotten violent, sometimes taking swings at people who are trying to help him while simultaneously making attempts to rip out his IV. So it's no surprise that this time was no different. Of course he's not meaning to hurt anyone; he's just so doped up on high quantities of a morphine-esque substance that he has no clue what he's doing. Case in point: I went to visit him for the first time on Wednesday afternoon, not really knowing what to expect. When I walked into the room he woke up from his drug-induced fog, smiled a huge, childlike grin, pointed his right index finger at me, and proceeded to pass out with his hand still raised and aimed in my general direction.

Today's the first day that he's been cooperative and able to speak in complete sentences. David's youngest son Zach has been there night and day as well, either reading or working on projects for the classes he's subsequently missing at Cal State Long Beach. After a failed attempt at an MRI this afternoon (the noises were too loud for him, the space too claustrophobic) I showed up to find Zach sitting with his MacBook, working on a PowerPoint presentation for his Business Communication class. David had stopped trying to fight his urge to walk around and had finally fallen asleep. My mom entered the room looking more tired than usual, clinging to her beloved book of New York Times crossword puzzles. "Those bastards! They just left me sitting in that waiting room! I had no idea he was back in here," she whispered, rolling her eyes. She sat down for a brief moment, during which Zach and I convinced her that she needed to go home and get some real rest. She conceded without much argument, and the two of us walked to the elevator together.

"I'm probably just going to hit up a drive-thru on the way home," she said after kissing me on the cheek. "I feel like I've been living in this cafeteria lately." That's my mom, never too stressed or tired for hyperbole.

So this drive-thru meal is what prompted the "deranged six year old" comment. She picked up a Santa Fe chicken sandwich, onion rings and a diet coke on the way home, and after walking through the back door into the house made a bee-line for the kitchen table where she plopped down her lunch and flicked on the TV to Judge Hatchett.

"Mom, why are you watching Judge Hatchett?"

"You know, the whole deranged six year old thing." I bit my tongue and sat down next to her with my celery sticks to watch as two sisters duked it out over an outrageously high unpaid cell phone bill.

David is hopefully coming home tomorrow, but he is by no means fully recovered. No one is quite sure what caused this ailment; speculation points the finger at his recent over-indulgent eating and drinking habits on the week-long cruise from which he and my mom had just returned; other possibilities could be that his diabetes made the whole situation just a little bit worse on his weakened endocrine system; and then, of course, this is also one of those things that just happens for no reason. But until he does go home, you can bet my mom will be there from the early morning until 8 PM, or whenever the nurse decides to kick her out.

She's waking up from her nap now to return to David's bedside, and from her room she muses "I wonder if I can find a stuffed pancreas anywhere before David comes home." I really think her sense of humor and lack of shame are the key factors getting her through all this. I honestly don't know how she hasn't had a complete sleep-deprived, anxiety attack-caused breakdown yet; but then again, that's my mom.

1 comment:

ddmarie said...

the fact that mom wants to find david a stuffed pancreas is something i could totally see her doing. i love our relthingham. (or would that be steelingham?)