Sunday, July 26, 2009

Heavens to Betsy!

This is where I'm supposed to be writing about my wonderful half marathon experience this morning at the San Francisco Marathon. I'd talk about how it's one of my favorite local races that I've run numerous times. How I was unable to run it last year because of my knee injury. How the expo was pretty good this year, even though they moved it way the hell away from the host hotel (and BART). Then I'd say how the early rising was a pain in the butt. How the weather was glorious, the crowds cheerful, the race fun.

That last part didn't happen because I was at the Contra Costa County Regional Medical Center (i.e. County Hospital) until very late, listening to my mother screaming at the top of her lungs while secured to a bed with four point restraints.

Yesterday started with a visit to my mom at the Home (as I'll call it). It was the first time since she moved in there on Tuesday that I went to see her; general opinion was that she needed to have time on her own to fit in. She was unhappy though calm, but not too with it. She was sitting in her big red chair crabbing away when I noticed her skirt. Hmm, I thought to myself. I didn't bring a skirt with her clothes. Wonder where she got that.

Sadly enough, it wasn't a skirt. It was one of her tops that she had either stepped into or pulled all the way down, neither of those seeming too likely because of the tight neckline. I pointed out that it was tight since it wasn't, in fact, a skirt. She reasonably said that was ok, she liked it. And she liked it until we had to cut it off of her at John Muir Medical Center, Walnut Creek.

No, I'm not confused about the hospital. After spending time with my mom I went home. Within a half hour of arriving home I received a call from the Home that they had found my mom on the floor where she had apparently fallen, and she said she had a pain in her leg. So they called 911 who sent an ambulance which took her to JMMC-WC emergency room. I rushed over there, not wanting anyone to drug her up again.

It wasn't very busy in the ER and she had lots of people around her. At this point she told me that she had been fine at the Home, that she had asked lots of people to help her up and they all refused. Understandable, if she had truly been injured they could have made it worse. The nurses and aids were trying to figure out her strange clothing ("why is she wearing her shirt as a skirt?") ("why is she barefoot?") and looking at her vast and numerous bruises from the previous hospitalizations and the new fall. Although she was sore, her biggest pain was in her belly. Because her sk/shirt was too tight. We cut it off, gave her some hospital sweat pants and the pain got much less. They brought in a walker and she was able to slowly make her way to the bathroom and slowly make her way back.

She doesn't like to use a walker, it makes her feel old. She likes a cane but isn't allowed to have one since it can be used as a weapon. While in the ER she agreed that she would use a walker if they gave her one.

My mom was alert but confused and not tracking conversations. Every single conversation that someone tried to have with her became either a demand for ice cream or a plea for their beautiful red shoes and belt. She lacked focus but was calm. It was agreed that she could return back to the Home, the only question was how. A transport would have taken up to 2 hours to get there, or I could drive her. I had a serious conversation with her and she agreed that if I drove we'd go directly back to the Home with no stops.

Right. I should have known better. As soon as we drove off she started saying "I MUST have something to eat" and demanding that we stop for dinner at a restaurant. Mind, she was wearing hospital sweatpants, hospital sock/slippers, a dirty tee shirt and didn't have her glasses. Nonetheless we MUST stop. When I continued driving, saying we weren't stopping, she looked at me incredulously and asked if I was serious. When she realized I was she started getting angry.

I didn't think I'd be able to get her out of the car, but finally she got out. I insisted that she use the walker and she slowly and angrily, with many pointed comments about me, headed to the door. When we got inside she refused to use the walker and starting yelling that she was hungry. A couple of the Home aides came and told her it was dinner time; she could go to the dining room or eat in her room. She absolutely refused to go to her room, so they started helping her walk to the dining room. But she doesn't like people "hanging" on her, and yelled about that. They brought her a wheelchair and she plopped into it, muttering about how she hated it there, hated their food, hated this and that. All while pointedly ignoring me, the villain for taking her there.

I was assured that they would take care of her so I left her in their care. I got home, started putting out my running clothes for the race (since I had to arise at 4:30 am) and had just pinned my bib on my shirt. The phone rang, the Home again. I was very, very apologetically told that my mom had gotten completely out of hand and they had to call the police and fire department to remove her.

She had walked out of the facility and was down the street before they could stop her and bring her back (I never found out if she was using the hated walker on this great escape). When they reentered the building she started yelling, hitting and kicking. She got a hold of a pencil and threatened to kill herself with it. So she was placed on a gurney with padded restraints at wrist and ankle, still yelling and cursing and twisting to get free.

Since she was removed as a 5150 (an involuntary psychiatric hold) she was taken this time to County. I didn't even know what "County" was and had to call the police department to confirm that it was, in fact, the CoCo County Med Center in Martinez which has a psych ward. In other plainer words, it was the county hospital for crazy people. It took me a while to get there (each of her hospitalizations is getting more distant -- look out Sacramento ...) and then I had to wait to be admitted to the ER (County Med Center, remember? It was a crowded late Saturday afternoon).

I walked in and heard my mom before I saw her. She was in a curtained room, fully restrained, and mad as hell. She told me to release her and I told her I couldn't, they were afraid she'd hurt herself or someone else. She was astounded that I could believe them, and not her. My mom was raving about gangsters chasing her down the street and tying her up and she'd never talk to her mother again because it was her fault (Grama died 11 years ago, so at least she was right about never talking to her again). Then she stated she had to be released so she could walk to the bathroom.

But a 5150 patient wasn't going to be released, even for a moment, before she was seen by a doctor (which could be quite some time since she wasn't bleeding, nothing was broken, wasn't in danger of crumping on the spot). She was offered a bedpan and angrily refused. She again and again told me to release her, called me some horrible names and just raved about how she was being persecuted. "I won't forget this Amy!" and I sadly replied that I was sure she would, that was part of the problem. She kept yelling at me, and for a nurse, to let her go to the bathroom. It finally got bad enough that she agreed to use the bedpan and I left the area, knowing that my presence was only exacerbating the situation. I didn't see my mom again that night.

I sat down outside her cubicle and waited for a doctor to come see her. Remember, this is a frail, sick, 81 year old woman with COPD, high blood pressure, a heart condition and various and assorted other physical ailments. She started really hollering. Loudly. Very very loudly. Calling for NURSE. Then calling for DOCTOR. Then just plain old yelling HELP!!!

And I just sat outside her room while my heart was slowly smashed into smithereens. I thought I had gone through the worst of times with her, thought it couldn't get any more horrible, but I was wrong. She'd pause for a short while, then continue on. If anyone went in to see her she'd just rave about being released, ask for water, ask to urinate (my mom is very proper and DOESN'T pee - as she loudly informed a nurse). The staff just left her alone.

I asked one of the nurses if they were used to this since they truly didn't even flinch when my mom yelled (while I cringed more and more each time). Yup, it happens frequently and just wait until a sick baby was brought in if I wanted to really hear something (and that happened, but my mom out-volumed even a sick, angry, screaming baby). This went on, and on, and on. I wasn't going to leave her alone there in that condition.

Finally a frazzled ER doc came to talk with me and told me that they were going to admit her but it would take a while because they were busy; first the hospitalist had to see her and then they had to find a bed. It could take a couple of hours and I said I'd just wait until she was settled somewhere. More than 2 hours after she arrived they finally gave her some Haldol to calm her (when they told me it was only 2 mg I told them we were gonna need a bigger boat). But mom continued to yell.

One thing that I had to do over and over and over yesterday was repeat her recent health/hospitalization history for the month, since this whole nightmare started. I'm getting very practiced at both the long involved version and just the bullet-point version. I think I really should just type it up and make copies for everyone, updating after every new horror. Each nurse, each aide, each admitting tech, each doctor asks the same questions, needs the same information. Each time I had to tell it I got a little more upset, just hearing myself tell what's happened to my formerly independent mother. And mom continued to yell.

Although there were signs posted telling people not to use their electronic equipment, everyone was feeling free to ignore them. I did the same and texted and tweeted as I sat there waiting. I took a very short break to eat my dinner (a Clif bar in the car; yum) and I hurried back so I wouldn't miss the admitting doctor.

At this point my mom started calling for people by name. The one she finally hit upon was Betsy. She loudly, at the top of her lungs, and repeatedly called for Betsy. BETTTTTSSSSSY!! BETTTSSSY!! Over and over and louder and good grief, how can she keep that up? Various staff members looked over and asked if I was Betsy since nobody working there was Betsy. I had to say no, I'm not Betsy. And it continued, BETTTTSSSY BETTTTSSSY BETTTTSSSY.

One of the nurses whispered to me that one reason it was taking so long was they just got 11 brand new first year residents. Nice, I just walked in on an episode of ER. This was confirmed when season 5 Lucy Knight walked up and told me she was the admitting doctor. Ok, it wasn't her but it a young (very young) woman like her. She told me that they were indeed admitting my mom as soon as they found a bed and don't worry, they have a geri/psych doc who is wonderful (but who won't be around until Monday). She convinced me to leave, telling me there wasn't anything I could do and it could be hours until a bed was found.

At 11:25 pm I headed out of there to the getting-hoarse-but-still-loud cries of BETTTTSSSY BETTTTSSSY BETTTTSSSY!!!! And I just want to know:

Who the hell is Betsy?

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