The past 24 hours I spent in a hospital. My 86 year old grandmother was taken to the ER by ambulance yesterday afternoon after becoming unresponisve, or as we like to say in the medical field, ALOC (altered level of consciousness). A CT scan was done and they found bleeding on the brain. The right side of the brain had two spots on it. One was old blood that had dried and formed a clot that probably had occured a couple of months ago. The new bleed appears to have been bleeding for a couple of days.
My grandmother was having some confusion, but she knew she was in a hospital and she knew it was bad. The doctor said she needed to see a neurosurgeon and would be transferred as they weren’t equipped and didn’t have a neurosurgeon on call. My mom asked if she could go in the ambulance with her. That wasn’t possible because she was being transported by life-flight to Loma Linda Hospital, a major teaching hospital. It is also on the top 10 list of hospitals in the country. It was at this point that we realized just how serious it was.
As my grandmother lay weakly on the gurney, she tried her best to communicate with us. Even though she couldn’t get all the words out, she made it perfectly clear that she was prepared to die. She wanted us to call her brother and sisters. She made me promise I would take care of my mom. She said she was too old for surgery and that she would never survive it. She was tired. She was saying good-bye.
When my grandmother found out that the doctors could do no more for my uncle and they put him under hospice care, it devistated her. She had buried her husband, a grandson, a great grandson and now she would bury her son. She made it clear that she did not want to outlive her son. Everyday, we have seen more and more of her spirit and will shrink away.
I called everyone. I called her brothers and her sister. I called her oldest son. The hardest call though, was the one I had to make to my uncle, the one with the lung cancer. The one who just had spent a week with his mother. We were still at the local hospital near my uncle’s. I asked if he felt up to coming to see her before she was air-lifted out. Even without saying the words, he knew what I was asking. Do you want to come and say good-bye? But he couldn’t. He was too weak and had just taken morphine for his constant pain. I told him it was okay and I would call him in the morning.
My grandmother made it to the hospital in 15 minutes. We got there in an hour and fifteen minutes. My grandmother’s other son, my other uncle, met my me and my mom at the new hospital. We were ushered into the ER where we were met by a neurosurgeon. He said the only thing that was going to help her was surgery. No surgery, she would die. He said that even though she was 86 and having no heart problems or any problems with her major organs, he felt she would do fine. He said she would have an 80% chance of recovery. Those were good odds. They would remove a small piece of her skull and remove the clot and clean everything up then reattach the skull. Afterward, she would stay in the hospital until she was well enough to go to a rehab facility. My mother has power of attorney and had to make the decision, but she wanted to talk it over with my grandmother. She felt she had the right to make the ultimate decision.
We explained as well as we could what would occur. We also explained that she wouldn’t survive without the surgery. We reminded her how strong she was but if she was too tired, we would respect that. Many tears were being shed at this point. Suddenly, and quite clearly, she said she was strong and she would have the surgery. It was a relief, but at the same time, I just didn’t see how an 86 yr. old would survive a major surgery. Papers were signed and an OR was booked. It was now 3 a..m. and she would have surgery at 6.
My grandmother’s surgery lasted an hour. After she was moved to a room from recovery, we were allowed to go see her. The doctor met us there and said that she had no problems during surgery. He also said that most people who have this surgery, especially the elderly, go directly to ICU afterwards. She didn’t need to. She was in a regular room. According to him, she was doing “remarkably well”.
She woke up for a little bit and we let her know we were there. The nurse came to check her vitals. I told her that I was surprised she pulled through like she did. She said that it’s amazing to see just how strong someone is if they want to be.
My mom called the hospital and spoke to her nurse to see how she was doing. He said that she was the talk of the neurosurgery department because everyone was amazed at how great she was doing for someone her age. She’s a fighter, he had said, and I guess she is. She’s going to have a tough road ahead, but a guess the will to live outweighs all.