Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Matters of the Heart (Part 3)

The day came. My brother and sis-in-law picked me at 5.25am, and then we swung by to pick my dad. There was no exchanges "good mornings" nor did anyone speak. My heart felt so heavy on our way to the hospital, and I can't imagine how Mum would have been feeling, lying on the hospital bed, getting prepared for the surgery.

At 7am, she was pushed to the operating theatre. I cried so hard when the doors closed and we could not go in any further. I was so afraid that that would be the last time I see Mum. After I manage to have a grip on my emotions, we went to the canteen to have a bite, before proceeding to the waiting room, to wait for my mum to finish her surgery.

Dr Tan Ee Teing, the surgeon, advised that the surgery will take about 5 hours. We were the first at the waiting room, but soon it was filled with others who has family or friends going to surgery as well.

I was quite calm, until I saw Dr Tan walked past the waiting room. My mind went wild - what was he doing out here when my mum is suppose to be in surgery? Did something go wrong and he is looking for her family members to inform them? Is he late for the surgery? I dashed out of the waiting room, and saw my dad, who was outside the room, talking to Dr Tan. I heaved out a sigh of relief when I heard that he was running late for the surgery due to overruns in doing his rounds at the ward. So we went back into the waiting room, to wait.

Minutes passed, hours passed. We were all waiting for some news, any news on Mum's development in surgery. It was already passed the supposed 5 hours surgery time, and I was worried sick.

Then, at about 1.45pm, Dr Tan walked pass the waiting room again, already changed and was leaving. Dad and Bro were dozing off as they were so tired, so they did not take note of Dr Tan. Again, I dashed out of the waiting room to catch up with Dr Tan to ask him about Mum. I was then joined by Dad and Bro, and to our greatest relief, Dr Tan said the surgery was a success. But this is not without a scare: Dr Tan told us that towards the end of the operation, my mum's blood pressure suddenly plunged and the surgery team quickly tried to stabilise her condition. Fortunately, her BP returned to normal levels.

It took about 15 minutes before they pushed her into the ICU ward and we were asked to go and see her. To reduce the risk of infection, we can only watch her through a glass panel. Although the worst may be over, her road to recovery will be a long one. Looking at her with all kinds of tubes going into her body, to either put medication into her, or to extract waste tissues in her body post surgery. Her face was as white as sheet.

We took turns to go into the ICU ward to see her, and when she finally woke up, I felt tears rolling down my face. She's gonna be ok.

But we can tell she was in a lot of pain, and the morphine doesn't seem to be enough. She couldn't talk as she has the respiratory tube down her throat to help her breathe, but she kept shaking her head, frowning and tearing. But there was little that we can do.

On the next day, she looked much better - there was tones of redness underneath her skin, sign of good blood circulation. They also remove the breathing tube which according to her was where she was experiencing the most pain. She started to take porridge, but due to the side effects of anesthetic drugs, she kept throwing up. Even when her stomach was empty, she kept puking gastric juices, and the spasms were hurting her chest wounds. All we could do was to assure her that this would be over soon.

Mum was recovering well, and on the 2nd day post surgery, she was transferred to the high dependency ward to recuperate. She was very encouraged to find herself recovering well, but on the 4th day post surgery, the world collapsed again.

Mum was trying to change her position on the bed slightly as her back was feeling hot, so she used her left hand to hold on to the bed rail to adjust herself. Perhaps due to the exertion of strength or just a case of bad luck, Mum suddenly lost all sensation in that arm. Doctors and stroke specialists were called in to evaluate the situation. They quickly arranged to send her for a CT scan to access the severity of the stroke and where the clog may be.

We were relieved to hear that the scan results didn't show any hemorrhage or clogs in her brain. So what caused the stroke? The doctors did another scan in her neck, which yielded no negative reports too. Being a medical matter, it's sometimes hard to say what caused certain events.

Mum then blamed herself for pulling herself up, not knowing that it may have such dire circumstances. She told us that if she knew this is going to happen, she would not have opted for the operation. I then felt extreme guilt and regret as I encouraged her to go through the operation. But when I manage to clear my mind and think it through, it is the only way as without the operation, her life is in danger. If it is any consolation, the paralysis is only in her left arm, and the rest of her body still has full function. Well, at least for now.

Everyday, the occupational therapist will help my mum with simple exercises such as walking and finger movements. They have also made a special cast to hold her hand in a position such that the tendons and nerves don't shrink due to in activity in her affected arm. After a couple of days, Mum said she started to be able to feel some pain in her hand and could wriggle her pinky finger. I was so happy I cried. All the medication she's been taking and exercises she's been doing were aiding in the recovery.

Meanwhile, my brother and I were discussing what happens after she's discharged. We certainly cannot bring her home as the domestic helper has not arrived yet and it would be too much for Dad to take care of her. She also can't stay with us as we all had to work. We found out from our cousin that she knew someone who has gone through heart bypass, and admitted herself in the AMK Community Hospital after discharging from the mainstream hospital to recuperate. There they operated like a hospital, with nurses, therapists and doctors to monitor their recovery. Because of these benefits, the waiting list for admission can be relatively long as patients tend to stay for a while until they are well enough to go home.

Nonetheless, we requested to be considered for admission and requested for doctor's recommendation. A few days later, we were informed that my mum has been accepted as there were some patients who have discharged and there was a bed space available for her. We were so relieved to hear that and glad that she will receive good and specialised care which will help in her recuperation.

Her stay lasted 3 weeks at the AMK Hospital. Mum's bed was the furthest from the ward's main door, which gave more privacy and was less noisy. Mum actually said that the stay didn't feel that long as she had people to talk to in the ward, and the frequent exercises, meals, visitations helped time to pass faster. By the time of discharge, her arm has regained almost 70% of her strength and mobility. Doctors were confident of a full recovery, with home exercises and discipline (ie no carrying of heavy objects).

On 25 Nov 2008, Mum left the hospital for good and we were all very happy to bring her home. When she stepped into her house for the first time in more than 5 weeks, I could see her relief and gratefulness on her face. On the same day, we also went to pick up our maid Sunarti and introduced her to the family.

Everything is going to be fine now.

Thank you God , for the successful surgery, the caring doctors and medical staff who attended to my mum, to my in-laws and for all the people who has extended their help in one way or the other, for giving us strength to see through this period, for the good babysitter we found in the very short notice ....... for everything.

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