"This is an example of really poor planning," I said to my ill mother.
"You have four daughters and didn't get a nurse among us!"
I am SO not a nurse and the sad fact is that my sistersLesta, Bette and
Vickiaren't a bit better at ministering to the sick than I am. Although
we try as hard as we can, our efforts look less like a documentary of
Florence Nightengale's healing labors and more like a film titled "The Four
Stooges Do Medicine." I suspect that Mom secretly would like to call the
hospital and plead, "Get me back there before they kill me!"
Her wish to do that was probably never stronger than when she heard me
volunteer Lesta and myself to learn an invasive medical procedure Mom
temporarily requires. I missed a great Kodak moment by not having a camera
at hand to snap photos of their respective facesMom's stony and Lesta's
aghast. Within seconds, Lesta had withdrawn herself from the volunteer
Later, I missed another great photo opportunity when I suggested that I
might practice the procedure on Lesta and Vicki. Vicki's eye's grew as big
as saucers. At the time suffering from a slight limp, she exclaimed, "Oh,
no! Mom and I are the only ones who can't outrun Marsha!"
Except for Lesta's helpful suggestion that I practice on an orange"Make
that a navel orange," amended VickiI have been on my own in performing the
procedure. Still, one sister or another does assist me by holding the
flashlight. As for Mom, she grimaces and bears it.
When Mom's friend (and Vicki's mother-in-law) Kay came to visit the other
day, Mompresently taking so much medicine that her kitchen looks like a
pharmacyshared with Kay that, "they overdosed me."
While the statement was quite literally true, there WERE extenuating
circumstances involving a lack of communication between Lesta and me. What
I understood was that Mom wanted one form of calming medication and Lesta
thought another would be a better choice. When I told Lesta to give Mom
the pill that Mom preferred, I had no idea that she had already given Mom
the other medication. A few minutes after swallowing the second pill, our
mother was so relaxed that we could have bulldozed the house down around
her without her noticing or caring.
The next day, Mom's oxygen was removed in order to get her up into a chair
for a while. About 10 minutes after she was put back to bed, I went into
her room and found the oxygen nose-piece still lying on the bedside table.
I hastily replaced it on Mom's face and, after ascertaining that she was no
worse for the experience, told Lesta, "Mom has to be a lot tougher than we
think or we would have killed her by now!"
So much of what my sisters and I know about medicine has been learned on
the wrong side of a stethoscope. A nice clinical overview in an academic
setting would have been vastly preferable to the force-feeding of knowledge
we have received from doctors treating our mother in the midst of yet
another health crisis.
Furthermore, we've had to become familiar with intimidating machines that
we wish had remained a mystery to us. Vicki has never forgotten sitting by
our mother's bed in an ICU unit after Mom suffered a heart attack many
years ago. Vicki glanced anxiously at the monitor where the line graphing
heart function looked anything but normal. Finally, Mom detected Vicki's
concern and craned her own neck to see the monitor. "I've watched enough
Trapper John, M.D. on television," Mom exclaimed with alarm, "to know that
that's not right!" Both Mom and Vicki were greatly relieved to discover
from the nurse who responded to their frantic call, that it was the
monitor and not Mom's heart that was malfunctioning.
It may indeed have been poor planning on Mom's part not to steer a
daughter toward a career in medicine, but she provided such a wonderful
growing-up environment by simply loving us and allowing us to follow our
own dreams that all four of us absolutely adore her. So have no doubts
about it: if the prescription that will heal Mom is love, we can fill
it and keep refilling it until she is well.