Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Living in ICU

Lots of ups and downs...mostly downs lately. Mom had a great day on Sunday, doing well enough to give us hope that she would be off the ventilator by Tuesday at the latest. The very next day, she slipped down due to what we now learned is a kind of opportunistic infection. I'm learning that these ups and downs are quite typical of life in ICU.

Every time Mom wakes from sedation, she is surprised to find herself connected to all sorts of dripping and beeping things. She panics and we go to her side to calm her. (That does not endear us to the nurses, but they haven't seen how many times we've drawn Mom's arm down from the ventilator hose.) We have to explain to Mom that she has been in the hospital and is still very sick, and that the nasty tube in her throat is keeping her alive because she is not able to get enough oxygen on her own, and that the young man in her room is supposed to be there, doing what he's doing.

Yesterday, she managed to communicate in part through writing and in part through gesture that she wanted to receive communion. She had also repeatedly been trying to communicate something else very urgently. We just figured it out: she is offering all this up. I told her that with all this, she can empty purgatory, convert the world and make reparation for all kinds of sin. I am glad that she taught us this form of the lay priesthood, in which our own lives and experiences have value for spiritual good. It offers a layer of meaning that our suffering is not wasted; that we can be channels of grace in our weakness.

She does not realize that she is on life support. We (and she) had initially agreed to assistance in breathing under the assumption that it would be a matter of a day or two. With all the complications, it has been ten days now. Yesterday we were trying to ascertain her wishes and all we can do is ask leading questions. When she had written JE and then SUS, we asked, "Do you want to go to Jesus?" She responded with an emphatic head movement, "NO!" So we are confident that she wants all these measures. (A priest came this morning from the Jesuit parish where she was baptized and married, but Mom was too sedated at that time to appreciate the visit.)

We are glad that when she is awake she is all there, but it is extremely painful to see her unable to express herself, and we are walking a tightrope in terms of how much info to give her all at once. This evening she also managed to communicate how she feels. Sad.

In short, an ordeal like that faced by many families, but which we had been spared until now. We keep telling Mom that people all over are praying for her (one of the great benefits of the internet!); my siblings and I are very grateful for your continued prayers.


stormy said...

God bless you and your mom and your entire family. You are such a blessing to me and I want you yo know that I understand your situation a bit as a healthcare person and former ICU rn as well as facing health crisis after crisis w my dad who is now in Heaven.Prayers your way! I see how you developed into the person you are from the person your mom is.Your blog and tweets help me a great and deal.Please know you all are not alone in this and many thoughts and prayers are heading your your family's way.

Sr Anne Flanagan said...

Thank you, Stormy.

Anonymous said...

Dear Sr. Anne,

My heart and prayers offered daily for you all; Mass on Monday. Thank you for the update...hard as it is.

(Have been reading the conversations, and noticed the advice given about vitamin-D levels; it has helped my elderly neighbor...a minor silver lining.)

St. Joseph, still on call.

Healing were He Wills, peace and wisdom abound.

God Bless,

Anonymous said...

Your mom sounds like a beautiful person! Praying for her and your family.. God bless, Jenny

Nikita Unverzagt said...


I will be keeping you, your mom, and the family in my prayers. I certainly remember those times in the ICU with my great-uncle. (I was actually considered a fixture that the nurses were use to seeing including his times he was re-admitted into the hospital.)

Please keep us posted as much as you can.

Many prayers,
Nikita, o.p.3

Anonymous said...

We went through this last September with my mother. You are in my prayers

Carol O. said...

Despite the graces that come only from such as this time, I am hating all this for you all. Ugh. I'm so sorry about all this suffering and confusion. And I'm still praying, yeah. I always will, 'cause I know there is another side to the tapestry. Thank you for the update. Hang in there, all.

Anonymous said...

We are praying for your mom and your family. God Bless. Sandra