Timehop is a blessing and a curse, especially for the time leading up and following the death of my parents because it drags all the good, the bad, and the ugly right back up. Today, two years ago, my Momma went in for a procedure to place a tube in her abdomen so she could start peritoneal dialysis. That day was the beginning of a topsy turvy week and a half that none of us ever, ever expected.
Why am I writing this now? Well, I’ve been told by a grief counselor that writing memories down as they appear, even a word or two, can help. I feel too that this is the first time I’m truly getting to experience some of this in a clear head because a year ago I was so incredibly angry after Dad died. I know this because close friends told me how I was itching for a fight, my resting bitch face was glued on my faced, and man, what little I did journal, it was angry all right.
So yeah, dialysis. We went to the kidney doctor’s office where they were doing the same day procedure to put the tube in. I remember I had packed all of my school books and laptop that morning because I was trying to get ahead for the semester. It was my last semester at Butler and we didn’t know how Mom’s treatment plan would play out. I was taking on extra responsibilities even before this day. Grocery shopping, cleaning, cooking, extra errands, laundry, etc. Mom was too tired and exhausted from the kidney failure to do any small part of what she used to do daily.
There I was in the small waiting room, books spread across five chairs trying to focus on working on assignments with questions in the back of my head about the coming days, weeks, and months. And of course my brother texting me for updates, updates that I didn’t have yet.
Then I remember one of the doctors coming out and telling us that they were starting her on emergency dialysis as soon as they placed the tube. Typically they would have waited a couple of weeks before starting her dialysis treatment to let the skin heal around the tube and making it more secure. It boiled down to the fact that was she was stage five of renal failure and looked it. Looking back on it, I think this was when everyone finally got on the same page I was on when Mom was in the emergency room maybe a week and a half before this day: she’s in bad shape and we’ve gotta do something.
Before any of this happened we were sent to a counseling session as a family with a dialysis nurse. There were three other families there and they had requested the whole family be there. So my brother flew in from Texas and we went. Five hours of information being thrown at us, most of it sticking, most of it just difficult to swallow. It was January 28.
At the counseling session they explained to us everything about renal failure, what it was, how it can progress, symptoms, etc. Then they explained the options of treatment. Then they showed us all the equipment. Taught us how to do home peritoneal dialysis.
So, sitting there with Momma as they hooked her up to the machine and the dialysate began its journey through the long tubing I remembered thinking “okay, this is happening. this is our life now.”
What I had not been expecting was the conversation about DNRs and living wills. Though the fact that she was stage five maybe wouldn’t have changed even with months of dialysis, her symptoms would have been eased. We were clinging to hope of seeing Mom early retire (she had been kind of salty about this at first, but then got on board) and begin doing whatever the hell she wanted, when she wanted. She talked about gardening again, enthused with the idea that she could be planting tomatoes in a few months. We talked about me building a raised flower bed for her so she could plant flowers again. DNRs and living wills had never crossed my mind.