Grab your tissue box…
As you know, Mom has been sick with a glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) brain tumor since early 2013. She’s had to spend many weeks each year in the hospital because of complications, most recently two long hospitalizations this last summer for a medication problem coupled with a chemotherapy reaction, and then the sudden appearance of mini-seizures.
However, she did managed to bounce back enough for us to bring her back home in October after a stay in a rehabilitation facility. She’s been a happy little clam to be home, with a sweet disposition and a big grin whenever we gave her treats. While unable to get up and walk without the assistance of both Dad and I (because of weak knees and no sense of balance), we were able to have good family time, talk, watch TV and movies, and she could easily feed herself.
A day and half before Christmas Eve I saw signs of more mini-seizures. After talking with her doctor we started her on another medication in hopes of controlling them. I was able to get 2 doses down her, but on the morning of Christmas Eve she had gone weak, could barely talk, and was going from one rolling mini-seizure to the next. We then had her airlifted to St. Joseph’s Hospital in Phoenix.
Her mini-seizures did not want to calm down. At one point she was having over 100 at night. They kept adding more medications and higher doses. Finally, after her still having them, and her sleepiness after each one getting longer and longer, they transferred her to the ICU to be more aggressive. They also ordered an MRI to see if there was something going on with the tumor or something else that could explain why they were having so much difficulty.
The next day the MRI didn’t happen because the ER was slammed and with one of the hospital’s machines down, the ER had to have priority. Late in the next day she finally got her MRI. By this time she was constantly sleeping. The thought was that it was because of how sedating the anti-seizure meds were.
Early the next morning the doctors came in with unexpected news. At some point Mom had had a massive stroke that took out most of the right frontal lobe and into the rear right lobe. They said there was nothing more they could do. I called her neurologist-oncologist and he came by the next morning and went over the MRI scans with Dad and I, did an examination and looked over the records of her current stay in the hospital. He concurred. The main blood supply to the right side of her brain had become blocked, killing much of the tissue on that side. On top of that, even though he couldn’t prove it from the MRI, there were strong indications that the left side of her brain was also damaged.
In other words, her being asleep wasn’t because of the mini-seizures (and not because of any tumor growth). One of the times she’d fallen asleep after a mini-seizure and the stroke hit. She went to sleep and just didn’t wake up.
Unfortunately she was never going to wake up. After talking it over between us and the doctors, and knowing Mom’s wishes, we had to make a very hard decision. We transferred her care to Hospice and took her out her feeding tube and any IV nourishment and fluids. That was on January 1st.
Mom was not in any pain and she wasn’t been in any discomfort. She even sounded like she was just sleeping and had a very peaceful expression. They kept her on the strongest of the anti-seizure meds and regularly administered pain meds to make sure she was as comfortable as can be. Hospice of the Valley in Phoenix Arizona was wonderful to work with through this process.
The hardest part? The waiting while her breathing became more labored. She had a lot of lung issues and had problems with pneumonia and bronchitis and she always feared drowning in her own lungs. Hearing her lungs slowly fill up as time went on was torture.
At 10:25am on Sunday after over 10 days without food or fluids, her body finally gave up, just after I had gotten up that morning. It was like she waited for me. She was always a little fighter, proved by having survived her GBM longer than the average, and she just kept going and going and going like the energizer bunny. The nurses and aids were surprised. Dad and I were not.
Keep Mom, AKA Mother Hen, in your thoughts and prayers. You were a truly unique and lovable person. You are greatly missed.