I’ve had some great Thanksgivings and I’ve had some not so great Thanksgivings. This is our second Thanksgiving in Malta and we didn’t have turkey, stuffing or mashed potatoes and gravy, but I am thankful for one very big thing. My Mom is going to be okay.
My Mom wasn’t all that thrilled when we decided to pull up stakes, sell everything we own and say adios to our family and friends and move to Malta. While Homie’s parents bought a laptop and installed Skype before we even hit the dusty trail, it took my Mom nearly six months to get that task accomplished. I know that she was kind of excited for me, but I really feel like deep down she thought I was abandoning everyone I loved and running away from situations that were going on in my life instead of doing the honorable thing and sticking around and making everything all better like I had been doing for the past 25 years or so.
About ten years ago my Mother was diagnosed with COPD, Emphysema and asthma. She is a heavy smoker and has been since the ’60’s and the days of Pall Malls. When she was diagnosed she kept it to herself and kept right on smoking. Nine years, 11 months and about 180,000 cigs later, she found herself in a position where she was literally unable to catch her breath. She was so scared that she asked my sister to stay with her and according to K., she is lucky she made it through the night. And still, while this was going on, she continued to smoke. My Mom refused to let K. call an ambulance and insisted that she see her regular doctor in the morning. My sister believes that God heard her prayers because my Mom was able to see her doctor the next morning and he was the one who insisted that she go to the hospital by ambulance immediately, which made my Mother very unhappy. As bad as she was, she was still in denial and really thought another dose of steroids, or a stronger inhaler might do the trick and she could continue on as she had been. She was probably secretly upset that she wouldn’t be able to get in one more smoke before the ambulance arrived.
Whenever Mom had a breathing attack she would blame it on allergies or a migraine or her Asthma (she admitted to having asthma only after she was caught with her inhaler in the bedroom one Sunday afternoon, and this served her well for the next three or four years when she had breathing or coughing attacks, because she would say it was an asthma attack, not the cigarettes!) and would only allude to a more serious problem after she had an argument with one of us kids or if something didn’t go the way she wanted it to go, like me moving away or some of the grand kids making alternate plans on Christmas Eve. We would hear things like, “My health isn’t what it used to be and I can’t handle the stress.” or “I’m sorry I’m so crabby but there are things going on with my health that I just can’t talk about.” I know I’m not the only one on the planet who believes their Mother earned a Master’s in the art of instilling guilt that runs so deep you are unable to sleep or eat until she is happy. No amount of questioning, cajoling or reverse psychology could pry the exact definition of what kind of prognosis she had been given or whether or not we should really start to be worried or afraid that she may not be around very much longer.
After two and a half weeks in the hospital, my Mother had her doctors convinced that she would be okay to go home. Side note: My mother works at the hospital where she was admitted and is known by nearly 3/4 of the entire hospital staff. She did not get an ounce of rest. One day the my sister counted 27 visits. Two days before Thanksgiving she was released, and then was rushed back to the hospital once again by ambulance a short five hours later. Four hours later in ICU, she was sedated and incubated, on a respirator fighting for her life. She had double pneumonia and a bacterial infection raging through her body and the doctors were baffled at the fact that no antibiotic, no matter how rigorous seemed to make any difference in her ability to fight off the infection. The doctors finally found out that she had MRSA, or methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. A very resistant and strong bacterial infection that can only be treated with specific antibiotics. As soon as she was given the correct medication she started showing improvement nearly instantly. It was on Thanksgiving that she was finally able to sit up, eat, talk (in very short sentences) to her kids and grand kids. That was five days ago and today, she is going home from the hospital. She is still weak and needs to rest for another couple of weeks, but she is going to be okay. And her worst nightmare has been realized: she is carrying around an oxygen tank. Maybe not forever, I pray not forever, but all the same, she needs oxygen delivered from a tank to breathe.
Just as I was about to book a flight home, she turned the corner and started to improve. I’ve never been so thankful in all my life. My Mom means so much to me and it was one of the scariest moments of my life, considering life without her.
Here are the top five things I am currently most thankful for (in no particular order):
1. My Mom is alive and getting healthy and says she will never smoke again
2. Homie and I are enjoying and appreciating good health
3. My son and grandson are also healthy and happy
4. Homie got his spousal visa (finally!) and as long as I carry a valid work permit, we will both have a valid resident permit
5. I am thankful for all the people in my life that make up my family and friends, both in Minnesota and Malta. Without them, my life would be very gray and they are all there for me every time I need them!
Here’s to a long and happy life ~ from me to you, whoever you are, reading my blog. And if you smoke, QUIT!!
Learn more about how to quit smoking here.