My sister arrived last night to give me a break from care-giving. The circumstances of that job have changed drastically within the last week. For years, my mother has been the primary care-giver for my father as he has struggled with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), an increasingly debilitating condition made more difficult by the onset of heart failure earlier this year. When I started this blog, my father was just released from the hospital after having fluid drained from his lungs, and I planned to spend days at my parents' house helping my mother with various things.
That quickly changed the next day, when my mom reported that she had begun having severe back pains and tingling in her feet and hands. Her first long visit to the emergency room promptly ensued but they found no reason to admit her and sent her home with a prescription for Vicodin. I started spending nights there. Four days later, I awoke to find my mother seated in my dad's walker, exhausted and barely coherent. She needed to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, but didn't have the strength to get there or back to bed. As she complained of chest pains and diffculty breathing, I called 9-1-1 and they escorted her to the emergency room. Once again, the regular tests came back negative, and, after 14 hours, despite the fact that my normally healthy mother could basically not move her legs, she was sent home to recover.
Five days later, her condition was obviously deteriorating, she couldn't eat, and it had become impossible to lift her because she was too weak to help. At the same time, my father's condition was taking a turn for the worse as he was unable to sleep with all the racket we were making every few minutes 24 hours a day. So, my mom returned to the emergency room for a third visit. This time, my brother would not allow them to sluff things off and refused to depart with the patient. After 14 hours, they finally secured a room in the emergency ward, a wonderful hospital medicine specialist who realized that something serious really was happening, and early the next morning, a real bed in the hospital.
Because the pain was obviously getting worse, changes were made in medications 3 times before one was found that worked well enough to allow my mom to remain still long enough to have an MRI 5 days later, an earlier CAT Scan and ultrasound having revealed nothing unsual. When that came back showing nothing unusual, a nurse told my mom that they would be discharging her. Fortunately, the doctor, alarmed by her growing weakness and continued inability to move her legs, disagreed and called in a neurologist. The neurologist wasted no time, changed his schedule in order to perform a lumbar puncture not long after first seeing my mother, and reported the results a couple of hours later: my mother has Guillain-Barré Syndrome.