Cubby's mom, gizzard trouble, and disease gone wild . .

Cubby’s mom almost died last night. I tweeted my concern from the hospital, so I’ll tell you the rest of the story here . . .

Here she is at 2AM, prior to undergoing extensive repair procedures. You can't see it in the images but she was rendered unserviceable by abdominal pain and was only smiling for the camera because they had fed her morphine.

It’s amazing how these things can turn so bad, so quick. Cubby’s mom (we have been divorced many years and she lives alone) felt some abdominal pain Sunday morning when she woke up. By noon the pain was bad enough for her to call the doctor.

She drove to the Repair Center at the University of Massachusetts. The doctors there were not really sure what to do with her. She didn’t seem too sick, but she was in a lot of pain. They talked about several possibilities. Diverticulitis . . . a kidney stone . . . or possibly an ovarian cyst.

Her pain got worse; by four o’clock she couldn’t really even stand. Five o’clock came around, and the folks at Umass decided it was time to ship her to the hospital. An ambulance was called, and she made the ten-mile journey to Cooley Dickinson Hospital.

That’s when she called Cubby and me. Things were looking, well, uncertain. I arrived at the hospital to find her resting in a room in the Emergency area. Cubby arrived a short while later with Kirsten, his girlfriend. Cubby and I looked at mom, and didn’t know what to think. She didn’t feel feverish, but she was complaining a lot, and she couldn’t stand up.

However, there was nothing obvious that we could do.

The nurses came in periodically to poke and prod. On one visit, they took blood samples. Then, having nothing else to do, they returned to take some more. But even that wasn’t enough. A fresh nurse came and took nose swabs.

“We’re looking for institutional infections,” the nurse said, with a hint of menace.

“She shouldn’t have any of those,” I said brightly. “She’s been out of State Prison almost three years now.”

The nurse snorted, and Cubby’s girlfriend asked her for a tour of the morgue. The nurse retreated quickly leaving Kirsten's morgue touring ambitions unfulfilled.

Cubby examined the wall outlets for oxygen, vacuum, and electricity. We pondered experiments with the available medical equipment, and we considered imaginative uses of the various tools in the room.

Still there was no diagnosis. Mom seemed to hurt more by the hour, but there was no visible reason. We considered the possibility of demons.

Nine o’clock came and went. “We’re going to send you for a See Tee scan,” the nurse announced. By that time, I was seeing tea myself, along with pasta shells, linguini with clams, and other dinner possibilities. We departed the hospital in search of food, leaving mom to be scanned at their leisure. Cubby and I went home to bed.

By eleven, mom’s biggest concern was whether they’d keep her overnight or if they’d dump her in the street at one o’clock on a rainy night. All that changed at 12:30. That’s when she called me and said they found a hole in her intestine.

It was diverticulitis gone bad. Something had gotten rotten and burst in her gut, and her innards were becoming suffused with vile filth. “We need to operate right away,” they said. I drove back to the hospital, in time to meet the surgeon who was as bright eyed and bushy tailed as one could want for two in the morning.

We were both rather alarmed, since any surgery that has to be done by firelight in the predawn darkness must be serious indeed. But the surgeon appeared unconcerned. “I’ve done three of these colon surgeries in the past ten days,” she said. Her confidence was reassuring. “The procedure should take about an hour,” she said, and they rolled mom into the operating room. I went out into the deserted waiting room, pulled up a couch, and tried to nap.

This is Holly Michaelson, the doctor who performed the repairs. I do not know if she is nocturnal or if she woke up just for us. I suspect the latter but in a place like the one we live in, the former is certainly a possibility.

Everyone in the area was dressed in those blue hospital gowns, with the exception of a geeky-looking guy in a shiny suit. At first, I thought he was the Sales Agent for those Krumedgeon Funeral Home people, but he turned out to be an innocent repairman from GE Medical Imaging.

An hour came and went. No word. That’s when I discovered the doors were all locked. I could not get out, and they could not get in. Hopefully someone in the operating room had a key, because I was finally in jail, alone in an empty part of the hospital. I pondered breaking the window to escape but I restrained myself by repeating "They did not mean to lock you in." And it seemed true . . . no one in his right mind would lock me in a glass walled room full of sharp and heavy objects.

I lay back down, and two hours passed. Still nothing. I reassured myself that she must at least be alive, because if she’d died they surely would have said something by now. Three hours came and went. Finally, fifteen minutes short of four hours after they began, the doctor appeared.

“It all went well,” she said. “You can see her in about half an hour, when she wakes up.” And she was right. Mom was awake and talking before dawn. However, her verbal abilities were limited and she was not very energetic.

The surgeon cut a three-inch incision in her groin, and snipped out several inches of rotten and pustulent intestine. Next, she disconnected the small and large intestines and routed the small intestine to a bag on mom’s side so the large intestine would have a chance to heal. As much of a nuisance as that seems, the detachable bag will make it easier for her to leave unwanted gifts for unpleasant people over the next few weeks That said, I am sure she will be anxious to return to normal digestive function.

“She’s going to need one or two more operations to put everything back together,” the surgeon said. “It may take six to eight weeks but she should make a full recovery.”

I think this was the kind of operation where if you wake up, it was deemed a success. It’s sort of like pilots say: any landing you can walk away from is a good one.

This is mom, just woken up, at 6:15.

I’m shocked that Cubby’s mom could get so sick, so fast. I guess she’s lucky she went to the doctor’s when she did. Fifteen years before, her dad died from a similar infection after walking around for two days with leaking guts. A few more hours on the loose, and the same thing might have happened to her.

Now she begins the process of recovery. It starts with suppressing the infection that’s brewing in her guts. They’ve got her on strong IV antibiotics, but 20% of people who have this surgery get serious infections anyway.

We’ll have to see what happens, and hope for the best.

It’s almost 11 o’clock. Day two is about to begin, and I am about to go to sleep.


Tina said…
Thanks for sharing. I will keep her in my thoughts for a quick recovery.
Meags, Meagsley said…
That's rough stuff (despite everyone's understandably humerous take on the situation). I hope she recovers soon, too. Best wishes.
wow - scary! sometimes hospital humor is the only way to get through it with your mind intact. my family is well versed! so glad they figured it out in time and are getting her back on the road to recovery. best wishes!!
Crystal Hendrix said…
That does not sound very fun for anyone to have. It sounds like Cubby's girlfriend will fit into the mix nicely.
pixiemama said…
Sorry for Cubby and his mom. What a fright.
Ray said…
Abdominal surgeries, while routine, can be some pretty scary stuff. I know this from experience, having had two rebellious belly organs removed. I hope everything goes well and she makes a speedy recovery.
Niksmom said…
I'm sorry Cubby's mom had to go through this but am glad she got medical care in time. Whew. Will be thinking good thoughts and sending prayers her way.
China said…
Something similar happened to my grandmother and she ended up keeping the bag permanently. The good news is that she lost a lot of weight.
It was nice of you to be there for her, but I wonder if she appreciated being photographed.
jess said…
Sending warm thoughts for a speedy recovery.

I think it's wonderful that you still have the kind of relationship with her that she could call you - even if you did post photos ;)
maryandthemoon said…
thank you for sharing - so many times when the cause is unknown, people are sent home when they should go to surgery. sending healing thoughts to Cubby's mom - light & love to you,
Eric said…
John, I'm glad that she is doing well after the surgery, and I agree. If it wasn't for dark humor, there would be no humor at all. It can get us through some pretty bad stuff. Of course, growing up in Western Mass (AKA The Land of OZ), it can get pretty intense. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have fire ants to corral.
Best wishes from Denver for a quick recovery for Cubby's mom. No fun; I'm sure she appreciated you being there for her, John.
Gina said…
Oh, goodness. SO glad she's okay. Love the way you told the story (is that okay to say?).
The poor woman!

What an ordeal for her to go through. I am glad they figured it out and wishing her a speedy and uneventful recovery.

You are quite a story teller, John!
Les said…
So very sorry to hear of her trouble... hope all turns out well.
Michael said…
Scary stuff, John. Glad she is doing okay. Good thoughts for a speedy recovery.
Eileen said…
Hi John....Keira and I went to see Mary today....saw an e-mail from Karen to her friend Susan White, with whom I work at ServiceNet HomeCare...
She looked pretty peaky...still isn't taking much in...a couple bite of sherbet and a tablespoon of gingerail...We laughed re the planned discharge date of 4/2....( birthday). Read your blog posting as it was in the e-mail. You so remind me of my wonderful brother in law Norman with your humor...he kept us all going during my brother's long battle with cancer. Keira likes you better with your beard....We both laughed and appreciated the wonderful black humor laugh re your description of the whole initial ordeal.... If you are willing to send me your e-mail, I'll send you a few pics of Keira and e-mail is Keira and Devin (esp Keira who was a little older..) have vivid pictures of your times together and talk of you frequently....some more ridiculous than others, like seafood being catapulted into your car....
eileen howard...
DJ Kirkby said…
Geez I didn't expect to read a post like this here. Hope she is recovering well and that you are coping well. x
smauge said…
best wishes to Cubby and his mum for her speedy recovery. She is a smart cookie for seeking help early and you both should be admired for having a successful post divorce relationship.
I'm so sorry she had to go through this. :( I hope Cubby is okay. I read your book and loved it. My friend Nina, neurotypical, was stumped over why the people gave you such a hard time for not making eye contact. "It is so stupid," she says. Another friend found your reference to your first wife "Little Bear," super cute.

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