I was learning what it was like to live hour to hour – it was like riding a roller coaster of emotion.
Now the doctors felt Mum would not survive – she was being pumped full of antibiotics and it was a waiting game. It was time to contact our sister Ros in UK – she decided to fly out and would not know if she would make it in time. Our half sister Liz also came to say her goodbyes. We showed Mum old photos when she was well enough to focus, sat with her ….. and waited….
Ros finally arrived and it was such a relief that I could tell her Mum was still alive.
After some rough days, a new antibiotic was trialled. It had an amazing effect and she was on the road to recovery – but recovery from brain injury was something else.
Each day Ros and I went to spend the day with Mum – we would sit with her, feed her, talk – and do anything else we could to keep her comfortable. It felt like we had entered a long tunnel – we had no idea how long, but we just had to keep on going.
Mum had lived in the Legacy Village – a self contained unit – she had many friends there and loved it. We had been busy keeping her friends informed – and now her unit sat empty while we waited to see if she would ever be well enough to return.
Christmas came – we had a little celebration at the hospital. She was in the rehab unit. Everything changed from day to day – I saw the best – and the worst – of medical staff. I heard from a patient that one nurse refused to feed Mum because he thought she was ‘good enough’. Others went out of their way to be kind. Complaints were made. We were assured it would be ‘looked into’ – and we made sure we were there each day.
Ros finally had to return home to work – sister Sue was also back working. While they were a great support – I was now on my own.
At the hospital, any complaints were met with the solution to ‘have a meeting’. The meetings seemed to change their agenda each week. One time they were devising more programmes for her – the next they were talking about ‘moving her on’ – meaning – I needed to find somewhere else for her. And in the same breath I was told if she went to a nursing home she would be dead in a few months.
At that point she still needed medical care. As she was a War Widow she received very good health care – and I had her moved to the private hospital. She was there for 5 months.
I spent every day in there with her – she had to learn to walk again, – we walked each day – I taught her how to sit down, then stand up – how to lift her leg onto a step… I took in photos to help her memory – and I got her a life like newborn baby doll – Violet. I had read that these dolls can help dementia/brain injury patients. I was even offered a job there as a physio assistant!
Mum’s room was decorated with photos – brightly coloured blankets etc. All the nurses loved visiting it. But it wasn’t all rosy. Mum couldn’t take herself to the toilet, needed assistance with feeding…. and constantly escaped. She had psychotic episodes – often she was a child again – or a teenager. She couldn’t read anymore – which she had loved. I bought simple children’s books – but it was all too hard.
She was mentally and physically exhausting – not only for all around her – but the work her brain was trying to do to piece itself back together was so very tiring for her. The staff would often ring me to say she had escaped and could I come back and help them get her in. It was quite a drive into town… often I had only just got home…. then I would drive back – only to find they had finally been able to coax her back inside. It was quite amazing how she could travel with her walker!
Despite this, the progress from her brain injury was nothing short of a miracle – the doctors and nurses could hardly believe it!
We became a well known pair at the hospital – walking our laps with Violet the baby doll – and stopping at the coffee shop on the way. Violet was passed around the ward. One lady was so overcome by her. She said she hadn’t been able to have children. I said to hold the baby. She had tears in her eyes – the joy of holding this lifelike baby. Violet seemed to change the whole vibe of that hospital wing. The patients and staff were always happy to see her – she allowed people to talk. They should be in every hospital.
The horses had been put on hold – but they were my salvation. I would get home and go and spend time with them. It was so healing….. I knew they were helping in their own way.
And two things had happened which filled me with excitement and helped me cope with life at that time. Alexandra Kurland had announced a new online course… and there was another announcement – a Five Go To Sea cruise in 2014 with Alexandra, Kay Laurence, Ken Ramirez and Jesus Rosales-Ruiz – all amazing experts in their field. I signed up for the course straight away… and the cruise was like a beacon in the distance. I had no idea how I would manage to go… but I had until April 2014 to figure it out!
Mum had turned a corner – it was time to find a nursing home – but what had she turned a corner into………. I’d have to describe it as hell…
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