Monday, 18 July 2011

This is for me.....

Today is Monday July 18, 2011.....

Three years ago to the day that my Mum passed away. While it may seem a while to some, that day is as clear in my mind as if it were yesterday. Her death was unexpected, unnecessary and preventable. I am an only child & have no other family apart from my own. I have never written down the events of that day, perhaps I should have sooner, it may have eased my pain......

It was a normal Friday, I woke up & went to work as usual. My Mum had been home from a 6 week holiday to Canada & Alaska for about 2 weeks, she was sick on her trip with some sort of flu & fell into a heap on her return. She'd rung me the day before & sounded awful, she was short of breath & had been to the doctor who had told her to go to bed for 4 days, rest & recover. She sounded quite agitated on the phone, angry with her husband about something so small, generally just not herself. She promised to rest & I said I would talk to her on Friday.

About mid morning Friday I got a call at work from Mum's husband asking if I could go home to her, she was not well & wanted a cup of tea, she couldn't get out of bed, he was in a meeting in the City & couldn't get away. To this day I regret this, but I was unable to leave work either, hindsight is a wonderful thing, I should have just left, but I didn't.

I rang my best friend Helen, whom my Mum loved & asked her if she could pop over to see how she was & make her a cup of tea. Helen rang me from Mum's to say she really wasn't well & her shortness of breath was bad & she seemed quite disorientated. I spoke to Mum & asked her if I could call her an ambulance, she was quite angry & said all she wanted to do was sleep & to leave her alone. Helen made her a cup of tea, sat with her for a while & then left. During this time I was talking to the doctors that I work with & they seemed quite sure that it sounded like my Mum had a DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis) otherwise known as Economy Class Syndrome & that she needed to get to a hospital straight away. I rang her back & begged her to let me call for help & I would be on my way, I managed to negotiate with her that when I got there if I thought it necessary we would go to the hospital.

Helen met me at Mum's & together we went in to see her, she was dozing, sitting up in bed, very short of breath. She couldn't lie down because it would cause her to not be able to breathe. She was agitated & angry, looking back I think that her brain had started to be starved of oxygen. She was not making much sense & by that stage I just over-ruled her & said I was taking her to hospital. She was a determined woman, she wanted to get up & have a shower before she went, how I'll never know. For the first time in my life I had to help her get dressed, there is something very humbling about that, how often as my Mum had she done that for me but never the reverse. I helped her as she went to get off the bed so we could go downstairs to get into the car, we got to the top of the stairs, she looked down & turned to me & said 'Sweetheart, I don't think I can, call an ambulance'.

The Ambo's arrived, they started to check Mum out, they didn't seem overly concerned, her oxygen sats were in single digits, not good I have since been told & the oxygen they gave her seemed to make a difference. It was agreed that she needed to get to hospital as soon as possible. By this stage her husband had arrived home & it was agreed that he would ride in the ambulance with the sirens blaring & I would follow in the car. I still hate the sound of an ambulance siren.

On arrival at the hospital they took all of her history & it was pretty much agreed straight away that it sounded like a DVT when you took into consideration her size (she was a big girl), her recent overseas trip, not taking aspirin, not wearing flight socks & her inactivity since her return from being sick with a chest infection. She had a chest x ray & they confirmed the clot, it had travelled to her lungs, that was the cause of the shortness of breath. During this time they tried to take blood, her veins had collapsed & they had to use a needle for babies to draw blood & put in a drip. Her blood was black, apparently that is the lack of oxygen.

As the night wore on my Mum really was not aware of what was going on, she was propped up in bed with an oxygen mask on, she responded to questions when asked but it seemed that all her effort & energy was going into breathing. Her husband & I sat there watching the goings on of an Emergency Department with me going in & out keeping my husband up to date. We were never told it was life threatening or urgent, were we naive?

The doctor returned to see us to inform us that the blood work had returned & it indicated that Mum had/was having a heart attack. She was put on blood thinners immediately & was going to be moved to Intensive Care. She took hold of my hand & said was 'At least I know, at least I know'.

By this time it was about 9.45pm, it was a busy night in Emergency, the Pope was in town & the medical stores were being raided for all the medical issues that arise from a town full of pilgrims. Mum's husband & I were having a giggle at what was being packed! Ural, untold packets of Ural!

Mum had been quiet for a while, she suddenly sat bolt upright & started pulling off the bedclothes saying how hot it was, she grabbed hold of my arm, dug her nails in & said 'Get a me a doctor, now!' All hell broke loose, there were alarms going off, people running towards us as my Mum fell back on the bed. The doctors grabbed the bed & wheeled her into another room. We were ushered away into a waiting room having no idea what the hell had happened.

We waited & we waited....

I have the best friends, after my last phone call they turned up to my place to relieve my husband of the kids & to send him to me in hospital, it was at that moment that he walked through the door. My shoulders dropped in relief, he was by my side.

It was about 10.10pm, the doctor came in to see us. It's interesting that time is something that I remember so vividly about this night. She explained that my Mum had had a heart attack & actually stopped breathing, they had bought her back, she had tubes everywhere & the prognosis was not good. I really don't know where our heads where, it still didn't dawn on us that she was going to die, I think looking back the doctor was preparing us for the inevitable but we didn't see the flag, I didn't want to look!

Time marched on. We all stood around talking quietly, it was around 10.20pm, I looked up & saw the doctor heading towards us with her head down, I knew, she couldn't look at us.....

It was 10.24 pm. My Mum had died, she was 65.

I never got to tell her that I loved her, I never got to say goodbye.

We were asked if we wanted to see her, I was not sure about seeing my Mum, but I needed to, I didn't believe she'd gone, I needed to check. She was peaceful, she just looked asleep, she still had all the tubes in, they weren't allowed to take them out, but do you know as time has gone on I don't remember her like that, that memory is fading.

It was a surreal time for us after that, the police had to be called as it was 'an unexpected death in hospital', we were interviewed right next to my Mum, with tears running down my cheeks, answering what seemed at the time to be stupid questions, but they do have a job & they were only doing theirs. The Coroner had to be called, she would be taken to  Westmead & a post mortem would be done. Talk about a reality check!

We left Mum there, it was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do, it just didn't seem right.

That night I didn't sleep, I tossed & turned, feeling sick, heartsick. As I lay in bed dozing I have a vivid recollection of smelling perfume, Clinique's Aromatics Elixir, my Mum's perfume, I remember taking a big breath rolling over & having a calm wash over me, it was my Mum, of that I am sure. You know how I know, I don't own that perfume, never have, never will, don't have it in the house.....

That brings me to today, three years on, anticipating what the day will bring, a bit of sadness, a few tears, lots of memories & a celebration, my Mother-In-Law is 80 today!

Well, it has been an eventful day, but not in the way I expected. We woke this morning to a flooded floor & no hot water, we'd run out of gas to heat the house & it was 9 degrees inside. Oh, & our computer has a major virus (thank goodness for laptops). As I stood outside in bare feet sobbing as my husband & I tried to salvage Mr 17's early years without much success I must add, it suddenly occurred to me & I laughed, you know what, I'm breathing, I have my family, I have my health & there really isn't much more that you need......did I learn the lesson Mum, yep I think I did!

Vale Annette Joy Stephenson, I miss you each & every day.

Lisa xxxx


  1. My thoughts are with you. A very touching post! Jo xxx

  2. So sad and so beautiful. Thanks so much for sharing your heart and your mum. thinking of you.

  3. Oh Lisa, having just lost my father I can so sympathize. Life goes on no matter what, but its good to reflect & remember.... *hugs*

  4. I hope that writing that has helped your healing. We take so much for granted.

    Thank you for sharing, my eyes are stinging now, but I will NOT cry... they are not my tears to cry...

  5. Hi Lisa. A sad post but one written with much love. I, too, hope it helped with your healing.

  6. Oh Lisa I'm in tears having just read your beautiful post. I hope it was cathartic for you. Sending you much love on this difficult day xxxx

  7. Oh Lisa, heartbreaking.
    This time last year my 62 year old mum had a totally out of the blue heart attack. She survived and I can only imagine the pain that you went through. xx

  8. This is heartbreaking. I've lost my mum and my mum in law. It hurts and three years is not a long time x

  9. Oh my dear, my heart breaks reading this. What stands out for me is your love for her, and her love for you. People generally don't know when their time is up. You did what you could. You were a good daughter. As for the smell of your Mum? When my Nana died, I woke in the wee hours of the morning. I swear I smelled her and knew she was saying goodbye. A few hours later, Dad rang to say she'd passed over. At the very time I was awake, sensing her presence.
    May they rest in peace. xo

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  11. Your words had a tremendous effect on me! thank you for being so open to share with us. You are great!