(Please see my previous posts so the story makes sense)
Not much changed in the months following my talk with my mom. This part of the story is finally catching up to present times. She was trying to keep in touch with my brother but she still didn’t see them or her granddaughter too often. My mom also seemed to be a little more accepting of the situation too and that made me happy. I felt like we were sort of back to our normal routine and my brother and Satan were hardly mentioned; except for the occasional photos of the baby that my brother would send to her….but of course nothing good lasts forever.
It was now November and we had passed the two year mark. I couldn’t believe I had gone two whole years since I had been on normal speaking terms with my brother. Almost a year prior, my mom started feeling some discomfort under her sternum. She had mentioned it to her doctor during a routine exam and he felt around and said he felt like what he thought was a hernia. He told her that unless it becomes seriously bothersome that they’d just leave it be. She had lost some weight during that year and said she didn’t feel the pressure as bad and so she ignored it for almost an entire year. At some point towards the end of the year the pressure came back with a vengeance and so she brought it up when she went to see her kidney doctor. He felt around and told her that whatever it was, it didn’t feel like a hernia to him and so he sent her off to have an MRI done.
The results of her MRI came back in November, that year and they weren’t the kind of results that we expected. It ends up she had an 8″ mass growing on her left native kidney. As I mentioned in an earlier post, my mom had a kidney transplant back in the early 90’s. Anyone who has an organ transplant must be put on drugs that suppress your immune system. They’re called immunosuppressive drugs. The reason you need to take them is because your body is going to see the transplanted organ as a foreign invader and your immune system will attack it.
A lot of people don’t know this about kidney transplants but the new kidney does not go where your biological kidneys go. The new kidney is transplanted in the front of your body, with a small piece of the the donor’s ureter (the small tube that connects your kidneys to your bladder). Your old kidneys, assuming you still had them before the transplant, will stay put and usually will eventually atrophy. My mom’s kidneys were still there and seemed not to shrivel up and so it was one of the native kidneys that had the mass.
When you are on immunosuppressive drugs and steroids for an extended period of time, there are serious consequences. It’s a give and take. You are no longer have to give up four hours of your day, three times a week, or watch what you eat (dialysis diets are very restricted). You get your life back but you also have to deal with all the side effects that come along with having a suppressed immune system. You are opening yourself up to a host of diseases, infections and viruses. My mom dealt with a lot of those issues. One was your bones start to weaken. All of her teeth started to get loose because she was losing bone density in her jaw. She had to have all of her teeth pulled and had to wear dentures, at the age of 55. She also started to experience all sorts of skin problems. Since you cannot fight the HPV virus it’s common that transplant patients get warts and other growths on their hands and feet. She also got a lot of bizarre spots on her body. Your hair also thickens so you may start growing facial hair. Especially in the beginning. The drugs have changed some since back in the 90’s but they still pose their risks. One of the biggest risks is the risk for cancer.
The doctors were pretty sure the mass she had was cancer. There’s a way they can tell by looking at the scans. If the mass appears solid on the scans then most likely it’s cancer. They also noticed a few of the lymph nodes in the area were also effected. They wanted to remove the kidney and the mass ASAP and so they scheduled my mom’s surgery but with the holidays coming up they soonest they could do it was The first or second week of January. It was a very scary time. Suddenly all the other bullshit in life seemed so trivial. The doctors didn’t say at first whether or not it was cancer but once they did more tests they were pretty sure it was. I didn’t want to scare my mom but I knew that in order to have an 8″ mass, it must’ve been growing for quite some time.
It was Christmas Day, our second Christmas in a row without my brother. In the previous years when my brother was still with his ex, we started new traditions. We would all go to my brothers apartment in the morning to cook breakfast. None of us had kids so we’d take our time, eat and then open presents. His ex’s mom Deloris was a rip. She would come with shopping bags filled with random items that she had collected over the year to give to her daughter for Christmas. His ex was an only child and so her mom spent every dime for Christmas on her. After six years they really started to feel like family to us. Now out Christmases were just me, my husband, my mom and my son. We used to get together with my entire family back in the day but ever since my cousin was molested, we stopped. Plus our family was growing so big. All my cousins were starting to have families of their own and so everyone would just do their own thing on Christmas.
My mom came over to my house Christmas morning after my son opened his gifts. We all sat down and ate breakfast. Something seemed off about her that day. She was laying around on the couch and didn’t seem to want to play with my son like she normally did. She also seemed really out of breath. She would get off my couch and walk the 5 foot stretch to my bathroom and I could see she was getting very winded. She couldn’t even talk because she was unable to breathe. I did not feel good when she left my house that night.
The next morning I spoke to my Aunt Debbie, who my mom was the closest with, and she voiced her concern for my mom. She said she had spoken to her on the phone that morning and my mom sounded really out of breath. I told Debbie I was really concerned too because when I spoke to her on the 26th, she sounded even worse. I tons my aunt that I was thinking of calling the doctor who was doing the surgery, his emergency line. Aunt Debbie told me that she thought it was a pretty good idea and so I hung up with her and told her I’d get back to her in a little bit.
The answering service picked up and told me they’d page the doctor. By this time my mom was heading over to my brothers house to celebrate Christmas. Unfortunately this was how my mom was going to have to do her Christmases. I was happy for her though, that she was working on their relationship separately and she was able to see her son and at least play some role in her granddaughters first Christmas, even if it was the day after Christmas.
It took about an hour but I finally got a call back from one of the female doctors who was on call. I thanked her a million times for returning my call on the holidays. She was really sweet and assured me it was ok, as it was a part of her job. I explained the situation to her and told her about my concerns with my mom’s breathing. She told me that she didn’t want to scare me but because my mom has that huge mass on her kidney that it made her prone to blood clots and it was quite possible that she couldn’t breathe because she may have a pulmonary embolism. She didn’t need to say anymore. One of my best friends died from a pulmonary embolism. The doctor agreed that it was a good idea to bring my mom to the emergency room to get it checked out.
I hung up the phone and called my mom right away but she wasn’t answering me so I sent her a text telling her to call me ASAP and that it was really important. Within minutes she called me back. I explained to her that I had been on the phone with the doctors assistant and how she advised me to go to the ER. My mom was stubborn at times and especially when it came to going to the doctors or caring for herself. I told her that if she didn’t go to the emergency room, I would never talk to her again. I was desperate. Thankfully the words pulmonary embolism scared her and so she agreed she’d go. She told me she’s call me back in a few minutes.
A few minutes had passed and she called me back. She was already in her car heading to my house. At the time my brother and I both lived about the same distance from one of the best hospitals in the area. You’d think since she was at his house, they would’ve offered to take her to the ER and have me meet them there…yeah right! My mom told me that they agreed she should go and that was it. They didn’t even offer a ride or nothing. She got to my house which is less than 8 miles away from my brothers house and I told her to get in the passenger side of her car so we could go. She needed her medical cards and so we had to drive all the way to her house to get them and then back to the hospital.
We finally arrived to the emergency room but it took hours before we were finally seen. The doctors wanted to run some tests on her. They did some blood work and stuff. I didn’t know but her blood pressure was pretty high. As the nurse is asking questions about it, I find out her blood pressure had been high for quite some time, yet she hadn’t been out on Amy medications to lower it. Her creatinine level, which is one of the main labs they use to measure kidney function was a bit high too and apparently it was that way for a while as well.
I waited with her at the hospital until around 3:00am when they finally decided they’d admit her to the hospital. They ran a test called a VQ scan which showed that most likely she was having a pulmonary embolism. They wanted to run anotner test where they gave you this contrast due and scanned you but mom was refusing that test because the contrast dye posed a significant risk to her transplanted kidney. Her worst fear in the world was ending up on dialysis again. With that said the doctors determined that the VQ’s results were adequate enough to assume that she did have a pulmonary embolism and so they wanted to her her started on blood thinners right away and keep her in the hospital for a few days to monitor her. They also suggested that she postpone her surgery and suggested that before she have the surgery, she gets an IVC filter put in. An IVC filter is a contraption that’s put into one of the main arteries leading to the heart. The idea is that it will catch any more blood clots and prevent them from going to other important organs like the heart.
She rung in the new year 2016 in a hospital bed. Also, given the fact that my son’s birthday is on New Year’s Eve, she missed his birthday soon. We FaceTime’d her as we sang happy birthday so she would feel like she was there with us. 2016 was already shaping up to be a pretty horrible year and I had no idea just how horrible it would get.
(To be continued in my next post)