Caretakers: a vital role

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Saturday started out with a phone call informing me that my 83-year-old mother had fallen in her yard. 

She is one tough lady. Even though she wasn’t able to get up, she crawled across her yard, up a few steps to her back door and pulled herself into her house, where she was able to get to a phone and call for help. 

My sister feared a possible stroke because the whole right side of mom’s body was affected after the fall. 

The Pagosa Fire Protection District’s firefighters and the Pagosa Springs Medical Center’s (PSMC) ambulance team were there in no time at all to help. They ruled out our fears of a stroke. I arrived just in time to see them turn out of the alley and head toward the hospital.

At the hospital, we learned that she had broken her hip. She had also hit her head when she fell, so they checked to make sure there was no brain bleed, only to find a mass in her brain. 

The next step was a flight by air ambulance to UCHealth Memorial Hospital Central in Colorado Springs. 

If you know my mom, she hates flying. We assured her that she would be in good hands with the EMTs.

My job was to take her car and meet her in Colorado Springs. 

If you know me, I am not a city driver. Don’t ever get in a vehicle with me driving in the city. 

Thanks to Siri on my iPhone, I found the hospital. After a driving in circles for 30 minutes, I eventually found the parking garage. 

It was my first experience with a hospital that offers free valet parking. I opted for self-parking, but feared never seeing the vehicle again. It was Mom’s car, so I took the chance of losing it forever. 

Then the trick was making it through security. Why did I need scissors? My bangs are too long and need a trim. 

The security agent looked at my bag and told me to leave it there and go get my badge because he did not really want to go through my stuff. 

The badge guy noted that I was a previous guest of their fine establishment. I asked him when I was there, because I never was there before. They started to get suspicious and I grabbed my badge and left before they had the chance to kick me out. 

I made my way down hallways and found another security agent trying to ignore me behind a monitor. I asked him how I could find my mom’s room. He directed me to elevator D. A few halls later and an elevator ride, I was hopelessly lost. I found someone wearing scrubs and begged for help, only to find I was in a secure area and shouldn’t be there. 

It turns out that elevator D should have really been elevator B. Enunciation is everything. A few more hallways led to the right floor. I managed a few more wrong turns until I finally found Mom’s room. 

Upon arrival, it was clear I would never be able to find her car again, and it was best I sleep in the room with her. There were plenty of questions to answer for hospital staff. 

One machine managed to trip an eardrum-breaking alarm every time mom would bend her arm. It wouldn’t go off until staff reset the machine.

At 83, Mom minds like I did at age 3. 

She bent her arm no less than 1,000 times during her stay. Even Pavlov’s dogs learned faster.

I refused to alert the staff any longer when she would bend her arm and the alarm went off. I was afraid they would kick us out and send us home. 

There was no rest for the weary during our stay. Staff came to take blood three or four times a day. They checked vitals every hour after surgery. Meds had to be delivered. Scans had to be done. Talk about service. 

The second night was pretty sleepless, too, due to the same routine and Mom bending her arm over and over. 

Thankfully, we broke out of the joint and headed home after she had three screws installed that will probably cost more than the car that I lost in the parking garage. 

Our next step will be looking into the mass in mom’s brain. I doubt she will want to go back to the big city and the big hospital. I doubt she will let me drive the replacement car for the one I lost in the parking garage.

Back home in Pagosa, Mom is getting the best home care thanks to my sister and her husband, Buck, and my niece, Randi. When it was my turn to take the reins and stay with mom Tuesday, I reminded mom that Pine Ridge is always an option for rehab. She bent her arm and ignored me.

This week, I find myself thankful for caretakers and their vital role in the healing process.

Terri Lynn Oldham House