On Wednesday I pulled an all-nighter at work, working 31 hours in two days. I got home about 7 a.m. I had received a phone call the previous afternoon from my uncle Ken saying that my grandmother, Gladys, was not doing well. She has had a sore on her leg for the past week, and had made several trips to the doctor, and it seemed to be getting worse. Ken was up at his cabin in the Sierras. My other uncle, Lee, was helping out with care, but Kenny was keeping me in the loop.
When I got home, I decided to call to check on her to see how she was doing, knowing that she is always up by that hour. (She lives in a senior apartment complex.) She answered the phone, but sounded groggy, and said she'd woken up in a lot of pain. I asked her if a nurse would be checking on her, and she said yes. I told her to keep me informed, and said I'd come in that afternoon to make sure she was okay. My plan was to sleep for four hours, and then head in.
Thirty minutes later, the nurse called. Grandma needed to be seen by a doctor right away. It looked like a staph infection, and it was spreading. I got on the road, and before we knew it, I was being told that she needed to be admitted to the hospital for IV antibiotics.
It turned into a very long day. We were able to reach Kenny, and he was back in Santa Rosa by 6 p.m. Lee showed up too, after he got off work. But for most of the day, it was just me and Gladys, first at the doctor's and then at the hospital, going through admissions, then the endless intake questions, the lab tests....
For the past four days, I have been making daily trips to the hospital, sending out e-mail updates to my large extended family, and keeping track of everything with cell phone calls while we try to coordinate all those things that need coordinating.
Gladys is going to be 100 years old on Aug. 3. She is a feisty, active, amazing woman, who has rarely been sick a day in her life. The whole family is involved right now in planning a huge centennial birthday bash for her. This unexpected reminder of the fragility of life, especially of the life of a 100 year old woman, has made us all hold our breath.
My grandmother hates to be a bother to anyone. I am so intensely grateful that I made that 7 a.m. phone call on Thursday, because she knew I was home, that I was available, and that I would be there in a second. (Thankfully, I didn't tell her that I had been up all night - otherwise, I am positive that she would have tried to take the bus rather than inconvenience me!)
I love this woman with a fierceness that I cannot even begin to describe. We have grown so close, especially over the past six years, since I lost my father (her son) to cancer. When my dad passed away, I vowed to honor his memory by strengthening my relationship with his mom, and being there for her in as many ways as I could as she aged. As is usual with these vows, I think I have benefited at least as much, if not more, than she has from the extra attention. She is nearly 100 years old, and I know it is only a matter of time until I must lose her. But until then, I'm going to fight for every minute I can get.
We are hopeful that she will be discharged from the hospital on Monday or Tuesday, and then we will plan from there. Things may be a little different now. She might not be quite as independent. It's going to be rough for her. I hope I can help her through the transition.