Over the past three weeks, I’ve become overly acquainted with my mother’s bodily fluids.
You name it, I’ve seen it.
There was the pine-green bile-filled vomit. The applesauce and canned peaches that wouldn’t stay down. Blood from her catheter. Her tomato-soup-like stem cells being re-infused. Yellow platelet infusions. And other stuff that doesn’t need to be described.
She’s been home for nearly a week and yet today, we found ourselves driving back to Maywood, nearly an hour on the freeway, because she couldn’t keep any food down and was running a moderate temperature that Tylenol wasn’t helping.
I don’t know how I was able to drive. I was consumed, overtaken, and oppressed by worry. What had we done wrong? What if she had to be admitted? What if she had an infection? A complication from the transplant?
I wheeled her in a chair down to the High Dose Unit; the facility where transplant outpatients receive chemo and other tests. And as soon as we got there, they hooked her up to IV fluids and mentioned that she was likely very dehydrated.
See. I knew this. I was told when we were discharged that dehydration is a transplant patient’s worst enemy. Even though it’s a struggle to drink, it’s the single most important thing. Her goal was 2L a day, and we got close a few times, but I’d let things slip over the past few days. I’d managed to make sure she always had a bottle of water within reach, supplemented by treats like shakes, floats, juice, and 7-Up. And yet, I know that she often didn’t finish even the tiny 8oz provided. It was such a struggle getting her to finish things that I backed off when I shouldn’t have.
I knew this. And I’m so frustrated that I knew it and we still ended up making that drive, putting her through all that, pretty much needlessly.
And she’s so very frustrated that food, liquid, pills, don’t want to stay down. She’s not used to a body that’s this fragile and easily upset. And she’s definitely not used to even bottled water – her favorite beverage – tasting so very terrible.
Now she’s on strict orders to get down at least a litre of pedialyte or gatorade before bed. She’s got new anti-nausea medication, and they still haven’t ruled out an infection or illness like C Diff.
And so goes recovery. Just like life, it’s hardly that ideal straight line upwards and onwards. It’s more like riding a wave back to shore. Little ups, little downs.
Was today a setback? Yes. But maybe it was an important one too.
Maybe she needed to hear that something as simple as drinking enough is really the most important thing right now. Life or death important.
And maybe I needed to be reminded that my role isn’t always to be tender and loving. That I need to work harder to make sure she’s also doing the things she needs to do in order to get better.
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