Me and 911….we go waaay back.
I have a love – hate relationship with 911, as I’m sure others do too.
I hate the 911 call as it is a very stressful time. It means I’ve already escalated through all the home “remedies” that have helped Mom’s condition-of-the-moment before (usually related to chest pain) and know the situation is approaching crisis condition and that the last resort is rearing it’s ugly head.
Over two-and-one-half years, I’ve called 911 eighteen times (12 times in 2017 alone). Most recently was two nights ago when Mom felt chest pains that she believed was heart-related*.
This time, the local fire department and paramedics arrived shortly after midnight. They checked her vitals and hooked her up to the heart machine, which thankfully indicated her heart looked okay and was not showing any signs of abnormal behavior. That alone helped Mom relax, and she elected to forego a trip to the “spa” (as we affectionately/sarcastically refer to the hospital as) and remain at home.
[*Back in 2017, Mom’s cardiologist offered some insightful information: that not all of Mom’s chest pains are her heart. Chest pains can be related to her stage 3 kidney disease. And, most likely, chest pains are a normal part of the continuation of her Post Polio Syndrome during the never-ending progression of muscle atrophy, especially in her upper body. The cardiologist suggested that the chest pains will go away within 10 to 15 minutes if they are not heart related. Also, as 911 recommends during a call reporting chest pains, taking 4 lo-dose aspirin will likely help chest pains lessen, if not go away, if the pains are due to the heart. The aspirin will have no effect on the chest pains if they are from another source. This conversation alone drastically reduced the number of 911 calls made during the remainder of that year. (Mom had me call 911 nine times within a 60-day period through the summer of 2017! The remaining three calls were due to breathing and swallowing issues.) ]
Calling 911 kicks a whole nuther set of considerations to complicate the day. Should Mom require to go to the E.R., I have some decisions to make.
Before my Dad lost his sight and his hearing worsened, we could comfortably leave him home alone for several hours and I would accompany Mom to the E.R. for companionship and to advocate for her care. Now Dad cannot be left home alone, at all. So, do I stay home with Dad to care for and comfort him? Or, do I find someone to be with Dad while I go to the E.R. with Mom?
It’s a choice I struggle with — because of his Alzheimer’s, Dad would easily forget that Mom has gone to the hospital. My brothers could do a fine job helping comfort him about Mom being away and helping to explain what might be going on. But, their availability is almost always an issue – – of course there’s work, but also golf outings or hunting/fishing trips, dinner engagements with friends, concerts to go to, or school activities of the kids. I wouldn’t want to call a home care agency person in because that would upset Dad even more. Not having a familiar voice around him would trigger his fear of having been “put away”. And they wouldn’t know how to best calm him about any of the issues: where’s Mom, where’s Susan (me), where’s his sons, is Mom ok, who are you, and where am I? Not a good situation.
I haven’t many people to call to step in for me in either situation. My preference would be finding someone to come to the house and I go to the E.R. — I know Mom’s conditions best to be interactive with the hospital staff, providing insight to her day-to-day condition, medications and activities that may have contributed to this crisis. I know her DNR, etc wishes, because we’ve talked about those things. And to help her understand what is happening and what they want to do next to help her. Also, I need to be the one to learn what to do next for Mom upon her release.
If either of my brothers went to the E.R., while good-intentioned, he would primarily be there for companionship and relaying information to the rest of us. Neither knows her wishes in cases of emergency. They don’t know what foods she eats on a daily basis. They don’t know how much water she drinks every day. They have no idea what medications she’s been taking most recently. They really haven’t taken an interest in the fine details about caring for Mom. Or Dad for that matter. So, that is not in the best interest of Mom.
If neither of my brothers are available to be with Dad, I can call Dad’s youngest sister who visits often. I can also call the gal who comes to help give Dad his shower twice a week. After that, it’s very slim pickinz.
Sometimes I’d like the superpower of being able to be in more than one place at the same time.
But, back to my love – hate relationship with 911.
I absolutely love that we have the ability to call 911 though. Those that take the calls are always calm and collected and have a steadying presence, because sometimes I’m not in that place as I dial the phone. Their script is short, and sweet, and to the point. And I’ve been to that rodeo enough times now that I often offer what I’ve already done, making the process even more efficient.
Also, it doesn’t matter the time, day or night, and they are here within 10 or so minutes. Heart attacks and strokes can happen suddenly. To know that there are professionals trained and equipped to assess the possible condition of Mom’s heart pretty darn quick is a godsend.
And, because they have visited our home quite often over the years, they become familiar strangers. I recognize several of them, and they comment about “it’s been awhile” when it has. That’s also comforting to know they remember, making the assessment process a little quicker.
At the end of the day, I think I love 911 more than I hate it. 😉
How about you?