Friday, January 28, 2011


Mom heard today that she is going to have to get dialysis 3 times a week for the rest of her life. Four hours each time.

At least our daughter got out of the hospital today. And HEY, at least we are talking about the REST of my mother's life!

Thursday, January 27, 2011


I spoke today to my mother-in-law, and she has discovered that my daughter -- out of touch with us all week -- required psychiatric placement in a Lynn hospital. Of course, my mother is at MGH. And today, Vic had a colonoscopy procedure at Beverly Hospital, and it was not as "clean" as I had hoped.

I nearly fell asleep in the middle of the afternoon. I feel like all is madness.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Gun Control

I have been a huge proponent of gun control for nearly all of my life. I grew up in a city (Flint, MI) in which violence was rampant and the number of deaths by gun outstripped those per capita in NYC. It is only through the lens of a family member's illness that, for the first time, I see a potential equal-rights violation in limiting access to guns: Do we say, without fear of being way wrong, that those who have been treated for mental illness cannot obtain a gun?

I supported that policy without reflecting on it. I've been at the "wrong" end of a knife brandished by a bipolar client, so I've seen what mania can produce. But I've also been at the "wrong" end of a gun brandished by a mugger, who never revealed any mental illness to me.

Are we not revealing our ignorance and fear in a ban on the rights of one non-institutionalized segment of our society? One solution is, of course, that we ban all gun ownership, at least until we sort this out (though I would love to see a lasting ban; my experiences with guns have been universally bad). The solution I heard offered on the news recently -- that all citizens should bear arms and be trained in their use -- is more than impractical; it's a bit loony. So...what do we do?


Mom was transferred over the weekend to MGH, and I've been staying at my sister's house in Malden so as to be close enough to "take the morning shift," re: visitation. The dialysis literally makes my mother psychotic, and we have to be around as proxies to grant permissions and the like.

Today, however, I return to Glosta. The predictions of snow and the shortage of packed underwear make it time to go home. That, plus: Mom is supposed to be transferred to a regular room!

Of course, she was transferred to a regular room at Beverly Hospital just before they discovered the aortic aneurysm, which prompted transfer back to Critical Care. The aneurysm was indeed leaking into the outer aortic wall (a.k.a., dissected) and so potential for it bursting must be high (and would be fatal). But at MGH, they seem less worried about the aneurysms (yup, more than one) and more worried about the diverticulitis, renal failure, and re-discovered blood clot in Mom's leg. Her 6-month Coumadin treatment was supposed to address that -- and didn't. Urgh, I worry about all of it.

Friday, January 21, 2011


Mom is back in the Critical Care Unit, for observation.

Yesterday they announced a mass on her lung and a possible ruptured appendix instead of the infected diverticulitis. They did a CAT scan and drained either the appendix or the abscess (infection).

The results of the CAT scan were that, instead of a mass, she has a 'bubble' on an artery, a.k.a. an aneurysm. They said that the aneurysm may be dissected, which would be very bad: It would be releasing blood into the thoracic cavity. And, of course, it could burst. Hence, they are observing.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Basic Educational Rights

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


Today Mom was coherent and lucid. Her memory of the past five days is variable. She stated that it was "a miracle" when my sister and I got there, although we've been there every day since Thursday, between 6 and 12 hours each day.

Her kidneys may be on the mend, although they are not producing enough volume. Her next dialysis treatment is supposed to be tomorrow; they will evaluate her kidney function then and perhaps cancel the treatment. She's on IV antibiotics, which have fought off the pneumonia, urinary tract infection, and (perhaps) abscess in her gut -- we'll see, after a CAT scan later this week.

The hospital social worker wants to talk about a plan for discharge, though that wouldn't happen until next week, at the earliest. I honestly don't believe that we can take care of her at home, considering that multiple systems seem to be compromised. What is amazing -- truly -- is that I'm able to "believe in" a future in which she has been discharged.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

No Conclusions

Mom is still critical but now stable. Two hours of dialysis yesterday did not 'kick-start' her kidneys (still in renal failure) but did improve her creatinine(?), etc. Today she had three hours of dialysis. Unfortunately, she is not lucid, and the hospital has had to prevent her, with restraints, from pulling out the dialysis catheter that is in her neck.

Tomorrow the medical team hopes to drain an abscess near or in her sigmoid, which is the site of her infected diverticulitis. One step at a time.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Is This Goodbye?

My mother is in the hospital, in "critical and tenuous" condition. We were all there all day. We were confronted with numerous terrible decisions. My mother has never spoken of her end-of-life preferences. We felt uncertain that the gravity of the situation would be clear to her.

Toward the end of the day, two of her grandchildren went in to say goodnight. To one, she said, "You keep on being the best musician ever." To the other, she said, "You stay the fine and sensible young woman that you are."

My mother was born in Lancashire ('Lancs'), England, in 1930, and she survived the Blitz (bombing raids), which could be seen and heard from her tiny home. She lived for seven or eight years in Barbados in the 1950s. There she worked in a convent school and at an early rock-n-roll radio station as a DJ. She moved there as the wife of an Afro-Caribbean man, the father of her eldest child. They divorced, and she married an American sailor. They had another three children together. She has since lived in the states of Michigan, Connecticut, and Massachusetts, the last 14 years in the city of Gloucester. She is a retired State of Michigan schoolteacher. She is at Beverly Hospital.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Instigate ~ Escalate ~ Aggravate

Reagan was a doddering, dangerous politician. As the source of Palin's position-of-the-day ('criminals alone are responsible for what they do'), Reagan is yet again revealed to be as deluded as was Ayn Rand, the fantasist of the Right.

I am not saying that criminals are =not= responsible for their criminal acts. They absolutely are, and they need to pay the price. But bear with me.

In the classrooms that I have led, I and staff have reinforced for the children that instigating, escalating, or aggravating a classmate or situation is not acceptable. They each need to gain familiarity with those ideas if they expect to achieve personal success and stay out of trouble.

Sea Change

People keep pretending that the political environment has not changed. They pretend that, where lefties painted Bush as Hitler 5 years ago, righties painting Obama as Hitler is a given, or is excusable as posturing.

I know that there has been a sea change, and here is how I know: When Bush was president, never once -- not one single time -- did anybody feel like they needed to poll all the parents of schoolchildren before permitting the children to watch Bush make a speech. NEVER.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

RIP, Christina Green

The Arizona Tragedy and Mental Health Care

Statement by
Michael J. Fitzpatrick, Executive Director,
National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI National)

NAMI is an organization of individuals and families whose lives have been deeply affected by mental illness.

We share the sadness of other Americans over the Tucson, Arizona tragedy and extend our sympathy to the families of the six individuals who died. We pray for the recovery of U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords and the 13 other persons who were wounded.

Representative Giffords is a NAMI friend who has served as co-chair of the NAMIWalk in Southeast Arizona and has supported our missions of education, support and advocacy.

When tragedies involving mental illness occur, it is essential to understand the nature of mental illness—and to find out what went wrong.

The U.S. Surgeon General has reported that the likelihood of violence from people with mental illness is low. In fact, “the overall contribution of mental disorders to the total level of violence in society is exceptionally small.” Acts of violence are exceptional. They are a sign that something has gone terribly wrong, usually in the mental healthcare system.

Nationwide, the mental health care system is broken. Arizona, like other states, has deeply cut mental health services. Arizona has a broad civil commitment law to require treatment if it is needed; however, the law cannot work if an evaluation is never conducted or mental health services are not available.

In specific cases such as this, authorities and the news media should seek to objectively determine every factor that may have contributed to the tragedy—so that we can act on lessons learned.

Was there a diagnosis?
What is the full medical history?
When were symptoms first noticed?
Did family members receive education about mental illness and support?
Did the person or family ever seek treatment—only to have it delayed or denied?
Was the person seen by mental health professionals? By whom? How often?
Was treatment coordinated among different professionals?
Was the person prescribed medication? Was it being taken? If not, why not?
Was substance abuse involved?
What may have triggered the psychiatric crisis?

Wednesday, January 5, 2011


I missed an appointment this morning with my therapist (a very necessary appointment) because I had offered to care for my mother this morning and didn't realize I was double-booking myself. My mother requires care round-the-clock, at least near term. I'm sleeping over tomorrow night to provide both evening and morning assistance with dressing, bathing, and toileting. I need a release valve, and I missed it!

Monday, January 3, 2011


So, if you were looking for a card from me, it's coming. I just finished the pile. The ones that I wrote out before Christmas wish you a merry one; the ones that were completed after the 25th bear new year's greetings. But either way, you know that I and we wish you the best one ever!

Cocoa-Peanut Butter Oaties

A friend says that she really enjoyed these no-bake cookies, so I'm posting the recipe.

Boil together over medium heat for 2 minutes:
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup milk
4 tbs cocoa (unsweetened baking cocoa)

Remove from heat and stir in:
2 tbs vanilla
1/2 cup peanut butter
3 cups quick rolled oats

Spoon onto wax paper and let cool.

Courtesy of JoAnn Brown, via her daughter Molly Dumas.