Friday, September 23, 2005

Oh, I'm Dead

Mom had been working on her laptop computer, then got tired and took a nap.
At 5 pm, Jona decided to wake her up for dinner. But she wouldn't wake up.
"Evelyn, wake up. It's dinner time," Jona repeated, finally using the electric control to raise the recliner to a sitting-straight-up position.
The motion roused her. She opened her eyes and, looking at Jona, said, "Oh, I'm dead."
She closed her eyes again and was unrousable for ten minutes.
Jona ran to get Marnie and Bethlehem. Soon Beth, director of the Reminiscence Neighborhood, was in the room, along with Anna, the LVN in charge of the residence when the nurse was not present.
Jona kept talking to Evelyn, patting her hands, trying to get her to respond.
Her pulse was excellent, her blood pressure fine. But she did not respond. They debated what to do: Call the paramedics? No, her vitals were okay. Use the Epi-Pen? No, her tongue was not swollen or blocking her throat--her breathing continued.
Here eyeballs were moving left, then right beneath her eyelids. Was she in REM sleep? Or was it a petit mal seizure?
"Open your eyes! It's dinner time," Jona said. No response.
"Can you open your mouth?" She opened it slightly.
Suddenly Evelyn woke up and said, "Oh, you people leave me alone."
She was weak--her hands had no strength, but otherwise she seemed to be fine, as if nothing had happened. They took her to dinner, and she ate well.
"Why did you do that?" asked Jona, but Evelyn had no answer. She usually has an answer for everything, a story, an excuse, but this time she didn't seem to know anything had happened.
Jona called me at 6 pm, which was 7 pm in Colorado. I happened to be in Telluride, where the cell phone gets a signal. She related the whole story.
"Oh Jona, I'm sorry you had to go through another crisis--how scary," I said. It had been less than two weeks since the bingo game, when she had lost consciousness, gone to the ER, and ended up with a pacemaker.
"Yes, it was scary because she said, 'Oh, I'm dead.' But this time her tongue was not hanging out; she was not drooling or pale."
"Okay--well, you don't think she needs to go to the ER?"
"No, she's okay now," Jona concluded.
I said goodby and sat in the car. It was a rainy evening. Should I be doing something? At least I could call Bill or Jim or Emily. Actually, everyone was out of town. Bill was in San Antonio for a conference; Jim was in Houston for a conference, or had been until Hurricane Rita evacuated the town; Emily was driving Meridith back to college.
Emily's theories: 1) a Lewy Body event or 2) a petit mal seizure.
Bill said it was not a heart thing (one of the leading explanations of the bingo game collapse)because the pacemaker would now prevent the heart from slowing to the point of her losing consciousness. He rated Emily's theory #1 as possible and her theory #2 as unlikely. His theories: 1) a TIA (transient ischemic attack) or 2) what she wanted to do.
He called back the next day and said it might have been an "absence seizure," something that is not harmful. He wanted to know if they had stopped her anti-seizure medication. I checked, but she was still on Keppra, started after her anoxic seizures in June.
That evening I didn't try to reach Jim.
I drove back to Trout Lake, wondering how Mom could command my attention even here, a thousand miles away.
At least she hadn't died--or had she? Apparently she had hovered somewhere on the edge of consciousness, remote from the voices around her, and it had seemed like death.

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