If there was ever a time, a desire to be “fuzzy wuzzy” (as in my last blog), it is now. Right friggin’ now.
I think I have blogged about my godmother, The Bird Lady, before. I think when I blogged before, it was about all of the wonderful stories that she would write about her childhood, growing up poor in the South, and then email to all of her loved ones. Remember now?
The Bird Lady has been in my life since birth. She has been my mother’s best friend for over 30 years. She has watched us grow up, and has always been a fixture in our lives, sometimes more than others, but always there in one way or another. Like a child unwilling to believe, to see, I never thought I would meet a day when she would not be around. Granted, that day has not come yet, but it is coming soon, all too soon for me to bear.
The Bird Lady has fought a long painful battle with severe osteoporosis and spinal/nerve problems. She has also struggled with a host of other medical problems, all related to an over 50 year steadfast practice of the eating disorder, anorexia nervosa.
She has been in unbearable pain for the past three or four years, often unable to leave the house for anything other than short periods, at some times unable to leave her bed. Through it all, underneath it all, she has remained the godmother that I know and love.
A few months ago, she had back surgery, the details of which I am still not clear on, but basically it was supposed to help her increase her mobility and give her less pain. She survived the surgery, but has been, from what I understand, from what I refused to hear for quite some time, bound to her bed and home since then. Her weight plummeted from an already very unhealthy 90 or so pounds to around 75 pounds (she is 5’9, maybe 5’10). Her heart, already weakened from a heart attack last year and 50 plus years of a raging eating disorder, is failing. Her lungs, complicated thoroughly from years of smoking, are failing.
A few weeks ago, she developed a raging infection around her surgery site. They went in, removed the metal rods that were holding her vertebrae in place, and were planning on putting in longer rods. They did not. They did not believe she could take any more trauma, any more anesthetic, so they sewed her back up. Their initial plan was to revisit the surgery in six weeks. To make her stronger, to get her weight up, to get her stabilized.
From there, the details are fuzzy. A lot of it, I don’t want to hear, don’t want to understand. Even the aforementioned details are from scraps that I have listened to here and there. I just don’t FRIGGIN WANT TO HEAR IT. Because that would be accepting that there is a problem, accepting that she is not going to make it through, accepting that she will leave us soon.
From what my sister has told me, The Bird Lady is done fighting. She does not want the quality of life that the next surgery would afford her, IF she would even be able to have the next surgery. From what I understand, the next surgery would be at least six weeks away, if she makes it those six weeks. From there, it would be IF she survives the surgery, then IF she survives the rehabilitation process. And then, they can’t give her any sort of guarantee that the surgery would hold, that it would last, that her quality of life would improve. I believe they are saying that there is a good chance that it would not improve.
At any rate, she would be in the hospital for at least the next few months, if she were to survive that long, only to go to a nursing home after. But she is done fighting. She is giving up. And I am trying my damndest to understand, to be ok with that.
At this point, The Bird Lady is going to hospice. She made the decision Saturday and will check in later today. Her family is overwhelmed and are doing everything that they can to talk her out of it. The doctors say that she is of sound mind and that this is not an irrational choice. She is just done fighting. Just done. My sister has tried to explain this to me over and over — she just is not interested, will not accept, the poor quality of life that would be afforded to her if she was to continue fighting.
And I want to understand this. I need to understand this, to accept this, to be able to move on.
Up until last Friday, I “didn’t know” that her condition was so serious. I hadn’t seen her since Christmas, had talked to her on the phone only in passing (and Lord knows that I am beating myself up something CRAZY about the lack of contact, the lack of friggin EFFORT on my part to connect with her). Apparently things have just been getting worse and worse, and I have refused to hear it, refused to listen to it, refused to ask questions. My mom says that she was going to tell me how dire circumstances were a couple of weeks ago, but that there was never a good time, because she knew how I was going to react. I can understand that, from my mom’s point of view. She was trying to protect me, trying to make sure that I would have the support that I need when it came down to it.
In my mind, though, I went from believing that Sondra was going to be just fine, to being told that she was not going to be just fine. In my mind, I believed that this surgery was not a big deal, that she would fight the infection and would be up and working in her flower beds, flying her pigeons, working on stained glass, and playing bridge three times a week again in no time. I believed this because THAT IS WHAT I WANT. Of course, we can’t always have what we want.
I am not in a very good space right now. I’m trying to come to terms with all of this, but it’s unbelievably hard. I am still in shock and denial right now. There is still a large part of me that says that she will change her mind, fight the infection, and wait for the next surgery…and that she will be absolutely FINE afterward. Unfortunately all evidence points to the contrary, so I am just struggling in my mind and heart with her decision.
My sister tried to explain hospice care to me yesterday. I think at first (and even still), I didn’t understand exactly what would be the “cause,” if you will, of her death. People don’t die from back surgery, RIGHT??? No, they don’t. She is choosing to not fight the infection. WHAT?? I don’t understand. Why not? I just don’t understand. I can’t wrap my brain around it. It seems so simple in my head — fight the infection, have the next surgery, move on with life as we know it, just don’t friggin’ LEAVE. So very selfish on my part.
My sister has also tried to explain to me time and time again, and I am having an inability understanding this, to even hearing this — she doesn’t want to go on, she doesn’t want the quality of life that this would afford her. But I don’t understand. And maybe it’s because I haven’t seen her, haven’t talked with her, and just don’t know how bad off she is. My hope is that I can talk to her and make myself understand what she is feeling, what she is thinking. I need/want/have to understand so that I can be supportive. I just don’t know what it will take to get there.
All I can say right now is, thank God that I have Dr. Love. He is standing by my side, ever watchful, ever protective, making sure that I am doing what I have to do. Every minute, every hour that passes by, I realize more and more just how lucky I am to have someone that loves me, that understands me, that cares for me the way that he does. It is something that I have never had, and I am forever grateful that I found him. Forever grateful.
YouTube won’t let me embed this video, so you’ll just have to click on it.
Joe Nichols, Size Matters