Me and Mom

Sorry about no blog yesterday. My days have been a blur lately; I’d barely started this week’s blog, and was just plain ol’ wiped out! Try as I might, I just couldn’t wake up enough to write.


On top of that, I had appointments all afternoon. My grandson had an appointment with the ophthalmologist and I (wait for it) got my new leg. One big surprise was the design. I had worn my very first pair of Birkenstock sandals to my initial meeting with the prosthetist and he looked at them — well, it, since I only had one foot — and said, “Tornado.”

It was an odd greeting, but he isn’t a native of this country so I mentally brushed it aside and said, “Hello” instead of reciprocating. I didn’t know how to respond to “tornado” anyway. “Hurricane,” maybe? As it turned out, it was the name of a design available to be applied to the part of a prosthesis that your stump, or residual limb, goes into. It’s a malevolent-looking swirl of blue, green, red, yellow, orange, and who knows what else. There’s not a lot of room for the design on sandals.

I was thinking about something along the lines of hearts or butterflies, but when Mike (the prosthetist) told me the design would just be a little bit along the top, I went for Tornado.

And, boy, did I get Tornado. I got Tornado all the heck over that part of the leg.

“I thought you said it would just be a little strip!” I said when the leg arrived in the room.

“I changed my mind,” Mike said with a grin.

What can I say? With a matching leg and Birkies, I’ll be stylin’ for sure!

I stood up on two legs for a while for the first time since mid-November. It hurt, but I had been told to expect that. Today, I go for my first therapy session. It isn’t inpatient, but I do get to go to a place I’ve been to before, with the therapist who worked with me on my impinged shoulders a decade ago. This next step in my life is looking to be very exciting.

Now, the blog I had begun didn’t have anything to do with a new leg. Primarily, it’s about something that happened to Mom, a retired Spanish teacher who taught well into her 70s. She’s 82 now.

One day last week, she was whisked to the hospital, sirens screaming, lights flashing, after collapsing at the grocery store. She’d had a little “spell” earlier, so she faithfully applied her very first ever nitroglycerin patch.

Er, make that patches. Turns out she looked at a diagram that showed where on the body patches could be placed. She then proceeded to place one patch on each of the six spots. “Leave it to a teacher to not read the instructions,” she told me the next day. “I just looked at the pictures.”

So she made an “oopsie.” I suspect we’ve all done that. Heck, I’d rather look at the pictures, too. And there was no harm done to her physically. But what her doctor and the folks at the hospital did to her mentally was, in my mind, inexcusable.

They said they were sending her home and she needed to get her affairs in order. Luckily, I have two brothers and sisters-in-law near her in South Carolina who advocated for her. The hospital let her stay overnight, but one of my sisters-in-law said Mom looked like she’d aged 20 years overnight.

It seemed to me that they were giving up on her. Why? Because she’s 82? Because they believed she wasn’t worth keeping around if she did something as stupid as apply a week’s worth of nitroglycerin at one time?

Maybe they didn’t know that, in November, she drove to an airport 70 miles away, flew to Indiana, took care of me and my house, which included cooking, cleaning, taking her great-grandchildren places, and more, flew back to South Carolina, and drove back home. Or they didn’t know that when my Florida brother visited in December she ran HIM ragged.

All of that but, by January, she was ready to be tossed on the trash heap?

I was telling a friend about Mom over lunch one day and was a bit startled when she said, “That’s us, not too much farther down the road.” I hadn’t thought of that; that we’re losing more and more of our autonomy when it comes to health care.

I’ve seen a bit of it recently. I wanted inpatient rehab, but the place wouldn’t even call my insurance company to get certification. Why? The hospital followed Medicare guidelines, which say you can’t be readmitted under the same code. I had been in for rehab after surgery. I had no complications. My code would not change. Therefore, I could not come back for inpatient.

“But I’m not even ON Medicare,” I said. “I have private insurance.”

Didn’t matter whether my insurance allowed it or not (and I called to check — seems they probably did). The hospital followed Medicare guidelines. Period.

I don’t have any answers. And the problem is that, with diabetes, we’re more apt than most to have medical problems. Does that also mean that, since we’re more of a drain on medical resources, we’re a liability?

The only thing I can figure out to do is to choose doctors who care about me as a person. I don’t believe Mom’s doctor has those feelings about her. Otherwise, he would have been in there fighting for her, telling people that he knows this woman, she’s still very active and isn’t ready to stop living yet.

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  • Deb

    Congratulations on the new leg! We’ll be expecting a picture….
    As far as the treatment of your mom is concerned, it’s appalling, and even more appalling is the fact that it seems to be getting more common. You would think with baby boomers all around that understanding and respect for us elders would be increasing, not decreasing. I’m glad I had my open-heart surgery at 61; they might start limiting that to youngsters, too.
    I wonder how many youngsters have made themselves sick by not reading the directions. Oh, wait, that’s why they’re screaming about people mixing medications like acetaminophen because they don’t bother reading labels.
    The more I think about what they told your mother, the madder I get! I hope she’s shrugged it off.
    Happy new leg!

  • Muriel Schamber

    Dear Jan,
    I have a mother who is 83 and can run me ragged. She is still painting the house, etc. I also have diabetes and have not suffered any complications as yet but I don’t have her energy.
    I hope you are doing well with your new leg and that your mother is still actively living her life.


  • Jan

    Hi Deb,

    A picture will be forthcoming. I went to my first therapy session today and couldn’t get my leg on. So, no picture yet. Gotta get that swelling down first.

    I didn’t think about it when I was writing about Mom, but babies have died because medical professionals gave them the wrong dosage of Heparin. Doctors have cut the wrong limbs off of people. Just a few days ago, my husband was scheduled for a test that used a contrast dye and not told to stop taking his metformin.

    These are all medical professionals. So what’s the big deal about one little old retired Spanish teacher failing to read the directions?


  • jim snell

    So glad to hear your mom is still with us notwithstanding.

    Failing to read instructions is usually an engineering mentality. When all else fails then read instructions. Didn’t know that teachers did same.

    Sorry about new leg and hope that old part of remaining leg cooperates and heals.

    Medicare and issues as is decribed and frighting.
    I need to thank some nut in a certain house for making this better for my wife and I. Costs doubled
    all around and better plan disappeared due to this making it better.

    good luck as it seems in diabetes one ends up walking many more miles ciculating around getting it under control in worn moccasins and sand load.

  • Jan

    I do have a brother who’s an engineer (nuclear). Does that count?


  • Joye

    I think it’s time your Mom changes doctors. My husband had a doctor that just focused on one thing, not seeming to care about him, only the one problem. He finally changed doctors and now has a wonderful, caring doctor, who took away several meds the other doctor had precribed. My husband is now in better health; and the new doctor learned more about him in the first get-aquainated appointment then the other one had learned in 7 years!

  • Kathy

    Oh Jan, I loved the story about the nitro patches. That was so funny. My Mom is on Nitro Patches as well. The thing is when my Mom started using them she thought it meant she was going to die any day. She is still going strong three years later. Yes, it is all in the doctor’s attitude and then some. I took my Mother to see her doctor last week and her doctor told her to live her life like she always has to stop thinking she is going to die tomorrow. It was so neat to hear my Mom’s doctor say that.

  • jim snell


    how goes the leg?

    I am sure your brother – the nuclear engineer does read instructions always and carefully like the cadre that work on the high voltage – high tension power lines where close and/or “I shouldn’t have done that” don’t cut it. In a flash its all over.

  • joan

    Jan – good luck learning to use the “new” leg! Tough call but know you will make it work.

    About elder patients. Guess I am one at age 75. In the 53 years as a Type 1, I have not had medical or legal issues that I didn’t finish in my favor most of the time.

    I believe the reason is that I speak up! I express my concern in a polite manner and request an answer ASAP! I bug the dickens out of whomever until I am recogized and helped!

    No matter our age in today’s world we must be watchful, the one who takes action accordingly to any situation…medical, legal etc. Of course, there are those who do not have the personality or mental capacity and that is when our family must help. Survival counts in my daily life!

    The ole addage: The squeaky wheel gets attention – it can work for most of us!